Designing a Slice of Pie

The downtown San Francisco condo my clients bought had all the challenges of a small city apartment, plus a unique one. The high-rise Infinity Tower is an all-glass, clover-shaped structure, with every window and exterior wall curved. It was like designing a slice of pie. The stunning pied à terre was already finished with contemporary floors, cabinets, countertops, appliances and light fixtures.

Our goal was to create an interior design that would soften all the glass and hard surfaces. We wanted to create a sense of spaciousness in this 1300 square foot triangle and introduce my clients’ favorite colors – red, gold and blue.

Infinity Tower, San Francisco, CA
Infinity Tower, San Francisco, CA

Balance and Harmony

Kitchen, infinity tower, interior design

The kitchen is a great example of how I like to create timeless design by mixing styles. We found a tall industrial metal cabinet to anchor the window end of the kitchen and provide much needed storage. The vintage piece works among the contemporary elements because it repeats the colors and lines in the appliances, cabinets and counters. This is how you make seemingly disparate styles work together – with common elements.

I also incorporated two of my favorite small-space strategies here. One is to use furniture with legs raised off the floor to extend the visual lines of the room. Another is to visually widen the aisle between the two counters with horizontal stripes in the area rug. To balance all these cool tones and straight lines, we placed a round wooden dining table with tapered legs, two comfy round-back upholstered chairs, and a standing lamp in the eating area. The colors and textures in the upholstery and lampshade provide warmth to the shiny kitchen surfaces. The placement of the metal cabinet elongates the kitchen and makes space for the intimate dining area. When you create balance and harmony, everything works together.

Seven Principles of Art

Good design combines straight and curved lines.

I love to put a little drama in the entry of a small space. When you enter the vestibule of this apartment, you are drawn in by the vertical stripes in the rug that direct you to their counterparts in the lamp, whose glow demands your attention to the striking Picasso. Here again, notice how the cabinet’s legs and the open Asian chair provide expanded visual floor and wall space. The chair cushion repeats the black and white theme, as do the framed pictures on the wall to the left. Antique glass decanters on the table echo the reds, golds and blues in the artwork, and all the straight lines are relieved by antique wooden gears hung on the wall to the right. This vignette, though simple, displays a perfect example of how the seven principles of art apply to good design: balance, harmony, composition, color, light, texture and shape.

Small Space Strategie

Living Room, Infinity Tower
Large furniture makes small rooms appear more spacious.

The living room really threw me a curve. The arc of the glass wall was definitely out of the box, but it’s fun to find new solutions. In a serendipitous bit of luck, my clients’ large, overstuffed sectional fit the space perfectly and mimics the L shape of the buildings outside the window. Starting there, I moved – as always – to the rug, and chose a plush wool hemp in a neutral tone that flows into the wood floor without stopping the eye. In this room, I employed two more small-space strategies, tone-on-tone colors and oversized furniture. I know it sounds counterintuitive to use large pieces of furniture in a small space, but it absolutely works to make the room look and feel more spacious. Color and texture are the stars of this room. Repeating neutrals in the rug, sofa, chair and coffee table visually expands the space. The touches of red, blue and gold combine with black and white accessories add drama and contrast.

Juxtaposing Shape and Color

In the home’s small office, I placed an open desk in front of the window to take in the changing light and soothing architecture of the building across the street. My clients love to sit in the rolling chair and watch the comings and goings below their windows.

Large windows with minimal draperies give this small room an expansive feeling.
Vibrant colors provide bold contrast.

Even in this tiny room, the overscaled love seat makes the most of the intimate seating alcove and doesn’t overwhelm the room with its neutral tone-on-tone palette. The shapes and colors in the vibrant painting create a focal point, and are a great contrast to the calm symmetry outside the window.

Tricks to Fool the Eye

Living space can be hard to come by these days, whether you buy or rent. But even in small, irregularly shaped rooms, it’s possible to create a sense of spaciousness. Tone-on-tone colors, oversized furniture and raised legs throughout are a few simple tricks to fool the eye. For those of you who live in a small space or perhaps have tiny rooms or areas in your home, you might find a few of these tips helpful in creating a feeling of more visual breathing room. Feel free to send any photos and ideas you have to make rooms look and feel larger. We can all learn a few tricks from each other!

For the love of tricks,

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Showing 6 comments
  • Charles Shipp

    Great Job Linda……………….your the best

  • Laurie Larsen

    Linda, YOU ARE A GENIUS! This is a beautiful apartment and your ability to educate us in your masterful design sensibilities is such a generous gift! BRAVA!

  • donna

    Yes! You did an amazing job. You made that apt “work” with the outside look and still feel so warm, comfortable, welcoming. This has always been your gift – working with warm colors but still creating welcoming, relaxing cool spaces. Only you can get a warm and cool together!

  • Danelle Carpenter

    I have a question…………… looks like the buildings outside are white? If so, and you decorated in shades of white, would that make the rooms look larger or would it be too boring?

  • Susan

    Loved that apartment! Brings back great memories! Still looks fresh and never will be dated! Thanks for re-publishing!

  • Kay

    OMG, Linda! That apartment is stunning!!! Every room makes my mouth water! Candy for the eye, for sure. You are indeed a decorating Picasso. BRAVO!

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Pablo Picasso: Reclining Woman with a Book