In Silicon Valley, where the cultural thrust is in relentless search of the new, a recently completed home tells a refreshingly different story. Setting the tone for this nontypical project was a brief that centered around a beloved space: “The most important room to everyone in the family was the two-story library,” interior designer Ohara Davies-Gaetano of ODG Interiors says of the Atherton home. “That’s what got them all so incredibly excited about the project.”
The clients’ personal backgrounds informed the stylistic approach and program for the home that began as a ground-up design by Ken Linsteadt Architects. Homeowner Thomas Kurian is a technology executive who is originally from India, and Allison Kurian is an oncologist and professor at Stanford University who grew up in New England. “We wanted to make sure the property evoked certain things and memories for us,” recalls Thomas. Conversations with Davies-Gaetano, Linsteadt, and landscape designer Janell Denler Hobart of Denler Hobart Gardens quickly translated into “a common sense of aesthetics early on,” he adds.
The Kurians outlined three key organizing principles and objectives for what they wanted to achieve in replacing the previous low-slung California Ranch–style structure on the site. Firstly, they wanted to enjoy a seamless indoor-outdoor connection among all the rooms and spaces. Secondly, they admired the Cape Dutch–style homes they’d seen in South Africa that suggest “the notion of a farmhouse,” which would also be a subtle nod to Allison’s northeastern roots. And finally, the designers were tasked with devising a fresh interpretation of the courtyard-oriented buildings that Thomas fondly remembered from India.
Linsteadt responded by designing a scheme that contains three distinct wings and pavilions to form a semi-enclosed courtyard with an elongated tiled fountain as the focal point. This approximately 7,000-square-foot residence leaves room to breathe and sits gently on its site. On the primary elevation, the Cape Dutch–inspired parapeted gables, in tandem with a stucco-and-slate exterior material palette, “feel traditional and modern at the same time,” Linsteadt says. “It treads the line really well.”
Throughout the interiors, Davies-Gaetano continues this nuanced synthesis of multiple references, thoughtfully creating resonant gestures that “pay respect to their heritage.” A series of wall panels in the primary bedroom depicting a tree-of-life motif was custom screen-printed and embroidered in India by D’Ascoli. The ornate imagery “anchors the room” and is also a beautiful tribute to India. Other furnishings and accessories enhance this particular design narrative. “They were really passionate about ideas like that,” Davies-Gaetano says.
The home’s key focal point, the richly appointed library, reflects the family’s love of multidisciplinary intellectual pursuits. Other spaces in the house are primed for gathering and living without preciousness or pretense. During the design process, Davies-Gaetano wanted to strike “that balance between having a house that’s elevated but has a relaxed feeling, so that any room can be used at any point in time,” she observes—whether it’s the formal dining room embellished with bespoke molding details and a compelling juxtaposition of antiques, or the casual pool house that’s ideally suited for teenage socializing.
While most of the furnishings are new, the Kurians selected a few key pieces of artwork and books from their previous home that they wanted to incorporate. They otherwise wholeheartedly put their faith in Davies-Gaetano’s sensibility and “embraced the opportunity to mix in antiques as well as vintage pieces, which to me creates soul—especially in a home that’s new,” the designer notes. The powder room illustrates this eclectic yet studied philosophy. The compact space is coated with a lime-wash plaster in a shade Davies-Gaetano describes as “an inky eucalyptus green.” These surfaces serve as a backdrop to a pair of circa-1960 brass sconces that the designer purchased in Paris, a gilded 18th-century Rococo mirror, and a hand-chipped mosaic-tile floor crafted in France.
In the end, it’s no wonder that a spirit of deep listening, cooperation, openness, and creative partnership shines through in this home. “There was this huge level of trust for Ken’s team and our team to collaborate and come to them with design opportunities,” Davies-Gaetano says. “It was a beautiful, poetic relationship.”