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A Contemporary Home Receives a Much Needed Update

above via LONNY.com
Last year I worked on a unique home perched high on the hillside above Sonora. It has magnificent, 360 degree views of the Northern California country side. To maximize the views, the home’s architect Cooper Kessel designed it with wide expanses of glass. The light filled home has a circular design with a central cupola surrounded by structural Douglas fir beams and tapered oak dowels from Vermont. It has a tall, strikingly beautiful, natural stone fireplace; oak floors; a pool; tennis courts; and Cooper’s trade mark, energy efficient features.

The residence is home to a local historian/videographer and his daughter. He is a retired engineer who has a local cable TV show in Sonora. He and his late wife had the home built in the nineties and two of their requests for Coop were to build a home that made the most of the views and was energy efficient. His daughter owns and runs a company that provides business solutions and coaching for small and large companies. She is a talented, classically trained flautist often performing at special events.

The work I do is much simpler than Kessel’s but it has its challenges and rewards as well. The home was previously decorated in powder blue, country style checks and floral prints and was ready for an update. They called me in to rework the existing furniture with up-to-date fabrics. We were to work around the architecture, the stone, the wood, the traditional furnishings, and of course, the phenomenal views.
Once the daughter had shown me some of the things she loves, I began to get a feeling for her style. She likes things that are simple and elegant. My challenge in this particular project was finding fabrics to pull the contemporary architecture and traditional furnishings together, and do it in a way that would coincide with her classic aesthetic. Color is a great common denominator and I suggested a scheme that would go well with the colors and tones of the architectural elements yet adhere to her personal taste: transitional style fabrics in soft, sage and Celadon greens and pale, “spun” gold’s.

above via EBANISTA
About the Fabrics
We looked at a lot of fabrics. I love this part of my job and it’s alright to devote the time to perusing so many fabrics if the client is serious about doing the work. If the client is uncertain, I am hesitant to put forth so much effort. I have a lot of fabrics in my own studio but for bigger projects like this, I usually spend a day at the San Francisco Design Center looking at a wide variety of fabrics till I come upon two to three “just right” schemes.
above PINKPERSIMMON.tumblr


The first two schemes I came up with had too much pattern and were a bit too contemporary for her taste. However, one of the schemes I was able to tweak by replacing a floral fabric with a tone on tone stripe in a light sage green. That stripe went on the Danish Modern, tufted, wood framed arm chairs and on the hand crafted, maple dining room chairs. For their two settees, we had originally planned on a golden ribbed fabric that she loved but when I threw in an outstanding striated silk in a soft gold color, she opted for that one instead. The more casual, gold ribbed fabric was then allocated to game table chairs.
above via LONNY.com


I found a shimmery green, lightly embroidered fabric with gold undertones that ended up being perfect for throw pillows. The pillows had to be lined because of the sheerness of the fabric but we both love the way they look on the settees. They nicely pull together all of the fabrics.


About the Fabrication

A work room with a minimum 15 years of experience is necessary to get the professional results expected when you hire a designer. I have several window treatment and upholstery workrooms I work with and all have well over twenty years of experience. You’ll see the difference in the tautness of the fabric, the straightness of the seams, and the matching of the patterns.



Less experienced workrooms show inconsistent work with lumps and bumps. Their products don’t look “perfect” like an experienced work room. Once you’ve seen quality workmanship on sofas, chairs and in window treatments and bedding, poor quality fabrications stand out like a “sore thumb”.
Window Protection
Originally, the windows had one continuous blue floral valance. We agreed the valance visually detracted from the view but it was necessary because it concealed the head rails of the existing accordion pleated shades.



above via VERANDA
With so much glass, protection is a must. We opted to replace the existing window treatments with semi-transparent, non-decorative sunshades in a warm white. Their UV protection keeps the home cooler during hot times of the day and protects the furniture and floors from fading. They wrap around light weight metal cylinders and raise and lower on a pulley system. Matching valances conceal the head rail when the shades are raised. Because the valances match the color of the window’s wood work they are barely discernible. Normally, I prefer to do a darker sun shade because the darker colors are barely discernible when in use. However, many residential customers prefer white, while commercial customers are easier to convince.

The shades ended up being a challenge. Though it was a company I’ve worked with for years, there was a quality control issue with four of the valances and I had them removed and returned immediately. They came back looking “sharp” but unfortunately this time they didn’t fit. They were immediately removed and returned again, and were replaced finally with perfect valances. These things happen from time to time and it’s wise to let clients know this from the beginning. Managing expectations is important and one way to accomplish this is to advise clients of potential delays, then do your best to foresee and avoid them. In this case, there was no way of knowing because I’d worked with the company for years with virtually no quality control issues.
above via ysvoice
I tried but wasn’t able to find rugs that worked with their aesthetic. They ended up finding them on their own: one rectangular shaped rug for the living room and two matching round ones for under the dining room and game tables. The rugs’ muted green with golden tan leaf motif compliment the furniture and fabrics perfectly. I was pleased to see what good choices they’d made.
above available through SHIREE HANSON SEGERSTROM

The mark of a good designer can be seen in a project’s fabric quality as well as the quality of fabrication. But there’s more to it than that. Often time’s a client wants to utilize their existing furniture and I don’t discourage them. At that point we need to understand how to visually pull together disparate elements as we did in this project with its contemporary architecture, traditional furniture and the client’s own personal aesthetic. Creating a cohesive design scheme requires considerable time.

In the end, it’s well worth it to have happy clients.


apartment sofa above I below, SHIREE HANSON SEGERSTROM