With clever styling and a lighthearted design approach, Eche transforms a plain-Jane Palo Alto home into a beautifully layered space for living.
In the living room, a vintage hair-on-hide Klismos-style bench sits underneath a custom Lucite Plexi-Craft console. Art is by American artist and geographer Trevor Paglen.
Starting a project from scratch may be the gold standard when it comes to interior design, but working with a client’s existing pieces can be a challenge in and of itself. Such was the case with a recently completed Palo Alto project by Eche, the Bay Area firm led by Eche Martinez.
The fireplace seating area features a pair of vintage Milo Baughman chrome lounge chairs in navy blue leather, which sit atop a custom strié taupe wool rug by Stark Carpet.
“The client had been following my work for a while and reached out,” Martinez explains, noting that she wasn’t sure if her project—reviving and elevating the social areas of the home—was too small-scale. But after seeing photos of the home and eventually meeting in person, Martinez came to realize that he and the client were very much on the same page in a number of areas.
Vintage Biedermeier consoles, found on 1stDibs, flank the fireplace, along with a series of framed Picasso etchings from the clients’ collection; a vintage Vladimir Kagan sofa sits alongside a custom honed Arabescatto marble coffee table.
The first thing that struck Martinez was the client and her husband’s thoughtfully curated collection of artwork and furniture. “There was a beautiful Picasso etching collection in the living room that I couldn’t turn down,” he says. “They have a really cool point of view that’s very much aligned with my point of view as a designer—mixing things from a completely different universe and somehow trying to find the dialog that’s a connecting thread between all of the different items,” he continues. “I thought this was a really good creative challenge. It was not a very big project, but it was a fun one.”
Vintage brass accessories and crystal lamps by Circa Lighting sit atop an antique Biedermeier console.
To start, Martinez visited the site and played around with the client’s existing furniture and artwork. “It’s a different approach from how we normally work, where we typically work on a plan and start identifying priorities, lead times and budgets,” he says. “But this was almost like we started with styling the place and then asked ourselves what we needed to make it work.”
The client and her family had lived in the home for about 10 years and craved an updated and inviting living space for their family and for frequent gatherings with friends. While they already had a rich collection—besides the Picasso etchings, numerous noteworthy furniture pieces and accessories, including a Vladimir Kagan sofa were on hand—the space lacked cohesiveness and warmth. “We really had to fill in the gaps and come up with a whole scheme for both the living room and the dining room area.”
In the dining room, a cerused oak dining table is topped with ceramic pieces by Bari Ziperstein. The vibrant editioned series on silkscreen is by artist Richard Anuszkiewicz.
Martinez’s guiding force was understanding how his client and her family were going to use the home—entertaining was going to be a key factor. “I wanted to give the living room the vibe of a cool and layered hotel lobby,” he says. “We wanted a layered, connected look.” Window coverings in a midnight blue shade, reupholstering the Kagan sofa in navy blue velvet and a custom honed Arabescatto marble coffee table by Fox Marble added to the collected vibe, while a custom area rug by Stark Carpet in beige laid a solid, grounding foundation for the room.
Black ink original drawings by Sam Still sit atop a vignette of neoclassical musical chairs and settee, upholstered in Manuel Canovas emerald green cotton velvet.
“The furniture layout was actually very complicated, because we had all of these moments that had to coexist together,” says Martinez, who names the piano corner and the fireplace seating area—flanked with vintage Biedermeier consoles and vintage Milo Baughman chrome lounge chairs in navy blue leather. A vignette of the client’s existing neoclassical musical chairs and settee, upholstered in Manuel Canovas emerald green cotton velvet, was yet another design moment to consider. “We could have sourced a beautiful Persian rug, but that traditional floor covering has such a strong identity and would take away from the overall design scheme,” he says.
The opposite approach was taken in the dining room—which flows into the living room—where Martinez installed Phillip Jeffries wallcovering on the ceiling to make an existing light fixture pop. The client’s graphic silkscreened prints by Richard Anuszkiewicz coexist beautifully with a collection of white ceramic vases by Los Angeles artist Bari Ziperstein.
In the breakfast room, double French doors open to a lush back garden. A marble-top Saarinen dining table sits next to a photograph by artist Stefanie Schneider.
Overall, the project was a smashing success. Martinez recalls a text he received from his client soon after completion. “She was so thrilled that people naturally gravitated toward the living room after having dinner without her encouraging it,” he explains. “People just organically wanted to be in the space, one she had been in for many years. The fact that we had achieved that cozy moment in which people felt naturally drawn to being in the space was a huge rewarding moment for us. It meant we had done our part properly.”
Vintage brass accessories and crystal lamps by Circa Lighting sit atop an antique Biedermeier console; the landing at the top of the stairs features a sextet of fine art prints by author and artist Dave Eggers.
Photography by: PHOTOGRAPHED BY CHRISTOPHER STARK