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When we hear the word downsize, our imaginations run rampant with images of crowded living rooms and once-functioning garages swallowed whole by furniture with no place to go. But for one family of four living in Mill Valley, California, a cozy town nestled on the outskirts of San Francisco, scaling down from a huge, seven-bedroom home to a four-bedroom cottage was a second chance to rediscover their sense of style.

“There was a beautiful infinity pool and a hot tub up on the hill,” remembers Johanna Vente Anderson, one half of the design duo behind Saffron and Poe, but the massive space never quite felt like the clients. Of course, personality doesn’t bank on square footage: It’s all in the details (tongue-and-groove paneling anyone?). Here, Anderson and her business partner, Fiona Bronte Burr, walk us through the new house.

The very blue kitchen felt like a design risk at first, admits Anderson, but at the request of the clients, they swathed the cabinetry in Hague Blue by Farrow & Ball. In the end, it’s not too loud. In fact, Anderson loves how pigmented it is.

Inspired by Italian textiles, the Walker Zanger tiles used for the backsplash were a splurge. But given the accent wall doesn’t span the entire length of the room, it didn’t set the budget back much. 

In addition to commissioning and incorporating custom items from local artists and makers, including an art piece–turned–barn door by Aleksandra Zee off the kitchen and a cloudlike pendant lamp by the California Workshop in the master bedroom, the designers peppered the home with woven poufs, hand-knotted rugs, and other finds from their store.

“Three years ago, Fiona and I quit our jobs, bought a one-way ticket to Bali, and met all these amazing people making beautiful furniture and accessories,” says Anderson. After Indonesia, they went to Myanmar, where they launched their online shop, and, finally, Morocco. 

The art of layering is not lost on Anderson and Burr; they see every keepsake as an opportunity. “A lot of people say, ‘Okay, I have a table. Now I’m done.’ But actually, you can put a rug under that table and a cutting board on top and accessories on top of that,” explains Anderson. 

The same sense of love and longevity that permeates the interior also informed the pair’s approach to the backyard, where a joint dining area and firepit are framed by a wraparound bench. “Mill Valley has amazing weather pretty much year-round, so we wanted to expand the family’s lifestyle to the outdoors and utilize this space to its full potential,” says Burr. If  “full potential” entails a starry night, a glass of wine, and dreams of Bali, you can count us in.

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