Beam Me Up; A Lofty, Well-Traveled Living Room
WRITTEN BY CAROLYN M. RUNYON
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARGARET AUSTIN PHOTOGRAPHY
People have been drawn to the redwoods and canyons of Mill Valley, California for decades according to Emily Z. Maynard, owner and principal designer of GEORGE Interior Design + Build. “Besides the very quaint shops, restaurants, food markets, [and] coffee roasteries accessible in downtown, this area boasts incredible . . . hiking and biking trails right outside your front door,” she says. Although the town looks a bit different today than it did when this circa-1947, 2,600-square-foot Mill Valley home was built, Maynard believes the current owners were drawn to the tranquil fortitude of the house with its grand, natural beam, high-ceilinged living room and warm family room that opens to the kitchen. “They are working artists, productive citizens of Mill Valley, and globe-trotters who live in the town with their two lively children,” she adds.
“When I came on board [to design the living room] the initial desire was to create a warm communal space that felt a lot lighter and brighter but without touching the beamwork,” says Maynard. She suggested a very clean, modern aluminum trac system that mirrored the beamwork and provided ample lighting. “The new trac system, plus the distinctive overhead chandelier that we hung dead center in the room, provided a much-needed light layer that took the room out of the shadows and into a welcoming and majestic great living room.” She further brightened the space by having Armando Topete Painting do the walls and casing in Benjamin Moore’s Simply White. “[By adding] terrific window treatments to enhance the gorgeous original windows and doors, and some supple furniture and furnishings . . . my clients found themselves with a space they could equally entertain in or cozy up with a child and a book,” says Maynard.
The homeowners like the combination of blue and warm wood tones. The original floor was refinished to a deep, rich chestnut color. “In the living room, we started with the warm chestnut floors [and] a wool rug in blue, and added furnishings from there,” explains Maynard. “The capiz shell sideboard piece carved out a much-needed ‘entry’ table and provides a place to drop the mail, set your keys, and even stow away the kids’ backpacks inside.” She adds smiling, “I love the way my client describes it as a ‘hero’ piece. Every room needs its hero piece.”
The Lee Industries sofa and deep-brown leather chairs were inspired by the family’s love of reading, and the owners’ vintage travel posters were placed throughout the living room. “The colorful and oversized artwork created a focal point so we kept window treatments classic and quiet,” says Maynard, who generally relied on muted furnishings. Accent pillows occasionally pick up the same colors as the art and create “a fun burst of color here and there.”
The rustic fireplace and mantel were already there when Maynard began recreating the space. “The irregular shape and size of it add to the great room/camp-like feel of the house,” she says. A corner banquet seat is covered in a supple chenille weave in a contemplative color called Ink. The piece gives the room a feeling of more depth, according to the designer.
The homeowners of this Mill Valley, California home have collected treasures from their global adventures and like to use the items in their home whenever possible. In addition to the framed, vintage travel posters, the collection of books is a family favorite. Designer Emily Z. Maynard utilized the house’s existing, original built-ins to display some of their favorite pieces. Maynard simplified the display and rearranged the homeowners’ books and decorative objects. “Turning the books around backward is a great way to limit the color palette and streamline the design of the bookshelf,” she advises.
The family room design was executed a year or so after Maynard completed the front living room and kitchen remodel. “My client wanted the family room to have continuity with the front living room but wanted it to have a decidedly midcentury-modern feel,” she explains. Two Four Hands accent chairs and an elm wood coffee table contribute to the midcentury attitude. The chairs are exceptional with copper patina leather cushions that sit upon ash wood frames. “I was thrilled when I found out they were both comfortable and the client loved them!” she adds. The subtle, patterned rug, which Maynard feels is timeless and amenable to a variety of styles, is called Kemerton by Lee Jofa.
In this home, the designer mixes wood tones, metal finishes, textures, and color. “I think you can create a very interesting and cohesive room if you vary your materials and decide what you need based on the vignette rather than some sort of overall mandate,” suggests Maynard. Her mix creates a comfortably interrelated design.