Real State

A Bay Area Home Ideal for Lockdown


Adam and Amy Dornbusch couldn’t have known a pandemic would sweep across the world just as they were completing a gut renovation of their house in Orinda, Calif., a small city east of Berkeley. But the home they created turned out to be an ideal place for a long-term lockdown.

Because Mr. Dornbusch, 43, and Ms. Dornbusch, 37, routinely worked from home before the pandemic, they built two dedicated home offices. To support their business interests — they own Gemstone Vineyard together, and Mr. Dornbusch is the founder and chief executive of EnTribe, a digital media company — they added an expansive wine room stocked with hundreds of bottles, along with a home theater.

For their daughters, Ruby, 4, and Poppy, 1, there is a dedicated playroom, as well as an apartment for an au pair. There is also a home gym and a pool, which make it easy to sneak in a quick workout at any time of day.

“It was important to us to build a house where everybody has their own zones to work and be productive, for us to run our businesses, and for the kids to play, be creative and get outside,” Ms. Dornbusch said. “We designed this house wanting to have a resort-living feeling at home.”

The decision to create such a place before they knew what a lockdown entailed was fortuitous, but it was no small undertaking. When the couple bought the roughly 7,000-square-foot house, which sits on a hilly 3.4 acres, in March 2018 for about $3.2 million, it exuded bygone opulence, with tired expanses of off-white tile and cabinetry, beige broadloom and curly ironwork. And there were so many rooms that it felt like you were passing through a procession of useless spaces when you walked through some parts of the home.

“There were a lot of rooms that seemed like they didn’t have a purpose,” said Federico Engel, a principal at Butler Armsden Architects, the firm that led the renovation. “It was not clear what was the living room, what was the dining room and what was the family room.”

Beyond the ideas the Dornbusches had about the particular functions they needed, they also wanted plenty of space to display their contemporary art collection. And they were hoping their new home would have a fresh, creative look, with plenty of color and rugged materials recalling the rough-hewed wood and blackened steel they had seen in modern homes in the Pacific Northwest.

To transform the exterior, Butler Armsden replaced existing pale gray board-and-batten siding with rustic wood boards, and added a standing-seam metal roof. They eliminated a series of small windows, installing larger expanses of glass. And they did away with a towering, two-story canopy topped by a curved roof at the main entrance, replacing it with a simpler, suspended steel one.

While all of that was happening, Rousseau Landscape Architecture redesigned the grounds, a project that included replacing an amoeba-shaped pool with a larger rectangular one and an expanded pool deck.

Ms. Dornbusch found an interior designer when she visited the tasting room at Sinegal Estate Winery, a space that felt as comfortable and interesting as the home of a jet-setting friend. “It was just beautiful,” she said. “So I asked them who did it.” It was Katie Martinez, a designer based in San Francisco.

As Butler Armsden performed surgery on the interior — combining smaller rooms into larger ones, adding pocket doors nearly as large as sliding walls and converting three bays of the six-car garage into the gym and au pair suite — Ms. Martinez helped finalize the material palette. Now the house has weathered white-oak floors, concrete tiles, leather-wrapped handrails and blackened-steel door hardware, all intended to feel pleasing under feet and fingertips.

“The scale of the house is quite grand, so I was trying to find strong materials that are also tactile and warm, so it doesn’t feel cold and echoey,” Ms. Martinez said.

To realize Ms. Dornbusch’s desire for artful touches and blasts of color, she and Ms. Martinez worked with artists, designers and craftspeople to create custom pieces, including a wall-mounted log-shaped console by Nobuto Suga for the foyer; a headboard made from crisscrossing wood slats by Aleksandra Zee for the main bedroom; pink splatter-painted curtains by Kamperett for Poppy’s room; and cloudy, hand-painted walls dripping with copper-colored resin by Caroline Lizarraga in the powder room.

After starting construction in November 2018, Buestad Construction completed the project in June, for about $5 million.

Although the Dornbusches renovated the house with entertaining in mind, including dinners for clients of their winery and an annual Oscars costume party for friends and colleagues in digital media, they are happy to get a feel for their new home while waiting to share it with others.

“We love people, but it’s just nice to feel like you’re in a place of serenity,” Ms. Dornbusch said. “And then when things pick back up again, we have an incredible house for entertaining.”

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