With the help of a prominent San Francisco interior designer, a Bay Area empty nester trades her home in the suburbs for urban living—and starts afresh.
When Lori Lehman first moved from a single-family home in Palo Alto to a two-bedroom condominium in a luxury high-rise building in San Francisco’s SoMa District, she only brought three things with her: a chair, a bench and a whole lot of Champagne. “The place was completely empty, and I wanted to start all over,” says Lehman, Vice President of project and portfolio management at Gilead Sciences Inc. “I gave each of my kids their bedroom furniture, and they each took some living-room furniture, and the neighborhood took the rest. It was really fun to start all new.”
But Lehman also had a tight six-month deadline. She wanted the 1,950-square-foot space to be move-in-ready for the holidays (and visits from her parents and two daughters, ages 24 and 21). To help, Lehman hired local interior designer Grant K. Gibson, who had previously designed a private residence for her boss. “I didn’t want it to be a showpiece…I wanted it to be something comfortable with clean lines, so that we could entertain and have dinner parties with friends, or curl up and look at the view,” says Lehman. And Gibson—whose classic and timeless projects in places such as New York, Los Angeles and Marin County have appeared in the pages of magazines including Elle Décor and House Beautiful—was up for the task.
“We didn’t have time to overthink and second-guess things and obsess about details, so we just went with our gut,” says Gibson, who sourced finds from a vintage glass teardrop chandelier from 1stdibs.com, for a hint of sparkle in the foyer, to rugs procured from his own travels to Morocco. “She didn’t need a big house anymore and she had a brand-new start with her city lifestyle, and it was really refreshing for me to design a space that totally reflects her. It’s happy with touches of femininity, but it’s not overly girly.”
To reach the preholiday finish line (Lehman’s goal was “to get enough furniture in to have someplace for everyone to sit”) the design strategy was to start with all of the furniture first, followed by the artwork. Gibson created a meticulous, layered and textured look that wouldn’t compete with the jaw-dropping views of the city and bay. In the living room, he paired a jute rug by Stark Carpet, topped with a Moroccan rug, with a custom sofa in soft gray, teal nesting tables and a caramel-hued tufted-leather ottoman, while the dining room is replete with a round table with saber legs, creme upholstered chairs and an industrial-style “Branching” chandelier by Lindsey Adelman.
The den—which doubles as the guest room for Lehman’s family and daughters, who live in Los Angeles and Seattle—features a lilac pullout sofa, an upholstered window seat, grass-cloth wall coverings, a pair of Lucite stools, two vintage bookcases and an abstract oil painting by John DiPaolo from Dolby Chadwick Gallery. For the master bedroom, a creme chaise serves as a lounge area for Lehman to catch up on reading. A graphic painting by Sally King Benedict hangs above an upholstered light-blue headboard with nailhead trim and crisp white linens with blue trim from Sue Fisher King.
“Luckily, everything was perfectly done in time for the holidays, from every flower to each throw and candleholder,” says Gibson, who often stops by to create artful flower arrangements for Lehman’s frequent dinner parties. “It’s like a breath of fresh air every time I walk in there, and it was like a dream come true because she placed the utmost faith and trust in us to make it all happen.”
Now, a year later, Lehman confesses she still wouldn’t change a thing, from the furniture to the artwork and light fixtures: “It’s so comfortable and my daughters love it, and now call it home too. Some of my friends ask me, ‘Do you regret moving to the city?’ And I say, ‘Not for a second.’”
By Jennie Nunn.
Photographed by Kathryn MacDonald.