When interior designer Gina Gutierrez and her husband Max Maloney were looking to purchase their first home, they faced a distinctly San Franciscan architectural challenge.
The couple wanted an open concept for their kitchen and living room, but that’s often impossible to create inside the city’s traditional houses. These classic structures, which date back to the early 20th century, are known for having multiple rooms along a single hallway. There’s usually a small kitchen and a separate living room at its far end, which often features the area’s famed bay windows.
But because of certain construction quirks, at least in the couple’s experience, renovators are often unable to tear down walls to connect the two spaces. So if this pair wanted to find their dream home, they’d have to stay focused—and probably get lucky.
They found what they were looking for in their sixth house tour, an Edwardian home built in 1912. Located in Duboce Triangle, a neighborhood in the center of the city, the 1,180-square-foot property had the key element Gutierrez and Maloney wanted: The dividing wall between the living room and the kitchen could be safely removed. They bought the place, even though it needed a lot of work.
“It had a lot of potential to be something more beautiful and open,” Gutierrez remembers.
Once it was time to renovate, the couple maintained their attention to detail and collaborative effort. Gutierrez focused on the aesthetics, while Maloney used his background in mechanical engineering and product design to draw up sketches and models. “Our style is elevated comfort,” Gutierrez says. “We’re more traditional, but we like modern and bohemian elements. We also wanted to preserve a lot of character in the Edwardian house. We kept a lot of the millwork and board and batten, and we added arches that mimicked the one that was already in the hallway.”
The biggest structural change was the one they planned for all along.
They combined the kitchen—which was strangely too small for an island, but too big to be a galley—with the living room. “We blew half of the house into one big open room,” Maloney says.
The couple loves to host dinner parties, so they made sure to have plenty of seating, starting with an L-shaped bench inspired by a local restaurant. It required an unusually long and skinny table, and they found a perfect one at the now-shuttered boutique Propeller. Next to it, they chose a peninsula made of Carrara marble from Integrated Resources Group, and paired it with Ikea bar stools that Maloney cut down to counter height. With that, Maloney and Gutierrez had more than enough room for a crowd.
“A lot of my clients don’t love working with marble because it can be pretty imperfect, but that’s actually what I love about it,” Gutierrez says. “The peninsula is a gathering space, so food and wine get on it. We clean it up, but it might leave markings. Because of that, I feel like it tells a story.”
As for the cabinets, she introduced Maloney to Semihandmade to get a high-end look for a budget-approved price—and the ability to figure out the best layout for Maloney’s meals.
“We immediately knew we wanted the Shaker style, and then we figured we would do the DIY just to customize and paint them whatever color we wanted,” she adds. They picked Benjamin Moore’s Coventry Gray, and positioned them in such a way so that Maloney can whip things up with ease.
The appliances were a different story: They didn’t mind splurging for the right ones, especially since a Viking range came with the house. “We actually purchased the refrigerator before doing any of the remodel work,” Gutierrez admits. “I’ve always really loved the Smeg refrigerators, but I didn’t want to go that retro because it wouldn’t be the best fit for this particular house. The GE refrigerator had a similar look, but a little more modern and with cleaner lines. We built everything around that refrigerator.”
Once their attention could move on to the adjoining living area, they realized it only required some slight adjustments. Gutierrez and Maloney also used Semihandmade to expand the built-in shelving unit as a display for meaningful items, like photos and a record collection. The shelves flank a new gas fireplace that’s adorned with crackled Fireclay tile cut into triangles—a small detail that makes a big impact, which describes much of the renovation as a whole.
Looking back on the project, the couple wouldn’t do anything differently. The experience taught them patience and compromise, as well as which tasks they can DIY and which require an expert. “I learned that it’s definitely easier to remodel for myself,” Gutierrez says. “We can knock it out much faster. It’s dialed in because we know what we want.”
B+A’s Before You Go…
We had a quick chat with Gina Guiterrez on her design philosophy and favorite things. Read on to learn more about her…
Describe your renovation mantra in three sentences?
Design in a way that aligns with you.
Function and aesthetics can coexist.
Design sustainably to take care of the earth.
What are your favorite stores for one-of-a-kind finds?
Who do you follow on Instagram for inspiration?
What’s the one thing in your home you couldn’t live without?
Ever since I discovered Parachute in 2014, I haven’t been able to purchase other bedding. The percale sheets are my favorite, although I also own the linen sheets, a cozy quilt, and two different duvet covers!
What’s one meal you’re always whipping up in your kitchen?
My husband and I love trying new recipes—we love following Tieghan Gerard on Half Baked Harvest to do so. But our go-to dinner is tacos. I love making homemade tortillas, and then we create beef, chicken, or shrimp tacos together. We’ll whip up a salsa that may have mango, pineapple, and cilantro in it, too. But on a really good day, we’ll even make some margaritas!