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Masculine edge

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This whole-house remodel creates contemporary, monochromatic interiors that put guests, as well as furnishings, in the best possible light


Everyone who entertains frequently expects guests to have clothing tastes as various as their personalities. Dark-toned, uncluttered interiors in a home designed for entertaining ensure a flattering backdrop to a convergence of colors and styles – the muted decor prevents anyone from clashing with the curtains.

This remodel of a Victorian home has achieved several design objectives through its understated, yet quietly dramatic interior. Designer Jiun Ho has contrasted the existing classic exterior with a modern interior, in which a predominating masculine feel has touches of a more feminine sensibility. The result is formal, dark, slightly playful and ideal for entertaining.

In years past, the residence had been broken into many smaller rooms to serve as a hospice, then reconfigured as three individual apartments. Now restored to a single gracious residence, it was gutted on the first and third floors, with several changes also made to the second level, says Jiun Ho.

"On the first floor, the connected living and dining areas strike a formal air," says Ho. "Other new spaces include a large kitchen and powder room, all accessed by a central corridor."

"On the floor above, an office, media room, guest bedroom and bathroom have been revamped, while the upper level contains a new master bedroom and large walk-in wardrobe."


Throughout the house, lowered ceilings were removed to restore the original heights. However, the wall, ceiling and floor edgings have been given a contemporary treatment. Eschewing crown moldings and baseboards, simple wood frames, stained dark brown and finished with a slender aluminum channel, form borders to the ceilings and floors. The effect is subtle and decidedly modern.

The new living and dining rooms are a single space, divided by a steel-paneled wall with an open fireplace – a focal point of both rooms. This element allows glimpses straight through from one room to the other.

"The living room walls are finished in dark Venetian plaster, evoking a male sensibility," says Ho. "The paneling on the wall and fire-surround between the living and dining areas is in Col Roll steel, with a verdigris finish sealed in a clear lacquer."

Splashes of color provide relief from the generally somber tones of the decor. A deep red coffee table and three paintings in burnished gold are two examples.

"I positioned the trilogy at a point in the living area where you would engage with it as you entered the room," says Ho.

Nearly all the furniture in the home was custom designed by Ho, or chosen by him. In the living room, a large mohair couch features a walnut frame, sandblasted to give it an even stronger, more rugged sensibility.

Prevailing masculine elements are balanced by lighter, more feminine pieces, says Ho. He cites a furniture setting near the fireplace in the same room. These pieces are smaller, with slender legs, and the chairs and table are closer together to form a more intimate group.

"Rooms on the two floors above are lighter in tone, and less formal," the designer says. "On the top floor, aluminum-edge detailing echoes that found in the living and dining rooms. In contrast, the mid-level rooms retain some of the original crown moldings and baseboards – a few reminders of the home's 1920s origins."

First published date: 03 November 2009

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Credit List

Interior designer Jiun Ho (San Francisco, CA)
Doors and windows 200 Series tilt-wash, double-hung windows from Anderson Windows
Paints and varnishes Benjamin Moore
Lighting Custom Soleil Collection by Jiun Ho, from Boyd Lighting
Floors Brazilian Walnut in custom stain espresso finish
Ceilings Benjamin Moore white
Walls Custom Wall Treatments in Venetian Plaster
Fireplace Ecosmart
Furniture Living room sofa, Kalahari Sofa; dining table, Cherbourg table and Vigo dining chair all custom by Jiun Ho
Bed Madras bed custom by Jiun Ho
Drapes Great Plains fabric