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I’m spotting gorgeous white rooms everywhere I look these days. Maybe it’s a January thing – fresh new beginnings and all that. But these snowy palettes are definitely speaking to me. Here are three of the very best – each of them illustrates perfectly how to keep a whiter-than-white space from looking like the inside of a refrigerator.

Wood tones and textures

A live edge coffee table, squashy leather chair and patterned rug (is that hide patchwork?) signal lived-in comfort against that white backdrop. By designer Kelly Behun via Desire to Inspire.

Glamorous gold

Gold is a great way to warm up white – yet it still reads as a neutral. More to the point, though, an utterly glamorous ceiling takes any chill out of the white. Ornate crown molding, wallpaper or a darker shade of paint on the ceiling would achieve a similar, if less dramatic, effect. Via Residence Magazine.

Brick and stone

Raw brick and polished concrete are all this black and white kitchen need to feel characterful. Of course, it’s not an easy to replicate if your place doesn’t already have these features. But a stone tiled floor or even wall with lots of texture can achieve the same effect. The lighting in the recess above the stove helps too – pools of light seem so much more inviting that a completely even glow. By photographer Stuart McIntyre.

Three gorgeous spaces – I’d live in any of them.

If I’m going to continue the theme of red-accented spaces, this unique house is the perfect place to stop next. It’s the home of portrait photographer, Emily McCall.

Why do I love this house? Because it intrigues me and is truly one-of-a-kind. For a start, you’d think a palette of black, white and red would be brash and in-your-face, but instead it’s quiet, almost monastic, but with a twist.

Great mix of textiles from Suzani to sackcloth to leather.

Any place that can combine a white bust with a Panton chair and look great is ok by me!

The bedrooms are like negatives of each other (how appropriate for a photographer!) Here’s the light and airy white bedroom, with a few graphic punches in the form of the pillow, lamp and quirky clock.

And here’s the black bedroom – a perfect foil for a vintage bus route sign….

…and a red velvet wingback chair! Genius. Makes me want to break out the black paint.

Thanks, Emily, for allowing me to post photos of your lovely home. Hope everyone else enjoys them as much as I did!

Check out Emily’s blog here.

I love stumbling across beautifully-designed ‘real’ homes on Flickr. So I’m crazy about this refreshingly eclectic place. It’s owned, and impeccably styled by Yvonne, who also blogs about her travels, family, crafts and home on her blog, Moline. Yvonne has lived in Germany, Istanbul and Mexico and her style is clearly influenced by all three locations. Yvonne was kind enough to let me post some images from her past and present homes.

For starters, isn’t this a glorious blue for a kitchen? The color was inspired by Yvonne’s time living in Mexico. I’m into the open shelves, mini pendant lights, tiles and extra-long cabinet hardware.

If you’re going to have open shelves in a kitchen, you’ve got to buy groceries that look like this.

Moroccan tea tray tables always look great, but this one, which happens to be Turkish, looks spectacular under this chandelier. What a great juxtaposition of styles.

Here a vintage champagne bottle holder has been converted into magazine storage/installation art. So cool!

More inspired styling – spring in letter and in spirit!

A great art wall looks even better over a geometric dresser.

Cozy sheepskin rugs on wicker chairs? That’s one way to ensure your home works as well in the winter as the summer.

We’ve all seen oversize maps used in kids’ rooms, but this looks particularly cute against the blue wall and with the patchwork bedding.

So much to love about this bathroom: the smooth modern tub and basin, sloping roof, low windows… It all spells peace and quiet.

I like the way this photo wall meanders up the stairs, with plenty of space for future pics.

These are hand-painted porcelain eggs, suspended to look like a chandelier. So beautiful…

If you like Yvonne’s style (and who wouldn’t?) she also has an Etsy store – check out the stunning bird and butterfly collages. I’m sorely tempted to buy one of the bird ones for our little boy’s nursery…

It’s been a while since the first post in my house tour series, so it’s high time for another one. If you recall, my goal with this series was to show how real people live stylishly, and how different homes can really show the personalities of their owners. The home we’re touring today is no exception.

We’re visiting Sarah and Danny’s house in the East Bay, near San Francisco. Sarah and Danny’s story is a familiar one for many young families. Having spent years living in San Francisco itself, the time had come to escape the big smoke. As if having a two-year-old wasn’t enough reason to start looking for more space, the chaotic housing market in San Francisco made buying a first place in the city even more perilous. So Sarah and Danny headed for the hills – literally. They ended up buying a mid-century modern home high up in the El Cerrito hills, near Berkeley, with the most fabulous views over San Francisco Bay. In fact, it was the view that convinced them there was more to life than city-living.

Of course, the house itself played a big role in convincing them too. Sarah says they both instantly felt at home here. It’s easy to see why.

Dining room

Sarah describes their style as ‘global modern’ and I couldn’t agree more. Hardly surprising when you consider what these two do for a living. Danny is a horticulturalist and Sarah works for a global non-profit, a job which requires traveling to Africa and Asia. The house is filled with the couple’s collections of exotic plants, orchids, fossils, stones and statues. Yet, it’s still a welcoming house, suitable for a toddler (and some chaotic, toddler-filled parties!)

Diningroom

At the heart of the home is a huge, open kitchen and dining room. The latter area is a perfect example of the couple’s style. But, although it looks like everything came from some far-flung place, in fact there are several canny local purchases here too. The vintage floor lamp was a gift, but the pendant shade was from Z Gallerie.

Dining room

And this cute little guy was from World Market!

