One might assume that when this elegant Colonial Revival house was built on a Pacific Heights hill back in 1916, its full potential was immediately realized. After all, it was designed by Bliss & Faville, the prestigious architecture firm behind San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel and Bank of California Building earlier in the century. But, as in other grand homes of the era, the bottom and top floors of this four-story mansion were for staff and storage—and finished sparingly as was the custom of the age. More than 100 years would pass before the opportunity finally came for every one of its nearly 10,000 square feet to shine.
In 2017, established Pacific Heights residents Sean and Jennifer Jeffries purchased the property after consulting with their longtime interior designer, Jeffry Weisman, who confirmed that the home’s upstairs-downstairs floor plan could be converted to meet the needs of their modern family of five and frequent guests. “I love to look at a house like it’s an empty box and see what we can do with the parts that can be moved,” says Weisman, who worked with colleagues Andrew Fisher and Bryn Brugioni. In the case of this historic property, “if we didn’t touch the shell of the house, we pretty much had carte blanche to change the interiors as we wished.” Which is exactly what ensued when architects Richard Beard, Michael Juckiewicz and Rebecca Lischwe, along with general contractor Tim McDonald, signed onto the project. “We literally preserved the outside, propping it up and removing everything within—save for walls in the living room, dining room and entry,” Weisman says of project’s scope.
“Fortunately, the original design had large windows for the style and period that were assets to include,” Beard recalls. “But there were two separate stairways that went to different floors, creating a maze of circulation.” The first order of business was to simplify things by replacing the original stair (which only connected the second and third stories) with a new version that linked all levels of the house, followed by inserting an elevator in the space the service passageways once occupied. The lower floor, formerly a warren of utility rooms, was then reorganized in a way where hardworking spaces (garage, laundry and mudroom) live alongside oases of relaxation (a pair of guest suites, a wine cellar and a project room). “By connecting everything, it really began to feel like a family house,” Weisman says.
Next, the design team expanded the primary bedroom. They incorporated an adjacent guest room and bath to give the owners a vestibule entry along with a pair of dressing rooms and baths. The kitchen was also reconfigured to better accommodate dinner parties and the baking exploits of three teenage girls. With that same trio in mind, the attic was reimagined with a lounge and bedroom suite.
Never ones to completely do away with a client’s existing furnishings for the sake of a clean slate, the designers incorporated many of the family’s treasured pieces, from antique carpets and artworks to a pair of Chinese lacquered armoires. These helped inspire a serene color palette punctuated by fabrics in rich teal and berry tones as well as a peacock-hued powder room and a butler’s pantry lacquered top to bottom in deep blue.
In the formal dining room, Fisher took cues from the sunlight flooding the space when designing a scheme devised “to glow and seduce,” Weisman says. Hand-painted silk in a warm shade of apricot wraps the walls, its swirling pattern continuing onto valances that crown coral-and-gold draperies. Seemingly floating in the plane between a sunburst-patterned carpet and the gilded tea-paper ceiling are twin chandeliers and a pair of dining tables finished in shimmering gold.
When creating such pieces for a historic home, “we don’t really look to the past,” Weisman notes. “We’re making a new vision—here it was about using classical roots in a fresh way to produce something that functions for how people live today.” For example, the Jeffries family unapologetically watches movies in their formal living room; to facilitate this, the designers sourced a wall-mounted television that’s so thin, a painting can be hung over it. For the girls’ attic lounge, they chose a fanciful hanging sofa for study sessions, and, in the kitchen, there’s a large island for casual meals and after-school hangouts. “I’ve always wanted ours to be the house where the kids and their friends could come and feel comfortable,” Jennifer says. “A place that’s open and warm with nothing too precious.”
Glamorous though these rooms may seem when a gilded surface catches the flicker of evening candlelight, the design team has given her that here. “We were able to create a feeling of low-key luxury from the front door straight to the back,” Weisman says. “In every direction, it feels like a soft, beautiful journey.”