When it comes to buying a house, a grand, soaring entryway is usually a selling point. Not for Jen Parker. When she and her husband, Vic, stepped into the Tudor-style home in Northern California’s Bay Area, her heart sank. “I had something cozier in mind,” says Parker, who owns a stationery company called Canopy Cards. Being from Boston and having grown up in a classic Colonial, Parker was drawn to quaint, older homes with a sense of history. But she did recognize that this one, a 5,200-square-foot spec house, had a lot going for it.
The house suited their family of five perfectly (Parker has since had a fourth child): It had a bedroom for each of their children, a spacious master bedroom, and an ideal location on a quiet, tree-lined cul-de-sac. So they bought it and hired interior designer Chloe Redmond Warner of Redmond Aldrich Design to boost the coziness level.
Aside from a handful of colorful pieces the couple had inherited from grandparents, they started from scratch on the furniture. The designer looked to the Parkers’ lifestyle to conceptualize ways to transform the interiors. “Jen inspired me with her aesthetic,” says Warner, who shares with Parker “an appreciation for preppy New England décor-but not in a rigid or serious way.” That meant mixing classic design elements with “fancier, jazzier, more irreverent California things.” In the guest room, for example, a traditional floral pattern marches up the wall, while a graphic ikat used the room’s curtains and chair makes a bold contrast.
Looking at the inspiration boards, my husband and I definitely had moments of ‘Oh my gosh!’” Parker says, laughing, “Sometimes I’d ask Chloe, ‘Is this going to match?’ She’d respond: ‘It’s going to look good, but matching’s not the point.” As Warner explains her theory, “Matching only gets you so far. I like to start with wallpaper and use that to help establish a palette for every room. Then you need to introduce elements that play nicely with each other. That’s how you achieve a truly personalized, truly interesting look.” Today the house buzzes with personality. More than 100 family photos line a back stairway. In the grand entryway, four paintings commissioned from Vancouver artist Zoe Pawlak portray a much-loved vacation spot on Cape Cod, with the Parkers’ children painted into the background. These landscapes bring a human scale to the double-height space. And a corner of the kitchen accommodates a child-size table and chairs in front of a geometric-pattern mural that incorporates magnetic paint in the repeated motif. It’s a sophisticated, innovative way to display the children’s artwork, of which there is a never-ending supply. “I end up recycling when no one is looking,” Parker says in a stage whisper. “The art production in there is out of hand.”
“Jen envisioned a house where you felt someone had carefully curated perfect little moments,” Warner Says. Creating such thoughtful spaces meant finding the hidden potential in everyday objects. For example, a search for the perfect dining room seating turned up a set of reasonable priced chairs with a simple, Gustavian shape from a catalog. To make them more interesting, Warner had the frames repainted in a glossy celery green and the cushions reupholstered in an embossed leather. Now they’re absolutely showstopping and one of a kind. “The bones were good,” Warner says. “They just need a new outfit.” She’s referring to the chairs, but the same could easily be said about the whole house.