Susie Novak Interiors
Interior designer serving Oakland, San Francisco, East Bay and Marin California.

Design Blog

Before & After: This Dated SF Home Gets a Suave New Shot at Life

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An updated suave space including fabulous tiles and a super-fly home bar...? What more could you ask for in a San Francisco renovation?

Today, I’m excited to share this night-and-day transformation we recently completed in Bernal Heights!

Backstory: Our clients are a newlywed couple with Texan, New York, and South American backgrounds. They recently purchased this three-story stunner with big dreams: making it their own one level at a time. To start, they set us to work on the main floor, which included the kitchen, a small dining room, and a split bathroom (more on that later).

Now, I have to warn you. Although this story has a happy ending, our path was not strewn with rose petals and daisies. Yes, I could have just kept quiet about some of our struggles, but if you’re renovating in the city, you might face these same roadblocks!

Intrigued? Let me show you what we encountered and ultimately conquered…

BEFORE

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A Monkey Barrel of Problems to Solve while Renovating

Alright, here’s what we were up against when we started:

  • Codes that would incur major delays if we moved or altered any exterior doors or windows

  • A VERY narrow space

  • Structural issues that needed to be resolved, as well as sound issues from noise upstairs

  • Neighboring properties that were smack-dab on the edge of the property line, making it impossible to open up anything on the sides

Yep, we had our hands tied, but none of these problems is too big to solve. (Plus, we admit we love a challenge!) So let’s take a look at how we transformed each space by room.
 

How to Create More Space in a Tiny SF Kitchen 101

  BEFORE: Kitchen, backyard view

BEFORE: Kitchen, backyard view

This kitchen. Not only was the space incredibly small, but it was functionally unusable — no counter space, unsalvageable built-ins, no refrigerator (say wha???). Not to mention that 1950s Mad Men green color.... 😂

These troubles aside, though, the kitchen had an undeniable charm. Those big windows were simple and beautiful, and our clients loved the view of the magnificent tree in the backyard. Sounds like an inspiration piece to me!

We quickly decided that the windows would be the focal point of their space, and we’d try to bring in some of the outdoors and their different cultures, too… all while making the space more usable.

It was a tall order, but here’s how we made it happen...

  AFTER: Kitchen, backyard view

AFTER: Kitchen, backyard view

This space got a total makeover. We said bye to the green and hello to white and attractive, matte black window frames. These attract the eye and help you notice the outdoors beyond. The black framing also plays well with the tile design, which you can see better in the next After photo.

  BEFORE: Kitchen, corner view

BEFORE: Kitchen, corner view

  AFTER: Kitchen, corner (NOOK!) view

AFTER: Kitchen, corner (NOOK!) view

It’s a breakfast nook!

Plus, these tiles from Exquisite Surfaces are insanely gorgeous. I could stare at them alllll day, and our clients fell in love with them, too. The tile design and the counter vases are both subtle tributes to South American style, while the light and woodsy tones feel organic and a little bohemian.

The light fixture was another find that transformed the space. It makes a visual statement,, but it doesn’t weigh the space down. The hanging chain-link design has a hand-crafted feel. It raises the height of the ceiling and draws even more intention to the other black elements in the room — like the windows!

Mission accomplished.

We never realized how lighting fixtures alone can transform a space and serve as art installations that tie in with the whole space.
— Happy Clients
  BEFORE: Kitchen, interior view

BEFORE: Kitchen, interior view

  AFTER: Kitchen, interior view

AFTER: Kitchen, interior view

I absolutely love this backsplash tile made by Clé Tile. The subtle nuance in color creates additional depth in the space (which we needed!), and although they’re not a standard subway tile, they still have a classic feel. The pale blue tone balances the warm woods of the cabinets as well.

The openness and flow of the space makes it feel twice as big as it actually is!
— Happy Clients
  AFTER: Kitchen, interior view

AFTER: Kitchen, interior view

Oh hey there, refrigerator! Nice of you to join us. ;)

We opted for open shelving for a few reasons. First, the look of open shelving embraces the modern bohemian vibe. Second, it keeps the space feeling open. And third, it didn’t make sense to keep the built-in that was previously there — it was beyond restoration, made the space feel very enclosed, and didn’t offer any practical usage.

Now, the couple has plenty of counter and storage space without feeling like they sacrificed part of the kitchen to get it.

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Going through a remodel is not for the faint of heart, but the reward for this one has been so well worth it. We sometimes sit in the kitchen and just stare and smile at how wonderful it all turned out.
— Happy Clients

The Most Suave Home Bar in SF… in our humble opinion ;)

  BEFORE: Dining Room

BEFORE: Dining Room

Before, the dining room was fairly large and had an old beauty to it… but it had its share of problems, too! (Sensing a pattern here?)

Our clients didn’t like that it was so closed off from the kitchen. Plus, the adjoining room was teeny-tiny and its space could be better purposed elsewhere, like the kitchen. So, they voted for transforming the dining room into a home bar and entertaining area instead.

This new space became the perfect opportunity to showcase our clients’ unique, well-traveled, and multicultural backgrounds. Here’s how we brought all of these goals and styles together…

  AFTER: Home Bar & Entertaining Area

AFTER: Home Bar & Entertaining Area

Now, it's a harmonic fusion of style and color. Dimmable sconces allow for mood lighting. Dark colors create a suave and sophisticated vibe. Not to mention this music center that makes for effortless entertaining. Who wouldn’t be able to pass hours of enjoyment here??

  AFTER: Home Bar & Accessories

AFTER: Home Bar & Accessories

The herringbone backsplash and dark wood cabinets contrast beautifully with the light walls and flooring. Using a dark color helps the bar sit back in the space instead of intruding. It also creates a subtle air of mystery and noir that’s irresistible.

 "All the organic woods and clay tiles are so warm and have a de-stressing effect as soon as you come in the front door." — Clients

"All the organic woods and clay tiles are so warm and have a de-stressing effect as soon as you come in the front door." — Clients

All the organic woods and clay tiles are so warm and have a de-stressing effect as soon as you come in the front door.
— Happy Clients

Awkward SF Bathroom Gets a Boost of Modern-Day Serenity

Okay, be warned, the Before bathroom in this home was downright scary! It was broken up into two different rooms: the throne room as one, the other as a sort of claustrophobia-inducing bathtub closet. (At the very least, props to the previous designers for their ingenuity!)

  BEFORE: Throne Room

BEFORE: Throne Room

  BEFORE: Bathtub Closet(?)

BEFORE: Bathtub Closet(?)

With space being so hard to come by, our clients agreed this dual setup was both confusing and impractical for their lives. Sooooo, this happened...

  AFTER: Full Bath

AFTER: Full Bath

We transformed the bathroom into a spa-like getaway inspired by the colors of San Francisco fog.

  AFTER: Full Bath

AFTER: Full Bath

Our client picked out this wood vanity from Restoration Hardware, and I couldn’t agree more that it’s the perfect fit! It keeps with the woodsy organic vibe of the rest of the home, while also having a spa-clean personality of its own.

  AFTER: Bathroom Vanity

AFTER: Bathroom Vanity

This Carrara marble countertop has a quiet beauty of its own, too.


Conclusion: Happy Clients, Amazing Space

If you’ve made it to the end of this post with me, you know this design and reno journey was no Sunday stroll through Golden Gate Park. We faced challenges every step of the way, but we were lucky enough to have incredible clients who were completely committed to personalizing their space.

With that kind of conviction and collaboration, any problem can be conquered and your dream home can be achieved. And in the end, isn't that what really matters? :)

Everyone who comes into the space adores it!
— Happy Clients

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