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The Well-Balanced Home
Sophia Markoulakis | Photo: Brandon McGanty | January 31, 2018
An Atherton transformation is a study in dualities—reconciling indoors and outdoors, old and new.
Sought-after architect and interior designer Mark Cutler is known for working with some of Hollywood’s elite, but he doesn’t let the notoriety go to his head. You’ll never hear anyone reference his work as a “Mark Cutler-designed space” because he prefers that his clients, not him, be the focal point of a completed project.
“When we set out to design, we think of a project the way you would paint a portrait,” says Cutler, who has offices in Los Angeles and San Mateo. For the residents of this contemporary Atherton estate, that portrait would be a rendition of a casual family of six. “They aren’t formal in any way, so it was about creating a house that has flexible spaces that can be used to relax and hang out or host a fundraiser. They really are a jeans-and-T-shirt type of family.”
He should know since the client used to work for him. “She was a former office manager of mine. Professionally, one of my first projects was their home in Beverly Hills. It was my wedding gift to them,” Cutler notes of his 20-plus-year relationship with the homeowners. Since then, he also did the architecture and interior design of their former Woodside estate. Twice.
The clients’ need to be closer to school and community prompted the move a couple of years ago, and although more square footage wasn’t what they were seeking, they fell in love with the Atherton property’s design and location. The airy, contemporary, three-story, 8,000-square-foot abode sits on a gentle slope with western views of mature native trees and the hills beyond. Several balconies provide ample opportunity to take in the outdoors through expansive walls of glass and sliding doors.
Given the abundance of reflection and light, Cutler and his team—including senior designer Nichole Schulze—were employed to warm things up by adding layers of texture, wall art and wallpaper in key places. “With so much space, it can be challenging where to look first,” Cutler explains. “Wallpaper creates a singular moment, specifically around replaces, which allow the eye to take a break.” Keeping both inside and outside in sync is a delicate balance, but the designer, who is originally from Australia, understands California’s climate and says that, “I have a keen sense of what year-round indoor-outdoor living can be. We wanted to bring in some of the elements from the outside so that there isn’t a schism at the glass. For instance, in the game room, there’s a timber coffee table by Mimi London that references the trees outside.” Upstairs, the designer relied on a color palette of dusky mauves on the upholstered Ebanista master bed and Konekt chaise that reference the sun-setting views outside.
Drapery, which can be tricky on such large windows, was used to create a type of cocoon for the family. “I adore drapery,” Cutler says. “It can do a lot to warm up a space. It’s a modern house, and we mounted [the drapes] with an invisible transparent, can feel like an abrupt wall,” he continues. “Drapery buffers that boundary.”
Other ways he imbued warmth in the open-concept living-dining area include adding a blend of antiques and handcrafted items like the vintage Lobmeyr chandelier and a mixed-fiber Lawson-Fenning wall hanging. “I love mixing a museum-quality piece with a handmade product in a rough material,” he says. “That is the ultimate high-low design. It really sums up how we designed the house.”
With more square footage to fill, Cutler had the chance to purchase new furnishings, like accent tables and consoles, in addition to repurposing and reupholstering many items, such as the Thomas Lavin-covered family room sofas that were used in the previous home’s living room. Cutler notes track so it’s very clean.”
In many rooms, sheers were used so that you get a sense of the outdoors inside. “Glass, though that the clients “invested very well in antique Oriental rugs.” Hence, their existing rugs were also given new life by placing them in different rooms. Case in point: The rug that was in their former master bedroom now resides in the living room. “We sort of took everything, put it in a jar and shook it up,” he adds.
Cutler’s primary request from the homeowners was to conjure a house that encourages family time. That meant no TVs in the teens’ bedrooms and lots of places where they can gather. For example, a room that was staged as an office was turned into a library with comfy Pollack-upholstered ocher-hued sofas and pillows wrapped in textiles by Italian brand Dedar. The colorful African headdress art adds to the room’s vibrant color story.
Additional family gathering spots include a game room and theater, as well as the balcony of the living room—complete with a large fireplace—that functions as a less formal area to convene. “You can live in a modern house and still be comfortable, conveying who you are, where you come from and what your family means to you,” says Cutler. “My job is to create a home that brings out the best in you.”
Originally published in the January/February issue of Silicon Valley