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Fun with a Classic

A sophisticated home with soul gets some eclectic and playful touches.



WHEN INTERIOR DESIGNER Shelly Amoroso talks about her 1907 Dutch Colonial home, she uses words that don’t generally apply to Marin real estate: “It just feels super soulful to me.”

She’s not talking the usual Northern California Zen, but rather soul of the jazzy New Orleans kind. She points to the traditional porch alongside the home, the “beefy” original crown molding and window frames, and the window that overlooks a leafy street and says, “this house feels very classic Southern.”

Rather than the Big Easy, though, it’s the Forbes area of San Rafael — a place where neither she nor fiancé Luis Lagos, a personal chef, imagined they’d end up. The two were renting a tiny Mill Valley cottage when they decided they wanted to buy. After a 10-month search of Mill Valley homes proved fruitless, they expanded their scope to San Rafael, where one of Amoroso’s clients lived. Forbes proved to be the perfect match. “Buyers who like that sort of cool urban vibe gravitate to this neighborhood,” says realtor Jenn Pfeiffer. “And when Shelly and Luis walked into this house last summer, they just got it immediately.”

“What I love about this house is that it’s the traditional envelope,” says Amoroso, “so you can put interesting pieces in it and make it a little fresher without actually having to live in a modern home.” Amoroso and Lagos’ style is the epitome of eclectic. They’ve placed a 1960s lime green vintage sectional, shaggy white pillows and a Hollywood Regency–style glass coffee table in the very traditional, high-ceilinged living room. Above the couch, they’ve hung an assortment of mismatched paintings, mostly family heirlooms — some conventionally attractive and some not. And in the dining room, they’ve positioned Amoroso’s grandmother’s 1970sera table beneath a capiz shell chandelier.

As part of a remodel — done while Amoroso was on bed rest last fall, pregnant with their now-infant daughter — they reconfigured a kitchen/laundry room into a family room and galley kitchen, replete with bold margarita-green cupboards, in homage to Lagos’ upbringing in Mexico, and a kitchen couch for guests to sit on while Lagos cooks.

But perhaps the most arresting room in the house is the front hall, adorned with a shieldpatterned gray-and black-wallpaper against which is hung a huge, very black Christy Lee Rogers photograph. At the end of the hallway, a powder room door stands open, revealing hot pink walls.

It’s fun and funky and a lot more urbane than the typical Marin home. “I really wanted it to be romantic,” says Amoroso, “but there’s also an element of tongue in cheek.”


The Details

WHERE THEY PURCHASED The Forbes area of San Rafael

WHAT THEY BOUGHT A 1907 Dutch Colonial

LISTING AGENT Susan Coleman (Coldwell Banker)

SELLING AGENT Jenn Pfeiffer, Jesse Pearson (Alain Pinel Realtors)

STATS Price per square foot for homes in the neighborhood: $509


View the gallery below to see all the photos from this Dutch Colonial home.

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