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An Interior Designer Has Out-of-the-Box Ideas in Hayes Valley

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Welcome to House Calls, a recurring feature in which Curbed tours lovely, offbeat, or otherwise awesome homes in the Bay Area. Think your space should be featured next? Here's how to submit.


Photo by Patricia Chang and Colin Price
Interior designer Noz Nozawa never intended to paint the majority of her home black. She started by brushing out a single wall of her 1,180-square-foot condo a noir hue (to be specific, Benjamin Moore's Black Beauty). But one thing led to another and, over the course of five days, she ended up surrounding herself with a color she describes as the shade of "the backside of a magnet." When you think about an all-black environment, it sounds kind of grim. Nozawa's home is just the opposite: It's full of joie de vivre.


↑ When the designer bought her two-bedroom, two-bathroom home, things looked different. The new condo development featured units that could be compared to white-painted boxes. Yet, despite a the lack of character, there was something serendipitous about the place. Nozawa says the oak floors reminded her of her childhood home. That house had an avocado grove planted by her late father in the backyard; this condo's balcony backed into an avocado tree—close enough to reach out and pluck the fruit. By slightly manipulating the condo's address (adding the first two digits in the house number) you get the same house number as Nozawa's family home. "Those were just some weird little things," the designer says. "But when you put them all together, it seemed like fate."

↑ The black interior started as a small accent wall before enveloping the entire open-plan kitchen, living room, and dining room. "Once I started, I just couldn't stop," says Nozawa. "Soon, all the walls in the front part of the house were black, the hallway was black, and the bathroom was black. It became the defining centerpiece of the house." So what makes it work? According to the designer, the fact that it's a softer black makes it more palatable and warm and it also helps that the unit has lots of big windows that flood the space with light.

↑ In fact, the dark walls are like a slimming pair of black pants (when you put them on, they seem to cover a multitude of flaws and every other piece of clothing in your closet looks great when matched with them). You can see it in the dining room. "Before I painted the walls, the white trim was boring, just a standard builder's item," Nozawa says. "Now, it looks crisp and special against the black."

↑ Another example of the phenomenon is the bar. It came with her fiancé when he moved in. "It was just a big box-item, definitely nothing great," she says. By adding glittering barware and an oversize agate drawer pull and placing it all against the dark wall, it becomes something more. Details (like the white tips on the quill mirror) also stand out.

↑ But not all is formal here. "I studied art history in school, and I have a reverence for great art and artists," says Nozawa. "But not everything you hang on your wall has to be so serious. My fiancé is a burrito freak, and together we bought this piece (left) by Jeremy Fish called 'Super Burrito.' It shows a masked burrito surrounded by the logos of some of the best Mexican restaurants in town. To be funny, I framed it in an elaborate frame that cost more than the art itself." The masked tortilla is joined by two framed pages of a coloring book. Nozawa made those herself during a cocktails-and-coloring session during her college years.

↑ Another not-so-serious art moment happens thanks to the couple's set of matryoshka dolls painted as the characters of The Big Lebowski. Their backdrop is the kitchen, where Nozawa installed Heath tiles she purchased in a seconds sale. "Someday I plan to reface and repaint the cabinets white, so the entire kitchen will appear as a white square in a black space," she says.

↑ Things have already lightened up in the bedroom, where the walls are painted in Benjamin Moore's Hale Navy. "I started by painting this room gray—I thought it would interesting to live in a gray box," says Nozawa. "But the thing is, once it was done I didn't like it."

The room is on the larger side, which made it hard to furnish. Nozawa solved the problem by moving the bed forward and backing it with a midcentury credenza. This divided the room into two parts: bedroom and library.

The hot-pink triptych is a painting made by a friend. It's an homage to Scalamandré's famous Zebra wallpaper and textile. But this interpretation adds zebra-striped tiger cubs in the mix, a playful nod to the couple's brindled French bulldog, Vivienne.


↑ The library shelves (made by cobbling four Craigslist-sourced Billy bookshelves from Ikea together) hold the couple's books and some treasured accessories. "Before I moved the bed forward, I had nowhere to put my books," Nozawa says. "Making the bed an island took care of a lot of problems."


↑ When Nozawa moved into the place, she was single. That fact lead to the installation of a crystal-adorned skull and antlers over the toilet. "That bathroom is clearly made for two people; there's a double sink and a double shower. At the time, I was alone. Somehow, hanging that skull there was some kind of statement about that to any man who would stand there and use the bathroom," she says. "I have been collecting chandelier crystals for a long time, so I decided to hang them here. When the light comes in and hits them, it makes a great rainbow show on the dark walls."

↑ Although Nozawa (seen here with Vivienne) loves everything in her house, there's one thing she admits is hopelessly ugly. "I have a large Steelcase desk that belonged to my father. It's a beast that weighs 250 pounds and it's solid as a rock. If the big one hits, I'm heading under it," she says. "It's ugly, but it's where my father built his business and it's where I'm building mine. I'll never get rid of it."

· House Calls in History [Curbed SF]

Hayes Valley