From Portland to Vancouver, a trio of eclectic interiors invites elevated drinking and dining experiences.
Little Neon Taco
While many Pacific Northwest restaurants play to their surroundings with moodier earth tones and rustic furnishings, the design of Little Neon Taco in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood (1011 Boren Ave.) transports patrons to a warmer climate with bright white walls and bold color complementing its Mexican-inflected menu. Chef/owner Monica Dimas purchased the space to give her former pop-up a permanent home. Photos of old plaster grottos in Mexico inspired Tamara Codor and Sterling Voss of Codor Design to craft the eatery’s focal point, a brightly lit corner bar, in white plaster with built-in block shelves for a lively mix of traditional decor and useful storage. The lighting overhead—large globes suspended from sound-dampening rosettes—offers a beautiful solution to a common problem. littleneontaco.com
Downtown Portland’s 20th-century Woodlark Building and the Cornelius Hotel have been combined to create The Woodlark Hotel. In addition to 150 guest rooms, the hotel boasts an elegant cocktail bar, Abigail Hall (813 SW Alder St.). In line with owner Jennifer Quist of Holler Hospitality’s vision for a comfortable hangout with a nod to women’s history, Smith Hanes Studio modeled its design after the Cornelius Hotel’s original lounge: a ladies’ reception hall with a pink and green palette. The original penny tile floors and coffered ceiling were replicated in the space, where hand-painted wallpaper by Michael Paulus begins at the bar and borders velvet barstools, an emerald tiled fireplace, curved booths and marble tables. Quist named the bar after women’s suffrage activist Abigail Scott Duniway. abigailhallpdx.com
Blossom Dim Sum & Grill
Eric Yang, former general manager of acclaimed contemporary Chinese restaurant Mott 32, pays homage to Vancouver’s cultural diversity with his new 6,000-square-foot East-meets-West eatery Blossom Dim Sum & Grill (808 Bute St.). The stylish spot’s design certainly looks the part: a vibrant mix of Asian-influenced decor such as tufted velvet banquettes, a Chinese parasol-themed installation and an eye-catching mural of oversize cherry blossoms by local artist Tyler Toews. “Vancouver is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, and we wanted to bring this to life under one roof,” says Yang. blossomdimsum.com
I want to design houses that feel good versus ones that look decorated,” says designer Alison Davin, who transformed a Tuscan-style residence in the Bay Area into a warm and modernist home that’s filled with tactile fabrics and finishes.
From the moment the designer laid eyes on the house, she knew she wanted to peel back the dated details and simplify the aesthetic by filling the rooms with comfortable and tailored silhouettes and plenty of sunlight.
“The property is on several acres and steps down a hillside with three different grades,” she says. “My clients are very easy-going and they bought the house because they wanted it to be a hangout for their children and their friends as they grow up.”
Davin went with a mostly neutral palette. She customized a sofa wrapped in cream-colored linen for the family room, where she also arranged a brown-and-cream striated wool rug, cream-colored embroidered drapery linen and a pair of rush stools.
“I used a whole bunch of different textures,” she says. “I love using texture instead of color because I think it keeps the space calm and warm and gives visual interest that’s subtle.”
In the family room, the designer replaced small arched doors with massive bifold ones that tie the area to the outdoors and let natural light wash over the rich textures that fill the space.
“I think I’ve done a good job if, when a person leaves a house I’ve designed, they remember that it was warm and comfortable,” she says.
Bich and Laurie Kracum have known designer Sofia Joelsson since 2003, when they hired her to design their first Florida home on Miami’s Ocean Drive. Not only were the Kracums, who divide their time between the Midwest and Florida, pleased with the final design, they also became friends with Joelsson along the way. So, it was a no-brainer that she would design their latest home, a penthouse on Fisher Island, an exclusive enclave south of Miami.
The Kracums were ready for a quieter existence–plus, they needed a home with better accessibility, since Laurie had suffered an injury that required her to use a wheelchair. “I wanted anyone to walk in and think, above all else, ‘what a beautiful design,’” says Joelsson on her design approach.
