A Time to Rush


Marin Magazine Kitchen
The kitchen, with crystal chandelier above the sink, cherry floors and marble countertops.

KATIE BALES LIKES to joke that she and her husband, Rob Balchunas, are on “the Life Acceleration Plan.” No kidding: in the course of one year, they got married, had a baby and bought a house. Once they moved in, they painted the walls, hung the art and arranged the furniture in just three weeks.

Why the rush? Bales, a Novato orthodontist, and Balchunas, a software company executive in the city, had been living in her Ignacio place before they got married, and they wanted to own a home in Novato together. They also needed a house big enough to accommodate Balchunas’ visiting East Coast family. But it was really the imminent arrival of daughter Lola that fueled their search.

They looked around and set their sights on Olive Ridge, a cluster of 20 energy-efficient homes that’s as much Mayberry as it is green living. “There were several homes available there, but nothing was really a match,” says their realtor, Jennifer Bowes. “So we networked and finally found this house, which was owned by a realtor and not even on the market.”

Bales fell for it immediately. “I loved all the details,” she says. “It had great woodwork, and I loved the coffered ceilings in the family room.” Both she and Balchunas also liked the backyard, which is guarded only by deer fencing and offers a miles-long view of nothing but Audubon-protected wetlands and multiuse farmland. And the house, with four bedrooms, a loft and a library, had plenty of room for family and guests.

After moving in, Bales, whose style leans toward shabby chic, quickly went to work warming up the space. She hired woodworker William Hernandez to place rough reclaimed-wood beams across the top of the two-story-high living room ceilings, creating a nice vintage counterpoint to the marble fireplace and cherry floors. Antique wooden corbels from an old Ohio courthouse were added to the cutout opening from the second story library onto the living room.

Handcrafted Swarovski crystal chandeliers hung throughout balance out the home’s neutral palette and contemporary feel. One chandelier over the kitchen sink draws sunlight to the white marble counters; another, above the dining room table, is a fun, whimsical partner to the four-foot-high rough wooden letters R and K on the wall. The letters are mementos from Bales and Balchunas’ recent wedding, which happened only after a long on-again off-again courtship. Because, unlike house hunting, there are some things in life you just can’t rush.



The Olive Ridge neighborhood of Novato


A 2007 woodshingled home


Julie Widergren, Decker Bullock Sotheby’s


Jennifer Bowes and Heather Galli, Bradley Real Estate


Price per square foot for homes in the neighborhood: $342

View the gallery below to see all the images of the Bales and Balchunas’ home.