A Welcome Retreat


MDa and Alison Damonte transform a mid-century home in Sebastopol into a colorful escape

In the entry, a bench from De La Espada sits below Built Work #17 by artist Erin O’Keefe (2018).
Photos by Bruce Damonte.

“I have very little fear and restraint when it comes to design. I believe that living with art and sculptural furniture and rarefied objects doesn’t mean you have to live in a museum, but sure, maybe you shouldn’t stand on the coffee table or eat chocolate in the living room,” says Bay Area designer Alison Damonte about her signature approach to design that always results in spaces that include bold color, vibrant prints and playful furniture. When hired to create her magic inside this Sebastopol home that was built in 1957 she collaborated with MDa (Malcolm Davis Architecture) to give the mid-century structure a second chance for a young family of four that were previous clients of MDa. “Consistent storylines in MDa’s work are warmth and modernity,” Davis remarks. “We find that those two qualities can frequently be at odds but we love combining contrasting elements—playing with solids and voids, rough textures and smooth, open spaces and cozy nooks, an old house with a new interior.”

In the living room, graphic wallpaper by Flavor Paper, a vintage coffee table and a Herman Miller lounge chair honors the home’s mid-century roots. Photos by Bruce Damonte.

“The husband is an audiophile and sound engineer,” Davis says. “They loved the mid-century nature of the existing structure and appreciated our sensitive approach to renovating and updating existing homes. They also loved the connection to the outdoors that we were able to help them achieve in their urban San Francisco home and wanted this space to similarly connect seamlessly to the outdoors, especially considering the beautiful site and views.”

While the original structure had great bones, the floor plan felt choppy due to the previous placement of odd partitions, expansive cabinets and an obtrusive fireplace in the main living area and prohibited access to the vast views. The client’s enlisted MDa and Shawn P. Bettega Construction to create a more open flow while creating a deeper connection with the outdoors. “Employing an architecturally light touch, our team chose to improve upon what was there and highlight the strengths of the building,” says Davis. “The goal was to preserve as much of the existing structure as possible, while improving the visual and physical connection between spaces and the site.”

The dining chairs and table are from DWR and the folded metal bowl is by Gentner Design. Photos by Bruce Damonte.
“The family room is extremely long and narrow and finding a furniture layout that really gave the entire space purpose was a challenge,” says Damonte. “At one end there is an amazing nook MDA created and that the kids use as a stage. We wanted to make this nook more welcoming for non-performances, but still usable for kids.” The modular sofa is by Jak W and the rug is by Casa Muniz.
Photos by Bruce Damonte.
The new, much more open kitchen showcases Chromatic Abstraction, No. 5 by artist Danielle Dimston. Photos by Bruce Damonte.

A large triangular fireplace and an existing kitchen partitions were removed to create a more open main living space and make room for a large sliding door that allowed the owners to quickly immerse themselves outside in the landscape design by Lucas & Lucas. Davis notes, “This resulted in a great room with an expansive wall of glazing, views visible throughout, in which the clients and their friends could more successfully interact and spend time together.”

The team focused heavily on enhancing the natural daylight while monitoring the temperature by installing new new windows and skylights that created more indirect light. “Unnecessary partitions were removed to allow for the borrowing of light between spaces, taking advantage of existing fenestrations on multiple exposures of the branched structure,” says Davis. “With a full refresh of the kitchen and bathrooms along with a few strategic moves, the architectural team was able to deliver a version of the home better integrated with the surrounding site and better served to foster communication and community within, an idyllic weekend retreat.”

In the primary bedroom, a graphic wallpaper by Porter Teleo complements the rug by Beni. Photos by Bruce Damonte.
In the primary bathroom a skylight provides indirect light. Photos by Bruce Damonte.

When it came to the interior design, Damonte was eager to shed light on the family’s fervor for life. “I gleaned from conversations that they wanted more excitement and more color —they just weren’t sure how to get there,” she notes. “We incorporated the pieces they already had which created a great base and for the new pieces we took some cues from the surrounding rural landscape and brought in many shades of green, but also layered in a heavy dose of warm hues including burgundy, neon coral, magenta and a little purple rain.”

In the kid’s bedroom, the rug is by Okej Studio, the side table is vintage and the lamp is by Artemide.
Photos by Bruce Damonte.
In the kid’s bathroom, Glitter Diet Red by Kimberly Genevieve complements the walls painted in Benjamin Moore’s Celestia Blue. Photos by Bruce Damonte.

Known for her love of color and art, Damonte and her team revelled in the opportunity to share work from new artists with the clients who shared her passion. “In this project, Melina Finkelstein just launched her new line of rugs entitled, Casa Muniz.” Damonte notes. “I thought this aesthetic was perfect for the house and so we designed a large, bold rug with her that is both a durable workhorse in flatwoven wool, but also a joyful showstopper.” In the primary bedroom, wallpaper from Porter Teleo adds playful edge while fabric by Jean-Philipe Demeyer makes a splash in the living room. “The client also wanted to create a collection of art unique to this home so we sourced pieces that fit the feeling of the home, but that were also highly personal including Dave Muller’s Purple Rain, Purple Rain, painting in the living room and Erin O’Keefe’s Built Work #17 in the entry,” she notes.

“The large expansive wall of glass in the shared living spaces, made possible by removing the fireplace and opening up the kitchen, is the most significant feature of the home,” Davis notes. “The home wraps around the view beyond, and MDa’s simplification of the floor plan and improvement of the glazing system introduces those views to all of the critical living and bedroom spaces.” Photos by Bruce Damonte.

Luckily, the project was completed prior to the pandemic and provided a welcome retreat where they were able to spend much more time than they had anticipated. “They were overjoyed with the final result and recently hosted their first larger group there and it worked exactly as intended,” remarks Davis. “They are excited to finally be able to experience and share the home with extended family and friends.”