There are some people in this world who exude joy. They have an innate happiness that fills a room and lifts up everyone around them. Those are the kind of people who inhabit this classic 1923 Edwardian house in Pacific Heights, where the challenge was to transform what was a rather somber dwelling into a bold, exuberant home reflecting the owners’ personalities. “They are two of the most kindhearted, thoughtful, sweet, funny people I’ve ever come across,” says designer Katie McCaffrey. Not to mention the fact that, as she points out, they have great style—and with that style they brought a vision for the old home. Along with McCaffrey, they used the services of designer Martha Angus (now retired), architects Stephen Sutro and Georgianna Kleman, and general contractor Seth Brookshire to make that vision a reality. “I wanted it to be colorful, eclectic and child-friendly—because it’s incredible what those little humans can do,” laughs the wife and mother of four. Incorporating modern touches was important, but so was respecting the traditional architecture, which is why they were drawn to Sutro. “He knows the city quite well,” she notes of his understanding of the local vernacular and his expertise in historic homes. “The architecture of the old homes is charming, but I like modern too.”
“She asked for it to be lively for functions,” says Sutro, “and she didn’t want to compartmentalize things.” So, the architects’ designs drew upon what Sutro calls “the family patterns of life these days,” while still maintaining traditional touches such as formal openings between some of the rooms and keeping the kitchen closed off from the dining room. To make it livable for the young family, they worked within the existing vertical nature of the home, creating a new glass staircase connecting every level and adding a penthouse and rooftop terrace. The dark ground floor (previously used for storage and laundry) became a finished family space with a connection to the garden, and the new garage incorporates a car elevator—“the crown jewel for my husband,” the wife jokes.
In turn, the wife adores what she calls her “cocktail room,” a seductive jewel-toned living room with dark blue lacquered walls and gold accents throughout. “My vision was a New York City hotel cocktail bar,” she says. Don’t be deceived by the chic decor, however —thanks to durable furniture (and that moody color palette) McCaffrey ensured that the children could tumble around in this room as freely as any other area of the house. “It’s very adult,” observes the designer, “but nothing in there is so delicate that a kiddo can’t come in and have some fun too.”
That fun doesn’t end there. The adjoining dining room—with its whimsical woodland-scene walls handpainted by Katherine Jacobus, a massive sculptural table and magenta Louis XVI reproduction chairs—was designed to host future gatherings both large and small. A secret bar closet with walls covered in Andy Warhol’s Flowers pattern (just one of several hidden cabinets incorporated into the room) keeps the mood celebratory. “Sutro did a wonderful job of working those cabinets in with the moldings and the corners of the room,” McCaffrey says.
Of course, as is the case for so many families, the real heart of the home is the open-plan kitchen and family room. The former, much like the homeowners themselves, is an unexpected combination of elegance and lightheartedness. Crystal chandeliers and marble throughout make for a sophisticated setting, but pops of orange and yellow against the otherwise all-white space keep the vibe relaxed.
While, McCaffrey says, “Mom and Dad putter about in the kitchen,” they can keep watch into the family room as their kids do what kids do—dance on the sofa, climb on the ottomans and build forts. “A lot of life happens in that area,” the designer notes, so she and the wife decided to work with the existing furniture while the children are still young. But a metallic-pink slipcovered ottoman, custom rug and two Kimberly Genevieve prints, Glitter Sandwich and Glitter Popsicle, ensure that the room is what McCaffrey describes as “chic, playful and exuberant.” The same could be said for the light-filled multi-use living space that Sutro created in the basement. A playroom- cum-guest space (completed with a Murphy bed and kitchenette) the room works as well hosting the wife’s European parents as it does the kids’ slumber parties.
The family’s home is, as Sutro says, “an architectural expression of their values—of how social and boisterous they are.” Achieving this was not a quick feat—the entire project took four years. But, the wife says, “We wanted to do it right.” In the end, that’s exactly what they did, and now everyone is happy, even the house.