Karen and Stefan Rauber created a California retreat as inviting as the hotels they enjoyed on holiday.

By Abigail B. Millwood
January 22, 2008
“People are drawn away from white and think they need to pick a color, but it really is the most soothing,” Karen says.
Lisa Romerein; styling by Char Hatch Langos

After traveling the globe from Lake Como to Laguna Beach, developers Karen and Stefan Rauber knew one thing for sure: Nothing beats the laid-back feeling of a stellar vacation. So when the couple decided to renovate their Los Angeles–area home, they focused on gracious porches, open living spaces, and functional outdoor rooms like those they’d enjoyed at hotels around the world. “You only get to go on vacation once or twice a year, so why not create a vacation space in your own home?” Karen says.

When the Raubers expanded the family room, kitchen, and a bedroom, and built front and back porches, they concentrated on aesthetic appeal and achieving waterfront informality. “We get ideas from everywhere we travel,” Karen says. Inside, that means abundant natural light and soft shades of white, like those they admired in Greece. “People are drawn away from white and think they need to pick a color, but it really is the most soothing,” Karen says.

Though her home’s interiors look sleek and sophisticated, she and Stefan designed everything from the floor plan to the furnishings with their children, Celine and Markus, in mind. “Even though we have a lot of white furniture, it never seems intimidating,” Karen says. “It’s all slipcovers and washables. If you have kids, you don’t want them to feel like they can’t live in their own house.” A sink in the kitchen island lets Karen face the kids when they’re doing homework in the kitchen or hanging out in the family room.

Of course, it’s surprising that the Rauber kids ever set foot inside. The main attraction in this California home lies outside its four walls. And because the family loves every outdoor moment, it only made sense to treat the backyard as an extension of the home.

Like an elegant living room suddenly shifted outside, a large pavilion overlooking the pool is outfitted with sleek Balinese chairs and a daybed, perfect spots for watching children at play (or relaxing with a Popsicle, depending on who gets there first). Next to the pool, a second outdoor room houses a fully functional kitchen. “Everything built outside has to be practical or you’ll only use it once or twice,” Karen says. They stocked the space with a refrigerator, dishwasher, garbage disposal, and even a set of dishes, so no one has to run back into the house. The area is complete with a fireplace for chilly nights, a burner for popping popcorn, and a pull-down movie screen. “Someone could live out here,” Karen says with a laugh. And they practically do.

Whether hosting family reunions or school parties, the Raubers are happy to share this vacation spot: their own backyard. “We wanted our house to be the one people gathered at,” Karen says. “If you build it, they will come—and never leave. But that’s OK with us!”