Deck the Holidays

The Tiburon hillside house Keith and Leslie Blodgett purchased four years ago had a number of great selling points—a wonderful bay view and sunny exposure, marble and wood floors, large family spaces. There was only one drawback: it was architecturally confusing. “It had a schizophrenic personality,” as interior and architectural designer Jessica Hall Grace of Jessica Hall Associates delicately suggests.

The challenge for the Larkspur designer and her design team was threefold. The house needed a definitive architectural style for the exterior, a sense of cohesion inside and intensive visual interest for its occupants.

Their client, Leslie Blodgett, CEO of San Francisco skin care and cosmetics company Bare Escentuals, has spent her professional life immersed in color and glamour, including an early stint at the famed Max Factor studio in Los Angeles. She wanted the same feeling of panache in the home she shares with her husband, Keith, and their 16-year-old son, Trent.

During the Christmas season, comfort and tradition also figure prominently into the mix. “Christmas is totally spent at home and it’s all about making cookies and watching movies,” Blodgett says. “Keith does all the cooking and Trent and I stay in our pj’s all Christmas day.”

The living and dining areas are the primary setting for the holiday decorations. Keith strings the lights; Leslie and Trent unpack the ornaments their family has collected over the years. A garland of evergreens with small purple (Leslie’s favorite color) berries is draped over the mantel. Underneath four stockings are hung, one for each member of the family(the fourth is Kiko, their Rhodesian Ridgeback). The showstopper, though, is the glittering 12-foot Christmas tree centered under the chandelier. “It has to have colored lights,” Leslie says. “We never went through the white light stage.”

In fact, it was that large pewter-and-crystal Venetian chandelier, which she spotted in Jessica Hall Associates’ Larkspur showroom Lunaria, that began the metamorphosis of her “schizophrenic” new home.

Grace is used to challenges. Her firm redesigned the Mill Valley home of chef Roxanne Klein; a three-story Sausalito houseboat recently featured in California Home & Design; and a family home in Sonoma for the Sebastianis. She has collaborated with chef and cookbook author Regina Charbonneau on three of her Bay Area restaurants, designed the interiors of 18 California Federal banks in Los Angeles within three months and is creating a new, upscale look for select Northern California Pennzoil stations.

For the three-story Blodgett home, Grace transformed the architectural focus into California Mediterranean style, scaling back the porte cochere, adding eaves and columns to the front facade and a vaulted loggia running from the garden to the family room, reconfiguring the peaked roof to a flat one, and changing the cotton-candy-pink exterior to an integral color stucco finish in a bold blood-orange.

“We offered Keith and Leslie choices,” says Grace, “but Leslie has great courage and picked our most vibrant recommendation for the exterior color, which is not like any other house on the hill.”

Blodgett chose the boldest colors for the interior, too: persimmon walls with aubergine alcoves in the living room, purple and mauve walls in the lower-level entertainment space, lime-green walls in the office, a warm coral for the guest room and blue for the master bedroom.

Except for the orange walls in the family room, inspired by the sunrises and sunsets visible through the windows, all room colors are pulled from the living room ceiling, where a classic mural representative of the four seasons in feminine form was painted by English portraitist George Dawnay.

 “Each ceiling in the house had to be important,” Grace adds. The skylight over the upholstered walls in the powder room is etched with stars; marbled paper runs the length of the upstairs hallways; a cove was created in the entertainment space; a filigree pattern is painted over Venetian plaster in the master bedroom; and in other cases, the ceiling is a color that contrasts with surrounding walls.

Blodgett says she “just wanted interesting colors, different colors in every room and nothing I had ever seen before. It couldn’t be safe; it had to take risks and it had to keep my attention. If I sit in my living room, I have to have a million things to look at in order to focus. I can’t focus staring at a white wall.”

She insisted on being surrounded by stimulating patterns, textures and styles that were both sophisticated and welcoming. Grace introduced silk and wool fabrics; paisley, leopard, leaf and striped patterns; and vintage intermixed with modern furnishings.

The foyer’s empire-style chaise holds its own against an acrylic floral chandelier from Ironies in the family room and two custom pieces from Lunaria, a glass wave-shaped bar in the downstairs entertainment room and the living room’s étagère, inspired by Blodgett’s penchant for glamour and called the She Vitrine.

Contemporary and classic mingle in the home’s artwork, too. Blodgett’s original black-and-white stills of Hollywood leading ladies from the Max Factor museum and 1930s couture drawings discovered in a Paris flea market find their place among more current pieces.

At Christmastime when the tree is lit, and wrapped presents and pretty gift baskets overflowing with Bare Escentuals products are stashed under the tree, “the house is just filled with a real sense of beauty, abundance and fun,” says Grace.

This year, as always, the family has its traditional Christmas Eve supper of New Mexican posole, tracks Santa Claus’s progress on the Internet, wakes up on Christmas to a plate of half-eaten cookies and a “nibbled” carrot, sips Bloody Marys and looks forward to an evening spread of goose, mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts, green beans and apple and pumpkin pies.

And “even though Trent is 16,” says Blodgett with a chuckle, “Keith will still sprinkle baking soda on the floor from the fireplace to the Christmas tree and walk through it leaving a trail of Santa’s footprints. We just roll our eyes and laugh.”

Remodel Team

Architectural and Interior Designer
Jessica Hall Associates

Contractor and Landscape Contractor
Alf Partridge, AMP Construction

Jessica Hall Associates

Family Recipes

The Blodgetts’ Christmas Eve Posole
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 lbs. lean pork, cubed
2 onions, chopped
2 T minced garlic
4 15-oz. cans hominy
4 or 5 New Mexico dried red chile pods, stems and seeds removed, broken into pieces
5 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
Salt to taste

Heat oil in large heavy pot. Brown pork on all sides. Remove and set aside. Sauté onions until golden. Add garlic and sauté briefly. Add browned pork, hominy, chiles, broth and half the cilantro. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until pork is tender, about 1 hour. Stir in the remaining cilantro before serving.

Keith Blodgett’s Christmas Morning Bloody Mary
1 oz. vodka
6 to 8 oz. V8 juice
1 dash ground black pepper
1 dash Tabasco
3 to 4 dashes of Worcestershire
1/8 tsp. horseradish
1 wedge of lemon, squeezed

Mix all ingredients and pour into a glass of ice. Garnish and stir with celery stalk.