Based on a tip from a friend, Missy and Yvo Smit got a sneak peek at a distinctive home in San Francisco’s picturesque Sea Cliff neighborhood before it hit the market. Built in 1923, it had been owned by the same family for generations and was coming on the market for the first time in decades. “I walked in the door and knew it was our house,” says Missy, a realtor, who loved that it was detached and possessed a nice flow. Plus, the couple’s two daughters attend a school a few blocks away, making the location ideal.
The Smits enlisted interior designer Regan Baker to reimagine their new home, hoping she could marry Yvo’s modern aesthetic with Missy’s love of traditional details. “Yvo likes primary colors and geometrics, whereas Missy is more Hermes and Vogue,” Baker says.
Baker chose a fresh palette–clean white, punctuated with dashes of color. Both Missy and Yvo love blue, which became foundational to the design throughout. For example, Baker painted all four walls of Missy’s office a dramatic steel blue, but just one living room wall wears the shade. “The idea was to bring the color into the living room, but not all the way,” she explains.
The living room’s blue custom sofa is complemented by two stylish modern chairs upholstered in vibrant orange–the backside of a reddish-orange Hermes fabric. “We wanted this moment of surprise when you walked in,” Baker says. “I don’t know if Hermes approves, but these chairs had to be loud and proud.” Missy agrees, saying: “It’s so much cooler this way. I think they make the room.”
Yvo is from the Netherlands, and many furnishings reflect his appreciation of midcentury modern Dutch and Scandinavian design yet work well with the classic details that Missy favors, like the home’s original picture-frame moldings. “I would live in a glass-and-concrete house with one chair and a bunch of books,” Yvo quips. “But you see European antiques in the house, and I brought a lot of those, so it’s a bit of a dichotomy.”
The couple loves art, and their collection includes work by Dutch photographers Anouk van Kalmthout and Robin de Puy. “What’s so nice about this piece is that the artist came to the U.S.,” says Yvo, gesturing to a de Puy photo of three swimsuit-clad vacationers at a motel. “It’s a self-portrait. She did a road trip with her friends. To me, it’s so Americana, and you can just see how much fun they had. We collect things that we love.”
While the house had good bones, the Smits’ architect, Robert Stiles, made some adjustments, like removing walls to liberate what was once an isolated galley kitchen. The family now has an open, free-flowing space comprising a kitchen, dining area and family room that overlook the leafy backyard. “Their goal was to push it in a simpler, slightly more modern direction while still preserving the traditional bones,” Stiles says.
“It’s always tricky to modernize these classically beautiful homes,” says general contractor Jeff Fitzsimmons. “Where do you stop with the modern elements and integrate more classic details?” In this home, the answer is for old and new to coexist. For example, the team kept and refinished the graceful original stairway and preserved as many of the original plaster walls as possible. But elements such as the home’s elevator got a fresh twist: It’s now a traveling bar, complete with a rolling bar cart, built-ins and a custom mural by Caroline Lizarraga. “They love to entertain and wanted to make more use of the house,” Baker says, explaining the multifunctional space. Missy says that the payoff occurs during gatherings, noting that when the elevator doors open to reveal the pop of color and the minibar, the conversation really starts.
To maximize natural light on the main floor, Stiles raised the head heights of all the south-facing French doors. Meanwhile, the home’s solarium, which previously had a concrete floor, also got a refresh. “We wanted it to be an extension of the house,” Baker says. “Bringing the wood flooring into the solarium made it feel cohesive.” Now, the couple describes the room as a sunny spot perfect for reading the newspaper and enjoying a cup of coffee.
Outside, landscape designer Sarah Madeline Stuckey Coates incorporated topiary and flowers for Missy, and the wispy grasses that Yvo likes. Yvo also wanted a kitchen garden for their daughters, so the backyard plantings are almost entirely edible. “There are Meyer lemon and Bearss lime trees,” Coates says. “Along with strawberries, purple basil, chives, chocolate mint and spearmint.”
Upstairs, Stiles reconfigured the master bathroom and added a new bathroom, so the girls each have their own. “The marble in our kitchen and bathrooms is all exactly the same,” Missy says. “When you walk into a house, there’s consistency from room to room, and that’s soothing.”
The house now fits the family, proving that Missy’s initial reaction was spot on. As Yvo says, “Regan helped bring our tastes together. We love the way it looks, and it really feels like home.”