A young family asked designer Mead Quin to give their new home a modern update that would feel pristine without being precious.
DRIVING UP THE TWISTING ROADS behind San Anselmo’s theological seminary, you feel like you are headed to a remote and rustic cabin. But despite the craggy live oak trees and towering evergreens, this particular destination — a newly remodeled residence — is anything but rustic. Instead, the glossy blue door of the shingle-sided home opens to a spare two-story white space stepping down the hillside and framing spectacular views all the way across the bay.
When her clients asked Mead Quin to give their new home a modern overhaul, the Oakland-based designer’s main goal was to balance the drama of these views with a quiet simplicity throughout the interior.
“We did everything we could to draw the eye toward the view,” says Quin. “We wanted a calm and peaceful experience. You appreciate the views differently when there’s nothing getting in the way.”
The house, though relatively new, had some of that expected rustic style — heavy timber trim, wide-plank oak flooring, traditional wrought iron fixtures. The first step was removing the trim plus the stone fireplace and painting everything white, specifically Benjamin Moore’s Decorator White. The floors were stained darker and the rocky fireplace surround was swapped out for a smooth horizontal slab of Blue Savoy marble.
But that was the easy part. The clients, a family with two young kids and a beloved dog, had moved to Marin from San Francisco’s Outer Sunset in search of more space and more sunshine. While this property offered plenty of room for the kids to play indoors and out (there’s even a sport court behind the house), it needed a total remodel to suit not only their aesthetic but their casual lifestyle. Everything had to be budget-friendly and child-and-dog-friendly. And it all needed to happen while the clients were living on site.
“We wanted to leave our foggy neighborhood and were looking elsewhere in San Francisco,” says the homeowner. “But we found that we could get a bigger home with a nice yard, privacy and everything that comes with the awesome Marin climate — hot summers and eating dinner outside. We wanted our kids to hike the trails and get dirty playing in the yard and catching bugs like we did as kids on the East Coast.”
Soon after moving in, the family exiled themselves to the carpeted lower-level bedrooms while the floors upstairs were refinished and the walls painted. They made do with a coffeemaker and microwave in the laundry room while the kitchen was given a face-lift.
White subway tiles for the kitchen backsplash, shiny new cabinet hardware and a slab of charcoal Caesarstone for the countertops were easy fixes. Then a new larger island was designed to accommodate casual meals for the whole family and the husband’s request for an ice maker and wine fridge. Colorful wooden barstools pulled up to a Calacatta marble countertop and blown-glass pendants by Lindsey Adelman add a touch of style.
“We didn’t have a huge budget,” says Quin, “so we needed to prioritize and focus our energy on where they were primarily going to live. I wanted to keep things simple. The original vision was to bring in life and lightness and turn this house into something useful, clean and modern.”
Not only did the furnishings need to be affordable and durable, but they also had to serve as the main source of color against the white backdrop. Choosing mostly retail options with custom pieces where it really mattered, Quin started with the green chairs in the dining room. This prominent central space anchors the main level and can be seen from the entrance, so it would set the tone for the entire interior palette.
“My client knew from the very start that she wanted green dining chairs,” says Quin, who chose a midcentury DWR version and had them reupholstered in a jade green fabric from Holland & Sherry. The green chairs surround a custom dining table and complement a sky-blue Madeline Weinrib rug underneath. Overhead, a sculptural steel-and-glass chandelier from Ochre completes the picture.
Sticking to this blue and green color scheme, Quin used similar tones throughout the entire house except for a few small concessions to the client’s request for orange. The powder room, for instance, is a fun combination of organic shapes and hot colors. Though a self-proclaimed modernist, the wife has a personal style tending toward eclectic boho-chic, which Quin channeled through the textures and patterns of the fabrics in the living room: a topaz velvet sofa, vintage rosewood chairs reupholstered in a mod orange fabric from Quadrille, and block-printed pillows. The designer was also careful to choose materials that would stand up to the bug-catching kids — anything white is likely made from outdoor fabric that can be wiped clean.
The kids also influenced where media could and could not be used. There is no TV on the main level. Instead, the clients wanted the family to spend time together listening to music, playing games and creating art. To that end, one end of the living room is dedicated to the father’s record collection and the opposite end features a game table with plenty of storage nearby. The crafting is neatly contained in a room near the laundry area, furnished with small-scale workstations and glossy white IKEA cabinets.
Downstairs, the media room was designed for watching movies. The only room painted a color other than white, the den has dark blue walls that match the blackout drapes, which can be completely drawn for the full movie theater experience. But even here, nothing is precious; a ping-pong table sits behind the grand sectional sofa, and the glass coffee table is most frequently used for plates of pizza.
To save money, Quin barely touched the kids’ rooms, which are likely to change in the next few years anyway. Instead, she focused on the master bedroom, located at the top level near the front door. This room offers some of the finest views in the house and is where Quin’s “keep it simple” approach is best appreciated. The walls, floors, drapery and furniture are all various shades of white, ranging in texture from glossy lacquer to shaggy wool. Framed in each window is a layered color study of Mother Nature’s bright blues, grays, greens and dark blues. The effect is calming and dramatic at once.
“In the end, the home is truly reflective of [the family’s] lifestyle, interests and personalities, which is always the goal,” says Quin. A former fine-art portrait painter, she understands how to capture the essence of a person using only color and texture. As a designer she’s added a third dimension, allowing her to not only reflect but also to enhance her client’s lifestyle.