Step Inside a Parisian-Inspired San Francisco Home



The feather headdress above the table was purchased to balance the industrial materials and hard lines of the custom console. Blue vases are through Flora Grubb.It was a nondescript Edwardian stucco building that brought interior designer Lauren Nelson and architect Stephen Sutro together for their first design collaboration. The project began with a circa 1925 building in such disrepair that it was ultimately brought down to the studs. Working closely with the clients, Nelson and Sutro brought a Parisian sensibility to the space, showcasing its soaring ceilings and delicate moldings, and playing with juxtapositions of era, texture and color. “From the onset, the vision for this project was influenced by contemporary French interior design; there is an innate sense of style, effortless elegance, and a mastery of blending classic and more modern pieces,” notes Nelson. “We went for feminine details mixed with a high contrast palette and touches of glamour. But as the project evolved, we all sought to balance that formality with a casual California sensibility.”

Starting with a north/south orientation and maximizing the window openings at both ends to allow for light to penetrate deep into the center of the house, the main living level was transformed into a nexus for family life that now includes casual and formal rooms that can flow together seamlessly or be separated by pocket doors. A magnificent sculptural staircase, inspired by an image of an English Victorian newel post (provided by the client), serves to connect all four floors, as well as adding a “traditional yet slightly whimsical touch,” says Sutro. Stained oak floors, windows with an industrial-chic sensibility, and large slabs of Negro Marquina stone enhance the serenity of the space.

True to Parisian sensibility, the interiors are a mix of classic and contemporary, where crown accents, wall paneling and vintage light fixtures meet a mostly monochromatic palette and carefully curated furnishings. The entry sets the stage: A spare foyer features a cool, dark gray Pietra marble floor, a custom chevron-paneled door, and a selection of the owners’ graphic prints and illustrations.

Living room walls in Benjamin Moore's Boothbay Gray set the stage for a Schumacher teal velvet-swathed sofa, while a custom Lindstron rug complements brass chairs covered in a tonal, geometric Mary McDonald for Schumacher print. Gray armchairs are through ABC Carpet & Home. Nobilis sheers are through Kneedler | Fauchère.From here, the stairway curves upward to the dining room, where a stunning table—handcarved of solid blackened maple—is surrounded by custom brass chairs in a Pierre Frey black mohair-velvet and an Osborne & Little stripe. An enormous black-and white photograph of a Scottish Highland cow (“a humorous image that appealed to the owner and me instantly,” says Nelson) adds an unexpected, cheeky touch.

The sensibility is slightly more formal in the living room, which is a study in neutral tones with crisp, high-contrast blues and greens that are also found throughout the home. Again taking design cues from contemporary French interiors, the room boasts sleek finishes: Walls in Benjamin Moore’s Boothbay Gray set the stage for a Schumacher teal velvet-swathed sofa, while a custom Lindstrom rug (Nimbus, in custom hues) complements brass chairs covered in a tonal, geometric Mary McDonald for Schumacher print. Above the bespoke marble mantel hangs a luminous seascape, a commission by painter Louise LeBourgeois.

Upstairs, the master bedroom features subtle silk Weitzner wallcovering, Cowtan & Tout silk-embroidered drapes and a greige, velvet-wrapped headboard that contrasts with a custom walnut faceted bedside table. A dressing table devoid of clutter adorns one corner of the room and is paired with a streamlined Jonathan Adler chair.

In a masterful transformation, Sutro turned a two-story San Francisco residence into a space that now measures just over 5,500 square feet and spans four airy, light-filled floors, while Nelson created an environment that is modern, not overly decorated and layered with California ease. The result is a warm, vibrant house that accommodates casual family gatherings and formal entertaining in high style. Concludes Nelson, “I think this home speaks to the clients, their personalities and their sense of place.”

A version of this article appeared in the June/July 2017 issue of SFC&G (San Francisco Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Vive La France!

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Property of Note Listing

15 Kings Dock Road, Garrison, NY
Enjoy the best that the Hudson Valley has to offer at this 9-acre estate offering awe-inspiring vistas, stunning passive architecture and a unique private deep-water dock on the Hudson River. Sited to take full advantage of the amazing scenery, the three-bedroom residence is a triumph of modernist design featuring airy open-plan living spaces and vast window walls that dramatically frame the blissful water and mountain views. The setting, boasting ¼ mile of frontage along the river, also hosts a two-bedroom guest house, a striking Greek temple/playhouse overlooking the river and a detached garage.



View more details about 15 Kings Dock Road
Nautilus Architects
Christopher Arelt’s practice, Nautilus Architects, involves collaboration and interpretation, with each design evolving in its own way in response to the site, context and client. Chris’ work is seen as a continuation of but also a response to Modernism; or, more specifically, a return to regionalism and artistry, where clients’ projects are developed with the “head, hearts and hands” of all those involved. All of our buildings explore the use of natural light, reveal the inherent beauty of the materials being used, and bring the outdoors in.


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Laura Kaehler Architects
Laura Kaehler Architects is an Award Winning Architectural Firm. Along with Laura Kaehler, AIA, we have a talented staff of 5 architects and designers who create new homes, renovations and additions and apartment renovations. Designing a smaller footprint while obtaining a "big look" with an open floor plan design, better craftsmanship and detailing and richer materials is what we call "Responsible Luxury" and is a key element of our design philosophy.

Laura Kaehler

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Fiona Leonard Interiors
Fiona Leonard Interiors, LLC is a full service design firm that specializes in making a client’s home unique and custom tailored to the owners taste and lifestyle. Projects are personally supervised from initial consultation to installation. Strong relationships with carefully selected creative artisans, highly skilled craftsmen and subcontractors ensures that your project will be in good hands. With over 20 years experience working alongside well established design professionals in Connecticut and Manhattan, Fiona Leonard Interiors, LLC was established.Fiona designs interiors with a casual elegance and timeless approach. Inherent in all her work is Fiona’s passion to combine clean lines and an artistic use of color that is comfortable for the client and reflects their personal lifestyle.

Fiona Leonard Interiors

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Architect Spotlight

Daniel Conlon Architects
Wind and weather, the ebb and flow of the tide, changing color and light define the rhythm of coastal living. This recent home embraces the idea with light-filled spaces , expansive views , cozy niches, and outdoor living environments. Landscape terraces and stonework ground the building to the site, while respecting all current building codes. Daniel Conlon Architects, based in Wilton CT, has designed numerous waterfront homes throughout the Northeast.

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