You and your home are in a relationship.
From the moment you buy it, you are the steward. This is especially true of the many grand historic homes in Piedmont, California.
To do the job well, it is important to be mindful of the house itself; the way it has changed over the decades, or century-plus; to know its bones, how it breathes. If you are a new owner of one of these classic beauties, it can be beneficial to live in the home for at least a little while first, for you to get to know each other, to learn what it needs, and what you need, before you start renovating and decorating. If you take the time to listen, you might “hear” what the house wants.
I also think there is something to be said for a beautiful home evolving in stages. Just like we are always growing and changing as humans, we want to be in balance and harmony with our house as it evolves, to feel congruent.
Recently my design team, including project manager Darshan LeBang and I, had the pleasure of being invited into one of these stately houses to facilitate the growth of a new relationship between a young, hip, growing family, and one of the famous “Three Sisters” designed by architect Houghton Sawyer and built in 1923.
The previous owners had lived in the home for decades. They were deliberate in choosing our clients for the sale, in entrusting this stately home to a new family who would love it as deeply and dearly as they had.
As home-buyers, especially in the Bay Area, we may look at many houses before we choose one. The One. The one that we fall in love with because we see something in it that reflects something in us.
In this case, the new owners, our clients, recognized a generosity of space and expansiveness about the house that reflected their love of culture and travel, with room to entertain, nooks to curl up and read, and places to hang art, display beloved collected objects from around the world, and share music from their baby grand piano with family and friends.
And books! The couple met while both were doing philanthropic work with the nonprofit Room to Read which promotes literacy and gender equality in education — specifically for elementary-school-aged girls — around the globe. You can see how much they value books, because they now have places all over their house for books to be displayed and read; the books in their family room are even organized by genre, like a good library should be.
Our clients were able to live in the home for a brief period after the purchase and before we began the remodel, to get a sense what they — and the house — wanted. Together, we decided to handle changes in stages, starting with the primary living areas first. This phase encompassed the master bedroom, living room, family room, dining room, and hallways, allowing them to get settled in and spend time together there; and saving the kitchen and bath remodels and attic build-out for the future.
And speaking of the future, it’s a good idea to keep your relationship fresh over time.
Like a long term relationship with a spouse, a long term relationship with your home, to be successful and rewarding, needs to be nurtured. Once you’ve lived in a house for a while, it is possible that you stop noticing things. Over time, it is worthwhile to freshen up, get a new perspective, make some changes and upgrades. A home wants to have life breathed into it.
I believe that homes are feminine; in the way that the feminine in us glows brighter under the warmth of attention, the more attention we pay to our homes, the more our homes will glow.
Of course, hiring a designer can help you get a fresh perspective on what needs to change, and what steps you might want to take to bring out that glow, as you and your home grow together.
(Note: A version of this article originally appeared in print in the Piedmont Post.)
+ + +
I am also pleased to share with you that this project received a lovely write up recently in the San Francisco Chronicle, by Anh-Minh Le. Click this link: Designer Takes a Page From Clients’ Life and Loves