In a guest room, Lisac paired twin iron beds by Four Hands with decorative pillows upholstered in Schumacher fabric.
A Silicon Valley couple calls on interior designer Michelle Lisac to help transform their vision.
CYNDIE WANG AND HER HUSBAND, WILLIE LEE, were already well-versed in residential construction by the time they embarked on the ultimate challenge: building a house from the ground up. The Silicon Valley couple—both work for large tech companies; she in sports marketing and events, and he in operations—had previously renovated a condo and gut-remodeled a residence when they decided to purchase a modest two-bedroom, 1,994-square-foot tear-down on a prime lot in Los Altos to be the location of their future dream home.
The duo hired a local architecture firm and quickly started putting their plans into motion. Using both their love of entertaining and Northern California wine country as inspiration, they conjured up a 6,000-square-foot modern farmhouse-style estate with five bedrooms and six bathrooms spread out over three levels, including a basement complete with a lounge area, a gym and a room devoted to Wang’s affinity for crafting. The ground level was devised to host frequent gatherings of family and friends, with an open floor plan containing a kitchen, living room, dining area and great room, and large folding glass doors leading to a covered patio and backyard that would have ample spaces for congregating and a swimming pool.
Dark charcoal wainscoting and lighting by Cedar & Moss add dimension to a powder room.
Although it seemed like they had thought of every necessary detail before breaking ground, there was one thing that the duo had intentionally left out of the mix: an interior designer. “I initially wasn’t going to work with a designer, figuring in the world of Pinterest, Houzz and various websites that I would be able to design the house on my own,” Wang says. She had a strong point of view and knew what she wanted: “Elegant rustic with a lot of warmth, and also for the house to feel inviting and comfortable.” However, midway through the five-year process, Wang realized that she needed more than a little bit of help. “When you’re doing an entire house from the ground up, the volume of decisions can be daunting, and I couldn’t visualize how different pieces would look together,” she explains.
Wang found herself stuck on a specific element: the ceiling of the great room, a generous space located next to the kitchen that was intended to be a main focal point of the house. With the aid of her architect, Wang had originally devised the room to have a flat roof, but the area wasn’t coming together as she had envisioned. Wang eventually reached out to Michelle Lisac (michellelisacinteriordesign.com), an interior designer based in Santa Cruz with notable Silicon Valley experience and a refined California-chic aesthetic, to get her thoughts.
“The house was already being framed, so Cyndie was at a critical point where she had to decide what that ceiling detail was going to be,” Lisac recalls. “We jumped right in and came up with three options, presented via 3D renderings.” Both Wang and Lisac were worried that a flat ceiling would make the room feel like a large square box, which would have a less-than-welcoming effect. “We decided that the ceiling in that room should be pitched and clad with cedar planks to warm up the space,” Lisac says. Wang was so impressed with Lisac and her team that she hired the firm to design the entire house.
The kitchen includes built-in shelving for Wang’s impressive cookbook collection.
Using the great room as the jumping-off point, Lisac set out to create interiors with a crisp and inviting aesthetic, incorporating lots of natural materials and rustic charm, tied together by a strong color palette. “Originally, we had pulled a lot of green, but came to find out during our first design meeting that Cyndie is not a big fan of that color,” Lisac says. They ended up choosing a theme of black, white and gray, with hints of blue carried throughout. “We were trying to make it feel cohesive,” she says. The color scheme also blended perfectly with the home’s board-and-batten exterior, painted Benjamin Moore’s Cloud White, with a dark gray front door and dark metal standing seam roof.
The great room features a pitched ceiling clad with cedar planks.
Lisac also made sure to reference the wine country aesthetic that had served as Wang’s original inspiration. “We didn’t want everything to be so new and clean and perfect,” says the designer, who furnished the home with a mix of pieces from big name brands such as Restoration Hardware, CB2 and West Elm alongside smaller purveyors such as Portland-based lighting designer Cedar & Moss and Richmond, Calif.’s Brownstone Furniture, which created a pair of teak and rope occasional chairs that sit in the great room. “We made sure that some of the finishes and details had more of a handhewn feeling to them and brought in lots of natural woods.” In the living room, Lisac worked with Santa Cruz-based concrete fabricator Paul Neall of the Concrete Craftsman to create a custom fireplace surround that adds a hint of raw materiality to the space, while in the dining room, an eye-catching chandelier made of metal and illuminated glass spheres subtly resembles a grapevine. Decorative tile is used throughout the house—particularly in each of the six individually styled bathrooms—to add a playful element of depth and dimension. “All of the bathrooms are so unique and beautiful,” Wang says. “Michelle and her team opened my eyes to the fabulous world of encaustic tile!”
In the dining room, a chandelier by All Modern resembles a grapevine.
However, the heart of the home is undoubtedly the kitchen, which both client and designer agree is their favorite room in the house. Here, Lisac created a bright and airy environment perfect for cooking and entertaining, with white custom cabinetry by San Francisco-based Gao’s Cabinets, matte black hardware, Caesarstone countertops in London Grey and a trio of pendants designed by Kelly Wearstler for Circa Lighting. The substantial center island combines both form and function, with an area for sitting as well as builtin shelves to hold Wang’s vast cookbook collection. “Cyndie is an amazing chef,” Lisac says. “Every time I am at the house, she is making something and it smells absolutely incredible.”
Interior designer Michelle Lisac.
Wang couldn’t be happier with the finished product. “Michelle and her team were able to interpret my vision of the house into every aspect of the space and every decision,” she says. “Not only do they have impeccable style, but they were also extremely collaborative, patient and open to my feedback. It felt like the perfect partnership.”
Photography by: Margaret Austin Photography