Sometimes you just don’t want the vacation to end. That’s how the San Francisco couple who hired Kelly Hohla to design their Jackson Hole retreat felt after spending time in their new, clean-lined dwelling. “They realized that they wanted their San Francisco home to be more modern and light-filled,” says Hohla. “They missed the way their vacation house made them feel, so they decided to do something about it.”
Their primary residence, which was Metropolitan Home’s Showcase House in 2009, was brimming with beautiful design details, but it lacked continuity from one space to the next. “Often, individual rooms in a showcase house shine on their own, but when you take the structure as a whole, it can feel like a bit of a mishmash,” says Hohla, who had, coincidentally, designed the home’s media room for the event while working at another firm. “Over the years, I collaborated with the clients on some of the other the spaces, editing or adding to this room or that room. But this time around, they wanted a complete, cohesive overhaul.”
The clients also tapped architect Stephen Sutro and general contractor Shay Lyons to help them reconfigure and reimagine the traditional brick structure. “The house had so many different architectural treatments from its showcase house days that it lacked a consistent expression,” says Sutro. “I had to take it back to its roots—to its traditional bones—to then tell a more modern story within its walls.” While Sutro and project lead Helen Seldin created a more classic layout of the living spaces with an emphasis on symmetry, they also fashioned a series of deep passageways throughout the main floor, bridging the gap between the home’s traditional millwork and the modern aesthetic the clients desired. The passages also allowed for a more open flow, which Hohla amplified with a cohesive color palette—grays, soft neutrals and shades of blue that marry well with the warmer wood tones.
This openness is enunciated most dramatically in the entryway, where Sutro and Seldin transformed the house with a new central stairwell. “We wanted to make the stair open, grand and more modern, allowing plenty of natural light to flow into other spaces,” says Sutro. Their brainchild is a three-sided floating staircase crafted with curved glass and steel. It sets the tone for the rest of the house, allowing for more contemporary elements, like the steel-and-glass front door and coordinating steel French doors in the family room.
“The stairwell was the ‘aha’ moment for the house, the element that delivered the modern note the clients really wanted,” says Hohla, adding that the increased natural light and open nature made way for bold design decisions elsewhere, including the kitchen. There, the team switched the island’s orientation, giving the illusion of more space. They fashioned a sleek look with a Boffi system that keeps every aspect of kitchen life tucked away behind closed doors. The center island consists of a slab of stone that wraps around all sides. “It’s sculptural and clean,” says Hohla, who painstakingly designed the herringbone pattern of the porcelain tile backsplash—a motif that provides just enough playfulness to keep the space from feeling austere.
“I like to have at least one moment in each room that feels a bit unexpected,” says the designer. In the dining room, wrapped in a hand-painted wallpaper, she chose a light fixture with mirrored glass, like eye-catching jewelry. In the living room, she covered the ceiling in a grass cloth with a modern herringbone pattern. And in the foyer, she called attention to the couple’s striking Dave Muller painting by bookending it with two vintage chairs reupholstered in burnt-orange velvet. “My clients have very distinct, very sophisticated tastes—and a fabulous art collection,” says Hohla. “The husband was constantly emailing me ideas, and together we decided that this house could take a little edge, like the oversize Todd Hido piece that you see the moment you walk in, or the aluminum sideboard by Paul Benson on the upstairs landing, or the massive piece of art by David Benjamin Sherry that completely reinvented the lower level of the house.”
It is that edginess that gives the home a gallery-like feel, reconciling its traditional bones with its new contemporary design moments. “Kelly is wonderful at using unique patterns or one-of-a-kind pieces that make a space warm and playful,” says Sutro. “In the end, this home is a beautiful juxtaposition of classic and modern under one roof.”