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Here I go again – raving about the wonders of all-neutral interiors. But, seriously, this house (by Neuhaus Architecture and JP Warren Interiors) would persuade even the most vocal of the anti-beige crowd that pale is, indeed, interesting. The house, which was apparently decorated by the owner – the Jessica in JP Warren – was covered by Desire to Inspire back in June but it’s so beautiful I had to revisit it again here.

The architectural details of this house are extraordinary. All that molding, the fireplace, the pilasters. In my opinion, a brighter color scheme would be overwhelming. Instead, the muted palette just emphasizes all this lovely detail.

The floor is particularly attention-grabbing. I’ve no idea if this is original marquetry or whether it was installed, but it emphasizes and defines the shape of the space beautifully.

This is evidence that neutral interiors work best when there are unusual natural textures and materials. The combination of the vintage metal sinks with the stone wall is spectacular.

Then there’s this much more feminine bathroom. I can’t really say enough good things about this bathroom. I usually like my bathrooms to be more, well, bathroom-y. But, with its custom wallpaper and elegant furniture, this room might persuade me to change my opinion.

This is a less formal library space. The shelves cleverly fill an alcove and the diagonal furniture arrangement is a good way to fill such an enormous room without over-cluttering.

More natural stone at work here. Waterfall countertops really elevate the design of a kitchen and this is no exception. It is an usual space for a kitchen. With the bay window, it looks more like a living room. The designer has addressed this by keeping the cabinetry very simple and more like furniture.

This is my favorite view of the whole house. A simple cube-shaped set of shelves (but obviously completely custom) with an artfully arranged collection of white ceramics. Very pleasing to the eye.

What I like most about this home overall, is that each room has its unique personality, and yet the whole scheme is cohesive. Do you have a favorite room?

Photo credit: Peter Margonelli

When we remodel the kitchen, we will have some structural work done that will require repainting the dining room. I’m planning on using this to try a new look. Here’s how it looks now.

We had the shelves put in just over a year ago and they’ve made an enormous difference to the room. Other than that, not much has changed since this post. But now it’s time for something new (apart from the table, which obviously desperately needs to be swapped out). The current wall color is Iced Marble by Benjamin Moore. I love it, but it’s been there for almost five years and I feel it’s a little drab now. So, I’m thinking of going several shades darker to Millstone Gray. As you can see, it’s a deep gray with a greeny-blue tinge.

Or else Kitty Gray, which is just a little darker and bluer (and, frankly, looks identical on my screen!)

Dark gray has been a hot color for ages, but I still think it looks fresh against crisp white moldings (of which there’s plenty in our dining room – and, if we paint the ceiling a brighter white, it should work well). Take a look at these examples.

Via Gorgeous Shiny Things.

Via the Girl in the Brick House.

Via Manolo for the Home. Although the walls here are almost black, rather than gray, this photo is particularly great inspiration because we have this Nelson Saucer bubble lamp in our dining room.

What do you think? Should we take the plunge?

We’re going skiing at the end of February but, sadly, we’re not staying here…

This Tahoe home is the work of John Maniscalco Architecture (also on Houzz). I love the way all the traditional features of an alpine cabin – from the wood-clad walls to the fireplace to the fabrics – are reinvented with a more modern twist. Just beautiful.

We, on the other hand, are staying in a much more traditional cabin. Hopefully it will be nice all the same!

Why are there so few cool or entertaining interior design videos online? Unless you want to watch a grainy real estate tour or a cheesy ‘trading spaces’-style video, YouTube is pretty much barren territory for design lovers. For an industry so driven by visual media, it’s surprising. Perhaps there’s something about an interior image that just doesn’t translate to video in the way it does to photos.

But if you feel like a video fix, the good news is that there are a few that stand out from the crowd. Here are my picks – ranging from informative to plain hilarious. Enjoy.

