For most first-time homeowners, happiness comes in the form of a functioning water heater and a leak-free roof. But for designer Regan Baker’s latest client, a professor of urban planning based in San Francisco, happiness was a bright yellow spiral staircase. “She really wanted a cheerful feel with this space, especially during COVID,” says Baker.
Once just plain aluminum, the swirling steps are the first thing you see when you enter the 1,200-square-foot Edwardian home. Their new citrus-inspired hue directly inspired the Jenny Sharaf artwork over the nearby fireplace mantel, but overall the staircase set the tone for the project: It was time to have some fun.
It didn’t take much to make the existing white Shaker cabinets feel playful. Baker swapped out the builder-grade, stainless steel hardware that was there before for modern white wood handles and replaced the old gray-tile backsplash for cool white squares, installed in a stacked orientation. “There’s so much going on elsewhere that having these moments of rest was really important,” she says of the monochromatic scheme. “It allows those other pieces to shine.”
The built-in dining nook offers extra storage for table linens and surplus dishware (there are drawers underneath the bench). The tricolor glass pendant lamp, acting as both light source and sculpture, fulfilled the homeowner’s request for color, while the mix-and-match seating arrangement is really for her guests. The Industry West stools can be pulled out when needed and then tucked back away underneath the console table by the stair landing when not in use.
With its many fun quirks came a few actual ones, like the gabled roofline and scalloped ceilings upstairs, which sparked a game of Tetris during the main bedroom renovation. “It was very weird and fussy,” recalls Baker. Moving the water heater (once situated along the backside of the headboard wall) to the garage freed up livable square footage. Then the designer decked the room out in millwork, adding a shoe cubby that still offers access to the furnace and a closet that runs the length of the wall, ending in an integrated vanity.
Not unlike the staircase, the designer and her client chose to make the first thing you see in the room (the windows) the wow factor. “It had to be this dramatic moment, because you don’t get to experience the space until you’re fully in there,” explains Baker. The drapery, which is hooked up to a recessed ceiling track, also frames the sliding glass doors that lead out to the patio, which overlooks the San Francisco hills.
A more understated view is the pale blue grid wallpaper behind the headboard. “It provides additional interest, but the scale keeps it calming,” says Baker. It’s the perfect foundation for layering in bold mustard-hued nightstands.
To make the newly configured bathroom appear larger than it really is, Baker opted for a wall-to-shower, ceiling-to-countertop mirror with simple round sconces that have been drilled into the glass so as to not compromise the illusion. The mint green and white tiles were strategically laid out in a checkered pattern, a theme that runs deep throughout the home (the bedding, kitchen backsplash, and office wallpaper all follow suit, just in different forms and scales). “It relates to her architectural background, the idea of grid paper,” suggests Baker.
Breaking up all the linear details throughout the home: a woven living room area rug, travertine coffee table, and delicate floral wallpaper in the guest bath. To provide contrast with the bright white walls in the house’s largest rooms, they brought in wallpaper in the more intimate spaces, focusing on smaller prints that make you stop and look—that is when you eventually move on from gawking at the staircase.