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John Lamb, Published December 01 2013

California dreamin': Fargo couple pairs West Coast style with Indian roots

FARGO – When Gautam and Swapna Phadke talked with architect Chris Hawley about what they wanted in their new house, the word that was used most was “airy.”

The finished product, at 6155 Silver Leaf Drive S., Fargo, delivers on their desired description.

Using big windows and an open floor plan, the Phadkes’ 2,615-square-foot home has the couple walking on clouds, combining their desire for a modern home with nods to their roots in India.

On the outside, the boxy structure with a low-sloped roof uses vertical metal paneling and cement board siding, with the lines sending the eye upward. Sections of cedar paneling and brick wall help break up the space and contrast against big windows.

“I knew the client wanted a very contemporary, California-inspired (home),” says Hawley, whose company, Radiant Homes, built the house. “California is a great climate, so you can use lots of glass, and we had to blend that with a North Dakota climate, so we end up having more insulation.”

“We wanted an open concept. We wanted light, so we wanted big windows. But we found out it’s tough to find blinds that fit,” says Swapna.

The solution was found in custom-made sheers that roll up into discreet black holders that match the black-stained maple trim.

The light from big, south-facing windows spills across the open main floor, from the kitchen on the east end, through the dining room and into the living room on the west end.

“The idea was to have an extremely open, airy, pretty dialed-in footprint that feels bigger than it actually is by use of big chunks of glass on the exterior and sculptural elements that define space, like the stairway and the glass,” Hawley explains.

“The staircase is the sculptural centerpiece for the entire house,” he says. “You use it all day every day, and it ends up being a backdrop for the living room and the dining room. That’s where we spent most of our time and energy.”

The stairs were an important feature for Swapna.

“I always wanted stairs,” she says. “I wanted a second-story house. Back in India, it was always a dream.”

The IT software engineer at Sanford explains that in many Indian cities, most people are apartment dwellers.

The stairs serve as a divider of sorts, keeping you from the rest of the main floor when you enter through the front door. By using a glass wall and floating treads with an open riser, light flows over the maple slab steps.

Tall ceilings – 12 feet in the living room and 9 feet in the kitchen – and white walls above a wood floor add to the spacious feel.

Pendant lights over the kitchen island and the long, slender hands of a minimal clock on the wall accentuate the height.

White soft stone counters in the kitchen contrast against the stained black maple cabinets.

“I wanted white because I think it gives a fresh look to the kitchen,” says Gautam, a physician at Sanford Health.

The black maple is a constant throughout the house, including cupboards, cabinets and pocket doors with brushed nickel pulls.

In the living room, a wall-mounted console holds a 60-inch TV, components and 7-year-old daughter Neesa’s videos. With open space underneath, it appears to float, adding to the airy aesthetic.

Cedar siding covers the wall for a bit of visual warmth in the living room, but the heat comes from a slender gas fireplace with light ceramic tiles up the chimney.

Color in the room comes from a large painting by the front door. Wisps of green and orange surround a saying from Lord Krishna in the Bhagwat Gita, which Gautam translates into, “You have a right to perform your prescribed action, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your action.” Peacock feathers can be seen, a reference to Krishna’s headwear.

“For us, it’s important to live by some principles that help us get through tough times as well as good times,” Gautam explains. “These lines remind us to treat victory and loss equally, not get carried away nor flustered when faced with both. It’s important that we remember this when we come in to the house and when we leave every day.”

While the structure may have a modern California feel, the Phadkes have added touches from their native India.

An upstairs nook holds a shrine on the east wall, a spot where the family can worship Hindu gods.

The couple’s bedroom features a low platform bed, another nod to their Indian childhoods.

While he keeps in touch with his homeland, he’s happy with his new home in Fargo.

“This is probably the biggest house I have ever stepped in,” he says with a laugh.

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533