Designer Martha Angus isn’t afraid of color. And her strategic wielding of bright and saturated hues within sophisticated yet playful spaces was a perfect fit for one family when they decided to update their traditional San Francisco home with a modern interior. “The clients’ openness to color and pattern allowed us to create cheerful, fresh spaces reflective of their sunny outlook and youthful perspective,” says Angus, who worked with senior designer Ericka Catanzaro and design director Katie McCaffrey. In the structure’s foyer, for instance, the designers displayed graphic neon yellow and orange artwork and a table skirted with a bold geometric pattern in similar hues. The latter, which was designed as a coat check and doubles as a fort for the owners’ two young sons, is a fitting first look into the lifestyle of the people who live there and of the whimsical style to follow. “The driving element of the design,” says Angus, “was to create a home that was easy to live in and fun.”
To start the update, the owners first called on architects Lewis Butler and Dave Sturm. The couple wanted to maintain the structure’s traditional façade in keeping with the neighborhood but update the inside with a modern lean. With that in mind, the architects deleted the decorative moldings and reworked the awkward floor plan by taking down walls on the existing main level to create one clean, flowing space. “The idea of a formal floor plan is associated with the city,” says Butler, a principal with the firm. “However, here, we looked for a different factor to drive the floor plan, which was the view and a feeling of light and openness. We abandoned the concept of a traditional city floor plan and created a single space for living. It feels like a vacation house in the city.”
When it came to aesthetic changes, Sturm, who acted as project architect, says, “the clients definitely wanted a more contemporary look, but they specifically requested not going hard-edged modern.” To that end, the architects balanced newly simplified millwork with warm materials such as wide-plank brushed-oak floors. “The existing floor was traditional thin strips of maple with a border,” says Sturm. “The new one has a waxlike finish that makes it feel more relaxed and beachy.” That transitional approach continues in the kitchen, which the architects remodeled in collaboration with Angus, as well. “The painted cabinets have a border frame with integral pulls, so they are updated but not totally streamlined,” adds Sturm.
In addition to opening up the floor plan, the architects also opened up the structure’s views to the ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge. Large expanses of glass emerged as a critical design element, and as builder Sarah Holmes can attest, getting the outsize windows situated on the back of the narrow property was no easy feat. “With so little space to maneuver, everything from hauling dirt to pouring concrete had to be done in phases,” says Holmes, who worked with superintendent Matt Lombardi on the project. “To get the windows in place required a partial street closure and a large crane to move the glass over the top of the house.”
Against the updated backdrop, Angus and her associates created interiors marked by a soft neutral palette punctuated with a kaleidoscope of colorful accents that reflect the majestic surroundings and the wife’s addection for bold pattern and cheerful hues. “I love wearing bright colors,” says the wife. “And I wanted the house to feel alive and energetic.” After establishing a sense of vibrancy in the entry, the design trio chose vivid versions of ocean hues to highlight the open living, dining and kitchen areas. “The water is so captivating that we went with vibrant greens and saturated blues,” says McCaffrey of the bright grassy seat cushions in the breakfast area and the deep aqua chairs and pillows in the adjacent living area.
To help visually delineate the various areas within the space, the designers used area rugs and lighting strategically. In the living area, for example, the sandy-colored jute floor covering anchors the space, while a round striped rug provides an outline for the Saarinen table in the kitchen’s breakfast area. “When you have no walls, rugs provide the place markers,” says Catanzaro, also noting that the dandelion-like metal pendant with a silver-leaf interior firmly differentiates the formal dining area from its more casual counterpart across the way.
On the opposite side of the entry at the front of the house, the family room boasts an eye-popping orange zigzag rug that spawned like-colored pillows and ottomans. “We were no longer facing the ocean, so we used it as an opportunity to do something more playful while tying back to the entry,” says McCaffrey. White built-in bookshelves flank a fireplace framed with oak siding. Contrasting with the wood, a commissioned piece of art supplies a pop of hot pink and conceals a television. Upstairs, the focus turns back to the spectacular vista, and the master suite assumes a spa-like atmosphere. According to Catanzaro, the wallcovering that backs the bed and the stone floor of the adjacent bathroom were both selected for their wood-like appearance.
“The bedroom wallpaper and bathroom stone both look like wood grains with taupe-gray finishes resembling driftwood,” she says of the spaces connected by an oversize glass door. The serene feeling established in both areas creates the perfect backdrop for views out to the water and the Golden Gate Bridge, which is also visible from the bathroom’s freestanding tub. But as the homeowner good-naturedly admits, her two sons often end up being the recipients of that peaceful view. “They get to use that wonderful soaking tub more than I do,” she says. Even so, she and her husband make a point of scheduling early evening baths for the boys. “That way,” says the wife, “we can keep an eye on the kids and still enjoy the sunsets.”