Inside Out

How one modern family and their architect developed a Sacramento home that blurs the lines between the lives inside and the world outdoors.

(page 2 of 2)

The sitting area features a constellation of 60 Bocci pendant lights and a dramatic spiral staircase.And when attention to detail was critical, they didn’t shy away from doing the work themselves. Dean and Chrisa painstakingly positioned and installed the house’s showpiece, the 60 Bocci pendant lights the couple purchased from midtown home décor shop Lumens that occupy the airspace over the living and dining areas and creates a stunning “starry night” effect when viewed from inside or out.

“Altogether, it took us a couple of weeks,” Chrisa says. Borrowing scaffolding that was there for the sheetrockers, they used balloons and ribbon to lay out where they wanted each pendant to go, then Dean designed a way of stringing the thin wires through threaded hollow rods commonly used as lamp fittings, so the wires would seem to disappear into the sheetrock seamlessly.

“After we hung each one, I took my iPhone out and made sure it worked,” says Dean, the family tech junkie. The entire house’s lighting, entertainment and security systems, as well as all the window coverings and the backyard pool, are designed to be controlled remotely. There is even a drop box outside the home’s gates that will alert the family via text message whenever a package is delivered.

One of the most striking features of the home is how useful all the spaces are. Even when spectacular, they never feel formal. The sitting and dining areas under the Bocci constellation are a magical space, but more because they offer the charm of picnicking under the stars than because they are intimidating or grand.

The pool, along with the home's entire lighting entertainment and security systems, was designed to be controlled remotely.

Although there is no formal living room in the house, Chrisa did want something truly unique: a formal kitchen. “My mom is from Greece, and in Greek cooking, you use the whole kitchen, you use every pot—it takes a whole day,” she says. “Growing up all I ever heard was, ‘I wish I had another kitchen, so I could make a mess and leave it, and when people came, I could serve out of the clean kitchen.’ So we built what we call the formal kitchen, which is what you see, and the working kitchen in the back.”

The arrangement works well for the catered dinners the family frequently hosts. In fact, they’re just getting around to installing a permanent dining table in the dining room because they had been experimenting with various rented table configurations whenever they entertain (they have hosted everything from charity fundraisers to 50 schoolchildren building gingerbread houses), trying to determine through trial and error what would work best for them in the long run.

The layout of the house, a broad U-shape surrounding covered and uncovered patio spaces and a lap pool, allows the lines between indoor and outdoor spaces to blur, taking full advantage of the sunny local climate. A combination of trees, strategically placed overhangs and linen curtains that retract into recesses in the walls allows for the house to maintain its open feel without sacrificing privacy. Even the downstairs master suite, on the far side of the U opposite the dining room, feels private and far from the fray.

Another unique customization of the house designed to grow with the family is the garage—or rather garages—one four-car garage which houses cars, and beyond it, another two-car garage, which is full of storage racks and crammed with stuff like any suburban garage worth the name. “It’s the same idea as the kitchen,” Chrisa explains. “You have the nice garage, and the garage-garage.”

The front entrance of the "Inside/Outside House" at dusk.

“When the kids are 16, they’ll have cars,” adds Dean. “For now, it’s toy storage.” These are the tricks that allow a busy family to live well in a modern dwelling without succumbing to clutter.

The home also boasts two equally spectacular stairways, a spiral staircase in the living and dining area that unfurls upward like a single curl of wood, and a set of floating stairs at the other end of the house with a glass railing. Both stairways have childproof gates in matching materials designed to provide a permanent and elegant solution—and to obviate the need for any unsightly ad-hoc childproofing.

The upstairs study, which overlooks the living-dining area, is the only room in the house that appears little used to date—a sign of a family more interested in playing, cooking, eating and relaxing together than in bringing home work. When Lilliana rolls through after prekindergarten, she occupies virtually every living space, giving her mom a kiss on the curved Milo Baughman sofa, then tumbling a bit on the Flexform sectional in front of the fireplace before settling in for a snack at the kitchen table, very much at home in this modern masterpiece, which seems surprisingly to scale, even for the pursuits of a 4-year-old.

What could be more modern than that? S