The Fun HouseAuthor:Anh-Minh Le
A haven for a young family is marked by wit and whimsy—perfectly reflecting the clients’ personalities
Alison Pickart had an inkling something was up when her friends, a husband and wife with two kids in middle school, called her from their car and put her on speaker phone. It turns out it was “go time,” she recalls. They had just purchased a Craftsman in Ross, not far from where Pickart lives, and enlisted her for its transformation.
As a good friend and neighbor—not to mention a sought-after interior designer—Pickart was the obvious choice to make over the 4,000-square-foot main house and 1,500-square-foot pool house, yielding rooms that now reflect the couple’s fun-loving nature and also embody sunny California style. While the two structures have distinct aesthetics, most notably conveyed through their respective palettes, the throughline is a sense of whimsy. “The main house is fun and very comfortable, but a little more mellow,” says Pickart. “The pool house is supposed to be the backyard party space.”
Since no architectural changes were necessary, the project “was straight decorating—paint and wallpaper, rugs and furniture—which was a really nice reprieve for us,” says Pickart. In spring 2020, in the early days of Covid, when many job sites were shut down, “we were able to keep things moving along. It was a blessing in a way to work on this particular house during the pandemic, because I was always around.”
Upon entering the two-story main house, visitors are soon greeted by a wooden rhino head—make that 12 rhino heads. Four panels, with three rhinos apiece, are mounted alongside one another in the living room, which has an earthen color scheme and reflects the husband’s penchant for natural materials. “In doing any muted, monochromatic space,” notes Pickart. “I like to make sure the textures are super luxurious and there’s a lot of depth to them.”
A rope-wrapped table and sculptural Cherner chair occupy one corner, while another features a custom French curved built-in window seat. The latter’s sinuous shape is echoed in the custom sofa from Coup D’Etat. The two seating areas are “dealt with in the exact same way,” says Pickart, adding that both are upholstered in “decadent” Sandra Jordan Prima Alpaca in oatmeal. Elsewhere in the room, Lee Industries armchairs wrapped in a chocolate mohair from Clarence House and acrylic stools with seats covered in a fringed fabric from Schumacher further imbue texture.
In the nearby dining room, in lieu of a conventional table, Pickart opted for a mahogany ping-pong table with iron legs and a leather net, from Jayson Home. “It’s not a traditional, formal room—and they’re
not traditional, formal people,” she explains. “We just thought the room should be something more [than dining].” During a recent visit to the residence, Pickart observed that the dining chairs, purchased on 1stdibs and refreshed with a Perennials fabric, had been moved away from the table. That’s because the clients had just hosted a ping-pong tournament. “I would bet you that they use the table more for ping-pong than dining,” says Pickart.
The first-floor powder room holds an unexpected ceiling treatment: Pickart installed 18 woven globe lanterns, in a variety of sizes, overhead. “We did this because the room is absurdly tall,” she says. “It seemed really out of scale when you walked into this very narrow space. The baskets became a way to compress the zone so it didn’t feel out-of-control tall.” The walls are lined in CW Stockwell’s fish-themed Sakana in white, contrasting with the wallpaper chosen for the adjacent hallway—the black grasscloth iteration of David Bonk’s Yokonami, whose metallic lines and loops evoke water, says Pickart.
Since the kitchen in the main house had previously been updated, it required minimal attention from Pickart: She painted the pantry, which is tucked behind a barn door, a bold yellow (Sun Porch by Benjamin Moore). “We weren’t really touching the kitchen—it’s a classic white kitchen—but the pantry was an opportunity to show that fun side [of the clients],” says Pickart. “It’s kind of like wearing a really fun pair of socks—a little hint or peek of something.”
The yellow is also a visual connector between the main house and the pool house, where Pickart’s contributions are the most significant. She banished the boring brown—including on the ceiling and trim—and brightened the interiors with fresh paint, exuberant wallpaper and happy hues. Peter Dunham’s large-scale Fig Leaf pattern is the backdrop in the living room, which is anchored by a sofa bed done
in a canary yellow-and-white striped fabric by Christopher Farr. The kitchen includes a turquoise enamel refrigerator and stove, both by Big Chill, as well as walls in Avocado by Benjamin Moore.
“The pool house was like its own little project,” says Pickart. “Our approach was: How do you make it easy and not too precious, but still keep it really cool? There was a lot of freedom with the program in the pool house.” She describes its only bedroom, outfitted with bleached oak furniture, as “light and airy.” Pops of color come courtesy of the artwork—including an abstract by Jenny Westenhofer, one of Pickart’s college housemates—and the two-inch navy pom-poms the designer added to the borders of the ready-made white drapery panels.
The jumbo pom-pom trim, from Samuel & Sons, is among the many irreverent items that Pickart was confident would find a place in this home—along with, in the main house, those rhinos in the living room (“I sent it to the clients and three minutes later it was approved”), the plaid chairs with gold lion’s head knockers that reside in the breakfast nook (“They had to have them and didn’t care where they went”), and the sheep that serves as footstool and curio in the family room (“It adds texture and humor”). “When we found certain things, I didn’t even pause,” says Pickart. “These two clients are just super spirited. Everything they do has a touch of fun.”