The Filoli Estate and gardens are down on the Pennisula about 30 minutes south of San Francisco, north of San Jose. The house on the estate was designed by William Polk, a well known San Francisco architect, who had also designed two other homes for the original owners, the Bourns. The eclectic style home is massive and formal, with an kitchen that most restaurants would kill for and an entire servants’ wing. But the extensive sprawling gardens upstage the building and are the reason many come to visit the estate that was donated in 1975 to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The house isn’t really my taste but there were a few elements that I think could be applied to any style of home to help elevate the design and use of it.
Door knobs, window latches, locks… These are like architectural jewelry-either they elevate the whole look, or they clash and detract from it. Good hardware is also like jewelry in how expensive it is, but I think investing in hardware is worth it. You touch the handles and knobs of your home all the time, you want them to feel good. There are beautiful options for all periods of style and some killer contemporary options as well. I prefer consistent hardware throughout the entire house as it looks more put together.
Good Switch Locations:
I love how discreet the location of these old light switches are. Whomever added electricity to our house was not as sensitive to the placement of the switches and outlets. Obviously, not many of us have columns flanking the entrances to our rooms, but I think this design element is often overlooked. Also, it is expensive placing electrical components precisely-it takes a very skilled electrician. But I think it can be worth it.
A Place for Everything, and for Everything a Place:
The kitchens at Filoli are incredible. There is a huge butler’s pantry, a dish cleaning room and a silver safe all off the main kitchen. Clearly, we don’t all have the luxury (or the need!) of this much space. But it is very nice to have enough storage for everything you need in your kitchen. I also love having highly customized cabinetry that provides dedicated space for everything you cook with/use to cook with.
Design with whimsy and love:
The study was immediately my favorite. I had just told my mom that I didn’t really like the house-the proportions of the rooms felt off to me, a bit uncomfortable, and then I went it the study. Its a bit cosy. Its more square- not a long rectangle with many entrances and exits. And, immediately, my instincts were validated when a tour group came in and the docent explained that this was the Roth family’s favorite room. It is where they had Christmas and spent time together. My favorite part, however, was the hidden wet-bar. It even has a small refrigerator tucked into the side and a pony-printed wallpaper. Many family rooms now seem to have wet bars or something similar, but few that were built in the last thirty years were designed with as much care as this one (I have, however, seen some lovely mid-century modern ones).
Good design principals really do breach style. When someone really thinks about how people live and work and go about their daily life and then creates a space that demonstrates an understanding of that, its a beautiful thing. Its not about demonstrative wealth or flashy decoration, but an attention to detail and a certain sort of thoughtfulness.