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Bay Area Home with Sophisticated, Collected Style

A San Francisco designer peppers her graceful 1930s home with a tasteful mix of vintage treasures and youthful verve

Written by Sally Finder Weepie
  • John Merkl

    Michelin-rated taco truck in the front, Reposado margaritas in the back, and designer touches all around. This house knows how to party—in impeccable style.

    Of course, it’s not like this every day at designer Kari McIntosh Dawdy’s San Mateo, California, home. Usually it’s husband Kevin at the backyard grill, not a Bay Area chef in a food truck; it’s another couple or two and their children, not 70 guests and a preschool’s worth of kids swarming around the courtyard’s lemon tree and its piñata full of candy-covered promises.

    But after six months in renovation solitary, Kari, Kevin, and their 3-year-old son, Max, were more than ready to break out the whole enchilada. They invited every one of their friends over for a look at their new digs—starting with the inviting outdoor spaces that were the biggest lure for a young couple who had been cooped up in a San Francisco apartment with a rambunctious toddler. 

    Spanish-style architecture defines the 1932 house. 

    Photography: John Merkl  
    Produced by Lisa Mowry

    Interior designer: Kari McIntosh Dawdy, Kari McIntosh Design, San Mateo, CA 94402; 415/341-1466,
    Landscape architect: John Hykes Landscape Architect, Oakland, California.   

  • John Merkl

    Patio Dining

    “All that boy energy was really the impetus for us moving to this house,” Kari says with a laugh. “Max needed to be outside.”

    Kevin envisioned father-son play sessions on the lawn. Kari saw friends coming over for conversation and cocktails on the tree-shaded patio. “Outdoor living was a focus for us,” she says. “We wanted to be able to throw open the French doors in the living room and dining room and let the party flow.”

    On the patio, a table and chairs from RH are the perfect spot for outdoor dinner parties. 

    Dining table  (“Costa Rectangular Dining Table”); dining side chairs (“Provence High Back Chair”); host chairs (“Provence Armchair”): Restoration Hardware,
    Pillow on host chair (“Senji”/Red): Martyn Lawrence Bullard,
    Tray on table (product line varies); pitcher on table (product line varies): Williams Sonoma,
    Large vase on table (“Wood Bark Trophy Vase”/Frost White, faux bois resin detail): Oly,
    Grill: Weber,  

  • John Merkl

    Patio Seating

    Like the fun, Kari’s signature style flows from room to room in this 1930s home, located in San Mateo’s oldest neighborhood. Subdivided in the late 1800s, the neighborhood has seen its old turnabouts for horse-drawn buggies turned into fountains, the trickling water bringing nature’s music to well-loved patios. “When I saw the lion’s head on the fountains, I knew it was a sign,” Kari says. “I’m a Leo, after all.”

    Details from the fountain to the arched doorways to the intricately hand-painted ceiling beams give the house a history that Kari was careful to preserve. “It’s such a graceful Spanish-style home. The house has a romance about it,” she says. “I wanted to honor the house and, at the same time, give it a relaxed elegance that feels light and comfortable for our family.”

    Kari added a wall around the courtyard to sneak in bench seating. 

    Tile (Saltillo tile): existing.
    Striped seat cushion on banquette (“Paddington Stripe”/Pumice #205-208); gray pillow (“Chelsea Square”/Pumice #765-208); peach pillow (“Chelsea Square”/Sunset #765-12): Perennials,
    Red-patterned pillow (“Senja”/Red): Martyn Lawrence Bullard,
    Patterned pillow in corner of banquette (“Magnifikat,” colorway discontinued): Kravet,
    Small and medium lanterns (“Malta”): Pottery Barn,
    Tall lantern (“Filagree Lantern,” discontinued): Restoration Hardware,
    Fountain: existing.
    Planters: Giannini Garden,

  • John Merkl


    This designer’s unique brand of California cool deftly blends high and low, new and old. And by old, we mean a flea market’s worth of finds from nearly a lifetime of collecting.

    “I’m kind of a collector-slash-hoarder,” Kari admits with a grin. She and her mother have a cherished history of girls’ trips to Texas, where they’re regulars at Round Top Antiques Fair stops, while Kari and Kevin have scored treasures from destinations as near as Santa Barbara and as far as South America, Europe, and Asia.

    Designer Kari McIntosh Dawdy keeps style family-friendly in the home she shares with husband Kevin and their son, Max. 

    Wall paint (“Stoneware” #CSP-245): Benjamin Moore,
    Flooring: oak.
    Hide rug (Argentina): Maison K,
    Chair (French); clock: antique.
    Chair fabric: vintage linen.
    Pillow (Turkish kilim): Summer House,
    Throw on upper landing railing: vintage Suzani from Turkey.
    Wrought-iron railing: original to house.  

