Home & Garden

Remodel adds warmth and spirit to the Nichter home in Harmony

The Nichters’property includes several outdoor living spaces surrounded by native landscaping.
The Nichters’property includes several outdoor living spaces surrounded by native landscaping.

The population of Harmony may be holding steady at around 18, but there are two new residents of this tiny, coastal community. Pam and Mitch Nichter moved into their Harmony home last spring after a more than 18-month remodel.

The home, built in 2009, included a 4,000-square-foot main residence and a 2,000-square-foot barn. With no livestock to house, the Nichters wanted to tailor the barn space to their own hobbies, and remake the house to better reflect their tastes and their new pastoral surroundings.

To this end, they assembled a team that included architect Laura Gough of Studio 2G, Semmes & Co. Builders, interior designer Lori Krivacsy, landscape architect Jeffrey Gordon Smith, and landscape contractor Madrone Landscapes.

According to Gough, the house was well-built but “lacked warmth and spirit.” Contributing to its unfriendly feel was the entry, an “angled appendage” awkwardly tucked around the side of the house, she said. Gough created a more welcoming front-facing entry, and turned the existing three-car garage into a courtyard that allows the homeowners to enjoy the outdoors in a space protected from wind.

The interior was previously clad in mostly pale cream hues, from the walls to the travertine floors. They replaced those chilly tile floors with richly-hued Santos Mahogany. A mish-mash of different wood finishes gave way to predominantly cherry finishes, which complement the mahogany.

This included several custom furniture units, such as a media center, living room hutches, and office desks. Sunset Gold quartzite, in shades of gold, silver and rust, bring organic warmth to multiple surfaces, including entryway floors, fireplaces, and exterior patios. Repeating the same materials and finishes throughout the home, and even outdoors, creates continuity and a feeling of flow through all spaces, said Krivacsy.

Furniture is “Big Sur-inspired,” she said. The look combines exotic woods, industrial elements such as steel and concrete, as well as rugged, organic features like “live edges” on wood furniture that retain the natural outline of the tree. The family chose a dining room table with a natural edge slab top that Krivacsy said “makes for interesting dinner conversation.”

The Nichters have an extensive collection of art purchased during their travels. This includes work by prominent artists such as Hilary Eddy, Grant Leier and Ken Fader. But they also cherish their collection of ethnic art and water colors painted by street artists. “Most are by living artists, many we have personally met,” said Pam Nichter. “We buy art that we love and want to live with.”

To best highlight the array of art, most of which exhibit a mix of bold colors, Krivacsy chose a range of warm neutrals for walls, which she says “allows the art to pop, not compete.” The interior has over 12 wall colors that include beiges, grays and warm mauves. In the media room, they chose a deep black grass cloth wallpaper to display a collection of tribal art. Metallic hues in niches were chosen to highlight specific pieces of sculpture.

Sustainability was important to the homeowners. The house uses solar panels and LED lights. A rainwater collection system provides irrigation for the approximately one acre of native landscaping.

The house, barn and even the landscaping were tailored to the interests of the homeowners. There is an exercise room in the main house with a full wall mirror, rubber flooring, ballet bar, and attached steam room. The barn has a large wine room with storage for more than 1,000 bottles, a mini-kitchen, study, and an area for entertaining. The homeowners wanted to grow some of their own food, so the property now has raised beds and a large orchard.

The Nichters have settled in quickly to their newly remodeled residence and are appreciating its many personalized features. “We truly enjoy our house,” said Pam Nichter. “It feels like home.”

Design tips

Keep eclecticism in check: Eclectic may have been a decorating buzzword in recent years, but too many contrasting materials can make a home seem fragmented. For better flow and a more unified feel, use similar materials throughout the house. For instance, choose similar wood finishes for all built-in cabinetry. Use the same stone or tile on multiple surfaces, and even outdoors.

House a hobby: Think outside the box when designing a spare room. If you don’t need an office or guest room, consider creating a dance studio, mediation room, or art studio. Find space for a favorite hobby, or foster a new one.

Go beyond white: White isn’t always the best choice for highlighting art. Use paint chips to see what hues make your art pop. This can include warm neutrals, metallics, or subdued versions of colors such as purple or red. Choose a color that highlights the art, but doesn’t compete with it.