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The Design of this Waterside Home Started with a Love Story

Interior photos by <a href="">Eric Rorer</a>, portrait by <a href=""></a><a href="">Orange Photography</a>
Interior photos by Eric Rorer, portrait by Orange Photography

There aren't many interior design projects that start as a love story, but this is one of them. This home belongs to designer Vanessa McBride and her husband, Chuck. It is located beside a marina in Larkspur, and done in an eclectic, global style that makes room for English and Asian antiques, as well as water motifs and colorful surfboards. You could say the project was launched when the couple met, and that happened when Chuck came into Cabana Home where Vanessa was then working and asked for her guidance in recovering a chair. "He had just bought this home, and he had purchased a console from the store for it," she said. "He came back to have a chair reupholstered, and I helped him." Little did she know she'd be living with that chair in a matter of years.

After the couple started dating and eventually married, and Vanessa focused on designing the entire house, not just selecting individual pieces of furniture. "The place was pretty dated," she says. "There was a partition separating the kitchen from the dining room, and the floors were Pergo [a brand of laminate flooring]. Even when we were dating, I thought, 'if I moved in here, these floors would have got to go.'"

The new dark-wood floors are seen in the living room, along with the home's new eclectic aesthetic. "I like Asian-influenced things, he likes a beach theme," she says. "The challenge was to incorporate the two styles in a beach-bohemian look." In practice, that means a coffee table made from a Japanese alter and flanked by child-sized, English antique chairs (providing the perfect spot for their 5-year-old son, Evan, to sit while he has a snack). McBride added shelves on either side of the fireplace. One set of shelves is the couple's audio center, the other side is home to the television, books, art objects, and the Emmy Chuck won for directing a Nike commercial.

A deep Balinese daybed brings the long room into balance. "The room is wide, and it seemed off balance before the remodel," Vanessa says. "Because the daybed is so deep, it brings the entire space more to center." The seat can also do double duty as a guest bed when need be.

Pre-remodel, the kitchen was dated and cramped by a partition. Vanessa reimagined it as a white, bright space with an eat-in peninsula in place of a room dividing half wall. The tile was one of those make-it-work moments that turns into inspired design. A white Heath tile had already been ordered, but when a last-minute layout change meant more tile would be called for, the designer went to the seconds bin at the tile company and picked up more that jived with, but did not exactly match, the original order. The result is a blend of tiles that are shiny and matte, but all in the same color family. It's a look that's so successful, she did the same thing in the blue-tiled master bathroom. "It wasn't what I intended, but now I have clients who asked for the same thing after they saw it in my home," Vanessa says.

The master bedroom shows how water and surfing (a passion shared by Chuck and his teenage daughter Halle) can be incorporated into an interior. The artwork by Eric Zener provides an eye-level look at waves and a beach. The turquoise-toned surf board is a collector's item, and a similar one lives in Halle's room. These days, both are more accessory than sports item, but they occasionally hit the waves.

Blending aesthetics, families, and households is no easy task. "I got to keep some of my things, he got to keep some of his," says Vanessa. "It's all about compromise." And what about the chair that brought them together? It's in storage, to make way for a totally new look.

· Vanessa McBride Design [Official Site]