Global Interiors

Pacific Heights by Studio Michael Hilal

A turn-of-the-century townhouse in San Francisco’s architecturally significant Pacific Heights receives an elegant overhaul by Studio Michael Hilal.

When Studio Michael Hilal was approached to refresh what would soon become the client’s weekender home, ‘effortlessness’ was a recurring word in the brief. Nestled among a row of pastel-coloured Gothic and Queen Anne townhomes, Michael Hilal and his namesake studio looked to the quintessential terraces in London to refresh the circa-1900 home without losing any of its character. “Reworked London terraces naturally integrate the old and the new so well while retaining their charm,” Michael explains.

With this in mind, much of the ‘old’ remains untouched. While walls have been removed and rooms opened up, each door and moulding detail has been saved and positioned elsewhere in the home, cultivating a contemporary-classic townhouse that still feels distinctly San Francisco.

“We wanted to focus on rich materials and vibrant yet soft colours in the kitchen,” Michael Hilal explains. Baby-blue shaker-profiled cabinetry is painted in Farrow and Ball Parma Gray and finished with handmade hardware by UK company Devol Kitchens. The grey cement vase on the island is by Michael Verheyden, and the green ombre vase on the island bench is by San Diego ceramicist Evan Lopez.

As a bay area resident, Michael Hilal says he primarily works on modern projects. “This heritage townhouse was a fun and different problem to solve,” he admits. The three-level, five-bedroom home is double the width of the typical San Francisco house, situated on a busy corner block of a sloping street. Although filled with ornate period detailing and original fixtures, the home was heavily compartmentalised into ‘zones’ before Michael’s intervention. As a result, the action now takes place in the open-plan kitchen, living and dining space, imbued with soft, dusty tones and vintage furniture.

This main living area hones a powdery colour palette, achieving a sense of freshness that Michael says is often lost in older homes of the era. Described by the designer as a “bold stroke,” the classic baby-blue kitchen appears as though it’s straight out of a quaint Notting Hill terrace. Breccia marble benchtops, the ivory plaster-coated hood and the beige freestanding range cooker reaffirm the London look, paired with brass cabinetry pulls with a subtle patina, made in the UK by Devol Kitchens.

Furniture Marolles timber stools

Breccia marble benchtops, the ivory plaster-coated hood and the beige freestanding range cooker reaffirm the London look.

The adjacent dining nook taps into more of a British countryside aesthetic, with a set of vintage Gio Ponti orange leather chairs among built-in walnut joinery and a custom dining table crafted from Ponderosa Pine by Michael Hilal.

The formal sitting room features a white suede Cassina Capitol Complex chair, vintage armchair reupholstered in rust-coloured Pierre Frey mohair fabric, timber coffee and side tables by Kaspar Hamacher, a green mushroom ceramic lamp by Nicolas Bijan Parfourd, vintage Milo Baughman sofa reupholstered in Sandra Jordan alpaca fabric and a blue bowl by Katherine Gray.

The grand entrance features the Knoll Face-Off table, a vintage Turkish rug, a Michael Hilal-designed stool and the Faye Toogood raw fibreglass Roly Poly chair.

Michael Hilal slipcovered his custom-designed sculptural sofa in the formal living room to reference classic design cues.

Each space features a curation of vintage, mid-century and custom-designed pieces with locally-designed ceramics and accessories. This considered and layered approach is conveyed from the first room in the house – the grand entrance, featuring Frank Gehry’s Knoll Face-Off table, a vintage Turkish rug, a Michael Hilal-designed stool and the Faye Toogood raw fibreglass Roly Poly chair. “The goal was to make the entrance feel warm with an overarching sense of modernity,” Michael says. “We wanted to juxtapose the Edwardian Victorian style of the home while still celebrating the architectural details.”

The brief’s demand for ‘effortlessness’ has been met twofold in Michael Hilal’s Pacific Heights project. Michael has honoured the existing framework of the home through an elegant yet contemporary lens, where, as Michael puts it, “old and new now live harmoniously together.”

Light grey fluted plaster walls are met with a Carrara marble floating sink and grey hexagonal marble floor tiles in the powder room.

The moss-green wet bar opens out onto the rooftop terrace.

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