Sycamore Park—more commonly known as “the flats”—is a tight knit community in Mill Valley, CA. “What makes it special is its central location and walkability to schools, stores, and all of the establishments that make the town so enchanting,” interior designer Madeleine Mahaney says. It was an obvious choice for the location of her own family’s home. “The home was wonderfully well kept since it was built in 1940. When purchased, it was just over 1,000-square-feet. We were able, and in some cases required, to keep the original home intact. It was a delight to simply expand upon what was there, and not have to spend a lot of resources redoing things.”

When updating the property, Madeleine’s primary goal was to create a functional floor plan that supports life’s daily activities. “Most of the homes in this neighborhood lack some of the basics such as a dedicated entry, ample ceiling height, natural light, and proportional rooms,” she explains. “Creating an indoor-outdoor connection is critical if you want to entertain around here. The floor plan and flow of the property were always the primary focus.”

They expanded the lower level and added a second level containing three bedrooms and two bathrooms, more than doubling the square footage. They also constructed a stand-alone casita at the back of the lot, adding another bedroom and bathroom. Permitting was the biggest holdup in the process, taking 18 months. Although the design adhered to city guidelines and laws, adding on second stories in the area is very unpopular. “To gain approval from our peers we had to make concessions: lower ceiling heights, removing windows, redrawing plans, performing solar studies, and landscaping,” Madeleine explains. “It was more daunting than all the construction challenges combined. Moving through these hurdles took time & determination.”

Another challenge was in the kitchen, where the layout did not come easy—they were faced with challenges in symmetry due to a jog in the exterior wall. The designer says that part of what helped minimize those flaws was the palette, featuring dark cabinetry that wraps you like a blanket. “Kitchens are the heart of the home and there is a serene, calm, and grounding feeling in this space,” Madeleine shares. “For me this was a final goodbye to the all-white kitchen! The cabinetry is actually rift white oak that was stained in a walnut finish, so that we could achieve a quiet grain pattern but bring in the richer tones.”

Stylistically, Madeleine was determined to mix old and new, ultimately creating something that would be visually refreshing. “There is something so comforting about traditional architecture, the casework and cabinetry that comes with stately homes,” she says. “I wanted that familiarity to exist here and was especially influenced by Old World European charms as seen in the kitchen cabinetry hardware, for example.” Her parents collect furniture and art, and Madeleine admits she inherited some of their taste. “I most certainly have Art Deco running through my blood. So, once we got to the furniture, I layered on contemporary pieces and vintage glamor. These influences living together created some much-welcomed tension.”

Once construction was underway, the family was able to move in eleven months later. “As any reader who has renovated their home knows, ‘move in ready’ is a state of mind,” she laughs. “Our hopes are that this home is a place where people can gather and make memories. We feel contentment when we have company.