A Classic Midcentury Home in Napa Gets a Kitchen That Complements its History
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A Classic Midcentury Home in Napa Gets a Kitchen That Complements its History

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By Kelly Dawson
Janet and Mark Hall moved into their 1,700-square-foot midcentury home in Napa knowing it would be the perfect place to unwind. They only needed to fix the kitchen if they wanted to stay permanently.

A home is personal. It's the place that sheds public personas for individual quirks, a safe haven for quiet conversations and let-loose laughs. When a home undergoes a renovation, the biggest challenge isn't necessarily about which rooms go where, but how to create a setting that embraces a personal idea of how a home should feel. 

So it's a good idea to hire an empathetic architect, and that's exactly what Janet Hall did. 

The home was originally built by California architect Walter Thomas Brooks in 1962. The owners, Janet and Mark Hall, fell in love with its midcentury design and connection to the property's surrounding blue oak trees. 

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As the director of business development and client experience at the design company Henrybuilt, Janet has a close relationship with its founder and creative director, Scott Hudson. Their friendship sparked when she joined Henrybuilt four years ago, following a long-held admiration for the company as co-founder of Remodelista. It was only a matter of time until that distant esteem became hands-on experience. 

 "My husband and I are self-described architecture junkies," she says.  

The couple wanted to keep the original footprint of the kitchen and its openness to the nearby living and dining areas. The island is the link between the spaces. It has leather pulls facing the living area "to make it feel more luxurious," Janet says. 

Janet and Mark, who heads product and strategy at online music company Bandcamp, purchased the address around the same time she started working at Henrybuilt. Designed by California architect Walter Thomas Brooks in 1962, this midcentury property blends into the hills overlooking Napa with a flat roof and overhangs shaped like petals. It's known as "The Petal House," and the couple saw it as a gathering place for their grown children to return to during breaks from grad school and college. 

 "We fell in love with the architecture and purchased the home as a weekend retreat from San Francisco," she continues. "Last year, we decided to move there full-time."  

Vintage Paul McCobb cane chairs and sofa are set in the living area, where family and guests can gather as the owners cook. 

But as beautiful as the home was when they first moved in, it had one noticeable need for improvement: the kitchen. 

"The property had a strong architectural language, but a shiny lacquer kitchen," she adds. "It not only was a glaring eyesore—sunglasses were nearly a requirement with its reflective surfaces—but it was a mismatch with the crafted build and wabi-sabi nature of the home." 

A ProChef stainless sink and Dornbracht Tara Ultra-Pull Down Faucet fit in with the equally minimal open shelving. The ceramics are made by Richard Carter, Heath, and Miro Made This. 

Janet and Mark envisioned a space that complemented the surrounding redwood walls, further highlighting the home's connection to the outdoors. They also wanted to replace its numerous shallow drawers and various awkward corners with enough storage to satisfy their everyday cooking needs. And lastly, they sought to blend the history of the home with the technology of today, using smart products that would maximize efficiency throughout. 

 "The kitchen is at the center of the home, both physically and psychologically, since our primary family activity is cooking and eating together," Janet says. "It was time to upgrade the kitchen to accommodate the storage and functional needs of day-to-day living, and to better reflect the architecture, both in form and touch." 

This built-in storage finds use for the otherwise "dead" spaces around the appliances. A Gaggenau Vario 200 Series Gas Cooktop and a Water Kettle by Sori Yanagi are nearby. 

Because of her close relationship with Scott Hudson and Lisa Tanno, Henrybuilt's director of design, Janet was able to convey those wishes and work directly on the project to bring them to life. The team chose to keep the original 200-square-foot size of the kitchen and unite it more seamlessly with the nearby dining and living rooms using black-stained walnut cabinetry. Honed black granite countertops would heighten that dramatic mood, and brass and leather pulls would bring in texture and contrast. 

"Black was chosen to accentuate the abundance of original redwood in the space," Janet says. "The richness of the natural walnut and the dark stain make it not only assert itself in relation to the redwood, but also complement the tone with enough contrast that it doesn't either conflict or try to be too matchy-matchy." 

"Henrybuilt’s finishes don’t hide the quality of the wood underneath. It's a refined matte finish that is amazingly easy to live with," Janet says. "I describe it like an amazing piece of linen fabric,—it gets better the more I use it."

The team also swapped in deeper drawers for more storage—complete with Henrybuilt's interior drawer storage system—and added the company's Vertical Bar Block in so-called "dead" spaces around appliances. These areas store trays, cutting boards, and miscellaneous tools, "including the wine tools that proliferate in Napa Valley," Janet adds. And as for smart appliances, the couple picked a refrigerator and freezer with pull-out drawers rather than swing doors for their space-saving quality and ease. 

The couple requested deep drawers that would make it easy to store all of their appliances and kitchenware. "We're avid cooks," Janet says. 

Once the kitchen was completed, Janet and Mark realized that the renovation gave them a home that feels distinctly personal. It's a place where they can be a family, a hub where friends can come and be entertained. It's also a reflection of their love for beautiful architecture, as well as an example of the bond she formed with her coworkers. 

"I realized that you can have it all: Beautiful design, furniture-like build quality, and super high-performance functionality," she says. "You don't have to give up any of those elements."   

The Henrybuilt dining table is surrounded by vintage Wegner chairs. 

Project Details:

Architect of Record: Walter Thomas Brooks

Builder: Peter Rooney, Rooney Home

Kitchen and Cabinetry Design: Henrybuilt

Related Reading: 

Henrybuilt’s Systems Instantly Upgrade Unused Space

10 Stunning Ways to Use Black in Your Kitchen

8 Smart Gadgets to Supercharge Your Kitchen