The result? A sprawling penthouse with concrete-style floors, warm walnut accents and sleek Italian furniture by the likes of Minotti and B&B Italia. Not to mention, three outdoor terraces overlooking bustling downtown Miami.
“Sofia is a delight to work with and also a really good friend,” says Rich, who along with Laurie, is thrilled with their new home. “The process of building and the fun we had together still resonates throughout the whole place. When you walk in, you just feel good.”
There are many reasons to update a home: to make it more current, to expand, or simply to change things up.
All of the above applied for the owners of an Aspen house, but the couple also found another, far more unique reason to invest in a big renovation: uninvited bears.
“They came in through the screens before we had air conditioning,” the wife explains, noting that one giant even feasted on leftover birthday cake.
In addition to adding A/C, interior designer Maria Bordelon and architect Gretchen Greenwood took the home in a more modern direction by installing metal-frame windows, incorporating textural furnishings and introducing unique accents, such as a console table with a glossy automotive finish and beaten copper wall panels.
“We used metals throughout the house but very judiciously to provide a little relief from the heavier materials,” Bordelon explains, noting the result is a far cry from the look the dwelling sported in the 1993 cult film Aspen Extreme when it had a swimming pool in the basement and a rather dated sunken conversation pit. “Everywhere the owners look, something is beautiful, and they enjoy that as their daily environment.”
This house is a great example of how contemporary can be really warm,” says designer Kam Davies of a residence she recently designed for a young family in Snowmass Village, Colorado. “There’s just something approachable about it. It’s meant to be lived in.”
The homeowners, Christine and Andrew Light, had been living in San Francisco but wanted to return to the Centennial State and give their children the outdoor lifestyle–skiing, hiking and biking–that Andrew had enjoyed as a kid. They also envisioned a house that allowed them to enjoy the surroundings right from the comfort of home.
The resulting design offers massive windows and an L-shaped deck, all of which focus on Mount Daly in the distance. “We wanted to maximize views and get light in at every opportunity,” says architect Bill Lueck, who added dormers to the upper floor, as well as a large glass panel at the entrance.
Inside, Davies echoed the landscape with a neutral palette and sculptural furnishings, like the Noguchi coffee table in the living area. Color she left primarily to artwork by local creatives.
“Both Christine and Andrew have a solid appreciation for the arts, and Christine has a great appreciation for Asian culture–its restraint and simplicity,” Davies adds. “The interiors here are all about texture and tone as opposed to a massing of things.”
When it came down to the transformation of his 1,800-square-foot co-op, advertising executive Bob Jeffrey tapped architect Luca Andrisani to take on the task.
In addition to sharing a passion for Italy, the two bonded over a love of modern design, Italian movies and the joys of storytelling.
“It’s hard for me to design without meaning, to just make something pretty,” says Andrisani.
The almost obsessive details in one particular movie, “I Am Love,” set in Milan’s 1930s-built Villa Nechhi, raised the design bar.
To update the interiors of the apartment, builder Chip Brian gutted two bathrooms, expanded the kitchen and reconfigured the powder room. He also created a new pass-through room that houses the client’s collection of John F. Kennedy memorabilia.
Artisans at Atelier Viollet created luxurious wall surfaces with cane, goatskin (parchment) and straw marquetry. Macassar ebony and rift sawn whitewashed oak also provide rich backdrops for the furnishings — mostly a mix of midcentury Italian, punctuated with lush cashmeres, mohair velvets and silks.
“I always worked with very strong creative people,” says Bob. “Luca raised the bar for interior design. For me, aesthetics are key. And this place is a work of art.”
The house that architects Joshua Aidlin and Peter Larsen devised in Hillsborough, California, appears as an enormous glass pavilion. It incorporates rammed earth walls in addition to glass ones, and it’s topped with a kite-like asymmetrical butterfly roof.
“Contemporary design practices are too driven by optics and making a great image for the Internet,” says Larsen. “A house is not a purely visual object. We’re much more interested in creating an embodied human experience.”
