When a young San Francisco couple—a venture capitalist wife and tech executive husband, who met at a startup more than a decade ago—purchased their first home together in 2015, the small Laurel Heights condo was perfect for just the two of them. Looking to create a special first place together, the couple hired interior designer Lauren Nelson of Lauren Nelson Design to help them remodel the space with contemporary interiors anchored by a palette of blue, gray, and white. In the years following the renovation came an engagement, a marriage, and the couple’s first child—a baby girl.
“Fast-forward to 2020,” the wife says, “[and we are] now married, trapped indoors with a one-year-old in said condo during COVID. We longed for more space and a backyard and began the search during lockdown.”
The couple had always dreamed of owning a home in Presidio Heights—a family-friendly neighborhood that borders the Presidio: a 1,500-acre national park at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. So, when a property with a classic 1930s Colonial Revival–style house became available just two blocks from the park, they jumped on the chance to view it. “When we saw this house come on the market, on the same block our family friends live on, and a few short blocks from my sister and her family, we just had a feeling this was our house,” the wife recalls.
The home’s stately exterior would remain, but the interiors needed a reconfiguration. “It hadn’t been touched in decades,” the client says, “and needed quite a bit of work not only due to general upkeep but also some bizarre design choices—like a tiny primary bathroom with one sink and then a random ‘bonus’ sink in the primary closet.”
“The language of the house was good, but the scale of the rooms wasn’t great,” explains architect Stephen Sutro, who, with Melissa Kim of Sutro Architects, helped Nelson and the clients rethink the layout. “Our goal was to design a home that would serve the functional interests of a growing family—when the children are little, you need more visual control of them, but as they grow up, they can have a separate space in the house to retreat to with their friends,” Sutro explains.
Nelson tapped into the client’s love of French design to create a sophisticated but non-fussy aesthetic. “We appreciated the home’s classic architecture,” Nelson says, “and we didn’t want every room to feel like a white box—we wanted something a bit more traditional balanced by modern details. Each room has its own identity.”
What started as a nip here and a tuck there turned into a full-gut remodel, with the design team opening up the back of the house and adding glass-and-steel bifold doors in the kitchen to establish a connection with the backyard and allowing in more natural light. Plaster, marble (nine different varieties), and patterned wallpaper bring color and texture to every room, creating a rich background for a mix of custom, vintage, and ready-made furniture.