Designed by architect Howard Backen, a principal of Backen, Gillam & Kroeger Architects, who specialize in Northern California, specifically Napa, residential and winery commissions, this home, the Grey Estate, possesses a carefully crafted, naturalistic air about the home, which is enabled by the combination of vast spaces with rustic, human scale materials, textures, and spaces. The magnificent landscape leading up to, surrounding, and interacting with this modern manse was designed the inimitable Miranda Brooks, who created a lush, Napa-inspired landscape with Southern California flourishes to cement the sizeable home within its large lot. A humble, two track permeable driveway, set behind a large, limed wood gate, leads you off the street and into this unique world, a world where textures, nature, and organic materials reign supreme.
Once inside the home, decorated by Atelier AM, the theme of tactile surfaces, juxtaposed large, yet intimate spaces, and expansive vistas reign supreme. Impressive, enormous, steel windows and doors, each one able to vanish into thick walls, provide constant light and interaction with the exterior gardens and architecture.
When asked by Paige Porter Fischer of the San Francisco Chronicle if “there’s a definition of Napa style,” Backen countered that:
Well, I prefer not to dwell too much on the idea of style because it’s trendy. Style changes, like fashion. I prefer to base my work upon where it is, and in Napa Valley there are so many different landscapes, from hillsides to the valley floor. The style of architecture should, in a perfect world, respect and reflect the landscape and the homeowners. I always say you design a house or a structure based on what is given, and what’s given is a lot of things: the budget, the location, the neighbors, the site’s orientation to the sun rising and setting. It’s as much about what you don’t do as what you do. Yet, having said all that, if I were given the freedom to design in any style I wanted, I tend to prefer simple, rustic structures with a strong connection to everything beyond the building.
It is this sort of sophisticated, creative thought that enables this large roughly 14,000 square foot home to harbor impressions of both the familiar and formal; by centering this home within its setting and landscape, it reveals the intimate lives and relationships the owners have cultivated with their home and its location. While this home is located in Bel Air 90077, a far cry from Napa, the pool, paths, bridges, meadows, mature landscaping, and palm trees cement this home as a quintessential home in the country and yet in the city—every Los Angelino’s dream come true.
Last sold for $68,822,450 in May, 2018, this 7 bedroom, 10.5 bathroom, roughly 14,000 square foot structure was listed by Stephen Shapiro and Linda May of the Westside Estate Agency.
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