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Hollywood haven: Los Altos couple create their own corner of Tinsel Town

It's a house made for Hollywood, but it's in Los Altos atop a hill, with Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve as its backyard.

When Susan and Kim Bratton first saw the house more than a decade ago, it didn't look like it does today, but Susan liked the "bones of the house" and Kim liked the city views and the privacy. It came with a "horrible" kitchen that consisted of three cut-up rooms (the former maid's quarters) and the challenge of refurbishing 4,660 square feet.

Architect Leslie I. "Buck" Nichols designed the classic modern house in 1956 for William B. Tyler, president of C & H Sugar in Benicia. It was called the "Pink Adobe" because it looked like a pink sugar box.

In designing the house, Nichols found his creative muse in the modernist landmarks in Los Angeles designed by influential architects R.M. Schindler, John Lautner and Richard Neutra. It is modern to the core - but Susan has imbued it with warmth.

The Brattons purchased the house in 1995 and lived in it for four years before they began to remodel. "Susan had a binder 4 inches thick of what she liked and wanted in the house," Kim said.

So the process began. They hooked up with Bess Wiersema, lead architect for House + Home in San Francisco, who has since ventured out on her own with Studio 3 in San Jose. HGTV became interested in the project and filmed a "before and after" segment for the show.

The renovation/remodel took two years, and they moved from room to room during the project with a toddler, Taylor, now 10, who attends Pinewood School and has a stable of at least three dozen toy horses and two elephants in her bright and airy room. They ended up in what Susan calls "the cold hole," because there was no electricity. In fact, today it is a downstairs room with bath that doubles as a guest room, play room and exercise room.

The Brattons added roughly 100 square feet to the entrance and gutted the three rooms that were the maid's quarters/kitchen to create a kitchen and great room. They integrated the new and the old in the five-bedroom, five-bath house by keeping the original tile and fixtures (classic elements) in the bathrooms and installing new lighting, cabinetry and flooring. However, they went one step further in the master bath by adding a walk-in double shower, honed-stone vanity tops and crucible sinks by Kohler - plus a walk-in master closet.

Every room has a view, and the 15-foot floor-to-ceiling windows that wrap the living room frame the signature coastal oak that defines the backyard. It is estimated to be between 200 and 400 years old and occupies 0.25 acres.

The architecture is noteworthy for its horizontal lines, which Susan capitalized on in the design of the front entrance and the interior detailing. She calls it "Mondrianesque." For example, there are square panels in the huge cantilevered front door, horizontal ribs in the front windows, rectangular stainless-steel panels (with intersecting wood beams) in the entry and above the living room fireplace and linear detailing throughout - even extending to the metal gate at the foot of the driveway.

The new entrance gives the illusion of "walking across water into a view," Susan said - and that it does. To the left, a miniature waterfall feeds a channel of water that you cross as you enter. From the outside, you can see through the house to the view on the other side.

The Brattons have used the same materials throughout the house. For example, the cabinetry in the kitchen is anagres, a rich blond African wood with a beautiful grain. The same wood is used on the front-door panels, the fireplace mantel and elsewhere.

Flooring throughout is oak, stained black. Polished Texas limestone, ochre in color with embedded fossilized creatures, is in the foyer. The same limestone, which has been honed, is outside the front door.

Susan, who has a good eye for color and design, comes from a family of artists. She said she is "running out of wall space." In the living room is a two-panel painting by Argentinean artist Diego Gravinese that occupies an entire wall. It symbolizes his struggle between art and his love for women. Beneath it, a large wooden Indonesian rice bowl sits on a folk-art credenza. Modern yet classic sofas by Barbara Barry invite you to make yourself comfortable in front of the fireplace, above which is a floating mantel.

It's a far cry from the painted brick fireplace and white wagon wheel chandelier there when the Brattons moved in.

Illuminating the scene is a "morning glory" lamp by Ayala Serfaty of Aqua Creations. It is made of knife-pleated Duponi silk. Companion lamps - an onion and a garlic - are found in the guest bathroom.

It is surprises like these, and the painted Venetian silk chandelier in the dining room, that lend a special character to the house.

The color palette features earth tones. Susan painted the 15-by-20-foot dining room mushroom brown "to make it feel cozy." One wall of floor-to-ceiling windows opens to the outdoors and the "tree"; the opposite wall is mirrored to reflect the view.

Doe skin is a prevalent color in the kitchen and throughout the house, though brick is the color of choice in the living room.

When remodeling the kitchen and turning three rooms into one, load-bearing walls were removed and had to be replaced with supporting posts. But they are no ordinary posts. They are oval columns covered in Italian glass tiles. Work surfaces are stainless steel with a Viking range in the central island vented by a stainless-steel hood.

Kim said the open kitchen is great for entertaining - the perfect spot for their annual neighborhood Halloween party - and he loves to show off his "media closet," which contains the electronics that keep the house humming.

The room with what is perhaps the finest view is the Brattons' upstairs home office. It is here that the couple run their company, Personal Life Media, which produces podcasts that offer content about relationships, dating, marriage, intimacy, life purpose, wealth creation, healthy aging and longevity.

"We're creating the next media-generation empire," said Susan, who's proud of the fact they just had their one-millionth download. She is responsible for advertising and sales, Kim's forte is technology. He created Rhapsody, a membership-based online music service.

They have created a symphony of design in their "Hollywood" house.

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