A Creative Design Decision Transformed This A-Frame Cabin in California
Step inside a cabin with stunning views of Mill Valley—and a loft that works double time.
The tricky part of living in an A-frame can be the lack of functional living space. In many cases, the iconic sloped roofing can double as a wall—but walls that can’t be used for storage or for hanging decor, or all the above.
So Johanna Vente Anderson got creative when renovating her 1960s home that overlooked Mill Valley. To tackle the project, the interior designer teamed up with her friend and co-founder, Fiona Bronte Burr—together, they’re at the helm of the local design studio Saffron + Poe. “I don’t do anything without talking to Fiona,” Anderson laughs.
The duo first painted the 1,400-square-foot house in a soft, natural palette of various whites, like Swiss Coffee OC-45 by Benjamin Moore, to brighten the interiors that already benefited from ample natural light thanks to the triangular, cathedral windows and high ceilings. They updated all of the plumbing, lighting fixtures, and hardware, anything they could elevate without doing a “gut remodel,” Anderson reminisces. A few pieces required no attention: the stunning, 30-foot Malm fireplace that was already “a perfect creamy white,” Anderson says, as well as the original wood floors.
Then, they made some decisions that would transform the layout of this classic, California cabin. With two bedrooms and one bathroom downstairs, most people might have made their sleeping quarters on the first level. But when Anderson and Burr walked the home, they came up with a different idea: transforming the open, second-floor loft—which is about the same size as the rest of the house—into the primary suite.
The pair put a bed in front of the towering windows with a “perfect view” of Mount Tam, Anderson says, and then created a sitting room on the opposite side with an office space. Meanwhile, one downstairs bedroom was made into a suite for guests, while the other was transformed into a walk-in closet with dressers and a bookshelf. “The dressers don’t work upstairs,” Anderson explains, “because there’s no walls to put them against. It’s all triangles!”
It’s an “outside the box” solution, Burr says, one that takes advantage of a unique opportunity within the A-frame’s architectural style: to create nooks, or “little niches,” as Anderson calls them. The tilted walls lend themselves to cozy spots like this work-from-home office that might have otherwise been overlooked or unused, the designers say.
The key, then, was to add layers of texture through rich textiles and handmade furniture. Through their studio Saffron + Poe, the duo partners with artisans across the globe to design and curate collections of pillows, lighting, furniture, and more—each with a unique story. Every vintage rug, for example, was either found by the pair during their travels or designed by them and hand-woven by artists in Morocco. In the loft, they hung woven bell-shaped pendants to add interest since art couldn’t be hung on the angled walls. (These pendants will soon be available from Saffron + Poe.)
In the living room, the coffee and end tables are made from reclaimed barn wood by an artisan in the Shandong province of China. So is the chest upstairs. “There are all kinds of imperfections all over them that we love,” Anderson says of the wood. It “feels like a vintage piece even though it was made recently.”
In a home goods market saturated with claims of ethical sourcing, the Saffron + Poe designers say their brand defines that standard by partnering with small workshops that they or their Bali logistics and shipping coordinator have visited, and that meet minimum wage requirements and provide safe work environments. Everything they sell is made by hand, from hand-hammered copper nails in their hand-cut, woven leather furniture to the hand-sanded wood in the chairs. They use renewable materials “when possible,” Burr says, such as fast-growing reeds or teak that can be replenished.
Overall, the home is a reflection of the pair’s shared “relaxed California aesthetic,” sprinkled with additional treasures collected by Anderson and her husband, Carl, over the years. (His design style is reflected in the fact that his “face is in some of the photos,” she laughs.) Anderson found the string of brass bells that hang on the wall in the loft office, for example, in Santorini.
“Of course, her home is never done,” Burr quips. “She’s constantly refreshing things and moving pillows around into different spaces.”
But that’s part of the fun, Anderson agrees, even seasonally. “That doesn’t mean you need to have 20 pillows in your closet that you pull out in the fall. It can just be mixing them up between the guest bedroom and the sofa, for a fresh look. Suddenly, you feel like you have a new room.”
But the living space doesn’t stop in the cabin; it continues to the outdoor deck, where the designers created a dining area that overlooks the valley. They can host dinners and drink wine on the patio in the evenings, and Anderson sits there each morning with her coffee, watching the fog roll away.
“It’s just such a dream everyday, waking up here,” Anderson says. “I feel like I’m in the nicest Airbnb ever and I never have to leave.”