Monday, February 6, 2012

In San Francisco: Chic New Villa Style

Cliff Hanger: San Francisco interior designer Ken Fulk and architect Ken Linsteadt transform a Spanish villa in Sea Cliff into a gracious residence with jolts of color and a fresh, contemporary vibe. 

When San Francisco fashion stylist Belinda Levensohn first saw the Sea Cliff house, it was a clear day and no fog blocked the view. Otherwise, this story might have had an entirely different outcome.

“I was captivated by its refined Spanish architecture, the Pacific Ocean, the beach, the cliffs, the expansive bay views, the beautiful light reflect from the water far below” recalled Belinda. “We wanted a special house with dramatic views, and this one had wonderful possibilities.”

The Levensohns commissioned San Francisco designer Ken Fulk and architect Ken Linsteadt to turn the existing house—time-worn and dated—into the home of their dreams. 

In the living room, a pair of Coup d’Etat waxed linen tufted sofas with gilded feet adds eccentricity. Spanish Baroque fireside chairs upholstered in burlap. Above the mantel, a 40-million year old ammonite from Pascal Levensohn’s collection. 

Belinda and her husband, Pascal Levensohn, founder of Levensohn Venture Partners, a San Francisco-based venture capitalist company, had been looking for two years for a house with views of the bay and Headlands.

“I happened to see a pretty picture of a small primrose-colored 1937 bungalow in Sea Cliff, so I dashed out to see it,” Belinda recalled. “We loved the bones of the house. It was neglected, but full of potential. We made the winning bid.” 

House exterior retains original ironwork. 

The Levensohns put together their team of contractor Ben Rogne, architect Ken Linsteadt, and interior designer, Ken Fulk to update the interiors and give the house a more gracious feeling. They would take the architecture back to its Spanish-Moorish roots.

“My fashion background and our extensive travel in Spain and around the Mediterranean were a great foundation for working on these interiors and developing a clear point of view,” said Belinda. “I wanted the house to be a jewel box.”

Ken Fulk and his associate, Brian Anderson, worked closely with Belinda to enhance the innate style of the interiors. 

In the living room, polished nickel sconce by Jean de Merry. 

Fashion stylist Belinda Levensohn in Rick Owens. 

“We kept all of the integral components of the architecture and accentuated them so that they ultimately conveyed the spirit of the house,” said Fulk. “The bold beams in the living room, and the groin-vaulted ceiling in the entry are part of the vital language for the house. We had artist Willem Racke hand stencil the living room beams and they now look integral to the décor.”

The new ocean blue-green plaster walls in the living room, accented with fuchsia silk and tasseled turquoise silk pillows, were a masterstroke. 

Details include Chinese painted figures and mercury glass carafes. 

“I believe there was an audible gasp when I mentioned the concept of a turquoise ocean color enveloping the living room,” recalled Fulk. “I felt strongly that the room could handle it, and in fact needed it. With its scale and double height the space felt a bit too cavernous.”

The complex blue-green hue unites the seascape and landscape and imbues the room with a tranquil mood.

“The living room has commanding views, so it also needed formidable seating, sofas of substance,” said Fulk. He and the Levensohns chose a pair of deep-seated tufted sofas covered in waxed linen.

“The natural linen pulls them back from feeling too stuffy. In a velvet they would have just been too formal,” Fulk said. And the sofas’ carved, gilded feet just make you smile. 

Dining room: An antiqued mirror adds sparkle and drama to the bay-view dining room. A pair of Moorish hanging lanterns, circa 1880, is from Garden Court Antiques. Dining table, Helene Aumont. Zebra rug from Stark. Terra cotta-colored plaster walls by Willem Racke Studio. End chairs, circa 1850, from Coup d’Etat. 

Beautiful harmonious walls became a significant feature throughout the house. Willem Racke Studio created the entire new wall finishes throughout the house using traditional Venetian techniques and custom-designed integral colors.

During the two-year renovation, the Levensohns made significant improvements, all with a view to toward subtle rearrangements so that the house now looks as if it has always been glamorous, light-filled, and gracious. 

The ivory leather bed was designed by Brian Anderson for Ken Fulk Inc. Antique silver chair is Indian. 

The most glamorous new creation is the spacious master bedroom.

In collaboration with the architect Ken Lindsteadt, designer Ken Fulk and his associate Brian Anderson crafted a compelling dreamscape.

The walls are hand-plastered in exquisite pale lavender gray with a trace of fog. 

The bathroom entry Raffia chest from Paul Marra Design. 

Buster, the Norwich terrier, snoozes in the bedroom. 

With the bay shimmering just beyond the garden, the glamorous mirrored bathroom radiates light. The wall tile is Walker Zanger ’Contessa Arabesco’ in gold. Cabinets were crafted by Serge Anderson. Architect: Ken Linsteadt. 

The new master bathroom, carved out of a former crawl space beneath the eaves, embraces the heartbreakingly beautiful view. Much of the walls are tiled floor to ceiling in a Moroccan ogee shaped hand-painted metallic gold tile.

“I wanted to give the bathroom a luminescent quality,” said Fulk. There are no hard edges. Doorways and openings were given soft arches. Golden ogee-shaped tiles glimmer on the walls. A new tub offers views of the full moon glimmering over the Golden Gate Bridge. 

In the entry the Barcelona chandelier is by Ebanista.

Opposite, in the family room, adjacent to the kitchen, the Knole-style sofa by Edward Ferrell has cushions in Donghia’s ‘Suzani Jacquard’. 

The completed house, with its confident style and happy color statements, has created a halo effect.

“Belinda and Pascal and I have become first and foremost dear friends,” said Fulk. “I now sit on the board of the San Francisco SPCA with Belinda. Pascal is an inspiration. He is passionate about life, his family and all those that he loves.”

With the house now completed, Belinda is focusing on her new fashion company, Ruby Style. With a longtime friend, Levensohn offers consulting and styling services.

“Our house is the perfect background for everything that is to come,” she said. “It’s so comfortable. It’s like a house that has been in the family for decades, now with great style.” 

The garden overlooks the western reaches of San Francisco Bay and (in wisps of fog) the Golden Gate Bridge. Landscape architect Kate Webster and Brad Frazier of Gardener Brad collaborated on the new garden. 

A quiet moment in the new courtyard garden.

All photography by Lisa Romerein,

Ken Fulk:

Coup d’Etat:

Ben Rogne:

Ken Linsteadt:


quintessence said...

Beautiful. I especially love the bedroom and bath - so elegant and serene!

Concrete Jungle said...

Love the brave turquoise livingroom!

mary said...

I love the way in which the essence of the house was preserved--gorgeous, daring and of the moment, but not trendy.

Unknown said...

Stunning! This may be my favorite yet of Ken's. Congrats.

mbwife said...

What a beautiful use of venetian plaster! This really illustrates how well that finish works as a foundation for a global look.

Peggy Braswell said...

I adore this....thank you!

Brillante Interiors said...

I love color and those turquoise, hot pink, purple, lilac make this house an enjoyable one, full of life (the view and the garden help too!)

arrielle_p said...

I love all the images of this villa that you presented here. Pretty and functional this villa is!

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cotedetexas said...

so funny! i was just lurking on your blog the other day and i noticed you left a comment on mine!! great minds think alike. HOpe all is well and you are traveling like crazy and writing away!!!


shiree segerstrom said...

I really loved this project. Ken's use of color was right on the mark. Shiree'