Eight-year-old Matilda (above!) doesn’t realize how lucky she has it. Her mother, Lorena, designs toys for a living and her dad, Esteban, owns a toy store. “I guess you don’t know what you don’t know,” jokes Lorena. She and her husband moved into their home when they were expecting their daughter — and don’t plan on leaving anytime soon. The window-filled space boasts a lush garden and is bursting with colorful art. Take a peek inside…
Sofa: Clad Home. Art: by Lorena. Lamp: Serge Mouille reproduction. Rug: Rugvista, similar. Coffee table: Blu Dot. Rocking chair: Case Study. Pillows on sofa: from Mexico and A.P.C. Throw: Manos del Uruguay. Large pillow: by Lorena.
On a twist of fate: When I was pregnant with Matilda, my husband was scouring Craigslist just for fun. I said: ‘We’re not looking at houses, I’m very pregnant,’ but then he spotted this place and we fell in love. We wrote a letter to the owner and said we wanted to raise our daughter there and we’ve never looked back. Houses in San Francisco are mostly Victorian, so it was exciting to find a midcentury place.
On a mixing things up: Pretty much everything I do — in my work as a toy designer for Petit Collage and in my home — has lots of color. We don’t stick to a certain aesthetic, but just choose things we like, including vintage pieces, IKEA finds, and stuff I’ve made. I actually painted the piece above the sofa and made the floor pillow from a vintage rug.
On vegetarianism: Our daughter has been a vegetarian since she was three. She went to a school where lots of kids were vegetarian and thought their meals looked delicious, and then she started learning about animals and it just stuck. So, my husband will make something like polenta and vegetables, and then add meatballs to ours. He also makes an amazing mac and cheese. He drains the pasta, and puts it back in the pot with pasta water, cheddar, parmesan and mozzarella; then the secret is to add a spoonful of yogurt. All Matilda’s friends come over and ask for it.
On baking: Our friend built our shelves for us — we like the easy-to-reach, no-fuss approach. My daughter and I like to bake together. We make what we call ‘To-Die-For Blueberry Muffins,’ and every weekend we cook the New York Times pancakes. We also make all types of nut butters, since she is vegetarian; we’re doing our own cashew cheese, and we’ve attempted our own Nutella.
On family artwork: The oil painting in our kitchen is from my grandmother and has been in our family forever. It shows the Argentinian countryside, and I love the colors so much that we decided to paint our kitchen walls a green shade that would match it.
On buying art: Since we’re on a hill, the house has a funky layout. You enter at the kitchen and living room level; the bedrooms are downstairs; and then half a level up is a playroom/family room. For the walls, we’re drawn to graphic prints. San Francisco has two cool stores — Rare Device and Little Paper Planes — that sell great prints.
On inventions: Matilda is a massive tinker, so she calls the room upstairs her invention lab. She’ll say, ‘Mom, I’m in my invention lab, come up here!’ She makes all sorts of weird devices; she’s always crafting and tinkering. She’ll say, ‘Tell me what problem you have, I will solve it with my inventions.” She made a boomerang attached to a Swiffer towel to clean hard-to-reach surfaces. Once I found two glue guns in her suitcase for vacation.
On large pieces: We aren’t too precious about art, so I just painted this big heart, free-style. I like oversized pieces that anchor your eye and might make someone think, ‘What’s the story here?’ That’s also why I like a dark accent wall — it draws in your attention.
On television: We just got a TV for the first time in our lives, so now this room is like a real family room, which is the most exciting thing ever. We’ve always enjoyed classic movies, like The Parent Trap and Mary Poppins; but the laptop screen was limiting, so we caved. My husband and daughter also hang out and watch cooking channel shows together.
On first gifts: Esteban and I are both from Argentina. We’ve been friends since we were four, but we weren’t romantic until we reconnected in New York City in our twenties. When we started dating, we didn’t know what to give each other for Christmas. So, without knowing, we both got each other a box of heart-shaped Argentinian candy. It was so funny! We’ve kept the packages forever, so for our 10th anniversary, I scanned and enlarged one, and my daughter and I colored it, and now it hangs above our bed.
On adult beds: We had an old IKEA bed forever, but the slats kept falling down. I was having back pain, so when my husband and daughter were in Argentina, I said, ‘Okay, we are grown-ups, I need to buy a bed for once in my life.’ I got a new bed and a Casper mattress, and it has been life-changing. I haven’t had to go to the chiropractor since.
On scissor sconce lamps: I deal with clutter and products all day at work, so I wanted our bedroom to feel minimal. The scissor lamps help keep our bedside tables clean; plus, I’m a klutz, so I’d probably knock a lamp over! We’ve had them for more than 10 years and still love them.
Tray: Hay Kaleido.
On nightly rituals: My daughter and I like taking baths, and we make bath salts together. We also say, ‘Let’s do a spa day,’ but that’s secretly just my way of getting her to cut her nails! At night, I try not to work on my computer. For a million years, I was reading only non-fiction — business books or parenting books — but lately I’ve started reading fiction again, and it’s been so refreshing. I love the Maria Semple books; Where Did You Go Bernadette? was so funny.
On school plays: Matilda goes to a musical school, and also takes theater, dance and trumpet. Right now, she’s rehearsing for The Sound of Music. She is Maria. It’s such a long show that there are three Marias, who switch off. She’s the middle one when she first meets the kids and they’re naughty to her — she’s very excited that she doesn’t have to be the one that kisses the captain, which is ‘gross.’
On DIY wallpaper: We made the stripes above Matilda’s bed with thick washi tape. It was easy and super affordable.
On adventure walls: Matilda calls the wall in her room with all her art her ‘adventure wall.’ She picks out everything on it, and makes many pieces herself, like the bridge, arrow, mask and swan.
On the garden: We spend lots of time in the backyard, where my husband gardens and Matilda climbs trees. We were lucky to have two magnolia trees, a lemon tree and an apple tree. It was originally an English-style garden with hedges, but when it finally fit into our budget we hired a landscape designer and went with all native plants. It’s crazy to think that I was eight months pregnant when we first moved in, and now we have an eight-year-old! We’re looking forward to see her grow even more in the house, which keeps changing as our family does.
Thank you so much, Lorena!
P.S. Looking for more color? Check out this Brooklyn townhouse and this Seattle home. Want advice for small spaces? Here’s a San Francisco Victorian, a teeny Brooklyn flat and an actual tiny house. For international tours, see this dreamy Parisian apartment and this home in the Japanese countryside.