Designer Kimberly Ayres and Architect Ken Linsteadt Create a Picture-Perfect Mill Valley Home



On a charming, tree-lined street in Mill Valley sits a home that melds a traditional, East Coast shingle-style aesthetic with Northern California ease and accessibility. “The house is located in a neighborhood of Craftsman bungalows and clean-lined cottages,” explains architect Ken Linsteadt, “and the owners wanted a casually elegant home that would fit nicely into the tight-knit community.”

The result is a 3,100-square-foot, cedar-clad house where, notes Linsteadt, “a subtle, weathered-gray and white palette is predominant.” With interiors by noted Bay Area designer—and Kelly Wearstler alumna—Kimberly Ayres, the property has a classic feel, but features a mix of contemporary furnishings and unexpected flourishes of color. The surrounding landscape also plays a starring role: “All of the main public spaces flow out to the sun, garden and creek beyond,” explains Linsteadt of the L-shaped house that forms a south-facing courtyard.

This study in contrasts and exquisite finishes begins in the airy entry foyer and continues down a soothing, central front hall featuring floors hewn from French white oak and layered with an oriental rug “that is elegant, yet has a fresh, modern graphic at the same time,” says Ayres. Pendant fixtures by Palmer Hargrave are also new, but their design pays homage to the past. Ayres delights in blending antique elements with modern pieces, and nowhere is this more felt than in the family’s living room, where an exquisite 19th-century French limestone fireplace serves as the focal point. A sumptuous sofa swathed in a classic chocolate-brown Bennison fabric is juxtaposed with velvet cushions in a bright cerulean blue by Travers, while a custom chair in a striking shade of coral adds yet another punch of color.

The dining room is an extension of Linsteadt and Ayres’ approachable design philosophy and feels “cozy and communal,” says Ayres, “not overly formal or underutilized.” Chocolate-brown grasscloth by Phillip Jeffries wraps the room, giving it an intimate atmosphere. Upholstered Henredon chairs—as well as a pair of RH armchairs customized by Ayres—provide plush, comfortable seating, and a bay window functions as both a buffet and rotating gallery space for the family’s porcelain.

Upstairs, the master suite is painted in muted hues. “They wanted a quiet, calm oasis overlooking the trees,” says Ayres, who focused on integrating family pieces—a Baker bed and upholstered headboard; a dresser that was stripped and refinished—while enhancing the space with bespoke Italian bed linens and throws by Sue Fisher King. “Although there are classic design elements and materials, it has an approachable feel at the same time,” explains Linsteadt. “I think it strikes a nice balance.”

A version of this article appeared in the September 2015 issue of San Francisco Cottages & Gardens with the headline: Charmed Life.

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