Thoughtful Design Details Warm Up a Modern Family Home in Northern California

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By Julia Brenner / Published by Dwell
When the San Francisco firm l'oro began designing a family home in Mill Valley, California, they challenged themselves to create an abode that would be modern yet comfortable, and would lack any "off-limit" areas.

Lauren Goldman of l'oro designs was brought onto the project after the framing was already complete. Lauren's primary goal was to help her clients, a young family with three children (ages eight, five, and 10 months), to achieve their vision of a sophisticated yet welcoming family home. She planned to do this by implementing careful design details including a thoughtful choice of cabinetry, tile work, and built-ins. The final result proves that the little things do, indeed, add up. 

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Lauren worked to enhance the light-filled, welcoming quality of the single-family home, which is surrounded by trees and situated on a hillside in Mill Valley, a charming city just outside of San Francisco.

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Lauren notes that her clients "are not about formality" and envisioned much of the home with their children in mind, with an end goal of creating a space that would function as a hub for social and family life. 

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The living area on the main floor is centered around a DJ niche, which was a key element for the clients, since music is almost always on in their home. Lauren notes that while many of her clients look for ways to integrate or hide speaker systems into the overall home design, for these clients, "the space represents a connection to music and the connection the whole family has with music." Thus, Lauren considered their frequently used audio system and well-loved record collection when installing custom cabinetry by Knife & Saw as a central anchor to the main living areas. 

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With her clients' goals of "modern yet accessible" in mind, Lauren also looked for opportunities to add functionality. This proved successful when she discovered that the empty space under the steel-and-glass stair landing was the perfect scale for children to sit and read under. The team was inspired to create a kid-sized library, turning a useless space into a perfectly cozy reading nook. Additionally, the hallway between the kids' bedrooms now serves as a shared desk space for building legos, doing homework, and working on projects. It turned out to be a great way to utilize a wide hallway and make it more functional.

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"This is a family home, despite its modern finishes and clean lines. It was always important for the house to still be welcoming and comfortable." 

- Lauren Goldman 

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Along with the inviting and multifunctional built-ins, Lauren added warmth, texture, and depth to the look and feel of the kitchen and bathrooms with intricate tile by Ann Sacks, which is subtly illuminated and highlighted by astutely placed Spin lights by Koldová Lucie - Lasvit

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The l'oro design team placed LED strips under shower benches and soffits, and behind vanity mirrors to illuminate the tile in subtle but effective ways.  

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Lauren's detailed design work resulted in a family home that feels both contemporary and incredibly comfortable—a home that speaks to the lifestyle of its inhabitants and celebrates the special moments found in everyday living.