DURING HER 15 years as a music publicist in L.A., Nicole Balin was always clear about her intention to return to San Francisco. She grew up there, attended high school at Branson, and longed to make it back to the city.
But when she started looking for a place a few years ago, Balin found the city crowded and expensive. So she switched her focus to Marin, where her cousins had relocated. For months, Balin commuted back and forth from SoCal to NorCal, looking for a house for herself and her two dogs.
By the time she spotted this San Anselmo home online, she was so done with travel that she told her realtor, Nick Svenson, to make a bid even though she hadn’t set foot in it. Svenson said no. Balin drove up again. “I was like, ‘ugghhh, I didn’t need to come all the way up here to see this,’ ” she says, “I knew it was the house for me.”
It was. “The house had character, which was really important to Nicole, and it was charming,” says Svenson. “And her cousins lived two blocks away.”
After saying adios to L.A., Balin quickly made the 1,100-square-foot home her own, mixing the original windows and wide plank oak floors with touches reflecting her personal creative design sense — one influenced by her antique collector mother, L.A. fashion designer friend Johnson Hartig, and her own work in the music business.
In the living room, for example, she painted one wall in a rich Benjamin Moore Van Deusen Blue and installed an Eames chair she found on the street in L.A. and reupholstered in a red-and-white ikat fabric, along with an antique marble-top coffee table (a family heirloom) and a West Elm sectional. Above the couch, she grouped a mishmash of art, including two cat portraits, jackalope antlers, and a dramatic three-by-five-foot black and white painting (painted in 15 minutes by Hartig) vaguely reminiscent of Robert Motherwell.
Her music-industry roots reverberate throughout. On the dining room wall, Balin hung a painting by Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, and in the home’s sole bathroom she used a red-and-white “Brooklyn Toile” wallpaper inspired by the Beastie Boys’ Mike Diamond.
In fact, Balin enjoyed redoing her home so much that she recently became public relations director for Coupar Communications, an interior design business — confirming something she already knew about herself. “When someone walks into my house, I want them to know who I am, what I love,” she adds. “That’s what a home should express.”
WHERE SHE PURCHASED The Brookside neighborhood of San Anselmo
WHAT SHE BOUGHT A three-bedroom 1950 bungalow
LISTING AGENT Henry Hautau, Bradley Real Estate
SELLING AGENT Nick Svenson, Decker Bullock/Sotheby’s International Realty
THE STATS Price per square foot for homes in the neighborhood: $829
This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition with the headline: “Bye-Bye L.A.”.