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Of Miniatures and Mondrian

Joanne Furio | March 19, 2013 | Story Architecture

It takes some gumption to build a three-story addition onto one’s home as an homage to the painter Piet Mondrian. What if the primary-color blocks end up looking more Legoland than Louvre? Luckily for owners John Marx, a principal at Form4 Architecture, and Nikki Beach, who creates miniature trees for architectural models, an eye for color comes naturally. “Our whole family is made up of painters,” says Marx.

When the pair moved into their 1907 Russian Hill house a decade ago, Beach adopted the tiny living room as a studio for her tiny topiaries. After jointly amassing a sizable collection of art and ephemera over the years—taxidermy, vintage signs, toys, classical-sculpture reproductions, and many, many paintings—the couple found themselves rich in stuff and poor in wall space.

Marx built a 1,400-square-foot addition onto the back end of the house, doubling its original size. He calls the end result “Mondrian’s Window,” christened after the famed Dutch artist. (“I tend to give everything a romantic name,” he explains.)

Needless to say, blocks of color are the central theme. Rectangular swaths of Kool-Aid red, Yves Klein blue, and canary yellow appear in overlays on the windows, in glass insets in the flooring, and on the wood-paneled walls. Beyond the Mondrian motif, the couple’s eclectic taste is evident throughout, from a gallery’s worth of paintings by their parents, grandparents, children, and friends to a collection of 1930s vacuum cleaners and a stuffed macaw from the Philippines. A particular conversation piece: the faux foliage–covered wall of Beach’s tree-modeling studio, which doubles as an aviary-themed display for her collection of birdhouses and feathered objets d’art.

Originally published in the April 2013 issue of San Francisco

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