Design Inspiration Home Tours

How Paint Totally Transformed a 1940s San Francisco Home

Who needs wallpaper when you have hues like these?

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.

We will never not love a gorgeous wallpapered room, but the easiest way to make a design statement? A fresh coat of paint. A punchy new color palette can give your home a total makeover without the hassle and commitment of wallpaper, or heck, even a renovation. And when blogger and designer Erin Hiemstra of Apartment 34 was tapped by her friend Chloe Roth to revamp her new home, that’s exactly what she did.

Roth had recently purchased a 1940s, two-room bungalow in San Francisco’s Outer Sunset neighborhood, which is well-known for homes with candy-colored exteriors and charming period features like arched doorways and picture windows. But they often come alongside dated styles—in Roth’s case, that meant poor lighting and a cheap builder-grade kitchen. She needed a quick design turnaround in order to get her home family-ready without too much hassle.

“While there are renovations I’d love to see Chloe make to her home long-term—gutting the kitchen and bathroom, maybe taking out a wall—we needed to focus on purely cosmetic updates to transform the space without busting into walls,” Hiemstra tells Domino. “We wanted to take the home from dated and drab to light, bright, and modern.”

It was clear that paint was the solution. Hiemstra found inspiration in the home’s beach side location, and looked to Behr’s 2018 color trends to create a palette of grays, blues, and natural wood tones—”to play homage to the colors of the sand and sea”—set against a white backdrop. “It can often be very foggy in the Outer Sunset, so I wanted to make sure Chloe’s home always felt bright, even when the sun is nowhere to be seen.”

A few unexpected pops of bold color add depth and variety. There’s “a deep saturated green reminiscent of the cypress trees that dot the coastline and a soft gray-green that reminds us of the wild grasses that cover the sand dunes,” while a millennial pink keeps some of the retro vibes alive.

A cohesive palette is used throughout, but Hiemstra made sure to give each room an individual color personality. Roth’s workspace in particular stands out with a deep emerald green accent wall. “As a freelance social marketer, Chloe works from home, so I really wanted to differentiate her workspace from the rest of the house.”

The dark wall anchors the room and creates a dramatic backdrop for the black furnishings. An

open shelving

unit serves the dual purpose of office storage and artful display for plants and items close to Roth’s heart—her favorite books by female authors, her friends’ works, and her ceramic collection.

In the bedroom, instead of a plain white walls, Hiemstra opted for a two-tone look inspired by the ocean. “The light blue-gray felt like the sea on a calm gray day,” she says, pointing out that “the color is literally called Quiet Time.” Pro tip: The two-tone method is a great trick to have a slightly lower ceiling feel taller.

A custom weaving by artist Meghan Shimek inverts the white and gray tones—”I love how the movement of her piece evokes ocean waves”—adding a nice contrast.

“The bathroom is the one place we decided to amp up rather than get rid of the retro side of this home,” says Hiemstra. “Chloe really liked the original 1940s pink and white tile tub surround. The tub also features an arched ceiling, so I thought, ‘Why not highlight it?’ By adding a few hanging plants and a good bath bench, you have a cozy respite from your day.”

Roth likes to entertain (and needs a comfy place to kick back and watch the Golden State Warriors), so Hiemstra invested in a sectional sofa from Rove Concepts to maximize seating. The neutral color palette of gray and white matches that of the bedroom and allows for colorful accent pieces, like abstract artwork and Moroccan-inspired throw pillows.

The focal point of the room is an original fireplace with an Art Deco-esque mantel. It’s positioned in a corner, at an angle to the rest of the room, so Hiemstra accented it with the same deep green used in the office.

“We thought a lot about how to emphasize it,” says Hiemstra. “It’s also not a functioning fireplace anymore, so it offered the opportunity to do something fun and purely decorative.”

Roth grew up on the island of Kauai and has quite the green thumb, so they turned the corner into an indoor garden. “We just layered plants atop that gorgeous green backdrop,” says Hiemstra. “Large, small, tropical, desert—we mixed all styles, sizes, and looks.” The result is a statement area that adds a lot of life to the room.

The lowest level of the home is a studio apartment that Roth rents on Airbnb and uses as a guest room, so she wanted it to be comfortable and relaxed. The cool, tranquil gray-green of Behr’s 2018 Color of the Year In The Moment T18-15 was a natural choice for the walls. “It’s a soothing, restorative coalescence of blue, gray, and green, inspired by nature. I think it evokes a sense of sanctuary and relaxation amidst our busy, always on lives,” says Hiemstra.

The studio is rather small, so multi-functional furniture was a must: The bed is actually an upholstered bench that folds out. “I consider it a modern-day version of a futon: It’s both economical and space-saving,” says Hiemstra. “This solution allowed us to create a nice seating area where a visitor could enjoy a cup of coffee, but then it easily folds down to transform into a bed.”

By combining a multitude of hues and playing with more neutral pieces overall, Hiemstra really allowed the colors to take center stage. “I loved working with Chloe—her personal style is much different than mine,” says Hiemstra. “I’m more of a minimalist and lover of all things neutral, but Chloe embraces color, so it was really fun to get to play with color in her space. Her home shouldn’t look like me: It should look like her.”

See more home tours:

The World’s Dreamiest Bed Is in This Brooklyn Loft A Colorful Tree House Grows in Brooklyn How One Designer Turned Her Rental Into a Color-Charged Oasis

Learn to love your inbox again—sign up for Domino’s daily email.

Nikhita Mahtani


Nikhita is originally from Mumbai, India, but has called NYC home for over a decade now. She’s a huge fan of nutrition and fitness, and spends most of her free time researching the latest trends and easy, healthy hacks. She also loves to travel—just don’t take her anywhere cold.