When Jennifer Doebler and her husband Pat Kelly made the move from an apartment in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village to San Francisco they still wanted to feel as though they were at the centre of things. But they also wanted a true family escape and a forever house for themselves and their two daughters. They found a way of balancing their needs in the form of an Arts & Crafts home in bustling Berkeley, just across the Bay from San Francisco proper.

“The houses are cheek-to-jowl in Berkeley, but we have a good-sized lot and a garden that is private and beautiful,” says Jennifer, who is, along with her husband, an executive in the world of pharmaceuticals. “We loved the shape of the house, the redwood, the windows and the views, and we could picture our family and our two girls growing up very happily here.”

The house itself was built with timber in 1915, in a style known in the US as American Craftsman, and still has many of its original features, including the staircase and wall panelling. The family asked New York architects Studio Geiger to work on restoring the period Arts & Crafts elements, as well as on an upgrade on the foundations, before turning to designer Roman Alonso of LA-based atelier Commune to work on the interiors.

“We had admired Roman’s work for a long time, so we were very excited to work with him on our home,” says Jennifer. “It wasn’t just about getting it done. It was all about the process for us, so we were very involved and Roman was very patient. It was a lot of fun.”

Alonso also embraced the original Craftsman, chalet-style aesthetic, with its sense of warmth and elegant proportions for the rooms. The house has landmark status, which meant a light touch throughout and limits on any major changes, which was a challenge when it came to the priority of introducing more natural light into the house. Alonso’s solution was a set of solar tubes that discreetly pump more sunshine into the entrance hallway and stairway.

“We also used some old tricks to bring in more light,” says Alonso, “like lining glass cabinets with mirrors, and using metallic wallpapers and reflective finishes.”

Jennifer and Pat wanted the interiors and furnishings to be of the highest quality, but they didn’t want the rooms to feel fussy or pretentious. “At our first meeting, as we sat in the living room, Jennifer told me: ‘I want my daughters to be able to do their homework and get married in this room.”’

Alonso and his clients shared a mutual love for the work of Viennese architect Josef Hoffmann, one of the pioneers of early Modernist design, and a passion for midcentury Scandinavian style – both of which fed into the design process. The generously scaled living room – or “great room” – is blessed with a large run of windows and beautifully detailed timber panelling, as well as a brick fireplace.

Here, Alonso designed custom storage cabinets, including one to hide the television and stereo, and for the low shelf that runs under one window he used brass detailing, which helps to keep the sunlight circulating. The comfortable sofas are also bespoke Commune pieces, forming some of the 90% or so of fresh and custom designs brought into the house, together with a few refurbished treasures transported from the old apartment in Manhattan.

The large formal dining room was lovingly restored, using some tricks of the light, as was the grand staircase. Here, Jennifer and Pat chose a line from Dante’s Divine Comedy, which translates as “midway along the walk of life’” to decorate the original frieze line between the redwood panelling and the ceiling. This band of blue with gold lettering is echoed by the blues used on the ceiling panels in the entrance hall at the foot of the staircase.

At the back of the house, Jennifer, Pat and their designer opted for a very different treatment. The kitchen and “mud room” (entrance area) offered the perfect opportunity to inject more in the way of colour into the house, with a custom geometric pattern painted on the floors and an eye-catching Vivienne Westwood wallpaper.

“The kitchen, breakfast room and mud room were meant to feel much lighter and brighter,” says Alonso. “The wood panelling in those spaces had either been removed or painted over years ago, so it made it possible to maximise the brightness through the use of paint. The intention was to have some contrast between these more utilitarian but cheerful areas and the more formal rooms.”

A collection of balconies, terraces and pergolas offers a choice of outdoor rooms and fresh-air spaces, lifted by the green backdrop of the gardens. Full of warmth and welcome, the house is a true haven by the Bay.

“It really met all of our intentions,” says Jennifer. “Living in such a harmonious setting, even with the clutter of two kids and two dogs – really lifts your spirit and your mood. It’s not about perfection, but the workings of beauty in your life.”

For more information visit commune design.com. This house appears in The Iconic Interior by Dominic Bradbury and Richard Powers, published by Thames & Hudson at £24.95. Buy a copy for £20.96 at guardianbookshop.com.

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