Posted by on Aug 6, 2009 in Between these four walls: house tours, San Francisco Design | 15 comments

Since I started blogging, I’ve gained an appreciation for the importance of personal style in interior design. Even the most flawlessly-executed design is incomplete without the owner’s unique mark. There has to be a sense of history, a character, a feeling that life is lived within those four walls.

So today I’m starting a new series that peeks into the real life homes of our friends and family and appreciates not only some wonderful design choices, but also their highly individual styles. When you ask people about their homes, you find that there are stories behind almost every item. It makes you realize just how valuable our homes are to us – and not only in financial terms. Something worth remembering, especially in times like these…and especially for those of us obsessed with interior design and all the materialism that goes with it.

Anyway, enough of the philosophy and onto the houses. In this first post, I was lucky enough to be allowed to take photos of a fabulous San Francisco house that combines great taste with a highly personal twist.

Living room

The house belongs to friends of ours, Alison and Eric and their two kids. It is an Edwardian home built in 1917, not dissimilar to ours in layout. It survived the 1989 earthquake intact so has nearly all its original moldings and rooms. This is the living room. The bookshelves were installed a few years back, replacing some very 90s granite, to cope with the family’s growing collection of books, games, art supplies etc. A wood fireplace surround was removed at the same time and the simple stucco one put in its place. This is pretty much the only significant remodeling that was done – and although it’s clean-lined and modern, it works because it still keys with the style of the house.

Living room

You can tell this is a creative, sociable family that loves art, music and travel (if you’re on their holiday card list you’re left in no doubt about the creative part!) The print above the fireplace is from a Louise Nevelson show that Alison’s father curated about 35 years ago – and it’s signed by the artist. I love it because it echoes the bookshelves perfectly.

Bookcases

The chairs either side of the fireplace are a stroke of genius. The red one is from IKEA. But the yellow one is actually a piece of art acquired in Germany over a generation ago. It’s made of an industrial spring and apparently is wonderful for lulling babies to sleep (as several babies in the family have discovered over the years). All I know is that these chairs are not good for the later stages of a party: after a few drinks the red one is impossible to get out of and the yellow one is impossible to stay in!

Bookcases

The painting over the sofa was another one from a show curated by Alison’s father more than three decades ago.

Living room

Here’s the dining room. This is a real lesson in color. The walls are a beautiful, vibrant green. The color has been continued onto the ceiling to show off the moldings, wainscoting and coved ceiling. You find these in a lot of the Edwardian houses in the area, although this is a particularly good example. The two Asian posters were from a flea market in San Francisco and are reproductions of pre-Mao Chinese advertisements, while the Air France one is from Paris. I asked about the tablecloth too and apparently it’s from Cost Plus!

Dining room

The stunning lamp was made by Alison’s step mother, Dez Ryan. You can see more of her lighting designs here. There are some real stand-out pieces – check out the Mint Condition collection. I like the way this particular one looks so perfect alongside the Nelson Saucer Bubble Lamp over the table. Here’s a closer look.

Dining room

Like our place, this home has a sunroom at the back of the house. Here the space has been painted this glorious sky blue. My photography really doesn’t do it justice (I’ve said before that these rooms are impossible to photograph). But you can get a hint of the architectural detail in these pictures below. There’s beautiful wainscoting all round the room. Often, homes in the area have this left as dark gumwood, but I think the white is much nicer.

DSC_0434

Many of the photographs here were taken by Alison’s sister during her travels in India.

Office

The stove and cabinets have all been left as they were when the family moved in. But the cabinet doors were all refaced by KitchenWorks. I love all the pots hanging down – I’ve only ever seen this done in enormous country kitchens with a central island but it works here.

Kitchen

From the kitchen you get a good view of the stained glass above the door. Again, this is original to the house. You can’t see it all but it depicts a windmill and hillsides. Apparently there are very few in the city that had this type of bucolic scene.

Hallway

Lots of the houses around here have these carved details in the stair railings. Ours has heart shaped cut-outs (Pennsylvanian apparently)! I’m guessing they’re influenced by the Arts and Crafts style that was popular at the time, even for Edwardian style homes.

Stairs

So, that’s the end of the tour. Hope you enjoyed it. I think this house just has so much personality. You can see how it would work for kids as well as entertaining (and, having experienced both, simultaneously, here, I can vouch for that!) This is not a place to tiptoe about and whisper in shushed tones. It’s a place to yell for more gravy on the table, thump out a few tunes on the piano (visitors that is, I believe this family is actually quite talented in the music department) or to help yourselves to cocktails. And here’s to that kind of interior design!

And, speaking of entertaining, I’m off to Julia‘s blog party again to see what everyone else has been up to this week.