The Long Haul


Brownhouse Design reconfigures a forever home Stanford for a family of four

Carlisle Wide Plank flooring runs throughout the home including the dining room. The porcelain gingko leaf chandelier is by Vakkerlight. 
Rug from Heriz by Stephen Miller and the typical house sconce by Jonathan Browning. Photo by Paul Dyer.

In 2019, Bay Area-based full-service architectural and design firm Brownhouse Design, was enlisted to rethink a historical 1920s Mediterranean revival style home for a young family of four that was in disrepair prior to taking ownership. “When the clients first approached us, the original structure was in near shambles,” recalls firm founder and principal designer Julie Brown. “There was a rat infestation, weeds had completely taken over the garden, and gnarled ivy was choking the walls.”

Built in 1942, the home had undergone countless renovations during the 1970s, 80s and 90s that included the addition of an indoor pool, a new wing and a floating bridge that connected the original structure to the addition. “Since the home is a historic house, we took extra care with renovating the space,” says Brown. “Our main goal was to create a balanced, relaxed home for the clients who love to entertain, read and cook together. We took inspiration from the hodgepodge 1920s structure and sought to honor the home’s history while creating a luxurious, functional space.”

IIn the kitchen, the backsplash tile is by by Arto Brick found at Carmel Stone. All plumbing fixtures are from Belmot Hardware. 
Photo by Paul Dyer.
One wall in the kitchen supports an expansive Wolf range from Davis Appliances. The backsplash tile is from Mosaique Surface found at Carmel Stone. Photo by Paul Dyer.

The design direction was guided by retaining the traditional charm of the original structure while creating open spaces equipped with modern details and amenities. “Our clients were looking to build a family-focused home that provided plenty of growing room for their three children, while also having the space to host events for their fellow academics and fundraisers for the university,” says Brown. “During past renovations, the original open floor plan had been segmented into multiple claustrophobic rooms of which the kitchen was the smallest. When we informed the clients of how big a project this was going to end up being, they were completely undeterred and very excited to build a ‘forever home’ for their family. They were able to purchase the Stanford campus property since the husband runs an oncology lab and teaches graduate students at the University.”

The office was designed as a library, antiquarian showroom and home office all-in-one. The custom floor-to-ceiling bookshelves were built with the family’s impressive book and antiquities collections in mind; the shelves are deep enough to hold anything from heavy textbooks on single-nucleotide resolution to The Magic Treehouse series.  The antique Persian Muhajeran Sarouk rug is by Stephen Miller and the sculptural reading chair in is from Jasper by Michael Smith. Photo by Paul Dyer.

Referred by longtime partners Kavanaugh Construction Co, the property presented physical challenges that needed to be addressed in order to update the home for the active family. “There was an adjacent structure attached to the original home by a skybridge, and our clients had no idea what to do with the confined, lightless space,” she recalls. “The main challenge we faced was completely renovating the attachment to bring in natural light, create an expansive walk-in closet, large master bathroom with a curb-less shower and freestanding tub to provide our clients a private sanctuary of their own.”

In the primary suite, the rug is from New Moon, soft goods and window treatments throughout from Magnolia Lane. 
Photo by Agnieszka Jakubowicz.

When Brown and team along with the Kavanaugh team started to expand the kitchen, they hit a roadblock. “As we started to create the space our clients wanted, we realized we would have to fill in the dilapidated indoor pool as well as outfit the space to accommodate the necessary appliances,” she remarks. “The kitchen and the library were designed with our clients’ wants for distinct spaces that reflected both their interests and needs. She wanted a comprehensive kitchen, so we customized everything to her needs as an avid cook and baker who loves experimenting with dishes from all around the world. He wanted a quiet retreat as his office that his children could still easily use to do homework in, so we created the library to be a focused, cozy space dedicated to academic endeavors of all levels.”

In the primary bathroom the flooring is a custom design by Brownhouse Design from All Natural Stone paired with a pair of Chartier hanging sconces by Jonathan Browning. Photo by Agnieszka Jakubowicz.
The primary bathroom shower wall tile is Dolomite Reserve from DaVinci Marble. Photo by Agnieszka Jakubowicz.

Since the team was hired just before the pandemic hit, much of the design took place over Zoom while the family was quarantined in Switzerland. “For nearly a year and a half, we had to ship samples to our clients for approval, making the process incredibly tedious,” says Brown. “Luckily, our team and clients were able to quickly adapt to the new process and prepared to do every step online, including permitting and final submissions. We got to summit this mountain as a team, and both we and our clients felt incredibly accomplished at the work we’d done together.”