On the Sunny Side of the Street
How to bring a storied San Francisco Victorian up to date for a young family? Embrace its surroundings.

Kelly’s paint pick: Imperial Yellow, Benjamin Moore “Bright and sunny without being fluorescent, it’s happy.”


San Francisco’s North of the Panhandle (NoPa) neighborhood boasts many Victorians, like this one, which predates the 1906 earthquake and fires that destroyed 80 percent of the city. Paint: Imperial Yellow and Bedford Blue, both Benjamin Moore.


Designer Kelly Finley tucked a cozy nook under a newly renovated staircase. Chair: Nuevo Living. Dining table: Crate & Barrel. Map: Minted. Chandelier: Arteriors. Paint: Simply White, Benjamin Moore.


An electric red Kraft Music piano and loads of built-in storage are instant ice-breakers. Ottoman: Arteriors. Chandelier: Four Hands. Rug: Jaipur Living. Cabinets: Mark Johnson Cabinets. Wallcovering: Blur Rods by AiNO.


It’s not easy to keep pace with three- and five-year-olds, but the Olivia + Poppy Flake wallpaper does just that. Chandelier: Shades of Light. Neon rainbow: Target. Bed: Oeuf. Bedding, table lamp, and nightstand: Crate & Barrel. Rug: Jaipur Living.

WHEN YOUR NEIGHBORS INCLUDE SAN Francisco’s famous Painted Ladies, known by millennials as the Full House houses, the siren call of bold color is impossible to ignore. In steering the refresh of a 1900 Victorian down the road, Kelly Finley, principal of Joy Street Design, heard it loud and clear. “Our motto is no white kitchens,” says the designer, who splits her time between Oakland, California, and Atlanta. “Color is joy! Color is life!”

Originally, Finley’s team was only supposed to work on the home’s new addition. But an unusually strong storm blew the tarp off the structure mid-renovation, ruining many of the elements the young family of four had hoped to keep. It was undeniably a setback, but one that allowed Finley to go all-in on creating a unified home with an exciting palette.

The drab all-white exterior was a must-go, replaced by two Benjamin Moore tones: cheery Imperial Yellow and welcoming Bedford Blue, the latter of which was extended from the front door down the front stairs. (As the home is set back between two larger buildings, this visually anchors it to the sidewalk.) Inside, touches of red—a lucky color in the husband’s Chinese culture—are interspersed with soft greens, blues, and mustard yellows. Often Finley would deploy all four colors at once: “Working within the footprint of a Victorian meant that the kitchen was small, and it was a challenge to achieve everything the clients wanted within the space,” she says. “I commissioned a custom mosaic from Fireclay to make the walls really pop.” Blue bookshelves in the parlor are backed with a warm ombré AiNO paper that mimics a desert sunset. “We decided to create more storage—you can never have enough—and then I found this perfect little red electric piano,” says Finley. The daughters are taking lessons this summer, but in the meantime, she says, “it makes for a great conversation piece.”


Framed black-and-white family photos offer a calm moment amidst bright hues. Wallpaper: Wallaby Walls. Sideboard: Crate & Barrel. Dining table: Four Hands. Dining chair: Sunpan.

Wallpaper holds court from the dining room to the girls’ bedroom, where a confetti print adds childlike exuberance. By investing in materials and built-ins, rather than furniture that might get banged-up by the kids, Finley created a home that will grow with them—all without succumbing to a forgettable all-white palette. “I love designing for families; children especially need to be around color,” Finley says. “No child ever says white is their favorite color.”


Finley snuck in small luxuries like a Zip Water faucet that dispenses sparkling water. Stool: Design Within Reach. Counter top: Caesarstone. Mosaic tile: Fireclay Tiles. Dishwasher and refrigerator: Fisher & Paykel.


Built-ins throughout the home keep things neat and help curate the family’s collection of knickknacks. Sofa and chair: Blu Dot. TV: Samsung. Rug: Jaipur Living. Cabinets: custom. Paint: Agreeable Gray, Sherwin-Williams.



A soothing, spa-like atmosphere is conjured with sconces and soft green tiles. Vanity: custom. Countertop: Benattar Marble & Granite. Sconces: Arteriors. Tile: Fireclay Tiles. Faucet: Brizo.