  • John Merkl

    Entry Console

    A vintage Suzani throw from the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul puts a punch of color in the entry, where the curves of a timeworn Swedish Mora clock play to the pattern of the existing stair rail’s ornate ironwork. A vintage console table wears the same green as the home’s original ceiling beams.

    Hand-painted details on the beams, in fact, sparked Kari’s whole-house palette. She paired their earthy oranges and greens with plenty of blue—her family’s favorite color—and soothing, sophisticated gray.

    A vintage table and mirror from San Francisco’s Russian Hill neighborhood mix with a John Derian plate and new Nate Berkus baskets. 

    Console table (painted teak); lamps on console: vintage.
    Mirror: custom.
    Box on console: owner’s collection.
    Plates: John Derian,
    Baskets under console (by Nate Berkus, product line varies): Target,

  • John Merkl


    In the living room, twin sofas covered in well-wearing gray velvet form a conversation zone next to the fireplace, while accessories introduce splashes of energizing blue and orange. A Lucite-and-glass coffee table interjects an airy note and intensifies the light pouring in from muntined windows and doors. Collected pieces, such as the vintage rug, layer in personal history. “It was one of the first things Kevin and I bought together,” Kari says.

    Found sconces from the 1920s frame the Spanish-style fireplace. 

    Upholstered chairssofa: owner’s collection.
    Sofa fabric (“Alice Dark Gray Velvet”): Bolt Textiles,
    Sconces (vintage, 1920s): Rejuvenation,
    Medallion on fireplace: antique.
    Curtain fire screen (custom): Steven Handelman Studios,
    Fireplace: original to house.
    Art to right of fireplace (by Larry Powell): Mediterranee Antiques,
    Coffee table (1970s lucite and glass): vintage.
    Area rug (vintage, Turkish): Summer House,  

  • John Merkl

    Living Room

    Kari’s collected style shines in her living room, where a chandelier originally intended for a dining room crowns a space that’s full of the unexpected. A Lucite table feels just as at home here as an oak cabinet that her parents gave her as a wedding gift. The horse is an old German toy found at Marburger Farm.

    Wall and ceiling paint (“Stoneware” #CSP-245): Benjamin Moore,
    Flooring: oak.
    Area rug (vintage, Turkish): Summer House,
    Chandelier (vintage, 1930s): Rejuvenation,
    Drapery (“Belgian Linen”/Sand); drapery hardware (“Classic Knurled Finial & Rod Set”/Bronze): Restoration Hardware,
    Sofa; daybed; upholstered chairs: owner’s collection.
    Sofa and daybed fabric (“Alice Dark Gray Velvet”): Bolt Textiles,
    Blue pillows on sofa (“Velvet Pillow Cover”/Cyan): Williams Sonoma Home,
    Patterned pillows: vintage Fortuny.
    Striped pillow (Thai silk): owner’s collection.
    Throw (“New Classic Avalon Blanket”): Hermès,
    Table behind sofa (discontinued): Noir,
    Table lamps (“Culloden Table Lamp”/Pebbled Aquamarine with Linen Shade #ARN3608, by Aerin for Visual Comfort): Circa Lighting,
    Box on table (Chinese); tall cabinet (oak linen press); horse on cabinet (German toy): antique.
    Coffee table (1970s lucite and glass): vintage.
    Heart dish on coffee table (“Heart Dish Gold”): Michael Aram,
    Pottery holding flowers (antique French confit pot): Sonoma Country Antiques,
    Wicker planter to right of sofa: vintage. 

  • John Merkl

    Living Room Curiosities

    This Provence antique sits beneath a grid of Sid Dickens tiles.

    Wall and ceiling paint (“Stoneware” #CSP-245): Benjamin Moore,
    Flooring: oak.
    Trunk: antique.
    Art above trunk (tiles): by Sid Dickens,
    Drapery (“Belgian Linen”/Sand): Restoration Hardware,
    Floor lamp: owner’s collection.

  • John Merkl

    Dining Room

    History, with a fresh spin, also lives in the dining room, where Kari’s first pick was a Groves Bros. drapery fabric. “They do Venetian-style printing based on old documents,” the designer says. “This one, based on a Spanish document from the 17th century, has a Spanish-dog pattern, so it’s perfect for this house—it looks like lions.” 

  • John Merkl


    Kari had the pattern enlarged, then put decorative artist Caroline Lizarraga and her crew to work hand-painting the dining room walls with the leonine design. “Max sat on the floor and played the ukulele while they worked,” Kari says. “It’s an amazing memory.”

    A shell-encrusted mirror that  Kari had in the bedroom in her old house found a new home, meshing with the hand-painted wallcovering. 

