A Colorful, Cultivated and Comfortable Family Home

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
1 / 8
Living room (Image credit: David D Livingston)

Name: Courtney and her family
Location: Ross, California
The basics: 7 years, owned (recently sold) | 2,800 square feet

Courtney decorated her home with usability in mind, which you might not immediately guess given how stunning it is. Beautifully thought out, the space balances curated style with a life with children and all that entails.

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: This was our family home for seven years. We moved to California from New York City when our daughter was just a year old, and our son arrived on the scene a couple of years later. We’ve recently moved to a new home and another project. As a decorator, I love to work on homes and re-imagine spaces, and I’ve never lived anywhere longer than seven years. Our time in this home felt like a real commitment in the best way.

This traditional home is located in a special neighborhood just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. Its style is reminiscent of the grand homes of SF, and it was built as a summer retreat for a city family in the early 1900s. It’s the type of home that could present itself very formally (with a proper dining room and large formal living room), but that’s not how we used it most of the time.

We were a young family of four in this home, and it worked overtime for us on all fronts: working, playing, cooking, cleaning, building, dreaming, laughing, crying and sleeping. Our children were ages 0-7 while we lived here, so this home hosted tea parties and pirate parties, seated Christmas celebrations for 20 or more and Passover Seders for family and friends, and was the backdrop for school fundraising events, New Year’s Eve celebrations, casual neighborhood dinners, the occasional parent association meeting, and the very frequent glass of wine and quick gossip.

The home has great bones — original Palladian windows, hardwood floors throughout, oversized moldings, and a traditional floor plan. Light streams through the dining room in the early afternoon and warms up the space just before dinner, and the house flows indoor/outdoor for easy entertaining. Opening the patio doors and bedroom windows in the late spring always gave me the jolt I needed to get to the finish line during crazy school years with our busy kids.

What is your favorite room and why? Like many young families, we spent most of our waking hours in our open-concept kitchen/den/breakfast nook, and it was happy perfection. Lots of color layered on top of soft neutrals, comfortable seating, interesting patterns and textures, and pops of personality—oversized floral wall murals, a huge alabaster lamp, zebra-print chairs—sprinkled throughout. I love to decorate spaces to look beautiful and interesting, but if they’re not used, they flop. I’m always aiming to marry a cultivated aesthetic with comfortable and inviting usability.

If you could magically change something about your home, what would it be? Although the house had tons of original charm when we bought it, we did some major upgrading—think construction zone—in the first couple of years. Once that was done I spent a few years slowly decorating —hanging wallpaper, selecting and fabricating window treatments, furnishings, and more. Seven years later I was ready for a new challenge. We miss our dear neighbors, but we’re on to the next adventure just a few miles away.

Which fictional character would be most at home in your place? Someone who can get down and dirty but also slips into an evening gown in 12 minutes to look stunning. Scarlett O’Hara!

Any advice for creating a home you love? Absolutely.

  1. Play with scale and mix pattern and color.
  2. Don’t underestimate the power of the perfect wallpaper.
  3. Buy things you love because they will define the home as yours.
  4. Don’t wait until your kids are grown. Get going on your new look now so that you can all enjoy the space together.

Thanks, Courtney! Readers, you can see more of Courtney’s work on her website Courtney B. Smith.

• Interested in sharing your home with Apartment Therapy? Contact the editors through our House Tour & House Call Submission Form.