California cool meets coastal charm when a 1960s waterfront home gets a breezy new redo.
By Betsy Goldberg
1 of 9Photo: David Tsay; Stylist: Dani Fisher
Get the Look: The exterior trim is painted White Dove by Benjamin Moore.
With its secluded setting and spectacular Bay Area views, it's not hard to imagine why this waterfront property in the enclave of Belvedere, California, caught the eye of interior designer Pam Robertson 13 years ago. "The small, private community seemed like a great place to raise kids," says Robertson, whose son Jack and daughter Alex were paramount in her decision. "My husband grew up along the coast and wanted our kids to have a similar experience. Then when I saw this beachy-looking house with glass walls, a pitched ceiling, and a big deck, I just fell in love with it."
The house's A-frame roof, floor-to-ceiling windows, and open-air spaces are signatures of famed architect Joseph Eichler, who designed this and numerous other midcentury-modern homes in the area in the 1960s, all with an aim of playing up the scenic locale. But while the exterior's clean lines allowed the breath-taking natural setting to shine through, the interior—last updated in the 1980s—wasn't nearly as complementary. Narrow openings and a darker palette made the rooms feel closed off. "My dream home was one that felt like a seaside spa, but we were living in more of a funky beach shack," says Robertson. "I wanted to introduce a lighter, more sophisticated look to match the streamlined architecture, but without going too stark. It had to be warm and totally livable for our family, too."
3 of 9Photo: David Tsay; Stylist: Dani Fisher
White and Bright Kitchen
Get the Look: Designer Pam Robertson with son Jack (left) and his friend Ruggles in her newly brightened kitchen, painted Super White by Benjamin Moore.
So in 2010, Robertson commissioned Mill Valley architect Barbara Chambers to help transform the 2,500-square-foot house. They kept the home's stylish shell intact but added a bedroom, family room, and powder room, and relocated other rooms for a better flow: Out came a wall between the kitchen and dining area, creating a unified space that Robertson dressed up with a shiny white tile backsplash, stainless appliances, and Calacatta marble countertops. "I added fun leather stools that spin, so that the kids can have breakfast at the kitchen island every morning," she says.
"And then in the evenings, we eat dinner at the glass dining table. I was drawn to the high-end look, but because glass can be tricky to keep clean, I kept the seats simple—washed linen slipcovers on the host chairs and wipeable Sunbrella fabric on the others." An oversize mirror reflects the nearby mountain peaks and bounces light around the room, while a pair of delicate aqua pendants celebrates the home's nautical surroundings without going overboard. To soften the white wall color, Robertson added oyster-hued stripes.
To brighten up the home, white walls were a no-brainer. "I tend to tire of too much color, so I kept most of the walls and furniture white, then brought in different shades of throws and pillows that I can change out with the seasons," says Robertson. (Her go-to paint? Super White by Benjamin Moore: "It doesn't have any gray or yellow tones, so it always looks crisp.") Because too much white can look stark, she softened it with warm gray details, like oyster-hued stripes on a dining room wall, radiant-heat driftwood flooring, charcoal-colored grasscloth in the master bedroom, and gray-and-white wallpaper and floor tiles in the master bath.
t's the quirky, out-of-the-box details that make a house feel like a home, so while Robertson wanted her kids' rooms to seem just as plush and spa-like as her own—with crisp white bedding, soft cotton and sheepskin rugs, and airy glass pendants—she also made sure to inject some personality. A hot pink cabana-stripe headboard jazzes up Alex's bed.
Robertson's son Jack's love of surfing comes through in the wall art (his actual surfboard!) and side table (a wooden barrel covered in surf-themed stickers).
8 of 9Photo: David Tsay; Stylist: Dani Fisher
Home with a View
Get the Look: The A-frame home was designed by noted mid-century architect Joseph Eichler. The exterior is painted Trout by Pratt & Lambert.
Having the San Francisco Bay as a backyard, though, was always this house's biggest draw; and now, with an open-flow layout, streamlined glass windows and sliding doors, and airier accents, the interior finally rivals the resort-like locale, and the Robertsons have plenty of time to do what they enjoy most. When they're not paddleboarding or kayaking behind the house, they're playing Ping-Pong and barbecuing on the redwood deck, traveling by fishing boat to nearby Sausalito restaurants, or hosting their extended family on frequent visits from Minnesota.
"We always have a Fourth of July party, and we do Thanksgiving here most years," Robertson says. "We deep-fry a turkey right on the dock!" But it's the quieter moments that let her appreciate their waterfront retreat the most. "I love reading out there in the late morning," she says. And just as she thought when she first toured the house, it's especially ideal at sunset. "Sitting on a lounge chair around 5:30 with a glass of wine is about as relaxing as you can get."