THE WEST MARIN town of Woodacre, population 1,348, is rural and remote, two adjectives that dissuade many from setting down roots. But not Arielle and Nick Giusto, who chose tranquility over proximity to Target.
Actually, for Arielle, the commute is exponentially easier than what she went through growing up in Stinson Beach. “I went to high school at Tam, which meant taking the school bus back and forth every day. I was constantly getting carsick and in need of Dramamine.”
And while there’s nothing this couple would change about their new town, the same could not be said for the house. They bought it four years ago from Spirit Rock Meditation Center founder Jack Kornfield. “He lived in it for 30 years,” says Arielle. “You could feel that it was special; we wanted to retain that, while doing some updating to make it our own.”
Rather than dive into redesign, they decided to settle in and ponder their options first. “We wanted to watch how the light streamed in different seasons and also take time to see how we used the space,” says Nick. They waited nearly a year before tackling their first project, a down-to- the-studs bathroom remodel.
Delighted as they were with the result, they thought better of redoing the kitchen all by themselves. Fortunately, architect Craig O’Connell, their good friend and next-door neighbor, stepped in to lend a hand. He tinkered with ideas, broadened the scope, and managed to turn the couple’s half-baked plan into a spectacular main floor renovation.
The lion’s share focused on the cooking space. For Arielle, a professional chef, and Nick, a fourth-generation miller and baker, installing the trappings of a commercial kitchen was priority one, including a Blue Star stove and a concrete countertop with an oversize inlaid sink. “We do wet prep on the concrete,” says Nick. The dry workspace counters are cypress plank-width butcher block. They chose a single plank of sycamore wood for the breakfast bar and also for the lower cabinetry, and they vaulted the ceiling for added height. The new roofline features reclaimed beams of Douglas fir from old piers excavated on San Francisco Bay.
They also pulled out the old floors and laid new ones made from re-purposed barn wood. “They were a real pain to put in, but totally worth it,” says Arielle. An old brick wood-burning fireplace was replaced with a recessed direct vent unit, and they added custom cabinetry to the home’s front entry. The landscaping also got some needed TLC.
Because the upper-level rooms weren’t part of the remodel, the Giustos lived on site for the whole experience, construction and all.
Today, they happily entertain friends and family in the new improved space, and even though some kitchen surfaces are already showing patina, those flaws are welcome additions too. “Everyone was really nervous about us doing wood countertops, knowing how much we cook, but we really like the idea of a living, breathing kitchen,” Arielle says.
This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition with the headline “Marin Home: Not Half Baked”.