Master of the mix, San Francisco designer Allison Bloom is attracted to opposites. “I’m most comfortable with a mash-up of styles,” she says. “The tension between different periods, different lines, and different materials is really interesting to me.”
Shapely leather club chairs and a metal coffee table share similarly open legs. They’re contemporary counterpoints to a Sheraton-style sofa and a pillow-plumped bay window seat. “Except for rugs, there’s very little pattern in this house,” designer Allison Bloom says. “Though the house itself is traditional, its ceiling and window heights make it feel modern. We didn’t want to distract from that.”
It’s no wonder, given her background and credentials. There’s her childhood spent on construction sites with her developer dad and her degree in environmental science. Then came her stint at Remodelista and her experience sourcing, styling, and selling at a “funky” antiques store. And, of course, there were the many times she moved and set up house—a process she enjoyed so much that she eventually decided to open her own business.
Located just off the breakfast area and kitchen, the family room is the go-to spot for relaxation and family time. The sofa is upholstered in soft, chenille-like Perennials fabric, so kids and dogs alike are comfortable stretching out.
So Bloom was a natural pick for a San Francisco couple who had purchased a recently gutted and rebuilt 1890s home in one of the Bay Area’s oldest neighborhoods. Bloom’s new clients, a pair of transplanted New Yorkers who’d lived their entire adult lives in San Francisco, faced an overwhelming array of possibilities for designing such a large house—it featured six bedrooms and an attic so massive they weren’t sure what to do with it.
The kitchen is distinguished by timeless Cararra marble counters and traditional cabinetry. Stainless steel appliances contribute to its airy feel. Pendant lights in the shape of pineapples–ancient symbols of hospitality–illuminate the room and nod to the wife’s love of entertaining. Sleek, leather-clad bar stools satisfy the husband’s modern taste.
A conversation-encouraging round dining table was a must for Bloom’s clients, parents of four teens. From Bausman & Company and crafted of alder wood, it’s surrounded by turquoise leather chairs. “They could have been pretty wild, but they’re tamed by their surroundings,” Bloom says.
Bloom, on the other hand, had a host of solutions. “This house has tremendous views, incredible light, wonderful architectural bones, and elegant finishes, like beveled marble countertops,” she says. “It feels like the very best of New York and San Francisco combined. It’s metropolitan, but at the same time unpretentious and very livable.”
Bloom also faced the challenge of bridging the stylistic gap between a traditional-leaning wife and a husband so drawn to contemporary he would have preferred a house filled with leather and chrome. In the end, she created rooms so visually eclectic they elicit near-emotional responses. “Rooms should have soul,” she says. “They should make you feel something.”
She also wanted to infuse a warm, inviting friendliness that an entertaining-oriented family with four teenagers required. “The house is well-used, so it had to really work,” Bloom says. “It couldn’t just be pretty.”
And so, to a restrained palette of gray walls and creamy trim, she added hits of soft blues and greens that accommodate the city’s unique light. “It’s dark, foggy, bright, and sunny here all in the same day,” she says.
Then she assembled pattern-free furnishings that contribute to what she calls the home’s “effortless, edgy, slightly-fashionable-but-not-trying-too-hard” aesthetic. Think Sheraton-style sofas and undulating channeled-leather couches. Club-worthy turquoise leather dining chairs, and nap-inducing seating. Yin and yang. Modern and traditional. Offbeat and refined. To Allison Bloom, it’s all in the mix. All in a day’s work.
The attic-turned-“skybar” allowed Bloom “to get a little crazy and take some risks,” she says. A cluster of Eero Saarinen tables by Knoll boosts the loungey mood; navy paint halfway up walls distracts from the room’s low ceiling. Mirrored tiles in the bar invite exploration and reflect views.
Curating a mix of furniture styles: designer Allison Bloom shows you how.
- Remember, function matters. Ensure seat heights are the same. “Modern sofas and chairs often have lower seat heights than more traditional pieces,” Bloom says. “Try to make sure they’re all within three inches of each other so people feel comfortable in them.”
- Find similarities. Shared silhouettes—or what Bloom refers to as “through lines”—help unite disparate furnishings. Use lots of curves. Or plenty of boxy shapes. The point is to pick a feel you like and repeat it across eras and materials.
- Celebrate the oddball. The caveat to Bloom’s advice is that not every piece in a room should fit a mold. “I’d suggest an 80/20 rule. That means 80 percent of your picks can be similar in terms of feel. The other 20 percent should change things up. Not everything can be leggy, or solid. Too many leggy things make a room feel nervous; too many furnishings that are solid to the floor make a room feel heavy. You need a bit of a mix,” she says.
Photography: Aubrie Pick