A Noe Valley Victorian Gets a Stylish, Family-Friendly Upgrade



Homeowner Bonnie Smolins worked with friend and interior designer Regan Baker on her Noe Valley renovation.I collaborate closely with all my clients,” says interior designer Regan Baker, “but this project was special. From the beginning, it was a labor of love.” And, it quite literally, was: Baker and her client Bonnie Smolins first met when both were pregnant, and the fast friends went on to deliver just two months apart. Before long, Smolins had commissioned Baker to reconceptualize the Noe Valley house she shared with her husband and children, and both brought a similar vision to the project: a gut renovation with décor that is meticulously detailed yet feels bohemian. “Now, its stylishness belies how functional and family centric it all actually is,” says Smolins.

Baker’s interiors are intricate studies of a homeowner’s personality; so much so that a showhouse room she designed was once likened to one of Wes Anderson’s idiosyncratic film sets. She often comes up with her style concept after familiarizing herself with a client’s wardrobe, an approach particularly apropos in this case. “We have so many things in common,” says Baker of Smolins, “including a similar fashion sensibility.”

The pair sketched out every square inch of the building and discovered that the challenge with the 3,000-square-foot house was its hodgepodge of elements that likely dated back to its original 1906 construction. The main floor had three different ceiling heights (now all a uniform 9 feet, 4 inches), and the other two floors felt equally disjointed. They ultimately tore down every wall that wasn’t load bearing, and the home’s expansive feel is thanks to an inventive new floor plan—especially that of the loft-like first floor. Raised door heights also let in more light, as do additional windows and Bonelli folding glass doors that integrate a patio and kitchen and visually extend the master suite into the back garden. “Now there’s a flow on and between each floor that draws you in,” says Baker.

Pops of yellow enliven the master bedroom thanks to the Joybird bed and Anthropologie throw. Artwork includes sculpture by Matt Devine through Simon Breitbard Fine Arts, an oil painting by Andrew Lesko and photograph by Danielle Mourning.They stayed within the existing footprint and roof structure so the Victorian still feels true to period, but without being too literal. Apart from an occasional ceiling rosette, there’s no explicit acknowledgement of Victorian architecture. Instead, panels applied to the walls have a shadowy relief that brings to mind an even earlier period of French boiserie and serve as a veiled reference to Smolins’ Canadian heritage, as do the black-grouted subway tiles, with their distinctly bistro vibe, and wallpaper with a novel take on Toile de Jouy that depicts urban scenes instead of traditional pastoral landscapes. Throughout, lightly stained wood flooring in a chevron pattern is also reminiscent of Parisian hôtels particuliers.

By contrast, the relocated kitchen is sleek and streamlined. Outfitted with Caesarstone, walnut and stainless steel, it’s clean-lined and clutter free. “We even measured my kitchen gear to make sure it would fit into the new cabinetry,” says Smolins. Deep-seated sectional sofas, retro chairs and textural wood surfaces are chic and functional against vegetable-dyed rugs and delightful pops of color. Artwork by local photographers like Jessica Todd Harper, Parker Fitzgerald and Danielle Mourning is hung sparingly and adds a layer of drama, edge and nostalgia. “I tend to edit more and more,” says Baker. “I like to let the eye rest and savor things.” Smolins fully appreciates being the recipient of every carefully considered nuance. “Every time I walk through the front door, I breathe a sigh of relief,” she says. “This is my dream home and I did it all with my friend!”

A version of this article appeared in the September 2017 issue of SFC&G (San Francisco Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: A Confidante Redesign.

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Lovas Architects
Every project is a unique response to each client's lifestyle and programmatic needs as well as site characteristics and surrounding context. We create buildings that harmonize with their environment and dovetail into existing buildings when necessary. Styles are based in classical forms yet designed for a modern lifestyle. We work closely with our clients, to interpret their desires and are committed to providing each project, large or small, with the utmost in personal, specialized attention.

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Ben Krupinski Builder
Ben Krupinski Builder has been building luxury homes of the highest quality for over 30 years. From custom coastal, country and city residences to remodels and historic renovations, they are respected for their integrity and innovation by discerning clients, visionary architects and world-class designers. For projects of both modest and expansive scale, they work to exacting standards delivering consistent excellence through value engineering, deep knowledge and vast resources in the Hamptons, NYC and Connecticut.


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Yankee Custom Builder
Yankee Custom Builder’s priority is maintaining your original concept within budget and on schedule. YCB strives to make the process of building a home gratifying rather than overwhelming by providing clear communication and valuable product knowledge. This allows our clients to feel comfortable every step of the way. Because of our excellence in service, the majority of our business comes from architects & designers who feel confident in recommending us to their valued clients.

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