In Living Color


Tasked with transforming a generic spec house, Chroma blankets a home in rich colors and woods, imbuing it with a profound sense of peace

Farrow & Ball’s Dove Tale settles a contemplative mood over the living room whose pieces, including a custom daybed and floor pillow, and Joel Sayre’s walnut side tables, can easily be moved to create cozy spots for reading and relaxing. A textural painting by Dashiell Manley hangs over the fireplace. Photos by Stephen Kent Johnson.

Hidden away in Noe Valley, this spec house was the standard basic, boxy builder’s special that would need significant coaxing to turn it into the tranquil home that a client of San Francisco-based design firm Chroma desired for himself and his family. Leann Conquer, partner at Chroma, explains about the transformation: “He wanted to take the space and make it his own.” Her partner, Alexis Tompkins, elaborates, “He was really interested in upgrading the quality of the home.” Contractor Clayton Timbrell agrees: “Everything was new and serviceable, but it just wasn’t to his liking.” Their work effected what Timbrell describes as “pure magic.”

Bordered by oak cabinetry, the kitchen is grounded by a substantial Bardiglio marble island. “It was our interpretation of what could be a naturally occurring rock,” says Leann Conquer. The bar stools are by Thos. Moser. Photos by Stephen Kent Johnson.
A high-backed banquette clad in a Lauren Hwang fabric, a half-dozen of Borge Mogensen’s curve- back dining chairs, a pendant light by Michael Anastassiades, a custom stadium-shaped table with thick shou sugi ban-treated legs, collectible pieces by The Long Confidence and Nacho Carbonell and a vivid work by artist Sara VanDerBeek add up to a spot that feels like a cozy respite from San Francisco’s many gray days. Photos by Stephen Kent Johnson.

To get there meant gutting the interior of the house and reinventing its layout. “We reconfigured the home to facilitate the activities he wanted to enjoy at home,” Conquer shares. An audiophile, the client likes to listen to classical music while meditating, so Chroma created a listening area in the primary suite to support that pastime, set off by custom metal screens. The adjoining bathroom is designed for pampering; rich blue curved Tadelakt walls set an inviting mood that’s confirmed by the promise of the deep walnut bathtub. He loves to play board and card games; the lower level has a room completely dedicated to his hobby. Reading is a passion; the living room is designed to support that.

n the powder room, a vintage mirror hangs over a custom vanity on walls upholstered in a combination of pink Pierre Frey fabric that has been custom dyed blue by Metro Dyeing and a pink Fortuny textile with de Le Cuona trim. The small furrowed bowl is by Nancy Pearce. Photos by Stephen Kent Johnson.

Inspired by the client’s favorite chair—Finn Juhl’s iconic Chieftain—the house combines Asian and Scandinavian influences. “He’s very intentional and I feel that’s true of those design traditions,” Conquer says. “Everything has a place and everything has a purpose,” Tompkins adds. She points out that they also share an affinity for clean lines, natural materials and fine craftsmanship.

Custom metal screens fabricated by Wyatt Studio, whose design references Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Lightning Fields images, divide the long primary suite. “They solved the problem of how to divide up the room for all these different functions without sacrificing light,” explains Conquer. A photo by Richard Learoyd hangs over a custom bed, carved from wenge and inset with vintage Böhlmarks sconces.
Photos by Stephen Kent Johnson.
In the listening lounge, a vintage René-Jean Caillette floor lamp illuminates a snug custom sofa upholstered in a de Le Cuona corduroy velvet. It’s accompanied by Fair Design’s floating black coffee table. The pigment print is by artist Katy Grannan.
Photos by Stephen Kent Johnson.

Those ideals immediately introduce themselves via the imposing shou sugi ban finished front door with its single oversize cast bronze handle. They’re in the entryway, where a vintage bench, tucked between two cabinets, offers a comfortable spot for removing shoes and suggests taking a moment to appreciate the transition from the outside world to this calm oasis. They’re apparent in the living room, where Farrow & Ball’s Dove Tale, which unites the rooms on the first floor into one unified whole, underscores the home’s contemplative vibe.

Inviting textures, low furniture—including a custom daybed and a voluptuous floor pillow—and a rug whose design channels ryūsui, the Japanese tradition of sand raking, telegraph relaxation and rest. “They wanted to be able to move things around and hang out on the floor,” Conquer shares. Tompkins explains, “It speaks to the Eastern philosophy of absorbing energy from the ground through our feet.”

The rich blue of the curved Tadelakt wall of the shower, created by Color Atelier, is tempered by custom oak cabinetry.
Photos by Stephen Kent Johnson.
Michael Anastassiades’ Fontana Amorosa Bouquet ceiling light dangles above a Karolina freestanding walnut wood bathtub by Aquatica. The bronze milking stool was discovered at The Future Perfect. Photos by Stephen Kent Johnson.

Those ideas wind their way through the kitchen, which is dominated by an enormous marble island with rounded corners. “They make it feel more like a rock formation than a monolith,” Conquer explains. It’s balanced by the nearby dining area’s custom table with thick shou sugi ban legs and a black-stained stadium-shaped wood top. “Given that we were trying to achieve a sense of invitation and relaxation, it didn’t feel right to have a lot of harsh angles,” says Conquer. Instead, there is a proliferation of curves and softly rounded edges.

In the daughter’s bedroom suite, the delicacy of Farrow & Ball’s Calluna, a tranquil lilac, forms an intriguing counterpoint to the room’s whimsical accessories and furniture, including a custom oak bed, a vintage Verner Panton chair upholstered in a Rosemary Hallgarten textile and a Stilnovo pendant. The custom wool rug is by Mark Nelson Designs. Photos by Stephen Kent Johnson.
wo slender stripes of red highlight the curves of the bespoke vanity in the daughter’s bathroom. The vintage Verner Panton ottoman’s upholstery matches the chair in her bedroom. The vintage sconces are by Hans-Agne Jakobsson. Photos by Stephen Kent Johnson.

Bright colors, like the richly pigmented C-Print in the kitchen, the saturated hues of the oil and the upholstery in the living room, and the vivid blue of the photograph that dominates the game room, are offset by large expanses of wood. Used for walls, shelves and furniture and referencing Danish interiors or, in the case of the reeding railing that outlines the home’s staircase, Japanese ryokan inns, it tames the generosity of the home’s saturated tints and underlines the soothing, welcoming warmth of these spaces. “I think it’s important that color is a supportive characteristic and not the star,” Conquer counsels. In concert with the home’s many textures, its rounded edges and the soothing strains of classical music, it upholds the overall dreamy, sensory appeal.

Sam Falls’ Wildflowers 2 hangs over the game room’s oak cabinets, which are designed to conceal the client’s vast collection of board games. The Arc Stools are by Skylar Morgan. Photos by Stephen Kent Johnson.

The final effect is that of a serene sanctuary—underlined by landscape designer Erica Timbrell’s lush garden—cocooned from the world, focused on rejuvenation and reconnection. “When you’re in the home, you lose all sense of place, of time and of the outside world,” says Conquer. Home free and clear.

The game room is dominated by a chromogenic photogram by Adam Fuss. Vintage Nathan Lindberg chairs surround a custom game table over which hangs a Shark Light pendant, a collaboration between Dieter Vander Velpen and DIM atelier. Photos by Stephen Kent Johnson.