How one modern family and their architect developed a Sacramento home that blurs the lines between the lives inside and the world outdoors.
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TThe house juts out of the sloping hillside—three offset, intersecting rectangles of glass, wood, stone and stucco cantilevered over a three-acre sward of green. It is a striking house that at first glance speaks of the stark, modernist grandeur of the Bauhaus movement. From the 12-foot-tall bronze front door to the majestic constellation of floating pendant lights that fill the living and dining hall like a bit of the cosmos captured indoors, the scale of the 6,700-square-foot dwelling is breathtaking.
But a closer look reveals a thoughtful, almost humbly livable house designed to accommodate the life cycle of a down-to-earth, suburban family of four. Like many traditional houses in sunny climes, it is a U-shaped structure, its informal living spaces surrounding a kid-friendly patio and pool area with interior walls that disappear to bring the outside indoors. It’s the kind of home where, high design aside, the living room sofa is made to be jumped on, and the rough-hewn wooden kitchen table is designed to look better and better the more finger paint and crayon marks it acquires.
To call owners Dean and Chrisa Sioukas family-oriented would be an understatement. Both are Sacramento natives who met at a Greek wedding (they are of Greek descent), and work for their respective family businesses: Chrisa is a co-owner of the commercial real estate firm Pappas Investments, Dean as a principal at Si Real Estate. Their son Kyriakos is 7, and daughter Lilliana is 4.
“My mom lives two miles down that way, and Dean’s mom lives two miles down the other way,” says Chrisa, padding around the house in jeans and a sweater on a rainy afternoon.
The couple has been married for 10 years, and bought the property in Arden-Arcade even before that. “We [began] designing the house before we had kids, but knowing we’d have them,” Chrisa explains. They took their time designing the house, interrupted in part by the arrival of the children. “We spent a really long time coming up with ideas, trying to dream our dream home.”
Part of that dream involved finding the right architect. The couple had known San Francisco-based British architect Mark Dziewulski for 20 years, from the decade he lived in Sacramento and worked on well-known commercial projects like the Davis Commons and the Virgin Megastore at Arden Fair mall, which both opened in the 1990s. Dziewulski’s design sensibility—a brash brand of modernism that has led to elements like stairways made of glass, rooflines shaped like Möbius strips, public architectural works like the U.N. trade headquarters in Beijing, and stunning residential homes like the modern house in Carmichael he designed that made the cover of San Francisco magazine—had always captured the couple’s imagination, so they reached out to the architect.
Dziewulski, for his part, nearly turned down the initial meeting with them when he heard the term “Mediterranean,” fearing what the couple meant was the vaguely Tuscan stucco-and-terra-cotta style one typically thinks of when hearing the term in California. “But when they showed me their idea book, it was full of these modern houses that just happened to be in the Mediterranean,” Dziewulski says. “We just clicked. We have very similar tastes, so I knew I could give them what they wanted.”
“We spend a lot of time in Greece,” Chrisa says, “and we wanted to bring some of that rustic-village feel in, while still keeping it modern. Mark did an amazing job of putting our aesthetic together with his aesthetic and bringing the Mediterranean into the modern.”
Dziewulski’s working title for the project from the very beginning was the “Inside/Outside House,” for its focus on bringing the outside in without sacrificing privacy. The result is both striking and surprisingly intimate, a style Dziewulski dubs “romantic modernism,” blending clean, linear forms and rigorous attention to detail with warm, natural materials like stone and wood.
In the master bedroom, for example, the floating bed and nightstands’ modern lines are meant to harmonize with the classic profile of a family heirloom dresser. In the kitchen and family room, a rough-hewn stone wall gives the feeling of the Greek homes Chrisa and Dean admire so much, contrasting with the flush, glossy white cabinetry concealing everything from the refrigerator to the warming oven. “In European houses you see a structure like this, where you mix the modern and the old,” says Dean.
The overall architectural plan changed very little over the years from the “sculptural, dynamic” form Dziewulski first laid out for the house, but the couple was hands-on in almost every decision on how to execute their shared vision for the home.
“It helped that they’re both in construction,” Dziewulski says. “They were great at sourcing materials and knew what they wanted.”
For instance, the architectural plan specified walls of wood that extended from the interior through to the exterior. But the couple had lived with exterior wood in their previous home. “It was constant maintenance with bees, spiders, birds, everything,” Dean explains. “So we kept looking. We ended up with a tile that is 48 inches long, [and imitates] white oak. So it is tile on the outside, and on the inside is wood we had milled to match the tile.”
And for the home’s heated floors, the couple preferred the look and feel of limestone, but knew they could never get a natural material to lay flat without any bumps or lips from settling, so they opted for porcelain tile with the appearance of limestone. The flooring flows from the interior of the house through the outdoor living spaces. The patio’s only drainage point is cleverly hidden beneath a patch of artificial turf that also serves as that outdoor space’s only greenery.