A young designer refreshes a classic San Francisco apartment
Interior designer Lindsay Brier took the living arrangements for her family to new heights. Pacific Heights, to be specific. This San Francisco neighborhood is known for its scenic setting and arresting views that spotlight some of the coastal city’s famous landmarks, including Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay. It’s architecturally charged, too. Turn-of-the-20th-century Victorian homes laden with painted details and Châteauesque styles reminiscent of the French countryside line streets, adding their charming aspects to the neighborhood.
As Lindsay and her husband, Hank, searched for a place to call home, they found the “California-cool” aesthetic ubiquitous: decor that features casual, put-your-feet-up furniture and quirky flea-market accessories—all suggesting an easy way of life. But the Briers wanted to formalize that look, adding classic sensibilities and their own sophisticated, grown-up spin. They found what they were seeking in a 1920s-era Edwardian-style apartment building featuring original moldings and soaring ceilings that provided the base Lindsay needed to produce her personal design view.
“We prefer the clean, contemporary feel that is popular in California, but it’s in my blood to respond to objects that are old and have a story,” explains Lindsay, whose mother owned an antiques shop throughout Lindsay’s childhood. “Having antiques in a room really gives it personality and soul.”
Starting in the foyer and moving into other rooms, Lindsay chose a neutral paint that embraces the light-colored furniture and shows off the occasional colorful accessory. The exception was the hallway that stitches all the rooms together. There she splashed the walls with a rich slate blue to lend dimension and contrast to the other mostly quiet spaces.
The living room is the epitome of simplicity. Lindsay conveys her discerning style with tasteful appointments that enhance architectural details painted white to pop against soft beige walls. Instead of using slipcovered pieces that are common to the young California vernacular, she selected transitional seating with tight upholstery that reads elegant rather than easy-breezy. Next, she made a sharp turn into the world of avant-garde. Taking cues from the bay that borders the city, she introduced more water with a captivating color photograph that hangs above the sofa. Its subject—graphic rows of swimmers in vivid blue water—surprises with its intense vibrancy and movement in the otherwise soothing area. A couple of low, matching blue cubes were assigned supporting roles as cocktail tables, emphasizing that the joyful jolt of color was certainly no mistake.
“I didn’t want the living room to become boring or stale,” says Lindsay. “I thought this photograph was fun and playful, and it also reads well from far away, as for guests in the hallway or dining room.”
French doors lead to the formal dining room, a high-priority feature of Lindsay and Hank’s apartment search. “It was important for us to have, not just for holidays but for everyday family life,” Lindsay explains. “I like the idea of sitting down for a civilized meal.”
Bamboo chairs painted charcoal gray and cushioned with white faux leather are set at the 18th-century French walnut table passed down through Hank’s family. White cotton fabric was fashioned into tailored slipcovers that drape slipper host chairs.
Passionate about supporting local emerging artists, Lindsay and Hank decorate with dynamic pieces that draw attention to the creators’ special talents. The dining room art was no exception. Above the credenza hangs the Briers’ first art purchase, made just before they were married—a landscape by Bay-area artist Andrea Voinot.
The couple pair their affinity for the historic and the classic with an appreciation of modern and contemporary. In the kitchen—the one room that required an update—old appliances were swapped for new stainless steel units. Lindsay also applied a few tricks to make the space look more open. Existing wall cabinets were replaced with inexpensive open shelving to house plates, bowls, and glassware. So they would match the custom cabinetry below the counters, she had the shelves sanded and painted. Next to the counter, Lucite bar stools provide additional seating without adding extra visual weight.
When the Briers bought the apartment, the master bedroom was what Lindsay describes as “a horrible cave.” A coat of pale blue paint was a quick fix. The addition of painted white case goods and a Japanese screen above the upholstered headboard gives the space a contemporary edge. Today, the bedroom is a retreat that boasts a small Zen garden just outside French doors.
For Lindsay and Hank, the pride and joy of the apartment is the nursery and its occupant, their son, Hawken. Lindsay stacked horizontal stripes in two shades of gray to direct attention around the cheerful room. Outfitted with blue and orange accents, the space is spirited and exuberant without appearing too babyish.
Although a larger dwelling will eventually be necessary as the Brier family grows, for the present this Pacific Heights apartment provides an ideal nesting spot. “The apartment is spacious, workable, and in the heart of the city,” Lindsay reflects. “With the addition of our son, our family has grown here from just the two of us. We couldn’t ask for more.”
Photography: Paul Dyer
Produced by Sarah Alba
Interior design: Lindsay Brier, Anyon Interior Design, 3452 Sacramento St., San Francisco, CA 94118; P.O. Box 29243, San Francisco, CA 94129; 415/829-2758, anyondesign.com .
Kitchen and bath renovations: Robert B. Lewis Renovations, 415/509-7400, robertlewisinc.com .
Matching armchairs by A. Rudin in subtle Clarence House stripes break the room’s neutrality.
Low blue cubes by Jonathan Adler punctuate the living room’s neutrals and enhance the intense color of a photograph by Lisa Levine.
Living Room Detail
Textural details are woven in with the living room’s clean palette, as in the mantel’s dentil moulding painted crisp white.
An oil by David Denning pops against slate blue walls.
Inspired by the smoky coloration of an Andrea Voinot painting, Lindsay transformed vintage faux-bamboo chairs from McGuire with a painted lacquer finish.
Dining Room Credenza
The midcentury credenza, now topped with ivory-colored ceramics, was purchased at auction.
Lindsay mixes striped plates from J.L. Coquet with Simon Pearce glassware.
Dining Room Details
A black-and-white photograph from Lindsay and Hank’s wedding hangs above a Tibetan chest in the dining room.
At one end of the narrow room, Lindsay built in a window seat with storage underneath. The cushion features black-and-white stripes from Calvin Fabrics.
A 1920s-era apartment building is home to the Briers.
Hank and Lindsay Brier and their son, Hawken.
Hawken’s room is youthfully handsome in subtle stripes and bright accents that highlight dogs, a nod to the family’s Irish wolfhound, Cashew.
The linen-upholstered headboard gets a graphic boost with a Greek key-patterned pillow from Trina Turk. Lindsay and Hank are nostalgic about the glass bedside lamps from Simon Pearce. “Simon Pearce, in Quechee, Vermont, is close to Dartmouth, where Hank and I both went to school,” Lindsay explains.
Outside the bedroom’s French doors is a Zen garden in a lattice-enclosed area.
A sleek, white-lacquered chest of drawers sits across from the bed, the perfect spot for casual morning prep station.
The master bathroom’s walk-in shower bears a sleek, slim profile that maximizes the tiny space.