Home & Garden

The Barasch home in SLO: The best of both worlds

The most modern view of the house is from the private backyard.
The most modern view of the house is from the private backyard.

The San Luis Obispo home of Stephen and Janine Barasch has a split personality: one for the public eye, and one kept discreetly out of view.

Stephen is an architect with a yen for contemporary designs. So it may seem strange that, when he began contemplating an “empty nest” home for himself and Janine, he looked to the 1950s three-bedroom California bungalow they owned as a rental.

According to Barasch, the building’s positive attributes included the fact that it was “a significant and familiar structure on aprominent corner lot in a very established neighborhood.”

Stephen was architect and owner/builder for an extensive renovation that added, among other features, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a new gourmet kitchen and a second level. It also added 1,700 square feet to the existing 1,400 square feet.

In deference to its history and prominent spot in the neighborhood, Stephen kept the roof forms and part of the footprint of the old building. From the street, it displays a rather traditional demeanor.

“As you move around the house from the public domain, to the semi-private, to the very private domain in the backyard, it becomes progressively more modern,” he explained. “So we can enjoy more contemporary architecture, and the public can enjoy something consistent with what was there for 45 years.”

The remodeled home is what he calls a “modern villa,” referencing Tuscan architecture, but in a less literal and ornate way than most Mediterranean-style homes.

Among its villa-style features are exposed and recycled heavy timber trusses and composite roof beams that support extended roof overhangs.

The home incorporates several energy-efficient features. There is a roofmounted solar-voltaic electric generation system. Another system collects heat from dark-colored decking around the pool and transfers it to the main living space. The extended roof overhangs were designed to block sunlight in the summer yet let it stream in during winter months. They also added ample insulation. Stephen noted that their energy bills are approximately 70 to 75 percent less than what a more conventional, similarly-sized home would generate.

Other sustainable features include recycled and salvaged materials, such as the roof and shear wall sheathing boards and heavy timber roof trusses.

The couple’s new great room is segmented into “zones” by low, partialheight walls, offering the openness of high ceilings with the intimacy of distinct rooms. On the ceiling is a signed mural by Hollywood set designer, Ente’ra, called “Night Sky.” It offers a blue canopy during the day and, in the dark, phosphorescent paint in a gold color glows like stars.

The Barasches chose gray-white walls for the interior to reflect as much light as possible. The hue contrasts with the warm wood tones used throughout the house and creates a neutral background for the modern décor they brought from their previous home in Pasadena. They prefer a simple, minimalist aesthetic and comfortable, modern furniture. One of Stephen’s favorite pieces is the massive Herman Miller marble conference table, formerly used in his Southern California corporate office. The 2,000-pound piece has a new life as a dining room table.

Landscaping, like architecture, was designed to incorporate both semi-public and private spaces. The couple has two private “hidden gardens” that can only be viewed from inside the home and not from the street. They also found space on their sloping 11,000- square-foot lot for a swimming pool and hot tub, spacious outdoor living and dining spaces, a koi pond, and a vegetable garden. Drought-tolerant plant materials and an onsite catch water recycling system help to minimize water usage.

The house, which was completed in 2005, is in a busier neighborhood than what the Barasches are accustomed to. They consider it a good trade-off for being within walking distance to downtown. The couple now welcomes the curiosity their “modern villa” has attracted among passers-by. They have even installed “semi-public” benches and tables on their property in hopes that their neighbors will enjoy their home and garden as much as they do.

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