Kelly Hohla is a designer who considers her options and leaves nothing to chance. So, when her clients began creating their dream home on the San Francisco Peninsula, she studied everything carefully. For example, when the couple wanted a turquoise La Cornue stove as the kitchen’s centerpiece, Hohla suggested a cooking class to provide a test drive of the French classic. “Best to know ahead of time if it would function for their family as well as be beautiful in the space,” she reasons. A similar weighing of options was employed when pinpointing the precise shade for the lacquered cabinets in the adjoining butler’s pantry. “We needed a deep green in the turquoise realm that speaks to the range without being too matchy,” she says about the winning teal hue.
Those are just two of the many thoughtfully considered details that followed–but before there was a stove, cabinets or colors, there was just a 2-acre property containing a thicket of old trees and an unremarkable house. “You couldn’t even walk in the backyard,” recalls landscape designer Andrea Kovol who, with landscape architect Ron Lutsko Jr., eliminated all the invasive species and planted new trees along the perimeter of the property to both define and screen the plot.
That south-facing clearing became the anchor for a sprawling family home where the owners hoped to escape the strife of city living. “We left San Francisco for better weather and a yard,” says the wife, who had grown weary of driving around the city searching for a park where her three young offspring could play. “We were building a ground-up house and other than big windows and lots of light, we really didn’t know what we wanted.”
Early conversations with architect Richard Beard revealed otherwise. “They didn’t want anything overtly traditional, but definitely not aggressively modern either,” says Beard. “Incorporating family was essential.” He honored those wishes with a large dwelling that reads as a series of intersecting structures built with stone, cedar and dark steel and surrounded by a number of outdoor spaces for living and play. The home, built by general contractor Bryan Murphy, is new, but the assemblage of contrasting materials implies a sense of age, modernity and originality.
Hohla, in concert with designer Alana Dorn, embraced that balance of old and new in the interiors. This is the third project Hohla worked on for this family, so she was familiar with their previous residences, including the one before this, which featured traditional rooms outfitted with French, Italian and English antiques. But in this case, the designer thought the new home should not be a case of history repeating itself. “I have been dreaming about this house for this family for a long time. From the beginning, we determined that it should have more of a clean-lined and edited feel,” she says. “We wanted to incorporate some of the antiques, but in a more modern way.”
That line of thinking gives rise to the amenable mingling in the living room of a tailored sofa with a gently curving back and a pair of more ornate antique side tables (one adorned with an elaborate mother-of-pearl inlay, and the other with gilded accents). The classic, wingback style of a pair of vintage Paul Frankl seats and Holly Hunt armchairs play against the striking lines of custom-designed coffee tables with aged-brass bases and natural stone tops. And, while an heirloom duet of curling Pierre Cardin table lamps adds a flourish to the room, it’s a brass chandelier reminiscent of a cascade of bangle bracelets that brings the drama while dangling from the 14-foot-high ceiling. “I’m obsessed with light fixtures,” Hohla says. “They are the jewelry of a room and the first thing your eye goes to.” The stylish mix is one of the features that makes this the wife’s favorite room in the house.
In addition to the layering of old and new, Hohla went the extra mile when combining textures and lines. “I come from a family of engineers and I lay things out in a very planned way,” she explains. In the master bedroom, where Hohla wanted a serene and ethereal environment, she commissioned decorative artist Willem RackÃ© to createÂ lacquer walls with a subtle striÃ© pattern done in soft colors. This is a counterpoint to tailored elements such as the custom bed, settee and embroidered ottoman and the bolder Ralph Pucci lounge chairs, HervÃ© Van der Straeten bronze light fixture and the contemporary painting. As in the rest of the house, vintage alabaster lamps and demilune nightstands add traditional touches in the new structure.
Unifying classic and contemporary elements was an aesthetic the designer carefully negotiated and considered. “The homeowners’ main concern was always about going too modern and mine was about staying too traditional,” Hohla shares. “I wanted them to have an updated home that feels timeless and that they can grow in–I think we were able to strike the perfect balance.”