It’s Furniture Week at Curbed, and, in honor of the occasion, House Calls visits the home of one of the Bay Area’s most prolific furniture designers, Alexis Moran. To Moran and her partner, Stacy Weibley, setting is important. So, when they decided to move in together two years after a chance meeting on the dance floor, a lot of thought went into the selection of their new home.
As the designer of custom furniture for clients ranging from private citizens to large companies such as Google, Uber, and Instagram, aesthetics are obviously important to Moran. Weibley, who was living in a special property in Brisbane, has a strong-held belief that each new home should be better than the last. “My former house was like a magical mountain getaway,” she says. "I think each new space should be incrementally more magical."
Given the Bay Area’s notoriously tough rental market and those criteria, it might seem like the right fit could never be found. But the answer, for Moran, was startlingly close to home. Weibley found a house for lease on a hill over Orinda, Moran’s hometown, close to where her parents still live and near her grandmother’s former home.
The house was built in 1959 by the late architect Carl Kolbeck for his family. His children own it now, and have kept it in remarkably pristine original condition. “We took three steps in and started falling in love with it,” says Moran. “I like symmetry in design, and this house is completely symmetrical, with each side a mirror image of the other down to an 1/8 of an inch. I also love the material quality of it, and I appreciated all the building materials they used.”
Weibley, a nature lover, was attracted to the the large trees that surround the dwelling and the sun deck.
An impassioned letter to the Kolbeck heirs sealed the deal, and they moved in last year. The furnishing of the house is an expression of their talents and taste. Moran has chosen the large pieces for the rooms—most of which she made herself—and Weibley has added the finishing, softening touches, largely natural elements.
Moran’s work lives easily beside the house’s midcentury lines. Last year, when the designer was a contestant on Ellen’s Design Challenge (an HGTV reality show headed by Ellen DeGeneres), she described her work as “natural modernism.” Her wood-and-concrete pieces complement the rustic stone floors, the dark wood beams, the large picture windows, and the classic midcentury modern paneling Kolbeck selected nearly 60 years ago.
She honed that style first at Georgia Tech and then back in the Bay Area at California College of the Arts. It was not the career she initially imagined.
“I was at Georgia Tech on a volleyball scholarship. One day, I took a shortcut to the gym, and passing through the architecture department, I saw a display of wooden salt and pepper shakers created in a class called ‘Intro to Design.’ I stared as I slow walked by them, and I thought: ‘Why am I not doing that?’”
The next semester, her career was launched when she dropped out of the sports program and enrolled in the School of Architecture. She opened her own studio a decade ago, after working for other design notables in the Bay Area.
Her new home has influenced her work as well as her life. “I’m definitely inspired by it,” she says. “I start my day by coming down the stairway to the sights of Mount Diablo. The valley is always different and dramatically beautiful. Sometimes it’s covered with low mist; sometimes it’s lit a fiery orange and pink by the rising sun.”
Weibley drew upon those features when she selected accessories ranging from driftwood, agates, and plants for the home. “Living here feels like you are being held by the trees,” she says. “It’s a constant exercise in gratitude for me.”
Given that the family is about to grow, the couple’s appreciation of the site could very well increase: They are expecting a baby boy later this summer, and the next design project involves converting their window-lined office into a nursery.
“I like the thought of having a child grow up in an outdoor wonderland,” says Weibley. “It should be a wonderful place for him.”