Step Inside Architect Shay Zak's Streamlined St. Helena Retreat



Ikea Vilmar chairs surround an RH trestle table in the dining area. A visually weightless FontanaArte Amax pendant chandelier helps to preserve the spare beauty of the space. To architect Shay Zak, the gated entry into the St. Helena compound he designed with his wife, Mary Moore, is “softly spoken.” Recessed from the street and camouflaged by fruit-bearing olive trees, it opens onto a serene courtyard where outdoor living spaces relate to a central pool, two-story house and guesthouse. “A conventional, centrally placed house with a front and back garden would have produced lots of non-negotiable space,” says Zak. “This resolution came to me instantly, and then Mary and I tweaked it forever, and it got simpler each time.” the streamlined compound is a brilliantly effective use of the half-acre plot.

Simplicity is key to most of the houses Zak, the founder of Zak Architects, has built throughout the Bay Area and Hawaii. “When I design, I always think about sequence in an intuitive way,” he explains, “and to me, the ritual of going from one area to another is an imaginative, silent way to stimulate spatial connections.” In this case, the rectangular great room contains a kitchen, dining area and two living spaces. Frequent entertainers, Zak and Moore anchored the kitchen with a 12-foot-long oak trestle table. Ingredients for the simple, healthy meals Moore prepares often come from a raised garden located behind the house that yields eggplants, padrón peppers, handfuls of herbs and fist-sized heirloom tomatoes. “The kitchen has this gravitational pull because Mary’s cooking is always the focal point of our social events,” says Zak. “I wanted to celebrate that.”

The view from the dining room looks back onto the guesthouse, which has bedrooms on either side of the breezeway.A tight, honest materials palette is another characteristic of Zak’s work, and here all the surfaces are integrated. Wide-plank oak floors in the main and guesthouses transition into concrete and gravel hardscaping as they extend outside. All the windows and door frames are black steel. Wherever there’s marble it’s Carrara, and all the bathrooms feature subway tiles.

The interiors have an easy elegance, but “It’s all bulletproof,” notes Moore. “It’s a ‘put your feet up on the coffee table’ type of comfort.” All walls are crisp white—Benjamin Moore’s Mountain Peak—and the spare furnishings conform to a black and white scheme. Deep-seated sofas plumped up with pillows are invitations to lounge, as is thick white shag carpeting. Whimsical decorative elements by St. Helena designer Erin Martin—like the hand-lettered sayings on the walls of the bedroom and powder room—who contributed to the interior design, add dimension. Artwork also injects color into every room. Small-scale works by cartoonist Gary Baseman and Miró are as exuberant as larger paintings by Livia Stein and muralist Brian Barneclo. The couple’s collection also includes works by Richard Serra, Chuck Close and Tilo Kasier. Zak’s 2008 Ducati Sport 1000 is routinely parked directly outside the great room where it can be appreciated as a piece of sculpture.

Thanks to award-winning San Francisco landscape architect Andrea Cochran, greenery provides structure: Column boxwoods form low perimeters; tall succulents emerge from planters; and fruit bearing olive trees line the front yard. Fragrant star jasmine and creeping fig vines add lushness as they trail across stucco walls and wood fences. “I feel as if I’m always on the verge of being inside and outside at the same time here,” says Moore, who constantly has vast expanses of sky in her peripheral vision. “Since we moved in, we never want to leave which, of course, is a lovely problem to have.”

A version of this article appeared in the February/March 2017 issue of SFC&G (San Francisco Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Simply Irresistible.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags

Landscape Spotlight

Edit Module
Rosalia Sanni
Rosalia Sanni is an award-winning landscape designer whose approach strikes a balance between architecture, nature and people. Comprehensive services include master planning, construction, administration, furniture souring, and an open dialogue that often continues after completion. Rosalia believes that good design enhances people's lives profoundly, and should offer more than a collection of beautiful pictures. Landscapes should suit the people who inhabit them in a meaningful, fun and deeply personal way.

Rosalia Sanni Design

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Architect Spotlight

Consiglio Builders
Consiglio Builders is a luxury residential construction company located on the East End of Long Island. We have developed a unique method of residential construction in the Hamptons—we call it "The Considered Approach." It stems from our experience which demonstrates that meticulous planning and transparency throughout the process, combined with our expertise and emphasis on perfection, enable us to deliver consistently the best-constructed homes on time and within budget to our discerning clientele.


 

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Architect Spotlight

James Merrell Architects 
From our perspective in the 21st century, all styles are historical. Even Modernism is now a century old. So, we are free to interpret, and interweave the minimal with the decorative to find new expressions for our own era. Our house celebrates this new design freedom. It brings a contemporary sensibility to the architectural covenants of this otherwise traditional neighborhood. Floor to ceiling glass on the ground floor, for instance, yields modern interior spaces. While above, divided windows sit comfortably in second floor dormers. And the style that results is both unique and timeless.


Edit ModuleShow Tags

Architect Spotlight

Bates Masi + Architects
Bates Masi + Architects LLC, a full-service architectural firm with roots in New York City and the East End of Long Island for over 50 years, responds to each project with extensive research in related architectural fields, material, craft and environment for unique solutions as varied as the individuals for whom they are designed. The focus is neither the size nor the type of project but the opportunity to enrich lives and enhance the environment.

Bates+Masi Architects
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags