A Bay Area Classic Is Refreshed With Playful Design


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A Marin County classic is refreshed with a playful design and bold color.

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In the entry of a Marin County home, designer Eche Martinez created a console, produced by Rossi Antiques, which was inspired by the iconic Palazzo della Civilta Italiana in Rome.

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The dining room offers views of the yard and the hills beyond. The sculptural hand-forged brass pendant light by Herve Van der Straeten is from Ralph Pucci in Los Angeles. The Bolero dining table and Montera dining chairs by Poltrona Frau were purchased at Arkitektura. The antique Jacobean dresser is from 1stdibs.

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In the verdant yard, English boxwood hedges flank a stairway and Sally Holmes roses climb a pergola. Landscape designer Janell Denler Hobart redesigned the home’s greenery and even added a small edible garden for the family. (PHOTO: Paul Dyer)

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Poolside sunbathers can relax in chaise lounges by Brown Jordan. (PHOTO: Paul Dyer)

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The home's patio offers outdoor dining with mountain views from a table by Michael Taylor Designs and chairs by Sutherland Furniture. (PHOTO: Paul Dyer)

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The airy master bedroom offers a straighton view of Mt. Tamalpais, and so the interior finishes are intended to be noncompetitive. Instead, Martinez added subtle textures with such elements as a midcentury bench upholstered with a Moroccan wedding blanket. A custom hand-knotted wool area rug by Elson & Company adds a touch of pattern.

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A pair of custom swivel chairs from A. Rudin offer a spot for conversation in the master bedroom. The custom sheepskin shag rug is by Stark.

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In the wife's office, which doubles as a yoga studio, pillows are covered in handwoven silk ikat. Furnishings include a white parchment desk with curved legs from Sylvan San Francisco and a Womb chair from Knoll with custom wool-blend upholstery. The airy drapery panels are made of Casamance fabric and the antique rug is from Mansour in Los Angeles.

After deciding to relocate to the Bay Area to raise their young children, an East Coast couple initially landed in San Francisco. But then, seeking warmer summers, they explored Marin County and found their dream spot in a spacious home with lush surroundings and mountain views. It was the perfect place to live out the story they imagined for their family.

While they loved the house, its 17-year-old interior was too dark and formal for this hip young family. “They wanted to make the house fresh, inviting and livable,” says designer Eche Martinez, who was hired to help refresh the spaces. “We wanted to update it for this family that doesn’t take themselves too seriously.”

Martinez had the walls and ceilings painted white to capture the light and create a beachy New England feel. The designer then took steps to showcase the home’s verdant natural surroundings. “The views of Mt. Tamalpais are absolutely stunning, so we took out as many window coverings as we could,” he says. “And in the master, the curtains are almost transparent.”

The couple spends much of their time at home, so each has a private office. But they also wanted a space where they could work after hours while having better access to family life. Martinez presented several options for the main living area offering that flexibility before landing on the perfect layout. “When I showed them a long desk with two chairs that fit behind the sectional sofa, they said, ‘You hit the jackpot,’ ” he remembers. “While the kids run in and out, the parents can sit here and answer emails while staying in touch with what’s going on at home–they call it the control tower.”

Furnishings are an eclectic mix of custom, vintage and antique pieces, creating a sense of items collected over time. Each purchase was made with careful intention, with Martinez and the homeowners gravitating toward pieces with a compelling history or cool design. “One day, we’re talking about Jacobean antiques, and the next we wanted to add some midcentury pieces,” says Martinez, who discovered a stunning rosewood Eames chair that found its way into the library. “I said, ‘Are we all over the place?’ But as it came together, I was very happy with the language we created.”

Special elements include a distinctive Herve Van der Straeten pendant hanging over the dining room table. “It took many months to have it forged and finished, but it was worth the wait,” Martinez says. “It’s sculptural yet airy so that you can see the great views through it.”

Martinez and his clients also share an affinity for high style mixed with whimsy. “I have a sense of classic design, but I also like to include something that’s fun,” he says. “They, too, wanted to add things that were interesting.” In some cases, that interest comes via color. In the guest bedroom, for example, a Le Corbusier lounge chair reupholstered in chartreuse Edelman hair-on-hide leather adds an unexpected dash of vibrancy. Meanwhile, one office–which doubles as a yoga studio–received pops of purple and magenta.

Since the wife once worked in the textile and rug industry, she’s inspired by what’s being done in the world of custom handwoven rugs. “It was important to showcase her passion,” Martinez says. “Even in the kids’ bedrooms, we have hand-knotted silk rugs.”

The property’s lush environs were a main attraction, and landscape designer Janell Denler Hobart was brought in to refresh the grounds. Working with project manager Scott Tseckares, she replaced a quilt of vibrantly colored plantings with large swaths of plants in serene whites, blues, silvers and greens. Foliage creates visual interest and ensures lovely gardens year-round. “In the winter when there aren’t any flowers, you have the green structural plantings to complement the architecture,” says Hobart. “And during the summer, we have items like snow-in-summer (a whiteflowering plant known as cerastium tomentosum) that provide trailing blooms.”

As the family’s needs and desires change, the home has continued to evolve, and thanks to that shared love of classic elements and playful surprises, Martinez and the couple have remained in sync–in ways that, at times, seem to defy explanation. “When we were almost finished, I woke up in the middle of the night after a dream,” Martinez says. “I told my client, ‘I dreamt you were pregnant, and we didn’t have enough bedrooms.’ Later, she told me, ‘When you sent me that e-mail, not even my husband knew, but I’m expecting and we’re running out of bedrooms!’” A room was hastily converted to a nursery, and yet another chapter begins for this family.