A Silicon Valley house that’s the antithesis of McMansion

Frances Merrill likes a challenge. So when her clients, a couple with four kids, bought a 1929 Tudor-style three-bedroom home in the Silicon Valley enclave of Woodside, Calif., that was in dire need of an overhaul, she didn’t couldn’t resist. For Merrill, the Los Angeles-based founder of Breathing Design who is known for her predilection for vibrant colors and for mixing patterns – it helped that her customers’ purchase had charming ceilings with redwood beams and a charming cedar shingle roof, among other details, and was not one of the soulless, newly built McMansions endemic to the area.

In the common area upstairs, cushions in Hélène Blanche fabric and Maharam Aria velvet decorate the daybed. Wall covering by Pierre Frey; Moroccan Berber rug, Etsy.

Laura Joliet

“I like the idea that they bought something impractical that had an innate story because they found it more interesting,” Merrill says. The family wanted a home with authentic character and quirks that reflected the joyful chaos of their family life. Merrill likens her job to cooking, and for a project that required many reconfigurations, she brought together the ingredients of a family recipe with an elegant, understated palette inspired by the lovingly tended garden left by the previous owners. Merrill set out to bring that magic indoors: “The blues, watery greens and pale purples of the garden were fresh, especially with all the browns of the wood in the house.”

Inside This Charming Silicon Valley Home Designed by Frances Merrill

a white walled living room with a pointed dark beamed ceiling and a sitting area with an orange velvet sofa and a long table and blue armchairs and curvy coffee tables and a built-in bar at the end

First, we tackled the biggest project – the addition of three bedrooms for the children – by transforming the unfinished and sprawling attic into a suite of spaces that also includes places to relax, offices and generous window seats tucked away in the skylights. . Merrill inlaid the paneled walls of the attic with wallpaper by Pierre Frey in a pattern with intricate graphic flowers that pleasantly tease the eye and, with the addition of white oak, contribute to a more modern effect.

This philosophy of bringing the past into the present with imaginative reinvention is what has drawn customers to Reath Design. “Frances is impeccable in interpreting authenticity. It’s a kind of witchcraft! one of them said. She has a “fearlessness of combining your grandma’s weird old oil painting with a sculptural Italian couch and making it feel like it’s been forever, but somehow current.”

double pedestal wooden oval table with sleek and stylish red leather armless chairs pulled to it and in the right background is a built in upholstered bench with windows behind

The dining room table is by Thos. Moser; vintage Italian chairs; Ruemmler pendant.

Laura Joliet

On the ground floor, the structural work consisted of opening up the floor plan while respecting the integrity of the house. Instead of blowing out the space, Merrill created new archways that gracefully lead the eye from room to room. Although Merrill admits that the living room – a long rectangular space – was difficult to furnish, she adopted its original parquet floors, exposed beam ceilings and the simple brick-framed fireplace, now flanked by sculptural linen Servomuto sconces. . A daybed with a pleated skirt covered in Pierre Frey chintz anchors the room in the Old World, positioned next to a pair of Frank Gehry Wiggle stools.

“Frances is impeccable in interpreting authenticity. It’s a kind of witchcraft!

open plan kitchen with off white cabinets to the ceiling with dark green marble countertops and backsplash and a long wooden island and an open end dining area with a large picture hanging on the wall

In the kitchen, the counters are in Empress Green marble. Custom Island; globe pendants by Lake Studio; pendant on the back by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni for Flos; fittings by Perrin & Rowe; -photograph by Heather Evans Smith.

Laura Joliet

She also redesigned the kitchen, which was small and closed, into an open space with a custom-made walnut butcher block table. In the adjoining breakfast room, Henning Kjærnulf’s ‘razorblade’ chairs around a Jean Prouvé table are upholstered in Michael Smith for Jasper fabric and subtly echo the green marble worktops. To balance the colors and natural light, and to highlight Heather Evans Smith’s striking photograph of a child, Merrill used 10 different enveloping cream shades.

bedroom with muted green painted wall and bed with wooden double-humped headboard covered in the center with a dark salmon velvet and a bright turquoise nubby bedspread

The main bed is dressed in sheets by the Commune. Throw blanket, CB2; side table, Newel; lamps, Galerie Glustin; wall colour, Smoky Mountain by Benjamin Moore.

Laura Joliet

Although not large, the main floor bedroom is a sanctuary for the couple. With details like the custom-carved wooden headboard, inlaid with a Maharam mohair accent inspired by an old photograph of a French chateau, it offers even more visions of what a Tudor home might look like if it was built today by someone who is not. afraid of fantasy and breaking a few rules. “It was nice to create a family piece that was elegant but not overly precious,” says Merrill. “I never want to feel like everything was bought at once. I prefer it to look more like an evolution,” she adds.

One of the customers recounts a “hilarious compliment” about a good friend’s house. “She said, ‘It’s like really, really good plastic surgery. It’s nice. You know something has changed, but you can’t tell what. “If Merrill is known as the best plastic surgeon in interior design,” she said, “I’ll take it.

october 2022 cover elle decor

This story originally appeared in the October 2022 issue of ELLE DECOR. SUBSCRIBE