Minimalism mastered



Protected from coastal fog by the surrounding hills, Noe Valley is one of the warmest—and most popular—neighborhoods in San Francisco. Palm trees and spectacular views are plentiful, as are the steep hills and Victorian homes synonymous with the city. When the homeowners of this two-story town house were renovating their master bedroom, they turned to designer Erin Roberts to bring this minimalist retreat to life.

Minimalism Mastered #1

The white-oak bed was an existing piece of the homeowners’, and the perfect color to complement the new wood floors. “[It was] such a great starter piece to set the tone,” says Roberts.

Minimalism Mastered #2
Minimalism Mastered #3

“We connected over a shared love for Australian design, which has a wonderful warm, neutral, coastal vibe,” says Roberts. Although she and her eponymous studio are now based in Brooklyn, Roberts lived in San Francisco at the time of this project, making her very familiar with the unique architecture of the area. This master is located on the lower floor of the home, featuring both interior stairs and a street-level patio.

“I always start with the space planning and review function first . . . to build the design around needs, habits, and wish lists,” explains Roberts. At the top of the homeowners’ must-have list for this project? White-oak floors, a cozy lounging area, and more storage.

“[The homeowners] had always dreamed of having that classic white-oak floor to brighten and warm up the space, while feeling coastal and casual,” says the designer. The floors were previously a dark gray, which Roberts notes is typical for newer homes in the area. The renovated floors immediately brightened the space and complemented the couple’s white-oak bed frame—an existing piece that served as inspiration for the tone of the design.

To continue brightening the room, Roberts employed a neutral palette with occasional, bright pops of color. Near the stairs, Feathr’s Oh La La wallpaper by Kiki Slaughter introduces dreamy swathes of gold and blush. The client specifically requested this print, which Roberts used to add intrigue to a previously vacant space.

“The wallpaper reminded us of Palm Springs and some of our other favorite desert hues, so we layered in complementing colors that resonated with us, building up a palette of soft lavender, blush, and marigold,” says the designer. “Storage was a big need here with the smaller closet, so we decided to fill the unused hallway with a large, custom [white-oak] dresser and desk.”

Before turning to interior design, Roberts was a sculptor and painter; she enjoys crafting custom pieces and sourcing from nontraditional makers. Her creative background still influences her attention to detail and playful use of texture. Particularly when working with a minimalist design, these tools make all the difference.

“Texture and depth play a huge role in the look of a room without much pattern,” says Roberts. “There are so many ways to create interest and warmth using fur, linen, leather, wovens, clay, and velvet—especially when using mostly neutrals or solid colors.”

To accompany the white oak found throughout the room, Roberts included a heavy dose of natural fibers. A macramé wall hanging from Macramé Mons serves as a stunning focal piece above the bed, while a jute rug creates visual contrast underfoot. Near the sliding doors, a rattan chair and white leather couch offer more hints of texture and provide the inviting lounge area so desired by the homeowners. The natural sunlight and patio view from the sliding doors encourage comfortable repose and keep the leafy plants around the room happy.

“[Plants] just bring so much comfort and calm into a space,” says Roberts. Here, the bold leaves of the Bird of Paradise palm and wispy fronds of the Kentia palm add to the cool, coastal aesthetic. The natural beauty of the plants allowed the designer to keep added decor to a minimum.

“I tend toward larger, fewer pieces instead of many small pieces that aren’t as perfectly functional, because those add to the visual clutter,” explains Roberts. “They wanted to keep [the room] clean, and bright, and airy. And that’s one of the best ways to do it: reduce the amount of furniture in the room and really address function.”

Textured layers and splashes of color keep this minimalist retreat welcoming and warm. “We really wanted to bring in color while still having a calm, relaxed vibe, so the hallway felt like the perfect place for the bright-yellow wallpaper to shine,” says Roberts. In the nearby sitting area, tasseled pillows from CB2 and a white leather sofa from Los Angeles–based Clad Home offer cozy repose in the natural light.

adding indoor plants

“Plants are a big part of my design aesthetic,” says designer Erin Roberts ( Here are her tips for bringing greenery into your home.

Analyze your aesthetic. “Certain styles of plants resonate with different design styles for me and can lean a look one way or the other,” says Roberts. Rubber trees and philodendrons tend to work well with Scandinavian or Mediterranean designs, while cacti and Dracaenas can evoke a more California-casual feeling.

Think about lifestyle. “When choosing plants, it’s most important to take into account the amount of light and watering care,” says Roberts. “Pick ones with watering needs that align with your schedule.” She recommends Dracaena marginata for a low-maintenance, low-light standout.

Play it safe. Some plants are harmful if chewed or ingested, so check with your local plant provider to see which species are child-and pet-friendly if that’s a concern for your household. Roberts notes: “Look out for cactus sap—like [from] the pencil cactus or ghost cactus—as it can be irritating to the skin or tummy.”

Deborah Farmer


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