It was 3 a.m. in San Francisco when designer Maria Haidamus made an urgent call from France to her husband, Ramzi. She was at a flea market and had found a piece of art for their new home. She needed a measurement pronto. “We had barely moved in and didn’t have much furniture, but I found a large hand-drawn map of Paris with amazing detail,” she says. “I woke up my husband and asked him to measure the living room wall. It was the first thing I bought for the house. After that, everything fell into place.”
Haidamus was eager to tackle the task of designing her dream home within the architectural shell of a 1930s Spanish Colonial-style house that included vaulted ceilings, iron railings and exposed-wood beams. But she was mindful of marrying her desire to be creative with the practical needs of a family home. “I wanted my house to be beautiful, but I didn’t want a showcase,” she says. “We entertain a lot, so I wanted it to be comfortable and livable for my family and for guests, but I also wanted it to be aesthetically pleasing.”
To achieve this delicate balance of old-world-meets-California-cool, Haidamus took her cues from the architecture, making design choices that would highlight the details rather than compete with them—walls were painted white and furnishings kept clean-lined and simple. The neutral walls became a backdrop for a mix of organic textures and finishes, treasures brought back from travels and touches of saturated, Mediterranean-inspired colors.
The most significant changes Haidamus made to the house were in the kitchen, which now holds special meaning for her. “It’s our family’s headquarters,” she says. “It’s where we cook, eat and where the kids do homework. It’s also a great place to entertain.”
“I really cherish the kitchen,” she says. “Every single piece—the pendant lights, the fabric from home, the cookbooks from our travels, the island I designed to fit all five of us—means something to me. It’s authentic, and it’s us, and it’s where we gather with family and friends. It truly is the heart of the home.”