Magazine article Sunset

Rustic Edge

Magazine article Sunset

Rustic Edge

Article excerpt


The ranch house is as quintessentially Californian as Yosemite and artichokes. So when Eric Olsen, an architect who grew up surrounded by the iconic style in Newport Beach, saw a textbook ranch house in Corona del Mar, he fell fast for its modem but modest style-and knew it was just the place for him and his wife, Adriana, to raise their three daughters. "We bought into this neighborhood because it still feels like old Southern California," says Eric. "It hasn't been filled with monster houses."

Though the ranch style appealed to Eric, Adriana, who grew up on the East Coast with her Italian American family, wasn't sure what to make of it. She had always envisioned life in a character-filled farmhouse, much like the ones in Italy. "Eric has a much more modem aesthetic than I do," she says. "What I knew of contemporary architecture seemed cold and sterile-the exact opposite of what I wanted in my house." So the couple met in the middle with a sort of modem Italian farmhouse in the shell of a ranch-"the perfect blank canvas," Eric says.

First, though, Eric made a few tweaks to the structure. "A typical ranch house has exposed ceilings and light coming into the public spaces, but ours didn't have that." He added new windows for a flood of natural light and incorporated as many French doors as he could to bolster the indoor-outdoor connection. He also made room for a new master suite-not part of the typical ranch configuration-by relocating the garage to the front of the house.

Of all the changes Eric made, it's the great room that best combines his and Adriana's visions. Eric elongated the space, lifted the 8-foot ceilings, and opened up the kitchen to create a place where everyone could be together. "If you were to walk into this house on any given evening, you'd probably find us all hanging out in this big open space," Adriana says. The older girls, Siena, 6, and Ella, 4, like to sit at the island to help prepare dinner, or color at their art table in the middle of the room, while Eric plays with 1-year-old Dempsey.

To add character to the house, the architect chose four materials: custom gray-painted slab and white quartz for a modem touch; over-grouted brick and reclaimed wood for rustic texture. "We basically changed the skin of the house," he says. Not only do these materials bring the warmth that Adriana longed for, but they also welcome the wear and tear of "little people," as Eric puts it. …

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