    Table (English): antique.
    Mirror: custom.
    Sconces (1920s): Rejuvenation,

  • John Merkl

    Dining Room

    The wood-paneled ceiling and chandelier are original to the house. A Spanish trestle table is juxtaposed against Design Within Reach chairs. The hide rug keeps things light and bright. 

    Ceiling paneling; flooring (oak); chandelier: original to house.
    Wall treatment (hand-painted): by Caroline Lizarraga Decorative Artist,
    Drapery (“Kahn”): Groves Bros.,
    Area rug (“Diamond Cowhide Rug”/Ivory): Restoration Hardware,
    Photograph (by Markham Johnson): Simon Breitbard Fine Arts,
    Dining table (Spanish): antique.
    Dining chairs (“Antica Armchair” #3799); chair leather (colorway discontinued): Design Within Reach,
    Table runner (handmade lace from Mexico): Maison K,
    Vases and pitcher (by Astier de Villatte); : Sue Fisher King,
    Pedestal: antique.
    Vase on pedestal (vintage): Summerland Antique Collective,

  • John Merkl

    Breakfast Room

    The neighboring breakfast room is characterized by its simplicity. A built-in china cabinet wears a charming gray-green color. 

    Wall paint (“Stoneware” #CSP-245): Benjamin Moore,
    Flooring: oak.
    Dining table (discontinued): Crate & Barrel,
    Dining chairs: owner’s collection.
    Bell jar: flea market find.
    Built-in china cabinet: original to home.
    Pottery on top of china cabinet (antique): Dead People’s Stuff Antiques,
    White dinnerware (by la Cote): owner’s collection.

  • John Merkl


    Handcrafted terra-cotta tiles bring a Spanish accent to the backsplash topping Kari’s dream La Cornue range.

    Cabinets: Omega Cabinetry,
    Countertop: Silestone by Cosentino,
    Cabinetry hardware (“Gunmetal Twist Pull” and “Felicity Knob”): Restoration Hardware.
    Wall tile: by Tabarka Studio,
    Range: La Cornue,
    Microwave: Bosch,  

  • John Merkl

    Kitchen Corner

    A brick column in the corner displays pots and pans and adds rustic charm to the kitchen.

  • John Merkl

    Home Office

    Treasured moments also live in Kari’s office, where an art wall holds pieces collected over time. “Each piece is a memento from my travels,” she says. “I bought them from street vendors—the painting of the woman in Argentina, the bulls in Spain, and the boats in Venice. They bring back great memories.”

    Art amassed during travels to Europe and South America decorates Kari’s work space. 

    Wall paint (“White Dove” #OC-17): Benjamin Moore,
    Desk (discontinued): Design Within Reach,
    Lamp: owner’s collection.
    Art, top left (from street vendor in Spain); art, bottom left (lithograph by Rebesco, from vendor in Venice); art, center (lithograph by Garraffo, from street vendor in Argentina); art, top right (vintage illustration); art, bottom right (lithograph by Garraffo, from street vendor in Argentina): owner’s collection.
    Tray: vintage.
    Container (by Missoni, discontinued): Target,

  • John Merkl

    Laundry Room

    Zak + Fox window shades and gray-and-white floor tiles add pattern to the laundry room.

    Wall paint (“Penthouse” #CSP-35); trim and cabinetry paint (“White Dove” #OC-17): Benjamin Moore,
    Floor tiles (“Lille-25”/White and Gray, Echo Collection): Granada Tile,
    Cabinetry (“Bridgeport Flat”/Glacier): Merit Kitchens,
    Cabinetry hardware (discontinued): Restoration Hardware.
    Washer: LG,
    Window shades (discontinued): Zak + Fox,
    Laundry basket (discontinued): Pottery Barn,

  • John Merkl

    Powder Room

    The powder room connects to the first floor laundry room. Red accents draw out the color from the patterned window shades.

    Sink (“Palladio Vitreous China Pedestal Lavatory Sink”); towel rings (“Crystal 7-inch Brass Towel Ring”): Waterworks,
    Mirror (“Kensington Pivot Round Mirror”); shelf (product line varies): Pottery Barn,
    Sconce (“Bing Single Arm Sconce” #AH2004, by Alexa Hampton for Visual Comfort): Circa Lighting,
    Toilet: Toto USA,  

  • John Merkl

    Master Bedroom

    Today, though, travel takes a back seat to a feisty 3-year-old. So Kari and Kevin smartly shaped their bedroom into a serene sanctuary colored with quiet blue-grays. “It’s all about the textiles,” Kari says. A tactile headboard and bed coverings mingle with silk draperies in a subtle faux-bois pattern. They’re from the same era as the house, the 1930s.

    Luscious layers of textiles include an antique French drapery panel and a Moroccan wedding blanket draped over the linen headboard.

