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Case Study: A Restful Saratoga Craftsman Walks on the Wild Side, Baby

Most of my design clients are women. I love collaborating with them because I know I can make an impact on how they live in their homes. For some uncanny reason I understand the style they’re after through what I can only describe as a kind of mental telepathy.

Friends and clients ask how I’m able to create such different looks for individual clients and I’ve tried to understand it myself. The short answer is I don’t know. It just hits me, like one eleven month project that’s now almost completed.

But let’s regress for a moment because here is where the confusion starts. When you ask people what style they like, they’re not always able to give you a reliable answer. I hear terms like cozy, or classic, or fresh which give me nothing to go on because one woman’s fresh is another woman’s salad. Classic can be used to describe a blazer. And cozy in my terms means wrapped up in a blanket by the fire. These are hardly terms to describe a design style so that leaves me to figure things out with my own devices.

Initially I spent an hour or two with this particular client in her Saratoga, California home, discussing the usual things like scope of work, color preferences, scale and some things that are very important to her such as her music collection and extraordinary career as former head of worldwide HR at a powerhouse tech company, as well as being a noted soprano. I love it when a client can offer me such a rich and personal backdrop. It lends itself to a better project.

The drive home from her home to mine is 3 ½ hours at best. On this day it took five. Within the first hour of the drive I had the major elements of the scheme in my head: fabrics, furniture style and colors. Another week to ten days and I had the specifics flushed out as well.

We did the living room, breakfast room, entry, hall, two bathrooms and some pieces for the master bedroom. I also consulted on the music studio downstairs though my designs weren’t brought to fruition.

The home’s architectural style is “arts and crafts” and falls under the traditional heading but the client prefers contemporary furnishings.  

I chose large scale furnishings for added comfort and also to match the scale of the home. The 97 inch bench made, pillow back sofa, the 37 inch armchair and 40 inch ottoman were covered in a soft and durable Pindler upholstery fabric in a color called Chai Latte. I did the pillows and cushions in a Fabricut zebra print and the welts in a Stroheim and Romann red velvet. There was also a wood framed accent chair the client was particularly fond of so I had it refinished in an espresso stain, and recovered the seat in the red velvet and the back in the zebra print.

The cocktail table took some time to find but when I finally saw it, I knew it was perfect. It’s a 40 inch round drum style carved mango wood with a white marble top and an ebony finish from Selamat Designs. The carvings are pomegranates.

In the breakfast room I did a round, very contemporary table that looks a bit like stone. It has a cone shaped base and a carved-look surface. The upholstered breakfast room chairs from Lazar have metal nail heads around the perimeter. The fabric is kind of an oyster colored texture with bits of metallic fleck in it. The client wanted to keep the little sitting area by the breakfast room window so we kept the existing Restoration Hardware armless chairs and round aluminum table and added 20 inch throw pillows in the red velvet with a mustard velvet welt to pick up the little mustard colored tufted ottoman that’s nearby.

In the entry, which is almost done we did a gorgeous hand knotted area rug with reds and blues, a huge midnight blue hand beaded mirror and a burnished iron and marble top console.

In the bathrooms we wallpapered and did wall to wall mirror over the vanities. One wall paper reminds me of a Keith Haring painting. It’s in burnished gold and cream colors. The other wallpaper, shown only in the powder room, is an amazing silver metallic cork. In the long narrow halls I did zebra print runners and a gorgeous framed mirror that looks like melted gold cutwork.

My vision of this design scheme was inspired by the art filled bungalows of Berkeley, California. The craftsman architecture and contemporary furnishings were brought together by one common thread: the look and feel of hand crafted, high quality products.

Live beautifully, eat beautifully. Shiree’