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Off the Grid: A Stylish, Low-Impact Retreat in Sonoma by Charles de Lisle

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Off the Grid: A Stylish, Low-Impact Retreat in Sonoma by Charles de Lisle

August 29, 2022

San Francisco designer Charles de Lisle needs no introduction among the design cognoscenti. He’s been the arbiter of cool for a couple of decades in the Bay Area, orchestrating interiors for local luminaries as well as far-flung clients. And he’s on the 2022  AD 100 list, the holy grail for designers.

But the project we most admire is his own Sonoma retreat—a simple yet sophisticated compound featuring repurposed, reclaimed, and eco-friendly elements—which he shares with his partner Ralph Dennis, a designer with Studio Volpe.

Let’s take a tour:

Photography by Eric Petschek.

Go Solar

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Above: De Lisle installed solar panels and sourced vintage windows from an old Air Force base. “I had always wanted to build my own house, and this site reminded me of where I grew up in Western Massachusetts.”

Scout the Salvage Yards

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Above: A propane Jøtul stove (“it’s less spark inducing than a wood-burning stove”) supplements heat generated by the solar panels. The black chair next to the stove is by Italian designer Gaetano Pesci and the chaise longue is by Bruno Mathsson—”I like a funny mashup of things that are important and things that are not.”

Repurpose Family Stalwarts

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Above: The interior is fully cladded in plywood. De Lisle repurposed a vintage shop work bench as a dining table (his father, a high school history teacher, rescued it; it still has teenage initials carved on the surface). The table is surrounded by vintage Josef Hoffmann bentwood chairs. De Lisle used Kohler fixtures for the existing cast-concrete laundry sink (“it was the only piece we kept from the original cabin”). The industrial  worktable is from Grainger.

Beautify Inelegant Appliances

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Above: De Lisle encased a refrigerator  (including the pulls) from his previous SF office in plywood.

Designate Zones for Living

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Above: In the main living area, De Lisle deployed pieces from previous projects, including Japanese tansu chests and Charlotte Perriand-inspired daybeds.

Bathrooms Should Be Beautiful

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Above: The bathing pavilion is enobled by a graphic Noguchi lamp.

Don’t Overthink It

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Above: The linen sink skirt is a remnant from a previous project.

Repurpose Elements from Past Projects

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Above: The floor is composed  of eco-friendly cork-backed Marmoleum squares. The TP holder was a speaker shelf  in De Lisle’s former office in SF.

Embrace Outdoor Bathing

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Above: A Japanese cedar soaking tub is perched on the bathhouse deck.

Look to the Hardware Store

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Above:  De Lisle installed a sturdy Kohler outdoor shower, which was originally designed for state parks.
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Above: The pool is a simple affair;  poured  concrete with a deck embedded  with local fieldstone.

See more California projects:

Before and After: A Summery Bungalow in Topanga, California, Redone by an LA Designer

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