    Wall paint (“Perspective” #CSP-5): Benjamin Moore,
    Area rug (“Lumina Silk Rug”): Santa Barbara Design Center,
    Drapery panels (French): antique.
    Bed (custom): Pandora de Balthazar,
    Headboard fabric: vintage linen.
    Throw over headboard: antique Moroccan wedding blanket.
    Bed cover (discontinued); blanket at end of bed (discontinued): Yves Delorme,
    Bedside table (“Antique Moroccan Mother of Pearl Dresser”): William Laman,
    Table lamp (vintage mid-century): Monument, 415/861-9800.
    Wooden chair (Italian): antique

  • John Merkl

    Bedroom Chest

    The dresser, meanwhile, a 1920s antique from North Africa, puts the exclamation point on the room with its stunning mother-of-pearl and bone inlay.

  • John Merkl

    Master Balcony

    A cast-plaster lion on the wall echoes the fountain below. The tile “floor” is actually a vinyl rug from Spicher and Company.

    Vinyl floorcloth: Spicher and Co.,
    Chair: vintage.
    Side table (product line varies): Target,
    Wall art: Raoul Textiles,

  • John Merkl

    Master Bath

    Glamorous and casual, globe-trotting and family-friendly, this historical-meets-modern home feels equally at ease hosting a big designer bash or a simple taco Tuesday dinner at the kitchen table. “Our house is a mix of everything we love,” Kari says. “It expresses our personality. It’s our own mix of California style.” 

    Wall paint (“Super White” #OC-152): Benjamin Moore,
    Wall and flooring (“Studio Stone”); faucets (“Highgate Low Profile Three Hole Deck Mounted Lavatory Faucet with White Porcelain Lever Handles” #HGLS10); towel ring (“Crystal 7-inch Brass Towel Ring” #CRTB52); silver accessories (Studio Wallingford): Waterworks,
    Vanity (“Kent Double Vanity”/Charcoal with “Italian Carrara Marble” countertop); sinks: Restoration hardware,
    Mirrors (discontinued): Pottery Barn,
    Sconces (“Cross Bouillotte Small Sconce”/Antique Nickel #CHD1190): Circa Lighting,
    Vase; art: vintage.
    Area rug (vintage Turkish): Summer House,

  • John Merkl

    Max’s Room

    A blue-and-white design was born out of a trip to South Africa, where Kari fell in love with the country’s Dutch-influenced folk art. The animal-print Lulu DK fabric is almost as fun as an elephant rocker, and Max won’t grow out of it as fast as he outgrew his onesies. The Surya rug from its Smithsonian collection has even more staying power.

    Window shades (by Paul Smith): Maharam,
    Area rug (“Smithsonian SMI-2113): Surya,
    Art to left of window (“Babar” pages): vintage.
    Alphabet art: owner’s collection.
    Crib/bed (“Robin,” discontinued, for similar, “Rhea”): Oeuf,
    Bedding (“Organic Star”): Pottery Barn Kids,
    Chair and ottoman: vintage.
    Chair-and-ottoman fabric (“Jungle Jubilee”/Blueberry #66250): Schumacher.
    Pillow on chair (“Diane Von Furstenberg Beaded Border 21x21-inch Throw Pillow”/White):
    Side table: owner’s collection.
    Rocker (“Nursery Elephant Plush Rocker”): Pottery Barn Kids,   

  • John Merkl

    Guest Bedroom

    Greens and browns continue the home's sophisticated, earthy palette in the guest bedroom. Vintage nightstands and bedside lamps are a nod to Kari's love of collecting.

    Wall paint (“Ally’s Earring”#CSP-125); ceiling paint (“Super White” #OC-152); trim paint (“White Dove” #OC-17): Benjamin Moore,
    Ceiling light: original to home.
    Sisal area rug (“Metallic Suede & Hemp Rug”): Serena & Lily,
    Turkish rug: owner’s collection.
    Drapery: ivory muslin.
    Bed (“Slipcovered Parsons Platform Bed”); headboard fabric (“Belgian Linen”/Sand: Restoration Hardware,
    Rug on headboard (“Chilean Woven Rug”); brown-patterned pillows on bed (vintage silk velvet, Turkish); pillows on chairs (vintage Turkish silk bvelvet): Upstairs at Pierre Lafond,
    Bed cover (“Cozy Cotton Blanket”): Coyuchi,
    Duvet and shams (discontinued): Pottery Barn,
    Pink pillow (vintage Suzani): Maison K,
    “Tout est possible” words above bed: Gaugenyc,
    Bedside tables (vintage): Botanik
    Lamps on bedside tables; upholstered chairs; wicker basket; lamp on dresser (alabaster): vintage.
    Dresser, mirror above dresser; trunk: antique.
    Art above chest of drawers (Otomi):  St. Frank,
    Ottoman (Guatemalan): Artisan Connect,
    Floor lamp: owner’s collection.

  • John Granen