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The Color Factory
Leilani Marie Labong | Photo: Suzanna Scott | July 11, 2018
Designer Regan Baker helps focus a couple whose loves include industrial relics, bold hues, and TV.
Rebecca Fullmer and Nico Cabrera fancy themselves DIYers and rightfully so, having tackled a decade’s worth of renovation projects in their 2,400-square-foot Menlo Park fixer-upper—from small-stakes wallpaper removal to the more formidable task of vaulting the ceilings in two bedrooms. “Sometimes I can’t believe the neighbors still speak to us,” Fullmer says.
The gathering spaces, however, proved too ambitious for the couple’s homegrown skills. The nearly forsaken kitchen was barely functional: An old gas oven had a tendency to spring dangerous leaks, and ad hoc two-by-fours shouldered the microwave. The living room felt like a bunker, with its oppressive eight-foot ceilings and distinct lack of natural light. “You could sit in that space and not know if it was day or night,” says Fullmer, formerly a web marketing writer at Google. With their circadian rhythms at stake, the couple took a sledgehammer to the walls one night (or was it day?), swinging cathartically. “We had to live with jagged Sheetrock and exposed wires for a while,” Fullmer says, “but at least we had light!”
To help them finish what they had started, the couple hired San Francisco designer Regan Baker. They’d previously been delighted by Baker’s Little Roamers installation at the 2014 San Francisco Decorator Showcase: The safari-themed kids’ room featured a custom denim tent, graphic wallpaper of wild things a-marching, and stuffed animals extruding from every nook and cranny. “We knew we needed Regan’s style and vision to shake things up,” Fullmer says. She furnished Baker with a list of adjectives to describe an ideal home, among them “open,” “functional,” “inviting,” “unexpected,” and “feline-friendly.” (The couple have two cats, Zach and Apollo.)
Judging from the holes in the drywall, liberating the living room seemed most urgent, so Baker brought the barriers down to open the space to the kitchen and dining room, then elevated the ceiling to an airy 15 feet (almost double its former height). Doing so also modified the exterior of the home, originally a 1947 tract cottage. Now a more exaggerated mid-century roofline—along with rustic cedar cladding—gives the home the appeal of a tucked-away Tahoe cabin conveniently ensconced within Silicon Valley.
Setting the tone for the interior’s playful decor is the dramatic entryway lined in a dark and dreamy Hygge & West wallpaper of swirling clouds and birds in flight. It’s also here that Fullmer accesses her attic-level writer’s studio by scaling a pull-down ladder designed by her husband. Baker appreciates when clients can do more than just “choose paint colors.” “Rebecca and Nico came up with this idea,” she says.
In the living room, the black crescent-moon motif of an Anthropologie armchair jibes surprisingly well with the pastel triangles of a custom felted-wool rug from Peace Industry. Around the corner in the dining room, a space otherwise inspired by industrial style and centered on a Hure crank table gets another visual curveball—a large, four-panel Caroline Lizarraga canvas depicting a rainbow-hued agate. The room overlooks Fullmer’s garden of native succulents and one particularly prolific Santa Rosa plum tree. The all-encompassing turquoise varnish (Teal Stencil by Sherwin-Williams) in the expanded kitchen—now 100 square feet bigger—makes a bold case against standard-issue cabinetry finishes.
The remodel’s bright-white envelope provides a gallery-like backdrop for the design’s striking colors and patterns. It also emphasizes the new loftiness: “It looks and feels like a big breath of fresh air in there,” Baker says. In the living room, the stark surroundings also serve another purpose: camouflaging a minimalist cat tower in the corner. Much to Baker’s dismay, a big-screen television—the bane of designers everywhere—is unapologetically positioned above the mantel. “Even though Regan didn’t want a television there, Nico and I had to be honest with ourselves,” Fullmer says. “We love TV.”
There’s a hot-beverage station in the living room—a place to brew tea or coffee within arm’s reach of the mid-century-inspired Room & Board sofa, a low-slung, generously proportioned seat that seems made for binge watching. “Rebecca and Nico are very loungy people,” Baker says. “They’re a lot like cats that way.”
Originally published in the July issue of San Francisco