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Simple and Stylish Tips from Celebrity Designers

Design experts Steve and Brooke Giannetti champion a slower way of living that embraces nature and history.

By Rebecca L. Rhoades

A few years ago, husband-and-wife team Steve and Brooke Giannetti—he’s an architect; she’s an interior designer—decided to leave the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, California, for the more relaxed lifestyle in rural Ojai, a lush enclave in the shadow of the Topatopa Mountains. The couple bought five acres and built a farm where they escape from their busy jobs by gardening and raising chickens, goats, donkeys and sheep.

As the owners of Giannetti Home, a full-service architecture, interior and landscape design firm, as well as a top home furnishings store in Los Angeles, Brooke and Steve developed a signature approach in which timeless style marries vintage character. Known as “patina,” this look celebrates the old, the imperfect and the slightly distressed.

We recently spoke with Brooke and Steve to learn more about their design philosophy and get tips on how you can bring their elegant, timeworn style into your home.

Phoenix Home & Garden: What  is “patina?”

Brooke Giannetti: The definition of patina is the characteristics that something takes on through usage and age. Consider metal, how it wears and mellows as years pass. We like to work with elements that weather beautifully over time, such as wood or brass accessories or even a great leather chair. These items just look better as they get used and handled.

PHG: Can patina be reflected in architecture?

Steve Giannetti: Absolutely. If I’m working on a very modern-style house, I’ll incorporate plaster walls, because I love the way they age, or natural elements, such as stone and antique wood beams. We like things with history; they make even a contemporary home feel very warm and comfortable.

A calming neutral color palette of creams, taupes and golds serves as the backdrop for a simple floral arrangment from the garden. The fireplace mantle is antique French limestone.

PHG: How can our readers bring the patina look into their homes?

Steve: The easiest way to start is to quiet down the color palette. Then you need to edit your furnishings and decor. Get rid of anything you don’t love. A few nice antiques really create focal points in a room.

Brooke: Another way is to take inspiration from nature. I don’t really like when the interiors of a home have nothing to do with what’s going on outside. Rather than deep jewel tones, try bringing the colors of the desert inside on linens, accent pillows or chairs.

PHG: When designing with antiques, how do you combine different styles and time periods for a cohesive look?

Steve: It really starts with the palette. Have a relatively clean background and keep the accents simple. Pay attention to scale. You don’t want pieces that are too big or too small. Also, giving them space makes them feel more curated and not just a grouping of stuff. And don’t worry so much about style or provenance. Collect what you love.

Brooke: Nothing should be so precious that it doesn’t look good if it gets bumped or bruised a little bit. Embrace the imperfections.

Floral wallpaper panels and a galvanized bucket filled with budding branches clipped from the Giannettis’ fruit trees lend a sense of spring to their serene living room.

PHG: How does spending time outdoors enhance everyday living?

Brooke: There’s something very calming and restorative about connecting to nature. It’s in our DNA; it’s where we come from; it’s where we go back to. There’s nothing like the feeling of getting your hands dirty in a garden or eating outside and breathing in the fresh air.

Steve: In a world where you’re always looking at a screen, it’s important to go for walk, gaze at a mountain or simply feel the sun on your face. Being in a creative business, it’s how I protect myself. If I feel as though I’m getting a bit overwhelmed or I need to come up with a good idea, I’ll take a walk and go visit the cows. It’s very calming.

PHG: How do you increase a home’s connection to its landscape?

Steve: Think about outdoor spaces in the same way you do indoor rooms. Create a background for experiences. Where do you want to pick roses? Where will you drink coffee in the morning? Where are you going to take a nap outside? Where can the kids play with their toys? Go through the rituals of your day and then build zones that will reinforce those activities.

Brooke: At our farm, we designed an outdoor living room that centers around a fire pit, and we have another area that is for meals. In Arizona, the dining table should be a little bit more protected from the sun, but imagine creating a covered dining pavilion or building a fire feature that you gather around in the evenings.

PHG: How important is greenery?

Architect Steve Giannetti designed this contemporary abode in Palm Springs. “The owner wanted a warm, modern feeling, and we achieved that by connecting the indoors to the outside, which is another theme of our work,” he says. Lush hedges and masses of red geraniums frame a reflecting pool, creating a soothing oasis in the desert.

Brooke: Having plants inside purifies the air. As human beings, it’s important to be outside with greenery, but we really need to be surrounded with plants inside, as well. It makes a huge difference in how the whole property flows—the house to the gardens and the outside to the inside.

Patina Living” (Gibbs Smith), released in 2019, shares how the Giannettis live and entertain on their California farm.


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