Elephant

Most San Franciscans would kill for a kitchen like this. Sarah and Danny repainted all the cabinets, but the floor plan was in place when they moved in. I like the huge crystal – citrine quartz, from Living Green in San Francisco – and the way it glows like kryptonite under the lights. The art on the left (just seen) is actually a photo of graffiti in SF (a little reminder of urban life?) The orchids are all by Danny. If, like me, you can’t keep an orchid more than two weeks you’ll appreciate how handy it must be to have a horticulturalist around the place. (Email me if you have inquiries about the orchids).

Kitchen

I expect this kitchen made leaving San Francisco a lot easier. There’s even room for the couple’s little girl to have her own toddler kitchen in the corner.

Kitchen

The living room is very mid-century with those vast windows (overlooking the Bay). It’s truly a place to chill out and enjoy the view. Sarah says they often feel like they’re on vacation when relaxing in here. Like the dining room, this space uses a clever combination of finds and buys. The green glass lamp base was actually salvaged from a street corner.

Living room

The gray brick fireplace is original to the house. The orange dogs are from Pier One.

Living room fireplace

And the 50-year-old Buddha was a gift from a friend who bought it in Vietnam.

Buddha

Here’s a closer look at the orange Staffordshire dog. Quite the cheeky pup, this one!

Dog

And here, posing for the camera, is the reason for the big move! Sarah and Danny’s daughter proudly shows off her bedroom, which is a treasure trove for little girls. I love those little suitcases – they’re from Noodle Soup in Corte Madera, just north of SF.

Nursery

Sarah and Danny chose deep greens and oranges for their walls. The effect is restful in the master bedroom.

Bedroom

And welcoming in the entryway.

Entry

Outside, there’s a patio for BBQ-ing and a lawn for playing. Plus, there’s another benefit of moving out of the city: sunshine!

Backyard

And so, back to that view. Quite apart from the space the new house provides – perfect for hide and seek, apparently – it’s easy to see why Sarah and Danny were able to move away from San Francisco. They may have left the city behind, but the view meant it was never out of sight.

View

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.

Every once in a while you find a place that somehow restores your spirits. Of course, if you’re lucky, your home has that effect too. But I’m talking about finding another place, perhaps a B&B you escaped to one weekend or the home of a friend who hosted a weekend wedding party. Somewhere that still evokes happy memories many years later. Well, I have a feeling the house in which we stayed in the Hamptons this month is such a place.

Perhaps it was because we were so exhausted when we arrived. Or maybe it was because this was the first time our whole extended family had been together for over a year (and the first time ever since my nephew was born). But a big factor in our enjoyment was certainly the house itself. Now that I’ve finally downloaded all the photos, I thought I’d share a few. I hope you can see what I mean when I say this was an unforgettable vacation…

Exterior

Well, that’s it there. Beautiful isn’t it? The house was actually built in three separate phases, spanning centuries. The original structure is on the far right. The central and left portions were added later by subsequent owners (and, in some cases, descendants of the original owners). Part of the building was even shipped from Pennsylvania. It also reminded me of the houses you see scattered around the English countryside.

Entry

This is the entry hall. You can see straightaway that this is first and foremost a home. Yes, it’s a big house and the exterior is stunning. But the interior is not at all ‘grand’. It’s sweet, charming and comfortable – although, admittedly, every room does also have enviable proportions and light. The style is slightly Gustavian – the whitewashed floors, striped walls, lots of pale painted furniture. But it’s also uniquely personal. This is a home occupied by artists and you can see evidence of that in every room.

Entry

We were in the house over July 4, so these little figures on the hallway mantelpiece were quite fitting!

Dining room

This is the dining room. It’s the heart of the house physically and metaphorically. It’s supremely practical (you can walk over those white painted floors in your bare feet straight from the garden and the table will stand up to a child’s idea of table manners – and then some). But it’s also really pretty. I love that wallpaper and the chandelier.

Dining room

This little bar area in the dining room is so cute. Brilliant use of colors – and yet it doesn’t look at all contrived.

Dining room

Yet another dining room detail. I love the way this painting is propped up casually on a child’s chair.

Living room

We didn’t spend much time in the living room (couldn’t move off the patio or out of the dining room!). But this is probably the perfect beach house blue.

Sunroom

We did, on the other hand, spend a lot of time in the sunroom. This covered porch is a later addition to the house but it’s perfect for cooling off when the sunbathing gets too much (!).

Sunroom

More Swedish style in evidence. And those lamp bases that look like milk pails are a stroke of genius.

Library

The oldest part of the house includes a library. I can imagine this would be a great snug for winter. I’m partial to walls of books, so here’s a little hint of the room for those who, like me, hanker after floor-to-ceiling reading material.

Master bedroom

The master bedroom is also in the oldest part of the house. The windows are the best vantage point in the house for spotting deer in the garden!

Bathroom

I love this wallpaper in one of the bathrooms. With the dark blue tiles, it looks sharp, not chintzy.

I hope I’ve done the place justice. I’m no photographer. And you can’t capture all the details that make a house so welcoming: the paintings with personal notes from the artist, the collection of old copper kettles in the hallway. But, at least you can see how the owners have eschewed the showiness of much of the Hamptons and instead created a stylish home that makes you want to kick off your shoes and settle down to a great book. Now that’s a restorative vacation…

If you’re interested in renting this house for a vacation, you can do so through CyberRentals. I guarantee you’ll return home a new person.

The design discoveries and dilemmas of a Brit in San Francisco as she turns a house into a home.
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