When Jim and Ruth Bianchi moved to Morro Bay in 2002, modern homes were scarce. But this did not deter these two aficionados of modern design.
They purchased an ocean-view lot with a small home on it and made plans to remove the house and start new with a two-level, 3,055-square-foot home. Their team included Santa Barbara architect Victor Shumacher, and Jim Randeen of Morro Bay’s Nordic Builders.
The couple lived in a Morro Bay condominium while their home was being built. However, before they left Los Angeles, they began shopping at their favorite modern stores. Some pieces, including the majority of their furniture, sat in storage for a year.
The Bianchis were choosy about each item that would become a part of their home.
“We wanted to walk around the house and be surrounded by nice aesthetics,” said Ruth. “In a modern house everything, including the furniture, becomes part of the art. We keep things sparse so that each individual piece stands out in its own light.”
The table in their breakfast nook, for instance, is signed by the artist who crafted it. It is inlaid with dif- ferent types and colors of wood in an abstract pattern, and sheathed in a high-gloss lacquered finish.
The couple took care to balance the edgy coolness of modern design with warm woods, sinuous shapes, organic elements, and a palette inspired by sand and surf.
Well thought-out storage is key to maintaining their clean, modern aesthetic. Instead of splurging on custom cabinetry, they found a semi-custom option from a German manufacturer where prefabricated contemporary-styled cabinetry is sized to fit each space. They used it in the kitchen, master bathroom, and in the bedroom in place of a traditional dresser.
The couple held onto very little of the furniture from their previous home. They did find ways to incorporate a few items of sentimental value, even if they didn’t mesh with their modern scheme. For instance, they have an antique credenza from early in their marriage, as well as a clock they purchased years ago in Cambria while on vacation. Both pieces sit in a hallway where they won’t clash with other furnishings. Their vintage O’Keefe & Merritt stove, however, is right at home in the midst of sleek, stainless steel appliances in the kitchen.
“I think it works because of all the chrome,” noted Ruth.
Because of the home’s open floor plan and abundance of windows, there are very few walls on which to hang art. Still, fine art is important to the couple, so they incorporated it wherever they could — on the kitchen countertop, in wall niches, and even hanging in the bathroom. Their collection includes modern, traditional and ethnic pieces, as well as the work of local artists.
Intrepid and creative, the Bianchis have made several art pieces on their own. Jim, who is an attorney by trade, has taken up metalwork and has crafted sculptures for the house and garden. One of his works is a sculpture in the living room made from bare stems trimmed from the couple’s rose bushes.
Also innovative is the 7-foot-long piece on the living room wall. The couple puzzled over what to hang there for around a year. Then one day Ruth found an old X-ray taken of their daughter’s pet bearded dragon.
“I wanted something striking but not too busy, and the shape of the lizard was very sinuous and beautiful,” remarked Ruth.
They had the 8-by-11-inch X-ray digitized, then colorized with the hues to match their décor. The image was enlarged and printed at a local copy shop, divided into three panels and mounted on foam board.
The Bianchis plan to live in their home for many years to come, so they outfitted it with grab bars in the bathroom, an elevator, and wide doorways. They also selected materials that are easy to maintain, such as a combination of wood and tile flooring, and indus trial metal staircases.
The Bianchis are firm believers in the tenet of form following function, and their house is proof.
“There’s not any wasted space. We use every part of it,” said Ruth. “It’s perfect for us and we wouldn’t change a thing.”