Day 2, AIA SF Home Tours: The House in the Gray Flannel Suit

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mork-Ulnes house in the Haight.

The “in” color for homes in San Francisco these days is a dark charcoal gray.  If you are boldly angular, the sober color helps camouflage you. And if you are historic, you can declare your modernist leanings by choosing to dial down any rambunctious curlicues.

Inside the several charcoal-gray houses on the tour, it was a dramatically different story. Interior design for modern homes can play it safe, or go out on a limb. You wonder: Is it going to be straight-up Eames/Noguchi/DWR? Too-cool-for-you-Italian? Zen-rock-bamboo? Z Gallerie? Or a quirky mix of industrial materials and antiques?

At the Mork-Ulnes house, the architect’s own home, it was hard to spot anything that came straight out of the standard playbook.  I puzzled over the origins of this curvaceous coffee table, below:

Turns out that it was made by Mork-Ulnes’ wife Lexie, who is a designer for Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn Kids, and has a flair for furniture. It’s bent wood with a lacquered finish.

Several blocks away, the John Maniscalco-designed house at the end of Cole Street greeted visitors with this graceful flourish:

It’s a mirror with a wire frame, draped with tillandsias. The joy of rambunctious curlicues, but ever so delicately controlled.

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