A New Beginning


Ballon Studio helps a newlywed couple build their first and forever home as one

Architecture by DPA. Photos by Aubrie Pick.
The entry houses a table by Croft House. Photos by Aubrie Pick.

“I have this reputation for being a “client whisperer” for just knowing what the client wants without them necessarily even saying it,” says Sabra Ballon, founder and principal designer of Ballon Studio. “This comes from truly listening to and observing them.”

Known for curating luxurious yet livable interiors with neo-classicist edge, Ballon Studio was hired to replicate their signature style inside a San Francisco home for young newlyweds’. The bride’s mother—who was an existing client—gifted Ballon’s work to the couple in celebration of their nuptials. “Since this is their first home together, it was important that we create an environment that reflects both of them and how they live,” Ballon recalls. “They told me that they wanted the house to be welcoming and did not want a house that felt like a museum.”

In the kitchen, counter stools from Powell & Bonnell echo the soft cabinetry and finishes. Photos by Aubrie Pick.
For the breakfast room, Ballon opted for fun orange swivel chairs and a chandelier with playful pink glass globes. Photos by Aubrie Pick.
On the basement level, the team kept the placement of an existing wine cellar but replaced the solid walls with expanses of glass. “Since our client inherited a large wine collection from her father, we wanted to do it justice—and make it a room that you want to be in and something you walk by every day and say, “wow”.” Photos by Aubrie Pick.

Located in the Marina neighborhood, the 6,000-square-foot, four-story home is perfectly positioned to take advantage of views of Golden Gate Bridge, the Palace of Fine Arts and Alcatraz but needed a functional and stylistic overhaul. “The house was built in 2014, so it was fairly modern already, but the details were generic and lacked warmth,” she recalls. “One of the ways we addressed this was by updating the material palette—introducing natural textures and warm neutrals in order to create an interior that was softer.”

Many homes in the Marina area have compartmentalized floor plans unsuitable for entertaining. “An open, airy quality, including coaxing more natural light into the spaces, was a priority,” Ballon says. “We removed a wall between the kitchen and what was previously the dining room. This allowed us to not only improve the flow between the kitchen, dining and living areas, but also dramatically increase the amount of light coming into the first floor.” With the help of Cook Construction, the kitchen and main living spaces are now more tailored to the couple’s love for entertaining and provide more exposure to the stunning views.

“The Sky Lounge has this big, perforated leather, emerald green sectional that you instantly want to relax into,” says Sabra Ballon. The custom sectional is by JF Fitzgerald Furniture, the mirror is from Croft House. Photos by Aubrie Pick.
In the game room, the swivel chairs are from DWR and the lounge chairs are by Cassina from Arkitektura.
Photos by Aubrie Pick.
Photos by Aubrie Pick.
Ballon designed a custom wood and glass desk solution for the home office. Photos by Aubrie Pick.

Ballon’s goal was to curate soft spaces using natural and neutral finishes including leather, oak, limestone and washed textiles that evoke the idyllic California modernism aesthetic. “We exchanged the existing dramatic black and white kitchen for blonde wood floor-to-ceiling cabinetry that hides everything,” Ballon says. “The stone on the island drapes over the sides, giving the impression of a tablecloth—a very durable one and the pale palette and symmetry of the kitchen is understated yet powerful. The quiet hues, such as the upholstery on the stools at the island and the nearby custom banquette, add to the calm atmosphere we were aiming for.”

She layered colorful furnishings, fabrics and rugs throughout to balance the muted base while also adding a level of durability. “I describe this house as beautifully bullet-proof, because it’s designed for heavy traffic and usage—wallcovering on every wall, stone tops on the built-ins and tables, and heavy duty leather upholstery,” she notes. “Since we knew they were hoping to start a family, we wanted to make sure that the interiors work for them and their future plans. Choosing robust materials and furniture was important, but it still needs to be graceful. Steel furniture is great for this because it has delicate profiles, yet it’s really sturdy.”

In the primary bedroom, Ballon designed the custom headboard and nightstands, and the sconces are by Horne. Photos by Aubrie Pick.
Photos by Aubrie Pick.

The finished product revealed a refreshing renovation with a much more cohesive flow that captured the couple’s unique personalities. “One of the biggest compliments for me—as a designer—is when the clients move in and immediately feel at ease,” Ballon remarks. “It is a beautiful place to wake up to and come home to, it isn’t too precious, it works well for them and provides style, durability and comfort.”

“One of the most distinctive aspects of this project is outside,” she says. “The back garden has a golf putting green set into a gorgeous garden with a large Magnolia and Japanese Maple trees. Any kind of lush outdoor space in the city is special, but this takes it to another level.” The landscape design is by Ceara Studio. Photos by Aubrie Pick.
A heated loveseat from Galanter and Jones sits atop a terrace with views of the Bay. Photos by Aubrie Pick.