Jeffry Weisman of the San Francisco-based design firm Fisher Weisman tells how they updated a classic Pacific Heights apartment with a light hand—and a lot of white paint:
The appeal of this duplex apartment lay in its gracious layout, expansive spaces, and killer views. But our clients assumed it would need a drastic remodeling, because it was dark and fussy. The Beaux-Arts apartment had been updated for its previous owners to function perfectly for contemporary life, but still look as it might have in the 1920s. Every inch was thoughtfully and carefully detailed, and the rooms were finished in dark, rich colors with a wide range of decorative finishes. Yet our clients found it oppressive, and antithetical to their decidedly modern aesthetic.
We were able to subtly remodel the space, dramatically simplifying the interior trim details, but avoiding major structural changes. In the entry hall, we removed eight bold, freestanding columns, and then concealed the traditional wood balustrade of the curved staircase behind a ribbon of white plaster. We replaced the ornate keys in the archways with flat blocks, and we removed a decorative plaster ceiling and plaster shell niches in the dining room. In total, a modest scope of work. We achieved the serene interior the clients craved largely by painting the entire space in the same shade of creamy, matte white paint. Our idea was to make the space feel as though the walls were bathed in French vanilla ice cream—warm and soft, glowing all day long. We used a washable, matte finish paint to soften the edges of all the trim, removing all reflections. We complemented the paint choice with a palette of fabrics in neutral tones, and chic, modern furnishings. The interior now feels timeless, warm, and welcoming.
The staircase originally featured an open railing with Colonial-style turned balusters, which the designers encased in a ribbon of plaster. The stairs are carpeted in a hand-tufted wool close in color to the parquet floors, and the walls throughout the apartment were painted in Benjamin Moore's Soft Chamois, in a washable matte finish.
The rug in the dining room reverses the colors of the one in the living room; the custom dining tables combine white gold leaf and walnut, the chairs are from Michael Taylor Designs, the silk pendant light is by Fortuny, and the lithographs are by Matisse.
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