Just-Right Realism in an Eclectic Family Home

Yes, this is my residence. I opted to include it not because I think that it’s perfect, but because it is an ongoing project that comes with lots of DIY, a sensible budget and one major remodeling project.

We purchased the house, in San Francisco’s Sunset District, in 1998, and it was a total dump. The linoleum was duct taped to the baseboards, the entire place was covered in white wall-to-wall and the garden has been empty except for weeds and puppy poop. We didn’t find until later we moved in that there was not any hot water in the kitchen. We paid $302,000 for it.

It was the height of this dot-com flourish, and we were actually being priced out of the housing market by the day. We purchased in a blind panic, and on the day we signed the paperwork, I cried my eyes out. It was definitely not my dream house.

We fixed it up as best we could with no money (we spent all of it buying the area), ripping out carpet, refinishing floors, and painting and replacing warped and mildewed doors. And then we lived in it pretty much as it had been for ten years, attempting to use decorating flair to cover for its own shortcomings. Additionally, we added two people to our family, making the place look even more compact compared to its 1,100 square feet.

Then, in 2011, we finally remodeled, opening up the entire first floor and gutting the kitchen entirely. The place is still little and imperfect. Nonetheless, it is our house, and also reflects our own life and personalities perfectly.

in a Glance
Who lives here: Me; my husband, Pete; our 6-year-old twins, Magnolia and Oliver; 5 chickens and 1 goldfish
Location: San Francisco
Size: 1,100 square feet; 3 bedrooms, 1 1/2 bathrooms
Next big project: Adding a separate room and toilet into the back of the garage

We knocked a wall down to open the kitchen into the living room. A table and a hanging globe light demarcate the dining room area between them. My dad painted the canvas about 1967. I discovered it in my mom’s garage, cleaned it up, repainted the frame and voil√†. I discovered that the ’60s-age ladder chairs on the sidewalk first 1 morning — my best street find ever.

I wished to keep the color palette in the brand new kitchen fairly earthy and neutral so I could have plenty of vibrant accessories. Also, as soon as your living room looks to the kitchen, it is wonderful to keep it simple.

My inspiration for those stuff was a creek bed: timber, stone, water and forest (that’s the green you can view out both big windows in the last photograph). The countertops are Caesarstone; the top cabinets are quarter-sawn oak in a slab style. The lower ones are a color named Truffle, in a Shaker style.

Besides accessories, this is the sole wall color on the entire first floor. It is barely noticeable, but I think that it adds some warmth. The moment I painted it, the entire place seemed more “done.”

All these are custom shelves that I had our builder build. My inspiration was this photo from . I wanted a little flourish in an otherwise modern and clean-lined room.

The yellow sofa was an impulse purchase, and I love it. I love color in a large, white space. I had the cushions made from a Otomi embroidery I got in Mexico.

The carved Indian table is from a local import store, and the chairs were bought out of an early property office which was going out of business. I planned to re-cover them, but the black has sort of grown on me.

This attorney’s bookcase is in the same defunct property office. As it’s such a beautiful display case, I use it for knickknacks as much as for novels. The toughest things to choose in the entire remodel were that the sconces. I ordered and returned three places before I discovered these geometric milky glass ones.

I adore the look of old and new together. This is my collection of miniature modern chairs next to my collection of old etiquette and homemaking novels.

I covered the backs of those shelves with bits of Woods wallpaper using double-stick tape. The bookshelf looked too thick and dim in the first, and the paper helps lighten it up.

This is right across from the living room couch. More mixing of old and new. The mirror is out of my great-aunt; the photos are by San Francisco photographer Thomas Chang. The low console is from Ikea; it retains kids’ toys and games. The white basket is full of construction blocks.

A detail of the stuff on my console. I adore these yarn flowers, because they never expire! I’ve yellow ones in the bedroom.

Our house’s previous owner turned the linen closet to a water closet. For years we all had to walk across the hallway to wash our hands in the primary bathroom. Then we discovered this toilet-sink combo, and we finally have a fully working powder room. It also saves a ton of water.

I traded a buddy a little table with this bookcase. I then painted it that the brightest, reddest pink I could find after realizing that I have a lot of red, pink and turquoise in the art here.

Down the hallway, reverse the pink bookcase.

Our twins share a space so we can have this combination TV room, office and guest room in our bedroom. It also houses all our novels and also my husband’s closet. It is a very crowded room. A sleeper couch is a must-have for small houses.

The shelf above my desk (in the same third bedroom). There’s a magnetic strip below the shelf so that I can hang inspirational bits and ephemera.

Our small bathroom. There are not any windows, but there’s an opaque skylight for natural lighting. I hung a large full size mirror on the wall next to the sink to try to create a sense of space.

The kids’ room, courtesy of Ikea. The only way to get two 6-year-olds into a very small bedroom would be to utilize loft beds which can accommodate furniture underneath. In our case this means a dresser, a desk and a toy storage tower for each kid.

Most pictures of kids’ rooms allow me to sigh, because they are unrealistically neat and clutter free. The truth is, kids are natural collectors and hoarders. I openly acknowledge that this is as clear as this place gets.

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