This Barn-Like Oasis Nails Rustic Modern Living

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By Nikhita Mahtani
Walker Warner Architects plays with metals and woods to create a barn home that pays homage to its Portola Valley roots, with a present-day twist.

Inspired architecture for modern living—that’s how San Francisco–based firm Walker Warner Architects characterizes its work, and the rugged Portola Valley Barn is no exception. Tucked amongst the eastern hills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Portola Valley is renowned for its quiet, rustic charm. So, naturally, the team at Walker Warner wanted to pay homage to it in a chic, contemporary way.

The Portola Valley Barn blends into its rustic setting.

The Portola Valley Barn blends into its rustic setting.

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The 5,200-square-foot retreat is designed to look like a cluster of old barns upon first glance.

The 5,200-square-foot retreat is designed to look like a cluster of old barns upon first glance.

The four-acre property serves as a retreat of sorts, with the clients looking for both a comforting getaway, as well as a spot for work. "Our clients reside next door to this project, but love their existing home and did not want to make substantial changes that would disrupt their current lifestyle," explains Greg Warner. "They were able to acquire the adjacent property with the vision to design an ‘annex’ of sorts, to accommodate this program without impacting their lifestyle." 

The three attached structures house an office, guest suite, and game room, used by the family to watch football games.

The three attached structures house an office, guest suite, and game room, used by the family to watch football games.

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The architects made sure to use wide windows, so that the view is never far away from the action.

The architects made sure to use wide windows, so that the view is never far away from the action.

The result is a myriad of three constructions, housing an office, a guest suite, and a great room—the perfect combination of work and play. "We intentionally diluted or ‘pulled’ the overall project program apart by featuring three distinct ‘barn-like-pieces,’ each associated with the primary programmatic elements," says Warner. "The three primary pieces are ‘linked’ or connected via a program that is situated in recessive and/or low-slung portions, intentionally downplayed, visually."

The sleek master bedroom is outfitted in fresh whites and tonal grays, giving the rustic space a modern feel.

The sleek master bedroom is outfitted in fresh whites and tonal grays, giving the rustic space a modern feel.


The elegant kitchen serves as the connective pathway between the office and main living quarters—a space to gather, if you will.

The elegant kitchen serves as the connective pathway between the office and main living quarters—a space to gather, if you will.

The expansive windows near the den area allow sweeping views the envelop the space. The architects used the barn-like structures to pay homage to the rituals of Portola Valley, where one is likely to find a stable full of horses one day, and a business meeting full of investors the next. 

Walker Warner collaborated with interior designer Elizabeth Hill of Selby House LTD to create the breezy home. The design team took special care to make the interiors neutral and contemporary.

Walker Warner collaborated with interior designer Elizabeth Hill of Selby House LTD to create the breezy home. The design team took special care to make the interiors neutral and contemporary.

"We did not want a lot of bold colors in the art to distract," says Hill. The artwork was purposefully chosen to blend in with the furniture, rather than stand out.

"We did not want a lot of bold colors in the art to distract," says Hill. The artwork was purposefully chosen to blend in with the furniture, rather than stand out.

"At a distance, the barn has a rural character, but as you get closer, the building becomes much more sophisticated and contemporary," Warner says. Sleek metals juxtapose with reclaimed oak wood to create a space that’s playful and different, yet neutral enough for the views to grab all the attention: "Nothing about the design competes with the natural beauty of what you see out the window."

A casual bar area is immediately elevated by elegant hardwood, while a breezy sitting room is perfect for entertaining.

A casual bar area is immediately elevated by elegant hardwood, while a breezy sitting room is perfect for entertaining.

The adjoining garage also doubles as a recreational room, with a vintage roadster and nearby pool table lending some fun.

The adjoining garage also doubles as a recreational room, with a vintage roadster and nearby pool table lending some fun.

The master bathroom is a calming oasis of marble. The couple often relax here for a moment of tranquility.

The master bathroom is a calming oasis of marble. The couple often relax here for a moment of tranquility.

Related Reading: A Hardworking Home Puts a Modern Twist on the Farmhouse 

Project Details:

Architect of Record: Walker Warner Architects / @walkerwarnerarchitects

General Contractor: Gentry Construction, Inc.

Landscape Design: Denler Hobart Gardens

Lighting Design: Eric Johnson Associates

Interior Design: Selby House Ltd.

Cabinetry Design: NorthStar WoodWorks