House and Home TV, from Canadian House and Home magazine, has a great selection of videos, most of them showcasing real homes and providing decorating tips along the way. As in the magazine, the interiors are usually tasteful and affordable. This particular one is more upmarket as it’s a showcase home. But it’s a beautiful space that translates pretty well to video. You can see better quality versions of House and Home videos on the magazine web site.

Another good source is to search for entries to Apartment Therapy‘s Smallest Coolest contests on YouTube. I like this one because, not only is the design adorable, but the owner has so obviously focused on making her place truly personal.

Now this next one is entirely different. Have you ever wondered what the house of one of the world’s richest men looks like? Well, if he’s the founder of Microsoft, the answer is it looks pretty amazing! This video is a 3D rendering of Bill Gates’ Seattle home. It focuses on the technology that makes the house respond to its inhabitants’ every needs from heat, to light, to music. But the NorthWest style architecture, with its great expanses of glass and wood, is spectacular while being sympathetic to its environment.

Who says design fanatics only like to look at images? The TEDtalks are tremendously entertaining speeches from inspiring people. You have to check out this one with Philippe Starck. He doesn’t show any visuals but it’s fascinating all the same. Who knew the guy was so funny? Warning: it’s kind of long.

I saved this one until last because, well, just watch it and see! I’ve no idea where this came from or why it was made, but it made me laugh. Probably says more about my appalling sense of humor than anything else. But, anyone who has trailed despondently round those out-of-town furniture megastores in the hope of spotting a tasteful bargain will immediately ‘get’ this.

Have you found any interior design videos that are worth watching? If so, please do share…

I find architects’ web sites to be a great form of escapism. Who wouldn’t appreciate the fabulous images of pristine homes, just ready for the owners to move in and make their mark? But, despite all the soaring ceilings and glossy kitchens, the images are often rather soulless. Just that little bit too perfect, perhaps. That’s why it’s such a delight to explore the portfolio of Feldman Architecture, a San Francisco-based firm which consistently delivers sustainable, beautiful, yet personal homes. Its pages are filled with images of furnished houses that display the interests and styles of their owners. At the moment, I’m particularly captivated by this gorgeous home in the hilly neighborhood of Bernal Heights.

The house was a dark, near-derelict 1860’s cottage. The challenge was to maintain the rustic charm, while opening up the space and injecting it with light.

I love the use of rough stone and wood, with more polished glass and metal – and those enormous sliding doors opening directly onto a deck.

The house is filled with quirky art and furnishings – those chairs are a surprising combination with the modern sofa.

The house seems to have two office spaces. This light-filled area would provide plenty of inspiration for working.

More skillful combinations of materials: rough-hewn wood, slate and lucite.

I love the red, gray and white of the master bedroom. The shelf above the bed is a really simple way to add interest – something I think I might do in our guest room. I must also make it a life mission to track down those lamps!

To my mind, this is the perfect chill-out bathroom.

The nursery is, as you’d expect, a departure from the rest of the house aesthetically-speaking. But it still has a cool vibe and clear sense of personality. Having nurseries on my mind, I’m appreciating the child-friendly storage ideas and the way the brown puts a grown-up twist on baby pink. Shame I’m having a boy, otherwise I’d pinch some of these ideas!

And just to prove this house has everything – a fabulous double-height library!

This home is a wonderful combination of old and new, inside and outside, cool and quirky. You can see more of Feldman Architecture’s work here.

If you hanker after a state-of-the-art home with your own theater, TVs that rise out of the floor and centrally-controlled lights, then here’s some eye candy for you. Electronic House magazine has just announced its Home of the Year.

The gold winner is just a cozy pied-à-terre in LA…

Home of the year - gold

Ah, a triceratops skull. Just the accessory I need for my living room!

Home of the year - gold

Now, that’s a bathroom with a view.

Home of the year - gold

Here’s the silver prize winner – a Manhattan penthouse.

Home of the Year - silver

And look at the home theater in the house that won bronze. That’s a theater?! Where do I lie with my bowl of chocolate ice-cream?

