Playful family farmhouse

Whimsical details and bursts of color create a fun and functional kid-focused home

Playful family farmhouse
Photo: Edmund Barr

Bold hues and smart storage

Cary and Denise both wanted lots of color. "We felt like we were making a big playhouse," Cary says. They kept the exterior true to its origins with gold-leaf accents, burgundy and white trim, and blue-green paint on the siding.

Inside, the Phillipses filled their home with cherished old furniture downstairs, kid-focused decor upstairs, and generous amounts of vivid color. With a mix of 24 paint shades on the walls, Cary worried briefly if the palette might be too much. In the end, though, "Denise said, 'It's just paint,' " he recalls, laughing.

The heart of the first floor ― and the Phillipses' daily lives ― is the kitchen. The former slender galley is now an open, multipurpose space with an adjacent hallway that serves as the drop zone for backpacks, mail, and shoes when the family tumbles into the house. The star of the kitchen is a deep red Aga range with a patina to match the home. An antique barrister card catalog serves as an ingenious storage system for miscellaneous household items.

"We originally set the card catalog there because we didn't know what to do with it," Cary says. "And without really planning it, we had batteries in B, matches in M, and so on."

Upstairs, the palette gets lively. The twins helped out by picking their own bedroom hues ("We kept silent veto power," Denise says). Zoe chose three shades of pink; Alexander chose a combination of orange, green, and white. Color spills into the bathroom in a mix of aqua, orange, and purple. Although the master bedroom is also upstairs, it's clear that most of the space is devoted to play. Cary best sums up the overall effect: "It's an old house that's young at heart."

Design: Ellis A. Schoichet, EASA Architecture , San Mateo, CA (650/343-3452); Bess Wiersema and Megan Matthews, Studio 3 Design , San Jose (408/292-3252)

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