House Tour: Bonnie, Bill, Nina & Dora’s Funky Functional Home
Names: Bonnie, Bill, Nina, and Dora
Location: San Francisco (Portola District)
Size: 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom home, about 1800 square feet
Years lived in: Since July 1999
When Bonnie and Bill went looking for a home almost ten years ago, their family was about to double in size. Expecting twin girls, and both PhD students at the time, they bought the house “on a prayer and a song,” hoping it would be big enough to contain their growing family. Nearly a decade later, every inch of their home has been lived in and loved. The rooms overflow with art and music and the evidence of its making: cans of neatly packed together marker pens and brushes; instruments and their cases propped in every room as comfortably as the furniture itself. And the style of that furniture is simple and clean—modern classics mixed with vintage finds—so that even with the abundance of joyful stuff, the house feels orderly and purposeful.
Their location in the Portola District is quiet, just blocks away from the vast and lovely McLaren Park, one of the city’s unsung treasures. And the family has its own little slice of outdoor space: a peaceful, meandering backyard garden shared with the neighbors. Both garden and house are great examples of creative use of space. Bonnie, an architect, has re-designed parts of the house to maximize functionality but minimize major renovation. A two-car garage now serves as a family office, with bookshelves and open storage towering artfully over the desks. (Bonnie insists there’s still room for one car, but Nina corrects her: “Only if we move everything.”) A lightwell outside the bathroom window has been converted into a mini-deck, perfect for the potted bonsai that inhabits it—or for a nine-year-old looking to curl up in a sunny spot.
Our Style: Funky but functional. Bill and I both have a lot of hobbies and strong aesthetic opinions, so our house is eclectic by default.
Inspiration: My (Bonnie’s) background is Swedish, so I’m inspired by Swedish simple pragmatism.
Favorite Element: With our southern exposure, light penetrates deep into the house. I love to sit in the living room in the sun and read the paper.
Biggest Challenge: Size is an issue, especially because we all play music, and the sound really travels.
What Friends Say: That there’s a lot of love in our kitchen.
Biggest Embarrassment: When you open up the front door, you look straight into the bathroom. I try to remember to keep it closed for parties.
Proudest DIY: We re-did the kitchen but kept its vintage look, opened up a wall to bring more light in but kept the original cabinets. The hardware was grimy, but we loved it, so we took it all off and polished it during the renovation.
Biggest Indulgence: The range and the flat-screen TV.
Best advice: Think about how you live before you start to change big things. See if you can find a simpler solution instead of ripping everything out. Oh, and don’t be stingy with lighting.
Dream source: Ligne Rosset and Limn for a range of modern furniture. I also love the antique mall in Sebastopol. And The Touch on Valencia, which has great deals on modern pieces. There really isn’t any one source—I don’t like to walk into a house where everything seems to have come from one place. That feels so static to me.
The Starck tongue chairs in the dining room and kitchen are from Limn; those chairs are the greatest. You can stack them up, wipe them down, dress them up or down. The living room chairs are also from Limn. Dining room table was a housewarming present from my mom, from the Salvation Army in Sebastopol. Bill has had the kitchen table since 1982.
In the bedroom, the dressers are garage sale finds, and the nightstands were made by my grandfather, a high school teacher and amateur woodworker. The girls’ desks and chairs in our family office are from Ikea. For our desk, we had a maple top made and got the legs from Doug Mockett & Co. (Since it’s a garage, the floor is uneven, so we needed adjustable legs.)
Kitchen hardware is original. Drapery hardware throughout the house is from Stroheim & Romann.
Kitchen flooring is VCT (Vinyl Composition Tile), from a commercial flooring company. We had them cut it into a pattern.
We’ve picked up a lot of things in our travels. The fish hanging from the girls’ ceiling came from Mexico, and the girls knitted that little scarf for him since it’s colder here.
Dining room fixture is the PH5 by Poulsen. The red lamp in the girls’ room is a garage sale find. We get a lot of our lamps at City Lights.
Tung Luong, of TULU Design, who also made a lot of our throw pillows, did the curtains in the bedrooms. I like Pindler & Pindler and Schumacher for fabrics.
The Jack Hanley gallery and the Southern Exposure annual art auction. We go every year. Some of our art is our own work, or by friends and family.
Sterling Art Services does a great job.
Thanks to Bonnie, Bill, Nina and Dora!