Close to the Heart


Studio Munroe layers a Bay Area home with vibrant energy for a close friend

In the dining room, wallpaper from Jennifer Shorto is illuminated by a Bistro four-arm chandelier. Photos by Thomas Kuoh.

“This family is very full of life,” says designer Emilie Munroe of Studio Munroe about the owners of this home in San Rafael. “We emulated their inviting, warm energy by layering colors and neutrals in in each room, along with a variety of pattern types.  We kept the paint colors, and all new construction details, trailered to create a classic bohemian feel with a bit of preppy undertone.”

A deep blue accent chair from Anthropologie faces a sofa from Restoration Hardware.
Photos by Thomas Kuoh.
In the foyer, a daybed from De-Cor is covered in pillows from Anthropologie.
Photos by Thomas Kuoh.

Munroe met her client in a high school biology class, that was followed by a deep friendship that helped her infuse the home with love. “We spent our 20’s in San Francisco together and then the whirlwind that is work and children swept us up,” she says. “It has been a blast to reconnect on the day-to-day collaborating on this dream project for her beautiful family.” 

The project began with a furnishing design phase of the main living spaces which led to the construction and furnishing of secondary rooms. “We are so proud of creating vivid moods and feelings within spaces, but there was a tremendous amount of additional functionality achieved in this re-design,” says Munroe. “The side entrance to the home was a long service closet with side-by-side washer and dryer, so we opened up the space, combined it with the garage hall, and created a dedicated mud room and entry vestibule. It is common that the front door isn’t the client’s main home entry point so it’s key to define needs within the actual access area and take the time to make it beautiful.” 

A bed from Lawson-Fenning adds a soft shade of green in the main bedroom, anchored by a cream rug from The Rug Company. Photos by Thomas Kuoh.
A potted tree by The Gardenista brings the outdoors in, in her office.
Photos by Thomas Kuoh.

To complement the family’s vivacious energy, the team layered each room with bright colors, lush textures and warm metals.  “We wanted the home to be personalized and eclectic but grounded in a contemporary sensibility,” says Munroe. “Some examples of this are the high contrast linear concrete floor tiles in the Laundry Room balanced by the classic shaker style cabinets and charcoal/white color scheme.  Similarly, his Office is full of iconic library elements like the cognac leather sofa, metal side tables, and trunk ottoman, but the twilight blue wall color bringing a vivid and unexpected touch.”

While much of the construction efforts were focused in the high-traffic areas, the most magical transformation happened in the primary bedroom suite. “The original scale was quite grand, including several areas that were completely un-used or under-used,” she says. “By changing a sitting area nook into a dedicated laundry room we created a more deliberate, relaxing and useful layout for our clients. Now they could feel cozy and purposeful when hanging out in the bedroom, and enjoy amazing new functionality in their organized and customized Laundry Room.”

The husband’s deep blue office features a vintage leather sofa and stadium seat.
Photos by Thomas Kuoh.
Tiles from Fireclay Tile lines the walls of the wine room customized by Bay Area Wine Cellars. Photos by Thomas Kuoh.
Munroe worked with Brimer Workshop to create custom cabinetry in the mudroom.
Photos by Thomas Kuoh.

Their close friendship helped create a super collaborative design process and efficient transformation to ease the burden of renovating. “There were no huge surprises, just a blossoming sense of hard work and dreams materializing as each finish was applied and layer of protection was tidied,” says Munroe. “The best feedback we received was how effortlessly their life adjusted to use of the new layout and spaces — a true sign of the successful collision of form and function.”