It may look like it’s all play, but this creative home is built tough for the family of six inside
1 of 10Thomas J. Story
The fun house
"It's like a big exhale when I walk in the front door,” says Jody Brettkelly. How many mothers of four can say that about their home? In fact, the 1940s Oakland two-story Jody shares with her husband, Kevin, and their kids is (mostly) a chaos-free zone. They chose furniture and materials that stand up to real life with their children, ages 11 to 17. The 3,500-square-foot home used to be featureless, dark, and divided into many little rooms. Jody hired Oakland architects Russ Dotter and Wencke Solfjeld (dottersolarchitects.com) to help with the remodel. They counseled her to think two years ahead when designing for kids. With that in mind, Jody installed artificial grass for soccer games, used durable materials throughout the home, and converted an attached garage into a rec room that could grow with her children. The couple also created a big open space that stretches from the kitchen and living room out into the backyard. When they entertain, they pull their rattan furniture outside and watch the kids play.
2 of 10Thomas J. Story
To modernize the home’s façade, the architects beefed up the window trim and added chartreuse accents. Concrete steps replaced the busy red bricks that formerly led from the street to the front door.
3 of 10Thomas J. Story
Right away, the rope-covered chest and sea anemone–esque silk light fixture in the entry signal this house isn’t afraid to have fun. To update the circular staircase, Jody had the existing wood spindles covered with drywall.
4 of 10Thomas J. Story
Jody knew the kitchen would be the family’s prime hangout spot, so she gave it the feel of a living room by swapping overhead cabinets for windows, hanging art, and hiding the appliances around the corner. Every surface (the laminate drawers, quartz countertops, and plastic bar chairs) is virtually indestructible.
5 of 10Thomas J. Story
Accordion-style glass doors connect the sitting room, kitchen, and dining room to the backyard, making it easy to drag the furniture back and forth. “We wanted to open the home up to the light,” says Jody, who works at the built-in desk in this room. “Even when the doors are closed, the view makes it feel like a vacation house.”
6 of 10Thomas J. Story
The TV room is the children’s headquarters, especially when they have friends over. It has its own bathroom, a sectional covered with hospital-grade fabric for easy cleaning, and a sliding door that lets out to the basketball court.
7 of 10Thomas J. Story
Since they have a sitting room, the living room is free to be a more formal space. It’s filled with pieces that remind Jody of the South Pacific, including a bark cloth from Tonga. Its graphic design is set off by a white leather sofa, which can be wiped clean, and a Frank Gehry cardboard chair.
8 of 10Thomas J. Story
The family stole space from the master bedroom for a new laundry room, but Jody doesn’t mind the smaller, pared-down look. It has the essentials for relaxing: a nestlike woven bed, an ocean-inspired blue wall color, and a view of San Francisco.
9 of 10Thomas J. Story
In the living room, a large window frames a leather petal chair and ottoman. This is the spot where the family goes for quiet—and where Jody practices yoga uninterrupted. Outside, she plans to install sculptures to make the most of the view.
10 of 10Thomas J. Story
Artificial grass is the backyard’s MVP. “The faux lawn looks as it did the day it was installed,” Jody says, despite five years of soccer games and roughhousing. Nearby, a swath of pavement serves as both an outdoor dining room and a basketball court. The yard is rimmed with low-water plants that remind her of her native New Zealand.