Rooms To Grow

An '80s home in Mission Ranch gets an update with fresh, family-friendly design.

For developer Antun Barbato, his career and the importance of family are inseparable. Through his company, Family Development, Antun has devoted himself to the creation of such familyfriendly housing communities as Bella Tierra, Shadow Ranch, and Brava. His recent “Home With a Heart” charity event in Indio raised $400,000 for the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center and Family YMCA of the Desert.

So when it came to choosing his own new home in 2005, Antun and his wife, Lisa, sought out a house whose location, layout, and feel were family-oriented. With five-year-old twins Jillian and Chandler, they wanted to be in a neighborhood that was safe and where other families were raising children. The couple found their dream home in Mission Ranch: gated but without the stuffy feel of many country clubs and, more importantly, full of other children. The Barbatos count nearly 25 children in Mission Ranch that attend Marywood, Chandler’s and Jillian’s school located just down Clancy Lane. “We loved the idea that our children could ride their bikes safely to school,” says Lisa. “It reminds us of that idyllic, innocent childhood that is difficult to find today.”

Their 8,300-square-foot find, situated on 1.25 acres, was formerly the home of Carl Karcher, desert fixture of Carl’s Jr. fame. The home had fantastic bones and a smart layout obviously planned with a family in mind. Built and decorated in the ’80s, however, the interior begged for a major update. Its cold formality was not at all in keeping with the warm, welcoming feel the Barbatos desired.

Fittingly, it was through their children’s school that Antun and Lisa found the ideal designer to help with the renovation. Jeffrey Jones has been working in interior design for more than 25 years, and, with a large family of his own, has developed an fine-tuned sensibility for stylish, family-friendly interior design. His children also attend Marywood, and he has helped many families realize their design goals, a niche that accounts for more than half his business.

The Barbatos’ goal was “serene contemporary;” they hoped to keep the clean, stylish lines of a contemporary home while incorporating warm, welcoming colors and increased comfort. “Modern homes can often feel severe,” says Antun. “We didn’t want our home to feel like a museum.”

Jones began the renovation in the kitchen, the place the Barbatos consider the heart of their house. Kitchen space was enlarged by 35 percent, and traffic patterns were widened to a full 5 feet. An enormous 7- by 8-foot center island provides plenty of room for food preparation and incorporates a serpentine-shaped, 3-foot long salad sink. Deep, rich wenge wood and warm white oak runs throughout the home, replacing stark white cabinets. Additionally, a 55-inch plasma television is recessed into the cabinetry and swivels to be viewed from anywhere in the kitchen — but never, says mom, when the twins are doing homework at the counter before dinner.

The master bedroom boasts a dramatic fireplace that has been completely redone. Yet the true warmth emanates from the “talking couch” they added, reserved for serious conversations they share with the twins or with each other. The original master bathroom was separated into two distinct his-and-hers rooms with their own entrances, connected only by walking through the shared shower. Jones’ solution was to open and connect both rooms, creating a giant, luxurious bathroom that allows Antun and Lisa to talk while they get ready in the morning.

In the children’s rooms, Jones helped to create warm, playful spaces that reflect the dreams of their occupants. “Jillian’s bed and surround is castle-shaped, topped by a radius turret. Small shelving units shaped like castle windows flank the bed, and the upholstered headboard is fabricated in ultra suede blocks to appear like bricks in a stone wall,” Jones says. “In Chandler’s room we did a variant of the same with a builder theme because he wants to be a developer like his dad.” Jones designed the rooms to easily transform as the kids grow up. In a few years, for example, Jillian’s oak-frame turret can be removed to create a straight headboard, and the shelves can come off the wall to be replaced with cool wall lamps befit for any ’tween girl.

Outside, the family makes good use of the sunken tennis court, a soccer lawn complete with goal, and a dining pavilion with outdoor kitchen and fabulous western mountain views. (Lisa laughs when she says the 1,200-square-foot pool is the same size as her first house, the one that Antun sold her when the two first met years ago as home buyer and real estate agent.)

The couple worked with Jones to incorporate a few adult environments as well. “The granny room” is a bedroom dedicated to the grandparents that often visit to spend time with the twins. Lisa has a room dedicated to scrapbooking and wrapping gifts, and Antun’s office affords him a quiet place to work. For entertaining with friends, the couple asked for a drastic repurposing of the living room. Now they have a sunken billiard room with a two-sided fireplace that adjoins the dining room. “Why waste space on a formal living room no one ever goes in?” Antun figured. But even these adult spaces retain an ease of living. “We didn’t want to be screaming ‘Ah!’ every time someone touched something,” says Lisa. “Everything in our house can survive a chocolate handprint from one of our children. And that is how it should be.”


Jeffrey Jones says he sees a trend that families are moving into homes with the intention of living there for a longer time than in the recent past. “My clients are looking for strong planning so their houses can change along with the dynamics of their families growth,” he says. “Flexibility and forethought are the keys to strong family home design.” Jones offers these pointers for creating an elegant, kid-friendly environment:

A GREAT OUTDOORS. Utilize kid-friendly plant material in your landscape design and enjoy the space as a family with a sports court, putting green, horseshoe run, trampoline, tetherball ring, ping pong table, or bicycle run. Add a slide or shallow shelf to the pool for younger kids. “I’ve also had requests for exterior crafts areas where children can paint, use clay, and do other, more messy kinds of activities,” Jones says. “Parents can simply hose it down to clean it up.”

EASY-CARE FLOORS. Choose solution-dyed nylon carpets. I utilze soulution-dyed carpet almost exclusively. As opposed to vat-dyed goods, which are manufactured then colored afterward, the coloration of solution-dyed carpet is added to the nylon when it is in the moultant state and therefore is inherently part of the yarn. This makes for easier cleaning and better long-term durability.

STAY PROTECTED. Patterned fabrics for rugs and upholstery are good choices for homes with children. Preserve your fabrics and furnishings with stain guard and a protection plan that covers stains and tears.

COLOR THAT LASTS. Eggshell paint finishes ensure easy surface cleaning and years of looking like new. I opt for paint products developed for human health, proformance, and elimination of toxicity. These products better eliminate use of hazardous materials, reduce offgasing to minimal levels, and prevent indoor air pollution. Some manufacturers I like are Safecoat and Benjamin Moore.

SAFETY FIRST. A pool fence and alarm are smart components for homes with young children. Ask your designer to consider outdoor safety and your children's ages when designing pools, spas, and water features.

ROUND IT OUT. Why risk bruised shins and bumps on the head? Avoid sharp edges by choosing furnishings with rounded corners, especially in busy zones and children’s rooms. By introducing radius details and lazy curves, you can create aesthetically pleasing lines while minimizing the possibility of accidents. We also use uphostered surrounds on many of our cocktail tables and other typically hard-surfaced furnishings.

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