The rammed earth walls supply sustainability and texture for the building, while the glass walls allow sunlight to pour into the rooms and offer the residents a connection to the landscape.
Designer Gary Hutton arranged modernist low-profile furnishings with an earthy palette that speak to the clients’ preferences and blend with the landscape.
“I did a custom rug with greens and amber,” says Hutton, who selected Living Divani sofas covered with pale pumpkin-colored chenille and leather.
Hutton brought brighter hues into the nearby dining area by surrounding the geometric wood dining table with chairs that showcase coral-colored leather.
“The Creation Baumann drapery fabric has been cut and sewn back together with bright orange thread, giving it this very sophisticated patchwork design,” the designer says. “The cotton was grown in the United States and processed in a zero-waste factory in Switzerland.”
In the end, the residence offers sustainable spaces the owners and their visitors can enjoy for years to come.
“This house is a LEED Platinum-certified home with net-zero energy,” Aidlin says. “We wanted the building to be as sculpturally dynamic as it is practical.”
Designer Hillary Littlejohn Scurtis took on this Miami-area project looking for a challenge, but what she didn’t expect was a blossoming friendship and a professional partner.
“It’s very unusual for a client to have a strong eye for design and also be receptive to their designer’s vision,” says Scurtis, who eventually went on to hire her client, Maria Corina Sosa.
With a passion for interiors and knowing exactly the aesthetic she wanted, Sosa assisted the designer in revamping her family’s Brickell Key apartment.
Hoping to update the floor plan by incorporating an ocean view from each room, the homeowner entrusted Scurtis with the monumental task of reconfiguring the space for maximum functionality. The designer opened up the kitchen to the dining room and incorporated some of her client’s belongings into the renovation.
“I wanted to keep some antiques that had sentimental value and a story,” says Sosa, whose taste, over time, skewed a bit more contemporary. The mix of pieces allows the interiors to feel modern, yet grounded.
The completed space also features art hung in a gradient fashion, with black pieces on the east side of the home and white works in the west, while those in the middle dwell in gray tones.
In the cooler autumn months, Matt and Paige Shoberg and their young sons enjoy the open and airy space overlooking the swimming pool and spa behind their home in West Lake Hills, Texas. Furman + Keil Architects completely reimagined the residence with a new plaster skin and two new additions. “It’s so peaceful,” explains the busy mother. “I don’t get a lot of peace.”
The original abode’s traditional red brick gave way to thick plaster, with its multiple gables and adornments eliminated in favor of streamlined standing seam metal detail running underneath the roofline. A steel and glass bridge, which houses the dining room, passes over a dip in the land, connecting the existing structure to one of the home’s two new wings.
While Matt, a home builder, executed the architects’ vision for the new additions and completely reconfigured the interior, Paige worked with interior designer Wendy Williamson to select finishes and furnishings.
“With almost every selection on this house, we asked, ‘Have we seen it before?’ And if the answer was ‘yes,’ we didn’t want to do it,” Paige explains, pointing to the black slate flooring and bespoke light fixtures throughout. “We love it here.”
Intent on restoring the character of a Willis Polk house overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, a San Francisco couple hired a design team to help refresh the space and modify past renovations that left the rooms in their 1915 residence feeling a bit disjointed.
“I’m a huge fan of consistency,” says the wife. “I’d rather have consistency of materials and finishes instead of making each room unique. It’s more soothing.”
To keep the top and ground floors in sync with the home’s original vibes, James Hunter and Shannon Jue, from the Wiseman Group Interior Design, reconfigured the spaces, reintroduced traditional millwork and worked in classic, yet modern, furniture silhouettes.
The designers also lightened up that palette of the house, particularly in the entry hall, which previously felt brooding with its mahogany-stained gumwood paneling. The wood was stripped, bleached and touched up to make it “perfectly imperfect,” says Jue.
In the end, the homeowners were left with a cohesive look befitting both their casual lifestyle and the home’s historic roots.