Most homes have a hard time keeping secrets. Glance inside this Pacific Heights abode, for example, and the owners’ passion for entertaining and family gathering is revealed. From the sun-filled living room and cozy den to the thoughtfully appointed private spaces, each detail conveys a heartfelt desire to welcome and delight.
In 1905, when architects Albert Sutton and Charles Peter Weeks designed the Colonial Revival home, formal parties were likely prim and proper. But when the current owners described the events they hoped to host to designer Marea Clark, they painted a picture of casual elegance. “We were excited to create a sophisticated space,” the wife explains. “But we’re a young family with four kids, so it also needed to feel comfortable for guests with children.” Their vision was a floor plan flowing easily from formal to informal spaces— dining room to kitchen to living room to den.
So, in addition to updating wallcoverings, paint colors and light fixtures, Clark worked with architect Stephen Sutro and his colleague residential designer Sarah Turner to create a pocket door that enlarges the opening between dining room and kitchen. The new version was inserted with surgical precision, Sutro says, to preserve the home’s original millwork. “General contractor Clayton Timbrell and his team were able to splice into the baseboard and preserve the crown molding, making it look like nothing ever happened,” the architect notes. The alteration may be difficult to detect, but the impact in the dining room is dramatic. “Now you can look straight through the kitchen’s window wall and out to our green backyard,” the wife says. “You feel the outdoors, which is not so common in San Francisco.”
To amplify the effect, Clark commissioned artisans at de Gournay to create a wallcovering with a pattern of pastel hand-painted butterflies for the dining room ceiling. “Butterflies and de Gournay are timeless and elegant, but having them on the ceiling make it feel playful and unexpected,” she explains. For the walls, she chose lacquer with a pale blue hue and a reflective quality like that of the chandelier’s iridescent-glass shades, making the space what she describes as “a study of light.”
The pretty palette informs the spectrum of colors, from pale to saturated, that Clark used in finishes and furnishings throughout the house. In the living room, where a curvy sofa upholstered in a dusty-rose velvet presides, “we started crossing over to some darker accents, like the walnut coffee table,” the designer says. The palette deepens further in the den, which feels “quite moody with its dark- hued millwork and taupe fabric on the walls,” Clark notes. For that intimate space, meant for cocktail parties and family movie nights, Clark designed a sectional that nearly wraps the entire room. “The homeowners like to curl up there and get cozy, so we wanted it to be deep,” she says. Near one end of the sofa, the designer tucked a bar into a built-in bookcase. At another end, she hung a striking silhouette of a female form from the homeowners’ collection of contemporary artworks.
With help from Clark, the clients explored the theme of water in new art acquisitions. A luminous, monochrome painting by Udo Nöger evokes a serene seascape in the dining room, and a Richard Misrach photograph of a lone surfer on a turquoise sea presides over the second-floor stair landing, providing a preview of the layered blue and green colors of the primary bedroom’s carpet, silk wallcovering and upholstered bed.
Before personalizing bedrooms for the children, Clark consulted her young clients and then presented them with design boards for their approval. They settled on Pucci pillows and a mod chair for one daughter; a pastel floral headboard and drapery for another; classic reds and blues for the only son; and a blue lacquered vintage dresser and framed chinoiserie panel for the baby. In these rooms and throughout the house, Clark conjured a mood both ethereal and playful. “The spaces are not childlike, but they are places where children live,” she says. No secrets here.