For an interior designer, a home is more than just a place to hang his hat or a public advertisement for his business: it's a statement about his lifestyle. Bay Area designer Robert Miller of Miller Design Company has two homes in which to make his statements: an English cottage in Palo Alto and a modern townhouse in San Francisco. For the past seven years, Miller's Castro hills townhouse, a 3,600 square-foot home spread out over three levels, has provided a comfortable urban retreat for Miller as well as an inviting space for guests and visitors. Miller appreciates each space for its own attributes, but is especially drawn to the drama of the dining room.
"The colors are dramatic and create an intimacy that envelopes you," he says. The hand-finished terrazzo-colored walls - executed by artist Mark Johnson who handscored the red enamel crackle technique - have the look of rich leather. Two of the walls are covered with what Miller calls "magnificent" original oil paintings, and the ebony-colored dining tables and chairs are set off with a platform chandelier from Holly Hunt that holds dozens of cream-colored candles. During dinner parties large and small, the candlelight glow achieves pure drama for someone who loves to entertain as much as Miller.
Miller achieves varying moods in each space with the use of color: sunny hues to brighten up even the bleakest San Francisco summer days, with splashes of rich apricot, vibrant apple green, earthy terrazzo and camel for a finished, put-together look.
Entering the home, one of the first things a visitor sees is the incredible table console built with a 22-karat white gold-leafed tree trunk by Erika Brunson, in the manner of Thomas Johnson with egg and dart moulding on a frieze and plinth base. A sleek Art Deco mirror from William Switzer, a candlestick, a lamp and a floral arrangement round out the entry vignette. The console is available and customizable through Shears & Windows at the San Francisco Design Center. Miller likes Brunson's line, which includes classics as well as exquisite period pieces that work well both in traditional or contemporary interiors. Reproductions of Louis XV chairs from the Charles Wrightsman collection, dramatic pieces in the style of Thomas Johnson such as the Twig chair and Twig console, a coffee table from the estate of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and a rock crystal lamp as seen in Coco Chanel's famous apartment are some of the highlights of the line.
Though most of the pieces in Miller's home are from the SFDC, he also has unique antiques placed throughout, such as the coffee table in the living room, which is actually an antique Chinese day bed. Over time, Miller has collected such furnishings and art that have moved him.
Miller uses the space as a refuge - to unwind, listen to music, watch television, read and tend to the garden. His love of music compelled him to place a player piano in the living room to fill the house with music. "I always wanted a piano and finally had the place for one," he says. Though he's taken a few lessons, his busy life has kept him from devoting more time to it. Still, friends who play the piano often like to tickle the ivories at parties.
All over the home, unique examples of Miller's personality can be found in unexpected places. A corner built-in displays a colorful oil painting and a silver platter. Behind the sofa in the living room is a wall of grass - a modern interpretation of an Oriental screen Miller mounted on the wall. Fresh flowers appear all over the home, providing a pop of color and earthiness to the space.
From his spacious bedroom, where soothing hues of creams and caramels quiet the space, Miller can walk out his French doors onto his terrace and feast upon views of the rolling hills of Twin Peaks crowned by Sutro Tower, and the quaint Noe Valley village. The master spa bath provides another retreat with a soaring slanted ceiling where a skylight ushers in bright daylight, set off against the warm cinnamon color of the walls.
Even Miller's study seems like a getaway - it's perched like a tree house over the garden with eastern views facing Pac Bell Park and the Bay Bridge. Just below, the sense of oasis is completed by a sunny, verdant garden planted with lush ferns, lilac-colored hydrangea and delicate Japanese maple trees, with moss-covered paving stones creating a path throughout. Two bronze water sculptures titled "The Lovers," and built by Point Richmond-based artist Archie Held, provide a focal point as well as soothing sounds of water in the garden. Though Miller's home is within walking distance of shops and restaurants, it might be hard to leave this sanctuary. With two guestrooms, each with its own bath, a media room, galley kitchen and the inviting master suite with walk-in cedar closet and study, it's hard to imagine what outdoor distraction could be worth the idea of walking out the door. For Miller, the notion of inspiration is key, and quite obviously a running theme in his home. "Surround yourself with the things that inspire you or have great meaning to you," he says. "Let your home reflect who you are and design it to fit your lifestyle and you will treasure every moment you walk through your front door."
Wise words from one who knows.
San Francisco Design Center