The Right Fit

The story of this family home proves that the old saying “never say never” is sometimes true. To understand the story of Lamisse Droubi and Steve Holman’s new San Francisco house—created by interior designer  and architect Neal Schwartz—you have to know the story of their previous abode, a place they called their dream home and one they were destined to never occupy. “We were living in a rental apartment while remodeling what we thought would be our forever house with Antonio,” says Droubi, one of the city’s top real estate agents. “I always said I would never sell that place, but then one day we received an offer we literally could not refuse.”

Another old saying has it that there are “plenty of fish in the sea,” and even in San Francisco’s tough housing market, that proved to be true for this family. “ We never expected to find a house that we loved as much as the last, until this one came on the market,” Droubi says. “ We fell in love with the deep and wide lot, the location, and the great existing floor plan, which all makes for the perfect family home. We gave up a view, but in the end we have a much better house for us.” Martins says that, pre-remodel, the house felt cramped, but it also had potential. “In addition to the great lot, it had great proportions,” he says. “All we needed to do was open up the little rooms at the back and connect them to the garden.”

 

Martins also needed to reimagine the interior finishes and fixtures, which were not to his clients’ taste. To make it a fit, he looked no further than Droubi. “In a way, you could say this house is designed the way Lamisse dresses,” he says. “She tends to wear neutrals—black, gray and beige. But she accents her outfits with statement jewelry.” That translates into a home that has sleek, modern lines and tribal and mid-century accents. “Lamisse spends her days looking at real estate, so she values a lasting, timeless look that isn’t cookie cutter,” Martins says. “This is a couple who veers away from trendy things in favor of a unique mix that’s not as likely to date.”

 

After spending so much time in a rental, the family was also ready to build and display their art collection. Holman, an attorney with a strong interest in art, did most of the research for the newly minted art selection. “We appreciate eclectic combinations of art, which include a mix of styles, media, textures and ethnic influences, and we were looking for works that would help create a feeling of peace and of calm,” he says. “But there was a degree of practicality involved, as we needed to find pieces that worked in the particular spaces we wanted to fill. Ultimately we just went with the individual pieces that spoke to us strongly and felt right for the space.”

Pieces range from black-and-white and sepia photographs by artists including Danielle Mourning and Luis González Palma to a colorful, playful painting of a child jumping into a swimming pool painted on a door by Linda Horning. The artistic material mix begins in the living room. Before, the fireplace was a dark, heavy presence. The new fireplace is composed of rift-sawn white oak with a custom finish. The fireplace surround and mantel are flanked by shelves, creating a room-spanning unit. “We wanted a fireplace that was softer and warmer,” says Martins. “The storage was important, because this is a family with small sculptures, objects and books that they like to display.” The large image by González Palma of what appears to be an angel is called Hablo con Labios de Silencio, a gift from BJ Droubi, the matriarch of the Droubi clan and a legendary realtor in her own right.

 

The material palette and art continue in the back, where walls came down between a cluster of small rooms to create an open-plan kitchen, den and dining room. The kitchen cabinets are also crafted with white rift-sawn white oak, and feature just two open shelves. “We had originally planned on having more shelves, but I don’t think that’s practical for how a family really lives,” says Martins. “The small shelves between the countertop and wall cabinets are for little things that the family uses every day.” True to Droubi’s practice of accenting a neutral palette with a bold stroke, a quartet of barstools are covered with a zebra print. “The zebra upholstery and red-toned kilim in this space add pattern, color and contrast without going over the top,” Martins says. The tribal-meets-refined look continues in the dining room, where a desert print by Rodrigo Valenzuela hangs over a console that holds a sculpture by Julio Villani. The custom table has a rustic look and finish and is surrounded by clean-lined vintage chairs. In the adjacent den, an upholstered built-in bench is fronted by a trio of African tables and Atomic Age chairs. “The home is designed around how these people want to live,” says Martins. “You can eat in the kitchen or dining room, and then stretch out in the den with a book.”  Droubi says that, indeed, the house fits the family. “Not only do we appreciate this look that blends earthy with modern, we love the way it feels,” she says. “This is a comfortable place to raise a family, and it is really right for us.” - Mary Jo Bowling

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