Chuck Post fell in love with the cutting-edge home that was never supposed to be his
Chuck Post’s genes are just right for creating knock-your-socks-off homes. His great-grandfather, architect Cass Gilbert, designed Manhattan’s Woolworth Building, which for 26 years was the world’s tallest building.
Starting out as part-time home renovator, in 2004 Chuck made the leap into “all about houses, all of the time.” Now he’s a real estate broker who buys, enlivens and sells Sonoma Valley properties himself.
His eighth complete renovation—a stucco contemporary in a neighborhood he likes to call Boyes Heights—is almost jarring, looming among the neighborhood’s cottage-style homes. But in fact, this particular property has always been modern. Regionally renowned architect Robert Zinkhan designed the house in 1972. Different owners did a-little-of-this and a-little-of-that, and eventually it completely lost its identity. Realizing the house was once cutting edge, Chuck contacted Zinkhan and asked for his prognosis. Zinkhan arrived, a roll of 30-something-year-old blueprints tucked under his arm, thrilled that one of his first-born homes would get the care it deserved.
Soon everything out-of-date was up-to-the-minute once again. In less than a year, a structure reminiscent of the original but with the punch of today popped into view. The exterior framing was left in place, while every interior wall was reconfigured.
The most dramatic element of its rebirth is the natural light that floods the home with renewed energy. Where once a mundane and ineffective flat skylight lurked, there’s now a 12-square-foot commercial-quality skylight that opens the entire center of the house up to sun, moon and stars. The glass sits atop a 3-foot-high soffit, allowing light from all directions.
Add to that dramatic windows and reed glass doors, and you feel like you’re in the great outdoors just sitting in their open-walled kitchen, dining and living rooms. Descend a few stairs to a bedroom and bath at garden level. Or mount a longer, open stairway up to two more bed- and bathrooms, each with sweeping views and wonderful light.
From there, another flight rises to a roof deck with a panoramic view and outdoor kitchen.
With Zinkhan’s blessing, Chuck did most of the design himself. His business partner, Aaron Pickard of Build to Please in Sonoma, served as general contractor.
Building design must indeed be in Chuck’s genes, because it isn’t apparent in his early life choices. A sociology major with an affinity for math, he cut his career teeth as a gold futures trader on Wall Street. But when he was a kid he was always making sketches of buildings and driving his mother crazy rearranging his bedroom furniture, so eventually he followed his bliss and worked as a project manager for a New England building contractor. After earning his master’s in environmental resource management, he then moved to California to work in the recycling business. It was going quite nicely, that is, until Chuck started home renovation on the side.
“I’d meet Aaron at 7 a.m. with a big cup of coffee and be so excited talking about what was going on with the house, and then I’d go off to my real job,” says Chuck. “Then after work I’d be all zoomed up again, dying to get working on the house.” He received his broker’s license in part to market his own homes, but discovered it was a business he enjoyed, especially representing buyers. “I tell them, ‘Let’s go find a place that touches your spirit. That fundamentally makes you feel better when you walk in the door.’” He specializes in clients purchasing vacation homes.
In fact, Chuck originally intended for this home to be someone else’s weekend getaway. In spring 2007, just as the market was sliding into its current doldrums, he put it up for sale at $1.95 million. When it hadn’t sold by December, he gave himself a dream Christmas gift.
“I love it,” he says. “Having made so many choices about every single thing there is so much of me in the house.” He looks forward to summer so he can start using the 30-by-10-foot pool he added to the once overgrown courtyard in front of the house.
As a single dad, there’s also plenty of his kids’ presence. His teenage daughter, Lily, grabbed the downstairs suite for herself. His son Matt, an art school graduate, lives in San Francisco, but his paintings grace the home’s large white walls. Other son Chris studies at the University of Colorado.
This is the first contemporary house Chuck’s done, and the oft-misunderstood style is one of his passions.
“People sometimes think contemporary is cold, and it doesn’t have to be.”
Chuck warmed and softened his home by using dark-stained walnut floors and eclectic furniture; a black leather Roadster chair sits across from a wicker one, for example.
Explaining he was “so done with Tuscans,” when he first found this house, “I thought about it for weeks. It got a hold of me more than I got a hold of it. Then it captured my heart and soul.”
From the Spring 2008 issue of SONOMA