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Taking the "Country" Out of Wine Country

Two boundary-pushing design stars find comfort in clean lines and white paint.

Gensler design director Collin Burry and NicholsBooth Architects CEO Gary Nichols share this unfussy Healdsburg escape.

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Owners Gary Nichols and Collin Burry sourced the bay laurel for their dinging table from Tomales arborist Evan Shively.

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Burry considers the kitchen the centerpiece of the home. A white- and smoky-oak veneer sleekly disguises kitchen appliances.

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"You just get this sense of 'Aaaahhhh,'" says Burry. "Celebrating an indoor-outdoor lifestyle was a major goal."

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A stainless steel cow-trough soaking tub from Neo-Metro anchors the guest cottage. "We laid out the entire guesthouse around that tub," says Burry.

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A discerning collection of artwork, including images by Los Angeles photographer Michael Muller and sculptures from Healdsburg's Gallery Lulo, adds dimension to the home's spare interiors.

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How do a pair of design industry veterans style their country home? By paring down—way down. “It’s our sanctuary from design,” says Gensler design director Collin Burry, who co-owns this 2,000-square-foot Healdsburg home with real estate partner Gary Nichols of Nichols-Booth Architects. Rather than be a flashy shrine to the progressive design that they’re known for at work, this whitewashed retreat finds beauty in restraint.

When the duo first stumbled upon the property in the depths of the recession, it hadn’t been updated in more than four decades and the surrounding woods had grown wild. “It was scary,” says Burry, “almost like Deliverance.” But the two saw potential in the 1940s construction. Despite small, chopped-up rooms, the home possessed key modernist elements, including a sandstone fireplace and a vaulted ceiling with exposed beams.

Burry and Nichols tore out walls separating the entryway, living room, and kitchen and removed the kitchen’s dropped ceiling. The over-size picture windows—a hallmark of the house’s mid-century provenance—became the focal point, showing off arboreal views. Nowhere is this more evident than in the dining room, which functions as an indoor-outdoor space when the windows are flung open.

The natural materials and the open-air architecture allow the home to blend seamlessly into its setting. “We don’t have to turn on any lights in the house until it’s practically dark out,” says Burry. “Different rooms transform with the light as the sun passes over the house.” While the structure’s stark minimalism is a departure from the countrified decor typical of surrounding wine country homes, its stripped-down look gives the owners a much-needed visual escape. “I love the juxtaposition of this modern house in the midst of the wild woods,” says Burry.


Originally published in the July issue of San Francisco.

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