Empty Nesters Downsize to a Cheery, Patterned California House

Empty Nesters Downsize to a Cheery, Patterned California House

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Name: Carolyn Rebuffel Flannery and husband
Location: San Rafael
Size: 1,600 square feet
Years lived in: 1 year, owned

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When we first saw the fabulous bungalow home at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac, we were smitten. The interiors were mostly original and there was a giant blue farm sink in the kitchen, original to the house. Regretfully, the sink was completely impractical but we are turning it into a potting sink in the garden. We paid homage to the sink by painting the cabinets blue and getting a cute blue dualit toaster.

We are recent empty-nesters and are working on down-sizing; this home is our own and we did not take children into consideration when putting it together. The new location is closer to our work so that means less commuting time and more time available to hike and ride bikes, enjoying the beauty of Marin County and the bay. The house is just the perfect size for the two of us and to entertain friends and is super-close to the freeway (usually not a selling point but we hate to drive more than we have to) and super close to trails. Out the door and on our way.

Carolyn is a designer and the founder of Workroom C, “a textile company that offers fabric by the yard, pillows, drapery, and bespoke soft goods.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Warm, comfortable and colorful.

Inspiration: The ocean, the view from a helicopter, Instagram, colorful fabrics, flowers, Paris, the produce section in the grocery store, the ribbon section in a fabric store…

Designers who inspire me—Mary McDonald, Betsy Burnham, John Saladino

Favorite Element: The navy blue tile in the kitchen—my favorite color is navy and I wanted to use it in a bold way.

What is your favorite room and why? Master bedroom—I love yellow and went a little crazy with it. But in the afternoon, it glows with the sunlight, it is really comfortable (cashmere throw from Sue Fisher King and comforter cover from Serena & Lily), and the four-poster bed is dreamy (West Elm). I designed the window and duvet fabrics to coordinate exactly with the Thibaut Aster wallpaper in yellow and had the bedroll and euros made from Schumacher’s Chenonceau pattern in buttercup and the vintage, freshly painted side tables. The overhead light was made by our friends at Dogfork out of a vintage fixture from the UC Berkeley library, long-stored in a warehouse.

If you could magically change something about your home, what would it be? The “funfetti” bathroom needs a tile update but I am letting it grow on me.

Is there anything that embarrasses you about your home? In the funfetti bathroom, there is a toilet original to the home, in a robin’s egg blue that matches the sink and bathtub. It probably uses 12 gallons of water per flush and really needs to be changed. But of course, a white new toilet will look absolutely ridiculous next to the blue bath and blue sink and new modern, low-flow toilets don’t come in robin’s egg blue. So it is a nasty quandary. [Bathroom not photographed.]

What do friends say about your home when they visit? Friends comment that it is comfortable; one good friend refers to it as her house since she likes the “bones” of it so much.

Proudest DIY: Well, I actually cannot build anything because I have no patience nor talent for that sort of thing, but since I am an interior designer, I have people who can help me bring these crazy ideas of mine to fruition. I have always wanted a big, John Boos chopping block and I ordered a custom butcher block piece from them to be the new kitchen island, and ordered some great wooden legs for the base. Then I had my lovely contractor put it together and my lovely painter painted the legs and apron the same navy blue as the tile. It is a wonderful piece of furniture to work on in the kitchen.

Biggest Indulgence: The new kitchen cabinetry with a pair of dishwasher drawers, a big farmhouse sink, and a big pro-style faucet.


Walls — Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace
Trim — Benjamin Moore Meadow Mist
Master bedroom walls — Benjamin Moore Cashmere 930

Coat rack —Thonet, custom painted Benjamin Moore 602 Gondola Ride
Bench — Chairish
Shelf — West Elm
Mirror — Uttermost

Sofa — Benchmade Modern
Pillows — Surya, Ryan Studio, custom (Jonathan Adler fabric from Kravet)
Rug — West Elm Formation rug in Midnight
Side table — Chairish
Chair — Anthropologie Rivona chair in Liberty fabric
Lamp — Arteriors
Curtains — Custom, fabric by Schumacher
Table — Antique, French
Coffee tables — Vintage, French
Plant — (It’s fake because I have a black thumb) Diane James
Juju hat — Juju Boutik
Art — Jane Gianarelli

Four Hands Cintra extension dining table — France and Son
Chairs — Vintage from Design Plus Gallery
Rug — Overstock Safaviah
Drapery — Custom, fabric Gaston Y Daniela Warangal
Art — Celadon
Light — Darlana Medium Lantern by Circa Lighting

Cabinetry — Custom and existing, paint Benjamin Moore Wedgewood Grey
Faucets — Delta Contemporary pot-filler; Delta Trinsic sink faucet
Stove — Bertazzoni
Handles — Rejuvenation Vernon bin pulls
Light — Schoolhouse electric
Barstools — Industry West, custom RAL color
Island — Custom
Sink — Signature Hardware
Fridge — Samsung
Countertops — Caesarstone Blizzard
Tile — Walker Zanger Robert AM Stern

Window fabrics — Custom by Workroom C
Rugs — West Elm
Nightstands — Vintage from Design Plus Gallery
Ceiling fixture — Custom by Dogfork Lamp Arts
Dresser — Sofie by Noir
Bed frame — West Elm
Mirror — Cordelia by Noir
Art — Celadonart
Duvet cover — Custom by Workroom C
Duvet cover — Serena & Lily
Pillows — Schumacher
Wallpaper —Thibaut

Thanks, Carolyn!

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