Montclair Retreat

I believe that spaces both contain and emit energy and we are all able to get a sense of that energy space when we enter it. To me this energy and feel are much more important than how a room appears.  In the case of this home built in Montclair, the energy and the light were both so beautiful and clear that you just felt at ease the minute you crossed the threshold.  Surrounded by bamboo, eucalyptus, and monterey pine trees, it felt like a sylvan oasis. When I set out to redesign this home, my main objective was to preserve this feeling of tranquility.


After hiring two skilled contractors who own the firm Thompson and Suskind in San Francisco, we began a gut remodel of the kitchen and baths and then, a few years later, added on an additional bedroom. The bedroom addition required us to do extensive terraforming on the property so I also worked to design and decorate the exterior patios of the home. This added a remarkable indoor-outdoor feel to the home and invited a true communion with nature.


The careful selection of a color palette that was truly Californian — terra cotta, sage green, linen white, and brown — continued the feeling of flow between the exterior and interior environments. I stained all the beams black and restored wood floors that had been lying under white carpeting for decades. I then brought in wrought iron details with the lighting, hardware and decor to complement the Mediterranean undertones of the home. Once I had my base colors down, I brought in color with statues, textiles, wall hangings and art that I had bought in Asia.


One of the most enjoyable aspects of this project was the design of two children’s rooms. I wanted to use bright, cheerful colors to avoid the clichéd conventions of a themed room. We built a wonderful play loft with a reading nook inside a tent, placed an enormous interactive map of the United Sates on the wall and hung colorful lanterns from the ceiling. We wanted to make each kid’s room a place where they’d want to play instead of just sleep. This would keep the toys contained, preserving the serene beauty of the rest of the house. I believe that living amidst toy clutter always has a negative impact on the energy and appeal of an environment and that parents function better when they have good systems and places for their children’s belongings.


I studied a lot about Asian, Spanish and mid-century design during the creation of the design scheme for this home. Being new to California, I found that there is, in fact, true crossover between these aesthetics, and it was that meeting place that provided the foundation of this home’s design. I read a lot about Wabi Sabi, Feng Shui, and the Case Study Homes. The desire to have a real Californian home that honored the early Spanish and Japanese influence on design in the Bay Area was paramount to me.


Originally built as a hunting cabin in the late 20’s, this home went through many transformations before it fell into my hands. In fact, the only thing remaining from the original home was the front door and the fireplace, which were both lovely and rustic. After years of neglect and unthoughtful renovations, the result was a home that was confused and tired. Equal parts mediterranean, mid-century modern, and rustic, it lacked any cohesion. It had been remodeled in the late 80’s and was in sad need of an upgrade.