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A symmetrical facade presents a refined face to the street

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Strolling through a grand home from front to back can also constitute a journey in style. Subtle shifts in design and decor can bring aesthetic variety, as well as reflecting a move from public to private areas.

This traditional residence was designed by architect Chuck Peterson, and sits on a tight site near the top of a tree-ringed knoll. The owners requested an East Coast Southern-style colonial sensibility, even though the home is on the West Coast, where a less formal, natural or Spanish style is more often favored, says Peterson.

"To achieve the desired look, I created a dramatic front facade, with two-story covered porches, fluted columns and dormer windows. A strong sense of symmetry is an important part of the East Coast Southern-style and to this end, the left and right sides of the facade are identical. For example, the chimney on the right extends down to the first floor – even though it only serves a fireplace on the second level."

Classic materials add to the formality, with red brick on the approach, steps and first-floor porch. The stucco exterior is broken up by painted brick accent walls and the slate roof is also a feature of the Eastern seaboard-style.

At the entry, the foyer and stairs directly ahead continue the graceful aesthetic seen on the front of the home. Extensive wall paneling is combined with a marble entry floor with dark edgebanding and inlaid black-and-tan tiles.

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The stairs lead up to the second level and down to the basement. Windows the height of the stairwell flood light into this area.

The dining and living rooms to the left and right also exhibit a high level of detailing, staying true to the East Coast Southern-style influence. Crown mouldings, dado rails and wall paneling all contribute to the refinement.

In contast to the treatment in the foyer, the paneling in here is interspersed with areas of painted drywall. Radius cabinetry in the living area and tall, slender French doors in both rooms help to accentuate the generous height of these formal spaces.

"The flooring is another important part of the aesthetic," says Peterson. "White oak was laid in a classic herringbone pattern in these rooms and in an intricate Versailles pattern in the kitchen nearby. To underscore the sense of history, all the floors were heavily distressed before they were sealed."

Beyond the dining room lies the open-plan kitchen and family room. Here the same level of detailing and paneling is seen, but the wood is varnished, not painted – signaling a shift to a warmer, more family-oriented ambiance.

"The feeling in this area of the residence is more typical of the West Coast, with the emphasis on natural wood interiors," says the architect. "To further its connection to the adjacent family area, the fit-out of the kitchen has been given a furniture-like treatment with most appliances integrated behind the wood-paneled cabinet doors."

The master suite is on the second level above the garage in the left wing of the home. Here too, the West Coast influence can be felt. For example, wood-framed ceiling panels extend to the master bedroom and dressing room.

However, the master bathroom is a complete return to the more formal East Coast Southern-style. This space is painted white and while detailing is restrained, an ornate dropped ceiling echoes the curve of the feature bathtub.

"We built the curving French windows out to allow breathing space for an aerated tub," says Peterson. "Despite its classical appearance, this home enjoys every modern convenience, such as high-tech lighting controls, radiant underfloor heating, double glazing and air conditioning."

Viewed from the back of the property, the house looks far less formal than it does from the street. Windows are irregularly placed on the facade, the twin chimneys are not visible and the back garden has a relaxed feel – completing the formal-to-informal transformation.

First published date: 26 January 2012

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Credit List

Architecture and interior design Chuck Peterson, Chuck Peterson Architects (Santa Rosa, CA)
Interior designer Chuck Peterson Architects
Builder Nordby Signature Homes
Structural engineer Steve Duquette, Duquette Engineering
Lighting Quoizel exterior sconces by Quoizel; entry sconces by Paul Ferrante; restored antique fixtures; Restoration Hardware wall sconces; Juno slotted recessed lights; Ardee cabinet lights
Siding Stucco
Roof Slate in China Black
Wallcoverings Paneling by Midland Cabinet Company; Cowtan & Tout fabric panels by Cole's Interiors; gypsum, painted by Aladdin Paint Company with Kelly Moore paints
Flooring Distressed white oak; sanded white oak in multiple patterns; carpet by Waterford
Cabinet company Midland Cabinet Company
Cabinetry Distressed pine with glazed highlights in joints, clear finish
Countertop and backsplash Granite from Fox Marble
Kitchen sinks Marsala double sink, Bakersfield sink, both by Kohler
Faucets Pull out in satin nickel by Rohl
Range Aga
Ventilation Custom hood by Midland Cabinetry, Vent-A-Hood ventilator
Refrigeration Sub-Zero; Marvel
Dishwasher Fisher & Paykel
Steam oven Miele
Wine refrigerator Wine Captain, Echelon, both by U-Line
Tub Finishing Touch Tub by Hydrabath
Tub faucet Sigma Faucet with Butler Mill brasswork
Bathroom floor Emperador marble tiles from Walker Zanger, mosaic inlay from Waterworks
Towel warmer Myson Classic Hydronic