Before transforming the great room into a showplace for her view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Interior designer Blair Blincoe's apartment had an overall bachelor pad style and a space plan that detracted from the view, mostly because of the TV's placement.
After: Views All Around
With its new space plan in place, Blair created a living room area which allowed her roommates and guests to capitalize on the view from any seat.
Just off the front door, Blair and her guests are greeted by an entryway packed with architectural detail, references to San Francisco, and the designer's newly found personal style. A pair of armchairs were snagged curbside a few blocks away on Franklin Street; a weathered, green side table was purchased for $5 from a neighborhood estate sale just a few weeks after moving in; and, to top it all off, a vintage life preserver is a literal nod to the new city Blair calls home.
Many of the homes in San Francisco are packed with architectural detail, including the judges paneling in Blair's entryway. To keep the paneling from being too busy, both the molding and the wall itself were painted a neutral shade of taupe.
Blair found a white painted-wood Victorian desk on the side of the road not too far from her apartment. She realized it offered concealed storage that was perfect for the entryway she used daily. To give it coastal flair, she distressed it using steel wool and sandpaper.
For the design of her historic Villejo Street apartment in San Francisco, Blair took cues from the property's architecture, including the building's original antique brass hardware on its front door.
Floor Planning for the View
Blair's living room was meticulously arranged to capitalize on the spectacular view just outside the window. The designer says, "My view of the Golden Gate Bridge is the most spectacular element of my apartment. When designing my living room, I stayed focused on ensuring every seat in the space had a great vantage point. San Francisco apartments are small, so I stuck with small-scale furniture to fill the space. Two of the chairs are on wheels, so my guests can easily roll themselves around, day or night, to take in the view."
Before: Dark and Dated
In its existing state, Blair's hand-me-down two-seater sofa was the perfect scale for her small living room; however, its original fabric was dated, worn and didn't work well with her personal style. In order to make the piece more streamlined and modern, she would change the fabric and lose the tufted detail on the back.
DIY vs. Hiring a Pro
After enrolling in a local upholstery class, Blair put her new skills to use by reupholstering the two-seater sofa herself. The designer notes, "Now that I've actually done upholstery work myself, I'd definitely not do it again. Stripping the old fabric is a very painstaking process. It's much less of a headache and more practical to just pay a professional to do it for you. I'm pretty sure I never want to strip another piece of furniture ever again in my lifetime."
New Use for Old Things
Blair adds, "I'm obsessed with shelter magazines. To keep them organized and nearby, I simply roll them up, then store them in a vintage soda crate. The weathered finish fits in perfectly with all of the coastal elements of my apartment’s decor."
Now that casters have been added to a pair of horseshoe-shaped armchairs Blair found at a flea market, her guests can easily roll their chairs around to different vantage points to take in the spectacular view.
Easy to Tuck Away
Blair, an avid entertainer, often hosts parties in which guests pack the living room. In order to instantly add more standing room, she chose an old farmhouse cart as a coffee table so she can easily roll it out of the space before guests arrive.
Flea Market Finds
Due to her limited budget, Blair was unable to purchase art from galleries or directly from local artists. Instead, she hit up local flea markets to curate a collection of different mediums, including type font, acrylic on porcelain, taxidermy and a poster of an elephant in a traditional gold frame.
The Golden View
Blair designed her living room and dining room around her spectacular view of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. In creating a space plan focused on enjoying the view, she made sure every seat in the living room offers a great vantage point thanks to proper positioning and by adding casters to chairs for mobility.
In order to offer guests an up-close-and-personal glimpse of the city, Blair incorporated a telescope into the design of the living room.
Blair often hosts brunches for friends. To create a chic, coastal-inspired dining room that wouldn't compete with the view of the Golden Gate Bridge, she opted for a color scheme of white with sky-blue accents that pick up on the blue tones just outside the window.
A set of six transitional-style dining chairs was picked up at a local consignment store for $125, then updated with white paint and new fabric. Blair advises, “Reupholstering seat cushions is pretty easy. All you need is a little bit of patience, a staple gun, scissors, a tape measure and fabric. I chose fabric with a large pattern repeat, which means there will be more waste, and that you have to spend some time matching up the pattern. Overall, I would say to estimate spending about a half hour on each chair when using a large pattern repeat, and only 10 minutes with solid fabric."
In its original state, Blair's dining room lacked ambient lighting. To illuminate the space from above, she bought basic, white paper empire lampshades from a retail store, taped off the bottom with painter’s tape, added a 4-inch band of taupe around the bottom with latex paint, then attached the shades to the ceiling with pendant kits, swag chains and swag hooks.
The very first piece of furniture Blair purchased for her apartment was a Queen Anne-style sideboard. Although she loved its white hand-painted finish, it was adorned with red floral hardware that she didn't like. Blair recalls, "The old hardware was red and formal, not my style at all. By simply replacing the drawer pulls with four different pastel-toned glass knobs, not only did the piece truly represent my style well but it also goes with the Victorian style of the building."
Food and Cocktail Cart
To make serving guests easier, Blair lays food out on a vintage flight attendant cart that was given to her by a local lifestyle editor friend.
Although tight on square footage, Blair made the most of her bedroom by opting for a full-sized bed, then pairing it with clear acrylic side tables that don't take up any visual space.
To add graphic impact to her bedroom, Blair had the wall behind the bed striped horizontally with paint. The designer adds, "Although it's not too hard to figure out, striping my walls took forever because the walls aren't perfectly straight. This adds a ton of time to measuring and taping off the stripes."
Clear acrylic is an excellent choice of material when selecting furniture for spaces that are either cramped or that have great views that should remain unobstructed.