Thursday, July 12, 2018

One House, Two Designers ... plus more.

Many of you have probably already seen the new House Beautiful, which hit shelves just a few days ago. On the cover, a peek at a living room designed by Mark D. Sikes for a young San Francisco couple's vacation home in Santa Barbara (Montecito). I followed this install somewhat intensely when it happened back in May of 2017, and figured it was going to be published when a few of the pictures from the install came down.

This was the picture that mysteriously vanished from Instagram after House Beautiful agreed to cover the house. It popped back online as soon as the magazine hit shelves. It shows Mark, and his design team sitting on the large sofa. I thought to myself I had seen the space before, but couldn't place it. Afterall, how many houses could have a window like this one? Thousands? Maybe I was wrong.

Then I opened the magazine:

And it started to look even more familiar. I had seen this room. I'd seen that fireplace, those windows - there couldn't be that many houses that looked that similar, could there? The answer is no.

It'd been featured before. In Coastal Living, back in 2015. In fact, the wealthy San Francisco couple has several homes, and nearly all of them at one point or another have been featured in shelter magazines. This Montecito vacation home was first designed by Melissa Warner Rothblum of Massucco Warner Miller. The colorful home underwent a huge transformation after the couple purchased it in 2011.

When they bought it, the exterior of the house looked like this:

Cute, right? But with the help of architect, Tim Barber and Melissa Warner Rothblum, the house was transformed to this:

Gone is the blacktop driveway, replaced by antique brick pavers and pea gravel. Gardens were added, as well as a retaining wall to the front door. Melissa and Tim also helped the couple update the inside of the house.

Not uncommon in an English Tudor style home, the beams and floors were stained a very dark walnut.

A different view without any window treatments. Different furniture. A pretty room, but not appropriate for the young family who wanted color, and the ease of a vacation home.

So Melissa did just that. She had all of the beams painted white, the floors bleached and the room was painted Hollingsworth Green by Benjamin Moore. Apple matting was used on the floors, and the once heavy metal medieval style chandelier was replaced by this coral one. Melissa chose fabrics and lamps and throw blankets to pull that coral color throughout the room.

What I found interesting after reading the very short article on Mark's design in House Beautiful was how they wrote the story as though he had to work with the original furnishings in the house. The story says: "Taking on a project that requires working with existing decor isn't exactly ideal for many designers. But when a client of California-based Mark D. Sikes asked for his help updating her family's Montecito vacation home while keeping favorite details in tact, he welcomed the opportunity."

Likely, you'd imagine this would mean that the room would stay somewhat similar, right? I mean it say "working with existing decor" in the lead in. Let's take a look at exactly how much of it he had to keep:

The rug stayed the same. Not a bad idea, given this is likely what Mark would have chosen for the room anyway. The sofa went away, replaced by this much longer one in front of the window. The console table disappears, as do the coral lamps. The large ottoman is gone. Replaced by pieces from Mark's collection with Henredon, which you can now buy on One Kings Lane.

Here, two of his Melrose Coffee Tables act as cocktail space in front of his Beverly Tufted Sofa done in a Lee Jofa chintz. Two of his brass and glass Doheny Coffee Tables are parked in front of the blue sofa. He adds a dhurrie rug here, blue and white garden stools, and new curtains, and plenty of new accessories. In fact, from this view - the only thing that has stayed the same in the room are the rug and the chandelier - except it is now painted white.

Nothing even appears to have been reupholstered. It simply seems to have vanished, replaced by new furniture altogether. Another before, showing the other design by Melissa Warner Rothblum.

Here we see the tagline for the magazine article "tasked with revamping a Montecito vacation home, California designer Mark D. Sikes incorporates his client's much loved pieces with new finds and antiques - plus plenty of blue and white, of course."

I definitely see the blue and white. But where are these much loved items that they are talking about? We know from the first decoration photos that nothing has stayed beyond the rug and the chandelier. Everything else - totally different. And while I love Mark's work (we all know that) the story is misleading. One might think that all Mark had to do was come in and put new curtains on the windows, maybe reupholster a few pieces, and paint. But this wasn't the case. In fact, it was a complete redecoration apart from the rug and newly painted chandelier. (And frankly, this could be a replacement rug - who knows?)

Here's the room together. And honestly, it's gorgeous. I mean, I love that Lee Jofa Althea chintz so much. If I had a billion dollars, I'd hire Mark to decorate an entire house for me and demand he put this sofa somewhere. It's a stunning room, highly decorative but also useful and welcoming - like all of Mark's work.

