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At home with… Annie & Jim Barnett

Riley McDermid

Annie Barnett and her husband, serial tech entrepreneur Jim Barnett, were already mulling a renovation of the Atherton home where they’d raised three children. But it took an act of nature to really seal the deal. “The straw that broke the camel’s back was our beautiful huge ash tree falling over and crushing part of our home,” Annie says. That’s when the couple knew it was time to overhaul the entire house, ripping up everything from the dry rot and termites to the years of sweet memories in order to create a new abode from scratch.

“We never thought we would tear down our home, but after talking about it for about two years, we realized that we couldn’t really retrofit properly and keep the integrity of the home,” she reflects, adding that the decision still wasn’t an easy one. “The day we tore it down a friend texted me and said, ‘Wow, I saw they just razed your house in three hours.’ I cried and couldn’t drive by for two weeks!”

Annie Barnett says for their Atherton renovation, the design team brought in some “very cool” and meaningful items, including incorporating Annie’s photographs throughout the home and keep the design as light and airy as the European coastal towns the Barnetts love.

For such a delicate project, the Barnetts looked high and low for a design team that could blend their two opposing styles — Annie loves traditional touches, while Jim leans toward a more modern sensibility — while respecting the “forever home” vision the two were hoping to create. For that, they turned to Ojai-based architect Steve Giannetti and his wife, interior designer Brooke Giannetti, both well-known within the financier and tech worlds for creating high-end homes with touches like garden features and ancient design elements.

“I always enjoy solving the initial design problem,” Steve says. “For Annie and Jim’s home, the first challenge was taking full advantage of a beautiful property and combining a traditional home with the very modern houses that they were showing me that they loved. I knew I needed to figure out how to design a home that had the warmth of a traditional house with the scale and light of a more modern residence.”

A couple of empty- nesters, two dedicated designers and one bruised-and-battered traditional Colonial badly in need of a ground-up reinvention came together to create a family’s new paradise in sunny Atherton.

The result? A blend of new and classic, with steel doors painted gray to soften their impact, French and Swedish antiques mixed in with stainless metal touches, a sprinkling of much-loved family heirlooms and a lot of inspiration taken from the European coastal towns where the Barnetts love to vacation. Another fun detail: The lights in part of the kitchen once belonged to film icon Elizabeth Taylor, who, along with Richard Burton, was close to Annie’s father. Combine bespoke touches like that with expansive outdoors spaces filled with Old World landscaping like romantic climbing roses and a pool to die for, and the project was everything they’d hoped it would be.

“After the project was done, we walked in to our new home, and I burst into tears of joy. We absolutely love it,” Annie recalls. “Our home now is a forever home, a gathering place for friends and family. We are so grateful we made the decision to rebuild completely.”

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