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To Transform This Tired Ranch, One Design Firm Looked to Mother Nature

a very airy open plan kitchen with wooden cabinets and a corner table with chairs
This Tired California Ranch Went from Drab to FabWilliam Jess Laird

Some renovations require a well of courage and tenacity that few young designers possess. But Zabie Mustafa and Neda Kakhsaz, founders of the three-year-old firm Studio Muka, have a purity of vision that lent itself to the overhaul of a neglected 1950s California ranch, tucked away in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

living area with peaked ceiling and a large globe pendant at center and an orange velvet three cushion sofa against a greenish wall and some box crate side tables with blue metal lamps and a fancy blue lounge chair on a crinkle style off white rug

Amir Kakhsaz, Neda’s older brother, and his wife, Raphaëlle Durand, are adventure seekers who both work in nearby Silicon Valley. They enlisted the firm to design a home for themselves and their two boys, one that was attuned to the family’s active lifestyle.

a kitchen terra cotta tiles on the floor and green cabinets and woodwork with a stove and shelves and a small area of white tile backsplash
Reclaimed terra-cotta tiles from Durand’s 16th-century family home in Normandy cover the kitchen floor.William Jess Laird

“They were so entranced by the landscape, but the property itself needed a lot of work,” says Mustafa, who cut his teeth at Workshop/APD. He and Neda, formerly of Studio Shamshiri, reconfigured and expanded the layout, moving the staircase to improve the flow between rooms while adding an office for Durand and four new bedrooms. They hewed to an earthy palette throughout, tying the home to its lush surroundings.

a modern wood desk with a lamp and a chair in a room in muted colors of cream and green with a window with a striped shade
The eldest son’s bedroom features a Roman shade from Smith & Noble. A 1950s Pierre Guariche Tulip chair sits in front of a custom desk inspired by Donald Judd. The 1950s table lamp is by Gilardi & Barzaghi.William Jess Laird

Now, when extended family comes to visit, everyone is comfortable. “We use every single space in this house, which amazes me,” Durand says. “We didn’t know it was going to work so well!”

Living Room

Photo credit: William Jess Laird
Photo credit: William Jess Laird

“Zabie and I both grew up in spaces that were very communal, with a strong sense of hospitality,” says Studio Muka’s Neda Kakhsaz. That sensibility can be seen in the living room, which looks onto the kitchen and invokes the lush hues of the surrounding landscape with a muddy green plaster from Bauwerk Colour. The Arflex sofa was designed by Mario Marenco in the 1970s, the cocktail table is custom, the vintage blue lounge chair is by Vico Magistretti, and the vintage zinc table lamps are by Ron Rezek.

Living Room Detail

Photo credit: William Jess Laird
Photo credit: William Jess Laird

In a nod to Neda and Amir’s Iranian heritage, a custom screen depicts the immortal soldiers of the ancient city of Persepolis.

Kitchen

Photo credit: William Jess Laird
Photo credit: William Jess Laird

Reclaimed terra-cotta tiles from Durand’s 16th-century family home in Normandy cover the floor.

Kitchen

Photo credit: William Jess Laird
Photo credit: William Jess Laird

Cassina chairs by Mario Bellini flank the banquette. The pendant lights are by Jørn Utzon.

Landing

Photo credit: William Jess Laird
Photo credit: William Jess Laird

A custom cabinet in white oak abuts the foot of the staircase, and a ceramic mirror by Jordan McDonald hangs beside Charlotte Perriand sconces. The cement floor tiles are from Zia Tile.

Study

Photo credit: William Jess Laird
Photo credit: William Jess Laird

The custom daybed is upholstered in a fabric from Tibor, and the desk chair is by Vico Magistretti from Fritz Hansen. The reclaimed French terra-cotta tiles are continued from the kitchen.

View into Primary Bedroom

Photo credit: William Jess Laird
Photo credit: William Jess Laird

The sconce is by Cedar & Moss.

Primary Bedroom

Photo credit: William Jess Laird
Photo credit: William Jess Laird

The oak closet doors are covered in a Dedar fabric.

Primary Bedroom

Photo credit: William Jess Laird
Photo credit: William Jess Laird

The doors of the closet are fronted with a wallcovering by Dedar Milano.

Primary Bathroom

Photo credit: William Jess Laird
Photo credit: William Jess Laird

The millwork is white oak, with zellige tiles from Clé Tiles covering the shower. The 1960s sconces are by Luigi Caccia Dominioni.

Son‘s Bedroom

Photo credit: William Jess Laird
Photo credit: William Jess Laird

The Roman shade is from Smith & Noble. A 1950s Pierre Guariche Tulip chair sits in front of a custom desk inspired by Donald Judd. The 1950s table lamp is by Gilardi & Barzaghi.

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This story originally appeared in the April 2024 issue of ELLE DECOR. SUBSCRIBE

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