The House Beautiful article on the house was short. There was really only mention of this room, and a breakfast room area off of the kitchen. If you want to see more of the house as it was designed by Melissa Warner Rothblum, you can check out their website portfolio or the magazine article for Coastal Living here.

Another page from the House Beautiful article. Mark uses more of the Althea print on an English roll arm chair and pillow for the sofa. The inspiration of the room the combination of blue and green seen in nature.

When the couple purchased the home, their kitchen looked like this:

But a pretty big renovation happened under Melissa, and architect Tim Barber.

A view of the breakfast area with the spoon chandelier from Anthropologie.

So the kitchen gets color, new window treatments, and a rug, a new table (the banquette stays), a new chandelier, artwork, chairs, and barstools. Let's call a spade a spade here, this was a complete redecoration. Leaving one piece of furniture or a chandelier in a room does not a revamp make.

Remember how beautiful the house looked in it's dove gray? Mark had the exterior painted white. For a "fresh" look. Speaking of fresh looks, here are a few other sneak peeks of the house from Mark's instagram during install:

The property has a guest house, which had a pergola and patio added during the first renovation under architect Tim Barber. No look into that, but we can assume that there's a surfboard in the decor, and from the open door - the french doors are treated with roman shades.

Looking down onto the two linen covered tables in the living room pushed together to make a large square and the antique dhurrie rug under foot. Boxes and books and bowl mostly the same. This photo taken in May 2017 looks super similar to one taken by Becky Boyle, Mark's design assistant on June 14, 2018 with one HUGE change: 

 Where'd the rugs go?

Mark gave this sneak peek into what I believe is the bay window area of the living room. A highly detailed tablecloth and the leg of an antique chair. 

The tablecloth was made by Valley Drapery (Mark's work room) and here's a finished look, pre-install. I'm sure we'll see more of this house in Mark's second book.

And here, with photographer Amy Neunsinger, we see the windows at the bay window near the sink were also treated with the same fabric used in the breakfast area and for the drapery at the french doors.

The couple was pleased I'm sure, and there's been some degree of question (on my part) as to whether or not they've hired Mark to revamp their other homes. Mark's website shows a project in Presidio (San Francisco) with no photos, meaning either the house hasn't been finished or he's saving those photos for publication. And then there's the question of where the house is, if he's the new designer?

Do you remember this cover?

This is one of those Meredith Publications special prints, which they only have up near the check out stand in your local grocery store. They go on sale for about 3-months, and every time you go to the check out line, there it is - a looming cover just begging for you to pick it up. Surely you remember this one, with that DeGournay wallpaper and those bright orange chairs. It looks a bit like something Miles Redd would do, no? Well, it wasn't Miles, it was Melissa, and yes - it was for the same clients as the ones Mark just did the "revamp" for.

This pretty house on Clay Street in San Francisco was sold in November of 2017, looking quite calm from this brightly colored cover. And there's no real indication of where the couple moved. There's some conversation that they actually own a San Francisco mansion used for the Decorator's show house in 2014.

If this is indeed true, Mark would certainly have his work cut out for him. The mansion is over 9,000 square feet, 6 bedrooms, and 6.5 baths - and in my opinion, took a few really bad turns when it was used for the decorator's show house. There'd be a lot of "revamping" needed there. For Sure! The all black kitchen was House Beautiful's kitchen of the year in 2014. I'm not a fan. Designer Michael Taylor designed this glorious manse for the prior owner, and for the most part, the rooms stayed mostly intact until the show house. Then as per usual with things of that nature, the house sort of just went in a mish-mash of decoration directions and I'd be surprised if anyone could pull it all back together without a ton of money. But if this indeed the house, and the client, Mark would have a budget in excess of what's needed and I am sure there are no more capable hands than his.


  1. My idea of a "refresh" is a paint job and a few new pillows and accessories. But then, I'm not a) rich or b) a designer, so what do I know.

    1. I think your idea of a refresh is very close to mine, and it certainly what House Beautiful allows you to infer from the article.

  2. Enjoyed your article very much! Glad to have you back...


  3. I love your taste, honesty, and memory bank.

  4. First of all, welcome back Artie and I hope you had an enjoyable holiday in South America. Now re this featured home which indeed is beautiful, in all fairness I was going to say they did keep the windows (☺) however upon a closer examination those in the kitchen area appear to have been changed. Yes/No? -Brenda-

  5. I've just never been a big Sykes fan - I like Melissa's version better! Interesting article, though :)

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