Set at the end of a quiet lane, behind a set of decorative iron gates, sits the home of designer Joan Osburn and her husband Steve. It is a modernized bit of France set in the southern part of wine country, with dozens of decorative rose bushes and a kitchen garden behind, above a small wooded tributary to a nearby river. In front of the house, which sits on an acre, the landscaping is strictly but casually European. When the Osburn's built this comfortable two bedroom, three bath house five years ago, they had very specific ideas. One of them was art, the other, as Joan, the self-described 'color wizard' is the first to say, is color. There is not a single white wall - or ceiling for that matter - in the entire 2,000-square foot dwelling. "It is really all about art, isn't it?" she says, as she walks from room to room. As she has said for years, she looks at every three-dimensional space as her canvas, and color is her most important tool. The color palette that has been employed here runs the gamut, but in every space it works so that even on cloudy days the rooms shine; on sunny days they absolutely glow. Lighting is well thought out, so at night the colors continue to stand out, if more subtly. Windows are ideally spaced and for the most part large, and French doors lead from the master bedroom and the combined kitchen and dining room. What they call the 'café'.
"The house is carefully infused with color and texture that flows from one space to the next," Joan says.
"Nothing jarring, but there is nothing tepid about the way the color is selected and applied. Downstairs all the wall and ceiling surfaces are layered in hues and topped with opalescent finishes, each with a different brushstroke texture. This color technique catches the light in different ways as the light of the day, and the seasons, change." Furnishings are an enchanting mix of antique and contemporary French, for the most part, ranging from the whimsical to the practical.
Coral and melon hues are carried into the kitchen, with its French bistro stools and Italian silver tile island made to mimic metal.
Fabrics vary in pattern, color and texture, and the emphasis is on the practical, the comfortable and often the whimsical. They provide color, and at other times by their very presence and positioning, highlight it. "In addition to the wall and ceiling colors, all of the fabrics, rugs, furniture objects and lighting were selected to harmonize and juxtapose one with the other to create an interior that is of-a-piece."
It takes time to digest the sheer volume of objets and furnishings found throughout the house. From the dining room table - a circa 1900 French antique cast iron base with a sandblasted glass top in the French Directoire style - to the collection of espresso cups and sauces in the salon. "Trends in furniture are always shifting, and yet furniture is a purchase that needs to last for years, possibly generations ... It is important not to get stuck with a trend that will look dated in ten years. Rather, I suggest using a mix of well designed and interesting pieces where function and form are equally important.
In other words, do not sacrifice one for the other. Scale is often the most overlooked element in furniture selection ... It is a trick to balance all the pieces together both functionally and aesthetically."
To create an interesting dynamic, mix antiques with modern. Antiques add patina and texture and since they are 'recycled (they have already lived a life elsewhere) antiques are essentially 'Green'.
The Osburns eschewed bright colors in the bath for soothing blues to evoke a spa-like feel.
"Many of the items she finds in her travels she features on her Cafe Society Store website. Quite a few are one-of-a-kind, and come from a range of periods from Belle Époque, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, French Deco and beyond. Other categories include newer items, a line of metal outdoor furniture and hand-selected jewelry. The art on the walls and the small sculptures here and there are also a mix, of found treasures and her own contemporary works. She studied painting in Paris and at Cal Arts in Los Angeles and not surprisingly her paintings are colorful, but at times they are more subdued than the walls on which they hang. "My work is very loose and 'painternly', with color, yet at the same time, highly restrained. I like to combine the brush stroke with geometric forms.
"Both Steve and I were fortunate enough to go to art school before we went to design school. All of the elements of art and design align beautifully, but the art part of it gives our work a creative twist. In fact we like to say that our design is, in fact, classic/modern with a twist."
And, of course, with a Parisian touch of color as well.