Five Acres and a Dream

Patina Farm is a labor of love for Brooke and Steve Giannetti.

By Leslie A. Westbrook

Photo by Andrew Ingalls

Steve and Brooke Giannetti in the European-style estate they brought to life in Ojai.


f Patina Farm and its lucky resident critters could talk, there’d be an awful lot to bark, bleat and squawk about. Fortunately, its mistress, Brooke Giannetti, is a pretty effusive interview subject. Plus, not many houses have an entire book devoted to their process, purpose and potential legacy; but this Ojai retreat does. 

Interior designer Brooke and her architect husband Steve make a formidable design team. The duo set out to, among other things, create a series of experiences in their Ojai home: “ . . . places for things to happen, emotions to be felt, memories to be made.” 

I doubt they planned for things to happen during their evacuation from the Thomas Fire, which entailed loading their quartet of super-friendly dogs, trio of pygmy goats and a flock of chickens into the rear of their station wagon — while three miniature donkeys were hustled into a neighbor’s SUV.

Thankfully, despite the nearby rage and destruction, the couple’s labor of love still stands. The scorched hills directly in their line of sight attest to recent history.

“We have a renewed appreciation for the sanctity of the place. An attitude of gratitude,” Brooke said.

Life partners (over 30 years), work partners (together they run design firm Giannetti Home) and parents to three children, these arbiters of style have created stunning homes, far and wide. Designing for themselves and their family provided an exercise in freedom. As the architect noted, he is pretty close to his client, to say the least.

The moment I passed through the gate and entered Patina Farm’s gardens, I felt at peace in the calming environment. This is this couple’s great talent: creating beautiful, elegant yet comfortable safe havens that console.

Certainly, the muted color palette — lots of natural linens, beiges and whites – inspired by nature helps. Wanting to create a connection to the outdoors, the interior doesn’t fight for attention as the eye moves to the landscape. The house is solid — limestone, thick plaster walls — but also airy, with many windows and doors opening to the gardens and beyond. Most rooms, from the great room to the master bedroom to the kitchen, take advantage of the views. Even the farm-style sink has a vista of the gardens and mountains in the distance, as well as of the donkeys happily re-ensconced in the lower portion of the property.

Steve is a classically trained architect with Italian roots who appreciates fine craftsmanship. His father was an ornamental plasterer who worked on many historic buildings in Washington, D.C., and beyond. 

Wanting interplay between “rustic and refined,” the couple mixed natural materials with modern simplicity: galvanized steel, chalky limestone, pale white oak, grayed vintage barn beams, faded antique wooden doors and moss-covered French terra cotta roof tiles. Smooth white plaster walls, no wall/floor moldings, steel doors and glass all add up to a perfectly balanced environment that is elegant without feeling stuffy.

Brooke admits to being influenced by Belgian design — the couple traveled there and to Paris for elements and ideas, and found inspiration (along with many wonderful decorative items sourced at French flea markets) along the way. Steve sketched on their travels, while Brooke made use of Instagram.

Of great importance when deciding on where to situate their home were two oak trees and sunlight. An H-shaped plan took root with two main courtyards. One takes advantage of the shade from a 250-year-old stately oak. 

“I purposefully designed this house to be very sculptural,” noted Steve, whose fine abstract seascapes line the walls of his office and the kitchen. “I designed it by feel rather than by the rules.” His intent was to connect modern with Old World style, which he has done harmoniously.

There’s even a bell tower that houses a small library, accessed via a very steep and narrow stair. Old leather books wedged in willy-nilly add a touch of whimsy to the house. Other cool concepts include storage incorporated within the thick plaster walls, as well as carved shelves. Scaffolding planks become bookshelves; a metal industrial table was transformed into a vanity in one bathroom.

The master bedroom is an oasis of calm, with a master bath that features a free-standing tub flanked by open showerheads abutting a glass wall overlooking an enclosed side garden. The dramatic walk-in closet is actually a room where clothing is hidden behind drapes, rather than sliding doors.

A sweet guesthouse on the property welcomes visitors in the same style as the house, with views of a pond created by the Giannettis that is often visited by migrating ducks.

Steve is currently designing a 40,000-square-foot home for a client in Tennessee. Other current and past projects for Giannetti Home span the globe from France to Texas and Connecticut to Calistoga — but most projects are in Los Angeles. The couple works at home, in side-by-side offices. They recently opened a Santa Barbara retail shop to showcase their custom furniture line. 

Brooke is currently working on the couple’s third book. The outdoor rooms they created should provide inspirational writing spots, as this tome will be about Patina Farm’s gardens and animals. 

And if those beloved animals could talk, I imagine they’d have a lot to say about recent “events” as well as praise for their good life on Patina Farm.

“They give us more than we give them,” Brooke concluded, “Being with animals is being in the now. It’s very calming.”

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Walking down an arched hallway past antique furniture and through a faded wooden door, one has the sense of stepping back into another time.

Patina Farm resides partly in the shade of a 250-year-old stately oak, standing guard majestically on the hillside.

The farm is very much an integral part of the house’s design, as evinced by a single-basin sink in the kitchen (top), as well as sheep, chickens and a large garden which yields lots of fresh, ripe produce.





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