In 2004, when a 1906 house stole the hearts of Debbie and her husband, Roger, the idea of restoring it to its original glory was a breeze. “The house was beautiful and already in move-in condition,” says Debbie. “But it had drifted away from its traditional origins to a more modern design.”
Debbie recruited area designer Tres McKinney to execute the renovation. The Reynoldses had known McKinney since her redo of their first house in 1993. The designer suggested a palette and found fabrics, furniture, and accessories that suited Debbie’s tastes. The restoration added coffered ceilings, extensive crown molding, and period-appropriate paneling and wainscoting. Then came the soft, pretty touches. A purple, gold, and robin’s- egg blue palette was chosen for three distinct seating arrangements in the living room. Two sofas from the couple’s previous home were placed in front of the fireplace, which was beefed up with a heftier mantel and a dark-chocolate marble surround.
A velvet aubergine sofa and a pair of occasional chairs make a second seating area in the living room. The layering of colors and fabrics (there are 14 fabrics in the room) gives the space a sophisticated, unpredictable look, avoiding a “too decorated” appearance. Variations of purple, plum, and aubergine work with the neutral gold, and the robin’s-egg blue found in the rug was pulled out and used for embellishments on pillows throughout the room.
Guests are greeted with a warm welcome in the Reynolds entry hall. Grass cloth forms the backdrop for an antique chest of drawers and gilt mirror.
It was tricky but not impossible to enliven the windowless dining room, visible from the formal entry. To introduce intimacy into the formal area, desginer Tres McKinney reworked the draperies from Debbie and Roger’s former dining room and hung them at the new room’s two entrances. Vibrant artwork and a red cabinet also add color and life.
The kitchen renovation involved a lot of juggling, with new appliances, reconfigured and painted cabinetry, and a backsplash. Brazilian blue granite countertops caught Debbie’s eye as something that needed to be salvaged. “The old kitchen itself was very plain, but the countertops were stunning and just popped out,” she explains.
Painter Peggy Del Rosario went to work, softening the stark white cabinetry with a Swedish/Gustavian finish. A similar faux finish on the walls gave the space an old-world feeling. McKinney designed a comfortable banquette that seats up to eight people in the eat-in kitchen.
Since there were so many places throughout the house for play and television, Debbie forwent an additional family room in favor of a banquette area that could be used for dining, television viewing, and homework. Tres McKinney designed the banquette.
An antique china cabinet from New Orleans stores Debbie and Roger’s dinnerware and was the starting point for the kitchen.
It was on a 2002 museum trip in Chicago with her sister Gwen Solberg and their families that Debbie Reynolds—shown here with her husband, Roger, and their children, Jennifer and Zachary—experienced her watershed moment for Healthy Handfuls, a line of organic, low-sodium, low-fat, convenient snacks that appeal to children, such as chocolate chip cookies and lemon-vanilla crackers.
“It was time for lunch,” Debbie explains. “We had packed our own, but noticed that other families were pulling highly processed foods from the vending machines. We turned to each other, and we knew that a new business had been born.”
Even before Healthy Handfuls was launched, eating healthfully had been standard for the Reynolds family: Gwen, born with a severe peanut allergy, had spent her life avoiding processed foods and reading nutrition labels to make sure food products were safe. Now everyone can benefit from the sisters’ vision: Healthy Handfuls snacks are sold at health-food stores throughout the United States and Canada as well as online.
For information on Healthy Handfuls, go to healthyhandfuls.com.
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Debbie Reynolds is all about details, and lots of them. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, she returned to her native San Francisco and worked in commercial real estate. Following the birth of her two children, she became a stay-at-home mom. In her leisure time, she devoted herself to organizing fund-raisers for San Francisco-area philanthropies ranging from the Junior League, The Bay Area Discovery Museum, and the San Francisco Symphony to the schools her children attend. And when she discovered a dearth of nutritional snacks for kids, she created her own. With her sister and business partner, Gwen Solberg, she established Healthy Handfuls, a company that makes kid-friendly, organic snacks.
Interior design: Tres McKinney, Tres McKinney Design, 2 Henry Adams St., San Francisco, CA 94103; 415/626-5504.
Landscape design: Katherine Webster, M.L.A., 1707 Broderick St., San Francisco, CA 94115; 415/ 377-5933.
Contractor: Silvestrini Construction, 3634 Rivera St., San Francisco, CA 94116; 415/564-6600.
Photography: Michal Venera
Produced by Erin Milgram