In 2010, Mindy Brooks and Paul Neuwald presented architect Bill Isaman with a challenge: Design an utterly contemporary home that doesn’t feel out of sync with its rural surroundings.
Their custom home would be part of the Las Ventanas Ranch development adjacent to Talley Vineyards and Talley Farms in Arroyo Grande. Fifty-six home sites sit on about 4,000 acres, with around 95 percent of the oak-studded land left undeveloped.
“This allowed us to purchase a relatively small piece of property but gives us the benefit of living in a large, rural open space surrounded by agricultural space and which supports a wide variety of wildlife,” said Brooks.
Both Brooks and Neuwald are molecular biologists with an appreciation for clean, modern aesthetics. Isaman responded with an arresting interplay of angles and expansive areas of glass. High-beamed ceilings and an open floor plan give a sense of volume to the approximately 3,000-square-foot house.
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Isaman devised a host of ways to integrate the home with its surround- ings. The entire structure pays homage to the many coast live oaks on the property. He was able to preserve the three trees originally slated to be removed. “Ultimately the shape of the home was directly determined by the location of the oak trees, and we created a very cool ‘tree house,’” Isaman said.
There are multiple decks, including a large rear deck that is cantilevered out from the house and nestled among the trees. Three corners of the house are mitered and built of glass, offering more views of the wooded lot.
Organic materials bring warmth and texture to the space. A large natural stone “spine” wall runs from the front of the house through the main living space. Shower floors are clad in pebbles, which are both attractive and slipresistant. Mount Moriah stone, a type of quartzite, brings texture to the entry, kitchen and sunroom floors. The same stone was used for the front walkway and driveway, emphasizing the connection between indoor and outdoor spaces.
Eco-friendly flooring choices include cork in the laundry room and bamboo in much of the rest of the house. Kirei, which is pressed board made from reclaimed sorghum husks, is used for built-ins in the living room and master bedroom. Its striated appearance adds a layer of texture and interest to these clean-lined pieces.
The couple incorporated other eco-friendly features including a solar electric system and ceiling fans instead of air conditioning to cool the home.
Brooks shopped for many of the home’s fixtures and materials, using an eye for detail and an aptitude for research learned as a molecular biologist. An exhaustive search for just the right square towel holders for the bathrooms took several days. Locating a shade of bamboo flooring to coordinate with the stone in their house required weeks of investigation. Because she and Neuwald were living in the Bay Area during construction, she shopped both online and during visits to the Central Coast.
Furniture is a mix of custom and off-the-shelf. Patio furniture and sofas came from Daylight Home, Lighting and Patio in San Luis Obispo. Chameleon Style in Arroyo Grande created custom cushions for a sunroom bench. A built-in wine cabinet in the dining room was crafted by local woodworker, Tony Rende. Curly maple and padauk end tables were commissioned from a wood craftsman in San Diego, and a tree-shaped copper base, topped with glass to form a coffee table, was crafted by a metal artisan in the Sacramento area. Both artisans were located online via the website www.custommade.com .
The home was completed one year ago. Its balance of rustic and cuttingedge mirrors the couple’s new lifestyle. They both work at home — Paul as a consultant to the medical diagnostics industry and Mindy as a consultant to pharmaceutical companies.
Yet they can set aside their highly technical work and enjoy an environment where black bears and deer tread just yards away. “It is peaceful and relaxing, with only the sounds of the birds,” said Neuwald. “As a friend who visited said recently as she sat on the deck, ‘You live in paradise.’ ”