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Party house: Los Altos couple's design maximizes fun, storage

Photos by Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Winnie and George Biocini remade their Los Altos rancher with fun in mind, adding chandeliers to welcome guests to entertainment areas, epic space for personal attire and a secret passageway.

When the late Winnie and George Biocini moved into their “retirement” home in Los Altos, they did anything but retire.

After living for 35 years in Menlo Park, they planned to move into a condominium at the Menlo Commons but changed their minds when George quipped, “We can’t live here – there are old ladies in the pool.”

Instead, the couple purchased a 2,000-square-foot house on Sevilla Drive just days before the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. It had four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a large backyard.

It wasn’t long before the very social Biocinis remodeled it to suit their lifestyle. They reconfigured it, subtracting two bedrooms and adding 1,000 square feet.

“I love my home,” Winnie said in a 2004 Town Crier article. “It was an original ranch, but now it’s a party house for friends. When the cars start arriving by the dozens, the neighbors say, ‘They’re at it again.’”

Gathering space

Daughter Peggy Biocini, who moved in to help her parents age in place in 2011, estimates that her parents hosted more than 1,000 parties at the house. On a tour of the home, she opened custom cabinets, designed by her mother, on either side of the fireplace in the dining room (once a small family room). Winnie used them to store the tableware that made her themed parties special.

“My mother loved celebrating with her circle of friends and family and enjoyed setting a table,” Peggy said.

As the Biocinis expanded the house, built in 1958, the kitchen was the first area to undergo change. Winnie’s goal was to remove the utility room and open up the kitchen.

“She had her priorities,” Peggy said, indicating the minuscule space off the kitchen allocated to the washer and dryer.

Winnie designed the basically all-white kitchen, which features a warming oven in the island, two ovens, two dishwashers, custom cabinetry, a Sub-Zero refrigerator and other amenities.

She knew what she wanted and she was savvy, having been a real estate broker since the early 1950s. George built automotive and laundry businesses and was an avid golfer who had his last hole-in-one at age 89.

FoyerA nondescript entry was replaced with a large foyer from which one can see through the house to the garden. Its trompe l’oeil lattice wallpaper makes it gazebo-like.

To the left, it’s hard to miss the “wow” factor in the spacious dining room – a brass candlelight chandelier that’s 5 feet in diameter and suspended from a circular apricot-colored recess in the ceiling. A round hardwood table that seats 12 is centered below it on a circular rug echoing the room’s apricot-and-white color scheme.

Both the dining and living rooms have glass “walls” – French doors and windows – that face the garden. Like the dining room, the living room boasts a fireplace flanked by custom cabinetry. Amid the shelving to the left of the fireplace, trompe l’oeil book wallpaper camouflages a “secret” door that leads to a guest bedroom and bath.

Of the original four bedrooms, only the guest room and master bedroom remained after the remodel. A third bedroom was transformed into a library that features a wall of built-ins. Doors on either side of the TV open to reveal “his” and “hers” desks complete with ergonomic chairs and office equipment. “Very functional” is Peggy’s description.

A fourth bedroom became Winnie’s walk-in closet when it was incorporated into the master suite. She was known for her style, high heels and purses – and her closet was color-coded with drawers for accessories and costume jewelry (black, red, blue, silver, etc.), shoe racks, shelves for her hats and hooks for her purses.

“There was nobody like Winnie,” Peggy said.

Entertaining in style

At age 18, Winnie was voted runner-up to Miss San Francisco and was still turning heads in her 90s.

01 31 18 HOME BiociniHome 5765 fmtShe and George had a wealth of friends and used every inch of space in their home when they entertained. When they celebrated their 60th anniversary, they hosted 120 guests for a sit-down lunch. But in 2012, together with 230 guests, they celebrated 71 years of marriage at the Menlo Circus Club – obviously more than they could manage at home.

Winnie served on the board of the Sequoia Hospital Foundation and, for several years, she and George donated a dinner party in their home to the foundation’s fundraising auction.

“It was one of the most popular, sought-after experiences,” Peggy said.

The last party in the house was for Winnie’s 95th birthday last March. High heels with balloons attached led the way to the front door. Scores of people came to wish her well.

She died Dec. 26 and was preceded in death by George in 2013.

“What I love about their home is that they remodeled it to suit them but didn’t give a hoot about resale – and Winnie was a realtor working into her late 80s,” a neighbor said. “They called it their ‘party home.’”

Perhaps the parties will begin again with new owners.

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