Designing and decorating one’s own home is a daunting task for a professional interior designer. Your personal living quarters don’t just serve as a place for you to crash after a busy day designing someone else’s digs. They must also be a prime showpiece for your professional services. It would be like settling into a chair at a new hair salon and noticing that the stylist approaching you with scissors has a freakishly awful coiffure.
San Francisco designer Kriste Michelini was faced with the all-important challenge of designing a home for her family that not only provided a comfortable and efficient place to cultivate life, but also spoke to her own personal style and design capabilities. (Her home, and hair, are simply beautiful.)
Kriste says, “I wanted my house to be open, spacious, clean and welcoming. With the help of architectural designer Esther Suzuki Arnold, I gutted most of the interior and added 1,500 square feet to create breezeway-like living, dining and kitchen spaces that flow from one room to the next. I put together principles I’ve used with clients, like one of my key design strategies — repeating color and design motifs to create a visual consistency and a sense of expansiveness. I think it’s also helpful to choose one main color that shows up in different forms throughout the house. In this case, the main color is white. Minimizing clutter makes the home feel open, so I installed frosted glass lockers for each of my kids, where they can unload their coats and sports equipment.”
An all-white palette keeps the kitchen bright, clean and modern. Various shades and sheens of white add subtle visual texture. The backsplash is white glass. It aligns with the white theme, but infuses a modern, simple texture. The cluster of gently sculpted lamps suspended from the ceiling provide a visual anchor and sense of height. I hid the ugly electrical outlets beneath the upper cabinets to to further reduce clutter.
In the living room, a beautiful asymmetrical concrete fireplace accommodates additional seating, as well as anchors the fireplace to the center of the room. The living room fireplace was not centered in the wall, so visual balance was achieved by extending the shelf below the mantel to display artwork. Mixing different colors of metal in the picture frames creates a relaxed aesthetic and while avoiding an impersonal “matchy-matchy” look. I used earth tones throughout the living room to make it family friendly, not formal and fussy. You can’t see them in this photo, but I used outdoor fabric on the upholstered chairs to keep them clean and bright. My children use those chairs a lot, so I had to protect them from their messes.
For a livable home, mix and match colors, shapes and design styles. I did this by combining pieces from different collections. The gentle curves of the tulip-shaped Saarinen table are similar to those of the Cherner chairs – without being a part of the same set. The color of the wood in the chairs stands out against the white in the table, walls and fireplace. The Caboche chandelier is a mix of ornate and contemporary and contrasts with the simple but traditional style of the windows and mantel. I love this chandelier because it appears to float, adding to the room’s airy, spacious feel.
Now to the home’s exterior. A series of glass doors and windows opens the rear of the house to the yard. I designed the layout of the patio to enhance the indoor-outdoor connection. This was achieved by creating direct access to the fire pit area from the family room. I built a 12-inch- wide wall around the fire pit to give people a place to put up their feet, or to use as a coffee table. The traditional, exposed- brick planter softens up the modern to create an attractive and comfortable space.