Tour a San Francisco Victorian-Era Home With Four Fireplaces | Architectural Digest

The San Francisco home’s living room has a formal but relaxed atmosphere with walls painted in Farrow & Ball’s Elephant’s Breath. A sofa with a mix of round and square cushions was custom-designed by Studio Michael Hilal, while a chair by Pierre Jeanneret and a ceramic stool by Skoby Joe sit nearby. Vases by Piet Hein Eek perch on the mantel and a vintage Italian mirror hangs above. A sconce from Urban Electric provides light over the built in bench.

In the San Francisco neighborhood of Pacific Heights, a 4,800-square-foot Victorian-era house was due for a refresh. The owners are grandparents who wanted to transform it into a true family home where they could gather with their children and grandchildren, several of whom live in the Bay Area. Since its construction over 100 years ago, the house has only been renovated once, in the 1990s, so naturally when he was brought on to help the owners reimagine the space, interior architect and designer Michael Hilal wanted to adapt it to better suit the way people live today. 

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Over the course of the renovation, Hall took a close look at every room, but the biggest changes were on the main floor, the most notable difference being the removal of a fireplace. “Since the house has five fireplaces, we could comfortably sacrifice that one,” Hilal says. “This allowed us to completely open up the kitchen to the new living and dining area. As it was, the dining room was too large for a contemporary house—today, people live more casually so an oversized dining area no longer makes sense.” 

The San Franciscan designer feels that Europeans have an innate talent for renovating old houses. A certain gracefulness at embracing modernity—while preserving elements that add a certain sense of character—is exactly what he wanted to channel in the home. “Americans often restore these properties too literally, to the point of making them look like a movie set,” the designer comments. “I was inspired by the typical London townhouse renovation—these homes tend to be refurbished while still highlighting the home’s original elements that remain.” 

Since the owners don’t intend to use the San Francisco home as their primary residence, they aimed for elegant pieces that maintained a casual energy in the space. That goal inspired the combination of contemporary pieces, including ones created by Hilal, juxtaposed with older elements. Throughout the home, beautiful materials rub shoulders with bright but soft colors, and a minimalist attitude respects the structure’s historic architecture.

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