Empty Nest Redux

Words by Loureen Murphy

Photos by Suzanna Scott

Words by Loureen Murphy

When empty-nesters from Burlingame pondered flight from their 25-year home, instead they stepped out on a limb. They chose to stay put and reimagine that nest for the next quarter-century. “We briefly thought of other places we might want to live, but we landed back right where we are, in a great city surrounded by wonderful friends and neighbors,” the couple says.

In fact, it was a friend who led them to Katie Raffetto Interior Design. Instantly syncing with Katie, the owners settled on the desired vibe for their “new” home. As they reimagined the house where they’d raised their two sons, entertaining and hospitality claimed top priority. Soon, the compartmentalized 1990s floor plan gave way to an open kitchen, a room-like exterior entertaining nook, and other conversation-cozy areas. As former winemakers and committed oenophiles, they designed spaces to relax and connect with winemakers and wine collectors. “We also wanted to be able to accommodate the boys and their lifemates,” as well as any future grandchildren, they add.

Frequent business travelers, the homeowners developed much of their design aesthetic from hotels in London, Vienna, Barcelona and Berlin. “Katie understood what we were envisioning and helped bring it together,” they say. The designer caught the sense of the vintage and timeless entwined with updated luxury, to create rooms that the owners call “warm, inviting and calm.”

The project’s scope encompassed floorplan changes to the main story and renovating and repurposing the upstairs rooms. The full-gut project included remodeling four bathrooms and adding a fifth. Two bedrooms transformed into designated guest rooms. They dedicated a new den for coworking and a former bedroom as a background-worthy office for remote work. Mindful of their primary goal, they carved out three entertainment areas on the lower level, including a movie room, a fitness space and an expansion of their existing wine cellar.

Another priority: upgrading the power infrastructure. That included adding a microgrid with a 40-panel solar array, efficient heat pumps and two car-charging stations. “We are nearly energy independent and have taken our electric bill to net zero,” they confide.

Katie agrees that some of the project’s greatest challenges also produced some of the best outcomes. She helps clients at the stone yard visualize their book-matched marble slabs. Book-matching creates two identical slabs by slicing a single stone slab in half, then places the two pieces side-by-side for a mirrored image. Likening marble and natural stone to Rorschach tests, Katie says, “Everyone sees something different. You don’t want clients to be in the shower and think, ‘That’s weird.’” The homeowners maintain that their collaborative design decisions “show up best in the stone and tile elements selected throughout the house. They have an ageless look.”

A heavy walnut slab the couple found became a featured surface in the butler’s pantry/bar. Accented by the walnut counter and painted a deep blue, the bar “screams cocktails with old crystal glassware,” the couple says. In a hotel-like touch, a custom brass argon dispenser piped down to the basement preserves leftover half bottles of wine for the next day.

The thoughtfully designed pass-through bar flows from the kitchen to the dining room, another favorite feature. There, a light fixture of brass and white spheres, suggestive of champagne bubbles, enlivens the ambience amid soft blue wainscoting and crown molding. The homeowners mark this as one of many extraordinary light fixtures Katie incorporated to heighten the home’s dazzling style.

Among the custom touches, Katie favors the metal-framed glass shelves hanging on either side of the kitchen sink. Created by a local artisan, they match the patina on the custom stove hood—old-world complements to the kitchen’s modern-looking features.

Harmonizing with the old-new theme, personal memorabilia, family heirlooms and collected art entered the mix. The couple mounted 50 hotel keys on a guest room wall, evoking an old-school concierge station. A “Do Not Disturb” sign from Paris’s Plaza Athénée hangs on the door. Original paintings grace many rooms.

In the office’s library niche, an old football tops a bookshelf, and the husband’s childhood trumpet another, while an oval antique portrait overlooks an heirloom chair. Detailed planning, says Katie, “elevates all of these special items, because now they have a home and can really look beautiful” in the right setting. She also finds that when clients have special items they want to showcase, “it makes our job much easier.”

The delighted homeowners say they would advise others to secure a great designer before starting on architectural plans and permits and to plan elements like audio-visuals early on to ensure success. “Katie and contractor Bret Bottarini helped lead a great team of skilled and professional craftspeople to build our home.”

Katie credits the couple’s purposeful approach in making this a winner among her 17 years of design projects. They partnered on every room’s alteration, from fixtures to decor, from the British silver-toned slipper tub to the sofa pillows. “They didn’t cut any corners,” she concludes. “They made every inch exactly how they wanted it.”

feathered nests – katieraffetto.com