Designer Maria Khouri had one major goal in the design of this Berkeley, CA estate: to preserve the historical integrity while adding modern comfort. Her clients, a couple with two children and a cat, wanted to embrace the Spanish Colonial Revival style while ensuring it was a space that would serve their family well in day-to-day life. In the end, she masterfully delivered a space that embodies relaxed California elegance, and the clients were thrilled. Maria tells us more. 

First, what can you tell us about the history of this home?
The McDuffie Estate in Berkeley’s coveted Claremont neighborhood. The iconic property was built in 1926, designed by the preeminent architect of the time Willis Polk and surrounded by gardens created by the noted landscape architecture firm Olmsted Brothers. 

The estate was built by Duncan McDuffie, a real estate developer, conservationist, and mountaineer. McDuffie was an avid environmentalist, twice serving as President of the Sierra Club. The McDuffies loved to entertain and hosted luminaries and politicians of the day including John Muir and Herbert Hoover. 

Naturally, it was important to celebrate the history of the home. How did you balance the old with the new?
The hardest challenge in this project was preserving the historical integrity of the Spanish Colonial Revival-style estate while infusing the space with modern comfort. The grand entry hall, adorned with stone columns and original wrought iron accents, sets the tone for the entire home. The home features classic elements of the Spanish Colonial Revival style including clay tiled roof, arched windows and doorways, wood and steel windows, along with wrought iron, wood, cast stone and tile accents. 

I decided that the best path forward was to avoid altering any of these historic features. Instead, choosing to embrace them and use the historic elements of the space to my advantage.

Did this project have any challenges? If so, could you tell us how you overcame a few of the hurdles?
The scale of the space we worked on is massive, and the challenge was to make the room feel homey and warm. I had to break away from the past fragmented design and establish a central, oversized seating area as the heart of the home. By incorporating textured elements like nubby carpets and linen sofas, I seamlessly merged the clean lines of modern design with the arches and curves of the space’s historical features.

Symmetry became my guiding principle. A pair of Brutalist cabinets, their geometric patterns mirroring the home’s original architectural elements, flank the fireplace. The wood’s finish reflects the tones of the beams, fireplace tile and carved wooden decorative panels. Cloud paintings by artist Roni Feldman and hand-forged iron lamps add subtle decorative touches, enhancing the room’s visual appeal. I masterfully juxtaposed clean lines of the sofas, a pair of oversized cocktail tables by Erinn V., and extended bench with the curves of the chaise, barrel chairs, and sculptural Nove floor lamp made of hand-forged iron.

Do you have a favorite detail?
It is really hard for me to determine what is my favorite detail! This is a home that is a visual feast. Everything is unique from the existing architectural details, ceilings, beams and arches to the fabrics, curated furniture and all textures and colors we have incorporated.

Take a tour in the slideshow.