Très Bien!

Custom-built home is reminiscent of French farmhouse

By Zack Sherzad
May 2021

Four years ago, Ray Gundlach and his wife, Laurie Wood-Gundlach, purchased property seven houses down from their home in the Arden-Arcade area. They liked the neighborhood, adjacent to Del Paso Country Club, and were happy enough with their house, but wanted to experience “something different,” Laurie says.

The idea of designing a house custom-built to fit their individual tastes—tastes honed by their many experiences with past homes—appealed to them.

The 3,200-square-foot, two-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath residence was completed in 2018, and built in the classic French farmhouse style. Nestled among olive trees, the house lives up to its inspiration.

Where the terra-cotta roof meets the imperfect smooth stucco are three rows of Génoise tile, assembled with obvious attention to quality and consistency. The front doors and matching shutters, one of the final projects of the talented Christy Power of Anasazi Old World Doors before she retired, are lightly brushed a gorgeous blue-grey. Reminiscent of patinated copper, the unique color is hard to look away from, and the mildness of the rest of the facade emphasizes it beautifully.

Ray, a retired real estate developer and project manager, has been building commercially for 40 years, but even he was surprised to discover how time consuming it can be to design and construct a custom residential home.

“I was amazed by how many really small details there are. Every single thing you see is a decision,” he says. Admittedly, Ray’s involvement ran much deeper than usual. During construction, Ray rode his bike to the site every day, and he built every piece of cabinetry himself.

The feat is a chef-d’oeuvre coming from a man who calls himself “a hobbyist.” Crafted from sapele, an environmentally friendly substitute for mahogany, his handiwork graces every room—from the bathroom’s floating vanity to the cabinet fronts of the kitchen’s refrigerated drawers. “If there hadn’t been delays in the construction due to weather, I would have had to work 22-hour days to finish,” Ray says.

Another unique aspect of the build is the floor plan. When working with the architect, Ray and Laurie made a decision to maximize the amount of wall space so they would have more room to display art.

“You could design this house much more efficiently, but we wanted the corridors,” Ray says. The long hallways feature warm recessed lights angled to illuminate each piece of artwork. This gives parts of the house a pensive quality—an atmosphere of meaningful reflection usually reserved for libraries and museums.

The living room is a different story. The space is dominated by a soaring oil triptych by artist Diane Ainsworth. A wall of plate glass facing the backyard casts the artwork in varying degrees of natural light. “We bought the painting in Montana in 2015,” Ray says. “We kind of jokingly said that we needed to build a house to hang it. We spent a lot of time talking about where it would be.”

The painting is double-sided and flipped seasonally. Both sides depict rich red poppies, but one shows a lush green field, while the opposite focuses on individual flowers. The greener side brings the blooming spring and summer indoors, while the bold red of the close-up brightens the short days of fall and winter.

Finally, the kitchen supplements the house’s verdant pallet with deep green steatite countertops and a seafoam tile backsplash. Commonly known as soapstone, steatite is a dense talc-containing stone that is highly resistant to chemicals and heat, but relatively soft—roughly equivalent to marble.

Ray’s sapele cabinetry is a splendid complement to the countertops. A beautiful French-made La Cornue stove is an absolute jewel—a pitch-perfect addition to this couple’s interpretation of the classic French farmhouse. Très bien!

Zack Sherzad can be reached at To recommend a home or garden for Open House, contact Inside Sacramento at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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