Magazine article Sunset

The Simple Life: A Smart Remodel Does More with Less by Emphasizing Open Spaces, Organic Materials and the Beauty of Restraint

Magazine article Sunset

The Simple Life: A Smart Remodel Does More with Less by Emphasizing Open Spaces, Organic Materials and the Beauty of Restraint

Article excerpt

PARING THINGS DOWN to their essence is a key component of the Japanese art of wabi-sabi. George and Mari Tischenko took this idea to heart when they remodeled their traditional home in Orinda, California, into a contemporary tranquil retreat.

The couple bought the five-bedroom house--a basic 1970s nothing-special style--17 years ago when their son was still quite young. Although altering the house had always been their intent, they learned to make the most of the cramped arrangement of dark, formal rooms. Then four years ago, their son left for college, and that monumental life change provided the push for them to finally take the remodeling plunge.", "It was one of those seminal moments," Mari says. "It forced us to rethink how we want to live in our home during this next phase of our lives."

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The Tischenkos, who love to entertain, wanted to trade the closed-in, fussy feel of the house for what George describes as "one big room without any heavy forms." Mari's wish was for their home to reflect the clean, streamlined forms found in Japanese art and design, which she studies and greatly admires. The couple turned to designer Lara Dutto to help them achieve their goals.

Dutto transformed the exterior with new stucco and horizontal bronzed aluminum channels that wrap around the structure, to distinguish it from the landscape. The front door is composed of three kinds of glass--reeded, frosted, and a Bendheim glass panel inset with copper paper--providing an ethereal introduction to the interior.

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On the entry level, Dutto eliminated the walls dividing the kitchen, living, and dining rooms. In their place, she designed slender bronze-patina columns that give just the faintest sense of room divisions. Sliding glass panels separate the entryway from the dining room so that "people don't just walk into this open space," Mari says. …

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