Home of the Year - bronze

These are all stunning homes. Of course, I wouldn’t turn down the chance to live in one of them. But, you know, after the excitement of being able to control everything at the touch of a button, I think I would get a bit tired of the extreme convenience of it all. I secretly quite like the slightly chipped paint and the faded squashy sofa in our house. At least I can eat ice-cream without worrying about spills. And there are no triceratops…

What do you think? Would you love to live here, or are you more of a squashy sofa type too?

San Francisco is one of the most distinctive cities in the world, architecturally speaking. And I don’t think I’m biased just because I live here. The famed ‘Painted Ladies‘ – those pastel-hued gingerbread Victorians – are as much part of  San Francisco’s personality as the cable cars and Golden Gate Bridge. But, in terms of interior design, I’ve been wondering if there’s a distinctive San Francisco style that defines this city. There are certainly several recurring themes. In this blog I want to explore each of them and see if it really is possible to define San Francisco by design.

The most obvious place to start is back at those Victorians. When we were real estate hunting in SF, these were the most hotly-contested (and highly priced) homes. Painted every color of the rainbow they look as tempting as an ice-cream shop.

SF Victorian

SF Victorian 2

SF Victorian 3

But the interiors varied wildly. Some were dark and gloomy with poorly-converted rooms. Others were bright and spacious. Some owners had tried to honor the period of the house itself with their choice of furnishings, others embraced a range of styles from mid-century to contemporary.

In general, however, these Victorians have fantastic interior architectural details. High ceilings, lots of moldings, fireplaces, bay windows (originally designed to maximize the light in the narrow lots). At the top end of the market, many homes emphasize these details with a refined and elegant style of decor. You’ll find Baroque lines mixed with a little Hollywood Regency, slipper chairs, silks, velvets, trompe l’oeil, formal symmetry, pastel colors to echo the exterior paintwork, mirrors and gilt to reflect all the light from the windows. The homes below, designed by San Francisco designers Angela Free and Palmer Weiss are good examples.

Angela Free

Angela Free 2

Palmer Weiss

Palmer Weiss 2

Of course, not all Victorians have this amount of space. But, if you’re a fan of the look, the diminutive proportions of these ladylike pieces of furniture can work well in smaller rooms.

The alternative is to go for altogether more modern interpretations of the style. The Louis ghost chair by Phillippe Starck is a good example.

Louise ghost chair

Or a daybed from Room and Board.

R&B daybed

Or, the more expensive version from Williams Sonoma Home.

Williams Sonoma Home

Or a modern chandelier such as this one from Z Gallerie.

Z Gallerie chandelier

Anthropologie also has some great Baroque-inspired chairs in fresh, modern fabric, such as this ‘Antwerp chair’.

Anthropologie chair

For table lamps that suit this style, I don’t think you can beat Restoration Hardware. It has a range of crystal lamps that span simple to ornate.

RH lamp

RH lamp 2

There are some San Francisco boutiques that make good sources for furnishing a Victorian home at a more reasonable price. Past Perfect on Union Street is an absolute treasure trove of antique and retro items. You can mix and match design eras to your heart’s content here. McCarney’s Furniture on 9th Street is also great for antique furniture at a decent price. A lot of it is from Europe – specifically England and Scotland. Swallowtail on Polk and Alabaster on Hayes Street also have some quirky accessories – vintage medical equipment, globes, teapots – for that ‘collector’ look which was so popular among the Victorians.

But as I said at the start of this post, San Francisco style is much more than the painted ladies would have you believe. We should consider Marina, Spanish, Mission, Asian, bohemian and dotcom loft styles. I intend to do that in future posts. Meantime, if you have a view on what San Francisco style means to you, let me know. Send me a picture that represents this city’s interior design ethos and I’ll post it here. I don’t know yet what the conclusion of this exercise will be – but it will be an interesting exploration for sure.

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