Kristen Peña of K Interiors gives a San Francisco Victorian a Modern Makeover

Suzanne Ennis | April 2, 2020 | Home & Real Estate Interiors

01entry.jpgA bright entrance gives way to a neutral interior palette in this Victorian home, designed by Kristen Peña of K Interiors.

Interior designer Kristen Peña may be based in San Francisco, but her signature style takes more cues from Topanga than tony Pacific Heights. “We’re a little more casual; we’re a little more airy,” she says of her firm, K Interiors ( “We’re not the traditional, transitional, San Francisco sort of designer.” Mastery of that laid-back-but-beautiful vibe has made Peña a favorite of young, successful first-time homebuyers in the Bay Area, including one who recently tapped K Interiors to bring his quirky Victorian into the modern era.

The client had rented several IKEA-filled apartments in San Francisco before purchasing the 1,500-square-foot home, which sits on a Victorian-lined street in the city’s center, in 2018. “I really wanted to finally invest in making a space really beautiful and make it my own,” says the Chicago transplant, who works in marketing. First he fell for Peña’s style after discovering her Instagram feed. When she was recommended by another designer, he knew he’d found the right person to help him achieve his goal.

His ask was simple: make the house cozy and fill it with natural greenery. Peña honored the request by warming up the palette with neutral colors, layering textures and sprinkling in plants from Flora Grubb Gardens. They kept original details like molding and an antique mirror in the living room to maintain the architecture’s integrity and charm, then added a high-low mix of modern furniture and decor that maximized both budget and space. Citizenry and CB2 pieces mingle with a Lawson-Fenning sofa, Year of None coffee and side tables, Victoria Morris lighting fixtures and ceramic vessels from Yonder Shop.

The process wasn’t always smooth sailing; shortly after work began, water damaged the floor in the breakfast area. Now, looking at the result—a striking herringbone Cle Tile floor—Peña calls the setback a “happy accident.” Another surprising touch: bedroom walls painted in Benjamin Moore’s Hale Navy. “I was initially concerned that it would make the room feel too dark and a little sterile and cold, but I think it’s actually had the opposite effect,” the homeowner says. Peña concurs, adding that the rich, vivid color is “a little bit sexy” too.

The day of the big reveal felt like Christmas morning, says the client—and maybe a touch nerve-wracking too. “I think it’s always a little bit of a risk, when you work with a designer. You’re dealing with a lot of pictures of things or concepts, but you don’t know how it all comes together,” he explains. To his delight, Kristen Peña and K Interiors exceeded expectations. “Everything came together beautifully,” he says. “From day one, it felt like home.”

08dining.jpgThe dining room features a CB2 table, a rug from Armadillo and McGee + Co. chairs03living.jpgThe living room features a Lawson Fenning couch, Year of None coffee and side tables. The mirror, which was left in place, nods to the home's Victorian architecture 11kitchennook.jpgA "happy accident" in the breakfast room resulted in these Cle tile floors. A Hedge House table, custom bench by Andrew Woodside Carter and Carl Hansen chairs complete the cozy nook16lounge.jpg

The office desk is from 57st Deign and the rug is from Woven Adobe

15master.jpgThe bedroom's rich blue walls contrast with the Faithful Roots nightstands, Victoria Morris lamps and vase from Yonder Shop. The bed, with a By Thornam headboard, is dressed in bedding from HD Buttercup and a Rosemary Hallgarten throw.

Photography by: R. Brad Knipstein