Design Dilemma: Stuck in the 60s


It’s not often interior designer Jean Larette gets a 911 call, but the day after the San Francisco Chronicle ran an article about her work that featured several before and after photos, she did.

“A gentleman rang me up and asked if I could come over RIGHT AWAY. He wanted me to get started on his project as soon as possible,” she says.

When Larette arrived at his San Rafael home, she was greeted by a sophisticated man in a Hawaiian shirt and a living room that was stuck in the 1960s.

“He told me that over the years his brothers and sisters had renovated their homes several times, but he’d never touched his,” says Larette. “He wanted to get rid of everything and start over. He wanted a room where he could entertain guests and read and relax when he was by himself.”

Larette started by donating the existing furniture to a local church and removing light-blocking plantation shutters. Then she created a neutral backdrop made lively by texture and pattern.

“I was inspired by the Hawaiian shirt he was wearing on the first day we met,” she says. The curtains that hang over the large window wall have a hand-painted frond design. The same motif is picked up in the metallic bowl on the coffee table and the botanical prints on the wall.

Touches of silver put an exclamation point on the design. “We included a bit of sparkle in a metallic-leather pillow on the sofa and mirrored tops on the occasional tables,” says Larette. “A little shine in a room is like adding a pretty bracelet or earrings to an outfit. It makes it special.”

To make entertaining easy and comfortable, Larette installed an L-shaped sectional and chairs that can be easily moved during a party.

Larette’s client also requested a flat-screen TV and a gas-burning fireplace. She renovated the existing shelving to make space for the television and gave the fireplace a totally new attitude with a CaesarStone and metal surround.

“I painted the back of the shelves green to add a dash of color,” she says. “We selected stones for the fireplace, because I think they are much more attractive than faux logs.”

Although everything in the room was donated to charity, Larette found two items elsewhere in the house to add to the mix. “The portrait over the sofa is his great uncle and I discovered the painting over the fireplace in his garage,” she says. “Both pieces speak to his casually elegant style.”

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