Relaxed, rustic designers’ tips for personalizing your home

California-based designers Brooke and Steve Giannetti founded Giannetti Home in 1994. Their relaxed aesthetic mixes rustic with elegant.

Steve Giannetti, an architect and artist, grew up outside of Washington, D.C., where his family had an ornamental plaster studio. He has always been partial to chalky patinas and his houses are full of classical references, natural light and antiques. Brooke Giannetti is an interior designer who writes the blog Velvet and Linen, where she chronicles the family gardens, animals and lifestyle at Patina Farm, their home in Ojai. Their shop features antiques, home furnishings and their own line of clothing. Their fourth book, “Patina Homes,” was just published by Gibbs Smith.

The Giannettis joined The Washington Post for an online chat. Here is an edited excerpt.

Brooke and Steve Giannetti at Patina Farm in Ojai, California. (Courtesy of Brendan Willing James)


Q: How can we get that easy-going California style on the East Coast when we don’t have the benefit of the lovely weather?

A: Using quiet, simplified colors that are more connected to the colors found in nature, such as neutrals, greens and blues, can give you the feeling of being connected to gardens, even with the doors closed.

Q: I wish I could build my dream home, but I don’t have the resources. What advice do you have for personalizing your current space?

A: Fill your home with collections of what you love. Collections make more of a statement than one-off items. Keep your space uncluttered, and slowly collect what you love.

Q: What factors do you consider before finalizing a design?

A: First, what emotion are you trying to support? Next, what activities are you planning to do in the space? Then, will the space need to evolve over time to be used for other activities?

Q: I know you love patina, but how do you deal with stains and grease spots on kitchen marble?

A: Marble is not for everyone. We love the imperfections that come with use over time, and we embrace them all. Everyone always loves the antique marble in French bakeries, but they’re always dinged and stained. We see our marble in the same way.

Q: How do you find the best window size for a room?

A: Windows look better when they’re in the golden ratio: about 3-by-5-feet. They also look better when they’re closer to the floor, so you feel connected to the gardens beyond.

A design by Brooke and Steve Giannetti from their new book “Patina Homes.” (Courtesy of Gibbs Smith)


Q: I love the neutral palette and Zen feeling of your designs. Do your clients ever ask for more pattern or color?

A: Our life is so hectic that we crave calm environments. We bring in small splashes of color with flowers. We do have clients who ask for more color. It can make sense, depending on the use of the space, such as in a children’s room or an entertainment space.

Q: I love good design, but a home should say: “This is my home, and it reflects me.” When I look at someone’s personal space, I should be able to select a gift that reflects their personality; if I can’t sense you in your environment, then I’m perplexed as to why nothing reflects you. What do you think?

A: We agree. We always tell our clients that, in the end, their home should look like them, not us. We just help them along their design path.

Q: Your landscaping uses color to make a statement. Why is that important?

A: We don’t look at plants individually; we try to create an environment. We like to reflect the way plants grow in nature, so we plant them in groupings. The overall color is uniform with splashes of intensity, just like in nature.

Q: How many acres is Patina Farm? Did you plan its layout from the beginning, or did it develop over time?

A: Patina Farm is 5 acres. We designed most of the property before we built our home, but it has definitely evolved. With every new animal family member, we create new paddocks and pastures. We also have added our studio space for our online store and a new flower-cutting garden. We are now working on a beautiful tent and hot-tub space by our pond.

Q: To maintain the calm and peaceful environment that is so Patina Farm seems as if it takes commitment and constant awareness. Are you both naturally neat and organized?

A: Steve is definitely not neat and organized. Good design helps us keep everything tidy. We try to design spaces that have storage for the daily items. Baskets are a pretty way to store pieces.

Q: I love velvet, but is a velvet sofa practical in a home with children, cats and dogs?

A: We often use mohair for larger upholstered pieces when kids and dogs are part of the family. Mohair is much more forgiving than velvet. You can always add velvet as accents for pillows or small upholstery pieces, such as small ottomans.

Q: Is it worth the cost to do slipcovers instead of upholstery, especially when you have light neutrals? And how do you feel about durable linen fabrics, such as Perennials?

A: We love both. If you want a more relaxed look, I think slipcovers are a great way to go. If you want a more tailored look, Perennials (perennialsfabrics.com) makes some awesome outdoor linens.

Q: We’re renovating our main bedroom and want to duplicate the texture of your fireplace in our space. How did you achieve that wonderful finish?

A: We applied a light wash of linen grout over the stone veneer on the wall of our fireplace. It gives a wonderful neutral texture to the space.

Q: What are your favorite white and off-white paint colors?

A: We use a lot of Farrow & Ball (farrow-ball.com). Our favorite whites are Wevet (more of a cool white), as well as Wimborne and Pointing (warmer whites).

Q: Are there natural bedding sources you can share with us?

A: All of our linen bedding is from Libeco (libecohomestores.com).