Real Estate

Inspiration in a walk-through

Decorator Show House 2013 offers ideas, resources, fun

"New Traditionalism" is what San Francisco designer Warren Sheets calls his active mixing of old and new in the living room of Peninsula Volunteers Decorator Show House 2013, the first show house on the Peninsula in about 10 years.

The 11,000-square-foot Woodside estate, designed in 1938 and situated on 21 acres, is a perfect backdrop for 20 designers to showcase their talents and tastes, and for visitors to see firsthand how interior-design trends are playing out.

"We wanted to honor the traditional elements of the house but also march forward," Sheets said. He pointed to several examples: a classic console table juxtaposed with a modern writing desk; a pair of fauteuil chairs (popular in 18th-century France) with a more contemporary black-lacquer finish; a glass coffee-table top with antique bronze trim.

And then there's the piece of driftwood, half-finished in 18K gold leaf.

The designers were not required to confer with each other, or to create continuity in their presentations. Rather, each took on the challenge of maximizing what could be done with each specific space.

The family/entertainment room, for example, is sited in what is not technically the basement (the home is on a hillside) but lacks much natural light and has ceilings just under 8 feet tall.

What Heidi Menard and Celeste Randolph, of Ambiance Interiors, Palo Alto, created was an "urban edgy" room with "masculine appeal," Menard said.

First they covered the seismically unsafe fireplace with antiqued mirrors, knowing that the reflective surface would enhance what little natural light they had. Then they added two decorative cross beams to the structural beams to create "more coffered detail," she said.

Metallic trees were placed on either side of the mirrored space, with a white ceramic stag's head sculpture drawing one's eye. A pair of pinball machines help obscure the side profile of the former fireplace.

The ceiling fan, a necessity during heat waves, is made of clear Plexiglas with the blades turned sideways. Ceiling fans "are so notorious for being ugly," Menard said, that she was determined to find one that was more interesting and that could hug the low ceiling.

Menard noted that the dark palette, reflected in the papered wall paneling and the deeply pigmented 7-inch planked flooring, "adds drama and intimacy."

"It's really the antithesis of the rest of the home," Randolph said, and creates what is "truly a retreat," Menard added.

Rise Krag (of RKI Interior Design, San Carlos) was challenged to create something out of what was actually just a hallway and a closet. She turned the hallway into an art gallery, offering ways to showcase textiles (which she collected on a trip to Southeast Asia and Bali last year) along one wall and salon-style hung art on the other. (A price list of the various works, which range from $300 to $5,000, is available.)

Then she removed the closet door and designed a meditation center, complete with a Coromandel wooden folding screen and 18th-century Buddha.

At each end of the hallway, she framed the space with a pair of drapes made of sheer fabric over raw silk, with a shirred top and matching fabric-covered cording tie-backs.

Robert W. Miller (of Miller Design Co., Woodside) used his small space to develop a concept for a men's bar, what he describes as a "modern rendition of a Prohibition-era speakeasy."

The bar top itself is made of one piece of cedar, finished in an opalescent stain wash. A woven basketweave material covers walls and ceiling, blending with the patterned sisal carpeting. Metal flecks sparkle from the Conrad window shades.

A whimsical -- yet manly -- touch is the gladiator sculpture atop an Archie Held-designed fountain base.

Whimsy is definitely the word to use when describing the dining-room chandelier, which was custom-made from broken blue-and-white china. January Reclosado, of the Morgan Design Group, Menlo Park, noted that the chevron-patterned horsehair rug was also custom made for the space.

One reason people visit decorator show houses is to see what materials actually look like up close.

In Brooke Grafstrom's butler's pantry, they can see what a custom-made copper counter top looks like. Grafstrom, of By the Bay Design, Menlo Park, says copper isn't for everyone. Enjoying the look depends to a certain extent on one's tolerance for the changing patina, what she calls a "living finish."

"You have to be able to live with how it evolves," she said, adding that "Each little mark has a story."

Other touches in the pantry include using fabric-covered hat boxes to store china on open shelves and a tile backsplash in a bottle pattern by New Ravenna, which picks up the colors of the copper counter, the Conrad woven shades and blues in the displayed dishes.

In addition to coming away with ideas and possible contacts and resources for a future design project, visitors may shop at the boutique (located in the kitchen, which was not decorated for the show house). There Peninsula Volunteers members will be offering everything from notepaper, soaps and olive oil to jams and jellies with the estate's private label.

Proceeds from the show house will benefit Peninsula Volunteers, which supports Meals on Wheels, Little House and Rosener House Adult Day Services, among others.

What: Peninsula Volunteers Decorator Show House 2013

When: Tuesdays through Sundays, through May 24, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (last entry at 3 p.m.); "Meet the Designer" evenings on Thursdays, May 16 and 23, 6 to 8 p.m., with wine and hors d'oeuvres ($50)

Where: Park at The Horse Park, 3674 Sand Hill Road, Woodside, and take shuttle to show house

Cost: $35

Info: Go to Peninsula Volunteers or call 650-381-9933.

Associate Editor Carol Blitzer can be emailed at

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

Local Transit to the Rescue?
By Sherry Listgarten | 25 comments | 3,180 views

Morsey's Creamery brings buffalo-milk gelato to downtown Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 11 comments | 2,080 views

"You Gotta Have Balls [to do counseling] . . .
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,783 views

Eating Green on the Green – August 25
By Laura Stec | 5 comments | 1,137 views

Moral Panic, again on guns
By Douglas Moran | 18 comments | 753 views


Register now!

‚ÄčOn Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

More Info