“We wanted this house to feel humble,” says architect Lorissa Kimm of the Corte Madera home she shares with her husband, Erik Hughes, co-owner of the celebrated San Francisco showroom De Sousa Hughes. Enchanted by the structure’s proximity to the city and its spectacular views of Mount Tamalpais, but looking to give it more light-filled open living spaces, the couple aimed to transform their 1940s-era ranch-style house into a contemporary oasis infused with elements that reflect their heritage. “We both have Asian and Scandinavian roots,” explains Kimm. “And I think this house represents that very clearly now.”
That blended aesthetic begins in the front foyer, which they clad with light white oak. “It’s a very welcoming arrival into the house,” Hughes says of the warm space. “Growing up spending holidays in Norway, we always had wood walls and cabin-like environments.” The foyer leads to the great room, where the floor was raised to accommodate new radiant heating, thereby creating another nod to the couple’s backgrounds. “It’s a Japanese tradition to enter the foyer, take your shoes off, and step up into the house,” says Kimm, who spent her youth in Tokyo.
In the renovation, the structure’s hipped roof was replaced with a flat one and more than half of the interior walls were removed. To create the great room, which contains the living and dining areas, Kimm added 220 square feet to the back of the house and raised the ceiling to allow for the addition of clerestory windows. “On the east side, we get a lot of morning light,” says Hughes. “And in the evening, we get the sun setting, so the house always feels very bright and airy.” The white oak established in the foyer resurfaces in the great room, this time in floor-to-ceiling bookcases flanking a limestone fireplace. “To create continuity,” Kimm explains, “we minimized our material choices to just a few and then carried them throughout.” In the bedrooms, similar units contain built-in closets, while in the living area, the bookshelves are inset with illuminated white-lacquer display boxes.
The same materials pick up in the kitchen, where white-lacquer upper cabinets complement lower cabinets of white oak. Recessed aluminum pulls reinforce the home’s quiet sensibility. “Being a modern house, the details tend to recede because they’re so clean,” Kimm says, noting the quarter-inch reveals around the doors and window sills. According to builder Misha Riszkiewicz such subtle details are important to achieve. “You can’t hide mistakes behind trim as you could in a conventional home,” he notes.
When it came to the furnishings, the couple pulled together a personal and curated mix that includes vintage finds and contemporary designs from Hughes’ showroom. “We chose our pieces specifically for our needs, to complement the space and also the items we’d collected over the years,” says Hughes. In the living area, a sectional—the prototype for the Lakeside series sectional in the De Sousa Hughes Collection—that the couple designed previously was recovered and paired with a 19th-century rug and a vintage Hans J. Wegner chair. Handblown glass pendants anchor the adjacent dining area and hang above an Altura Furniture live-edge table, commissioned originally as a floor sample for the showroom. “It was the perfect size for what we were looking for,” says Hughes, “and the owners of Altura thought it was fitting that we purchased this original piece.” The couple’s art collection provides a finishing layer.
Outside, landscape architect Jay Thayer helped to update the grounds, as well. “The idea was to knit together Lorissa’s work on the house with the landscape,” Thayer says, “and one of the prominent features of the architecture is the horizontal lines.” He emphasized those lines by surrounding the terrace and a dining pavilion with concrete pavers laid in an orthogonal pattern. He also shaped a hedge flanking a large water feature—custom-designed by Tuell and Reynolds—to maximize views.
Hughes and Kimm are extremely pleased with the form and the function of their newly renovated abode. “The whole house flows seamlessly,” says Hughes, who, after spending his days surrounded by furnishings and patterns galore, enjoys unwinding in the tranquil space. “It feels monastic in some ways, and that’s what we wanted, a respite.”