Home Tour: Steal These Interior Designer's Decorating Tips Now
When Homepolish interior designer Annouchka Engel first walked into her San Francisco townhouse, it more closely resembled a frat house than a family home. Architectural features had been long demolished, the rooms were small and boxed in, and the heating and electricity needed a complete overhaul.
Not one to step away from a challenge, Engel tackled a complete gut renovation to turn this 1876 Victorian townhouse in San Francisco's Pacific Heights neighborhood into a warm and whimsical family home she now shares with her husband, David, their five-month-old daughter, Chloé, and their dog, Marlowe. To see what some new floors and the right wallpaper can do, keep reading for the masterful transformation.
It was important to Engel to reflect her French and Swiss heritage in the design of the house. She restored the original arches in the living room and laid down herringbone floors. "I don't think [these floors] are very common in America," says the designer, "but in France, they're used everywhere. It's lovely to have them here to remind me of home."
In the staircase, Engel installed the Errai wallpaper by Trove. "I found it while researching for another client, and loved the falling peonies (my favorite flower)," she says. "The first time I walked through the house, I knew I wanted to use it." As it turned out, the wallpaper would inspire the color scheme for the entire house: a subtle mix of pink and gray.
Trove Errai Wallpaper (price on request)
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Engel used her design savvy to create a whimsical yet historical feel in the townhouse, choosing a mix of high and low items. In the living room, where most pieces were brought in from their old apartment, the designer effortlessly mixed vintage and antique pieces collected in Parisian flea markets with budget accents like an orange lacquered tray from CB2.
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"There was a strange outhouse-like addition in the back of the house, which was being used as storage, and also housed a hot water heater and a toilet," says Engel. "We turned that into a TV room."
To camouflage the TV, the back wall was painted black and turned into a gallery, which almost exclusively exhibits travel artifacts and her husband David's photography.
One of the deisgner's goals for the renovation was to create an open feel without losing the original character of the house. "We wanted to keep its soul alive," says Engel, "and not turn it into a white box. We wanted the house to have its quirks and personality while having a more efficient use of the space."
To achieve this, she opened the space between the dining room, kitchen, and TV room, using the original fireplace as a divider. "It worked out much better than anticipated," says the designer about the fireplace divider. "It's wonderful to have to pass through the area for dinner parties."
In the kitchen, Engel continued the herringbone floors and extended the entire space out by two feet. The area was finished with honed Carrara marble countertops and backsplashes and Miele appliances. To cut costs, she used IKEA cabinets that she built-in and extended to the ceiling to create a more custom look.
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"Downtstairs, we re-established the 'parlor room,' where the arches had been demolished along the way, and created a library," adds the designer. Her favorite pieces in the entire house? A pair of vintage Marco Zanuso armchairs that were imported from London.
The family, which is quickly outgrowing the three bedroom house, is currently working on a new renovation that will add a floor under the house—and will include a two-car garage, and most important, a suite for the in-laws. They did, after all, pass on many noteworthy antiques to the young family.
The secretary, which is an original Viennese turn of the 20th century piece, was owned by Engel's family. It sits against a wall covered in Silhouette wallpaper by Harlequin.
The three bedrooms in the house were also refinished with herringbone floors, each boasting at least one wallpapered wall. The furniture is a mix of family heirlooms imported from France as well as budget finds.
One of Engel's favorite aspects of the renovation is the new layout of the master bathroom. "It's a very tight and narrow space, but I'm thrilled that we were able to add a separate shower and tub. It's not a huge bathroom, but it's extremely functional, and feels very roomy."
The whimsical print in the bathroom is from Creativity Explored, an organization that provides artists with developmental disabilities the means to create, exhibit, and sell their art through studios and galleries around the world. The designer, who is particularly fond of the organization, found the perfect spot for this endearing hedgehog print.
The rattan rocking horse was Annouchka's own when she was little, and she is now passing it on to her daughter. The lion plush toy was a gift for Chloé.
Despite a few renovation challenges, namely the herringbone floors, and the city permits required for updating a heritage listed home, Engel was able to create a lovely Parisian enclave for her family in the heart of San Francisco.
What did you think of this warm and inviting house? Would you take any tips for your own space?