At Home: Couple give unique and striking character to their flat

When David Steele and Kristina Farino first came across their two-bedroom Mission Dolores home around two years ago, it was “horrible,” Steele said. But they decided immediately to rent it.

“We could see the skeleton of the place,” Steele says.

The challenges presented by the home, the bottom floor of a century-old house converted into two single-story units around 15 years ago, were immediately obvious.

“What we’re really dealing with is the downstairs of a giant home, which didn’t have bedrooms,” says Steele, who is a managing partner in the Mission district restaurant Flour + Water.

Double sliding doors between the front parlor and the adjoining walk-through living room make for little wall space. And even though the former entryway has been closed off and converted into a bedroom closet, storage space in the flat is meager, especially in the kitchen.

Now, the original paintwork has been replaced by muted gray, white and ­whisper-­pale blues that dominate in the front parlor, living room and bedroom. Those tones are broken up by a burst of color in the dining room’s mustard-yellow walls and an earthy orange rug in the living room.

Undaunted by the difficult space, Steele and interior designer Megan Nordin set out on an ambitious project: to furnish the home from top to toe without buying a thing brand new.

“The challenge was … can we furnish a home from everybody else’s junk, and can we do it beautifully?” Steele says.

Nordin says she scoured the Web and local vintage resellers like Past Perfect on Union Street for the eclectic mix of pieces in the home. Her finds included drapes, rugs — and a Design Within Reach bed from a Craigslist seller for a fraction of what it cost new.

“For me, it’s not about just saving money — it’s about getting a more unique piece, getting something that has a story,” she says.

Nordin also tapped a virtually out-of-sight economy of “hobby dealers” around the Bay Area that operate out of their homes or garages. A sleek, upholstered chair by groundbreaking Danish midcentury modern designer Hans Wegner came from one such vendor.

In addition to the eclectic mix of furnishings, large and often bold paintings hang, most by artists associated with Art Span. For three years, Steele, also a managing director with a major investment bank, has been on the board of the San Francisco-based nonprofit which fosters links between artists and the local community.

Supporting local artists, Steele says, is a cornerstone of the decoration of his home.

— Brigid Gaffikin

 

DAVID STEELE AND KRISTINA FARINO

Favorite color: Gray

Favorite room: Front parlor — once a Victorian-era “fainting room”

Design feel: Eclectic midcentury modern, steampunk, found industrial objects

Favorite retailers: Past and Present, Union Street; Ohmega Salvage, Berkeley; San Francisco-based Web sites www.eamesloft.com and www.midcenturymodernfinds.com

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