Minimalism was once an aesthetic. Now it’s a lifestyle. Simplicity, on the other hand, has always been a deep-seated belief in how one should meet the world, a virtue, if you will, in the way we once honored that word. The two may intersect, but one is not the other. Minimalism is all about elimination. Simplicity is living well with less. Neither is easy to achieve but clearing out a closet is a snap compared to living plainly.
Living plainly, of course, doesn’t mean cinder block bookshelves and a mattress on the floor. Utility and style are not mutually exclusive, as this home in a small town in Northern California makes abundantly (but reductively) clear. A weekend home for a former portfolio manager who is actively involved in advancing gender equity, it seems to speak to Eleanor Roosevelt’s much-quoted musing, “A little simplification would be the first step toward rational living, I think.”
Fully remodeled by Oakland-based Medium Plenty, the house got a good going over. Hardwood floors were refinished and bleached, bathrooms renovated, walls resurfaced, the kitchen was re-designed, a fireplace was installed, a laundry was added to the garage, and new furniture was specified for every room.”
The client wanted a serene, calming and uncluttered but cozy retreat that evoked the coastal surroundings and beach locale,” shares Medium Plenty co-founder, Gretchen Krebs. “She wanted the space to be light and airy, but not sterile. This really set the tone for the palette which is a mix of grays, creams and blues with wood accents, and a backdrop of white to let the eyes rest. Almost all of the furniture has curves and soft lines, and fabrics and surfaces are soothing and soft and sumptuous to the touch.” The homeowner was intent on incorporating the work of women designers and artists and Krebs happily obliged, sourcing – among other pieces – a blackened steel and oak table by Alice Tacheny and Diana Coopersmith for the kitchen and a refectory-like dining table designed by Amber Lewis, whose angled legs and stretchers generate an appealing visual tension.
The result is a remarkably restful environment, easy on the eyes and easy to apprehend. Each room is cleanly and clearly articulated, with no extraneous gestures. Pared down but far from austere, Krebs’ measured approach doesn’t sacrifice the sensuous for the functional. There’s an abundance of pillows in the new, built-in breakfast nook, and a bean bag hand-knitted in Nepal sitting in the primary bedroom. Artwork by Thea Schrack, Lisa Kairo and D’lisa Creager is displayed throughout the house and given plenty of breathing room (no gallery walls here).
A study in artful economy, this home wants for nothing. There are stainless-steel appliances in the kitchen, the usual suspects in the living room (sofa, coffee table, easy chairs) and a velvet headboard that gives the master bedroom a luxe note. Simplicity rarely looks so good.
Photography by Suzanna Scott.
For more like this California home, be sure to check out Mercedes Lopez Coello’s rejuvenated vacation home in Mallorca.
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