No chemicals, no bright colors, and absolutely no clutter. Such were the simple yet stringent requests from Jennifer Jones’s new clients: a husband and wife—both with demanding jobs in the tech industry—who had just purchased a home in the leafy Crescent Park neighborhood of Palo Alto, California, and were about to welcome their first child. They had reached out to Jones, the principal of Niche Interiors in San Francisco, because her style and philosophy seemed to sync up with theirs.
An expert in eco-conscious design, Jones draws on a network of fabricators and suppliers to create custom-made pieces that are greener than anything on the market. But it was the contemporary nature of the homes in Jones’s portfolio that sealed the deal. “They fell in love with the family-friendly neighborhood, but the house itself was more traditional, and their tastes trended modern,” says Jones. The hope was that she would be able to execute a minor miracle on the existing structure, which was rife with arched windows and other neo-Mediterranean details.
“The clients wanted to avoid bold colors and patterns, so for me it was a unique and gratifying challenge: how to create interesting spaces without them,” says Jones, who collaborated on the home with her associate Lynn Trinh, the project’s lead designer. “It made me experiment with textures, materials, and subtle differences in shades of gray and white.” Walls and ceilings were painted with non-VOC formulas in a highly restrained palette. A single wall in the master bedroom was papered in a silvery grass cloth, its shimmer barely discernible. The only room exempt from the restriction: the cheery blue nursery, which features a yellow- and white-striped rug and pops of color in the form of pillows and other accessories.
The next order of business was to figure out how to downplay the overt architectural detailing. Jones’s answer to the arched windows was simple—semi-opaque linen Roman shades that hang just above the frames, concealing all but a hint of the non-angular shape. “They instantly gave the rooms a more clean-lined feel,” says Jones.
To add warmth, Jones and Trinh incorporated rich woods, including a walnut dining table from 7th & Seventh Designs in Los Angeles and dovetailed side tables in the master bedroom. Metallics and textiles play an understated yet integral role: copper and gold accessories add a subtle sparkle, while wool rugs in heather tones usher in softness and texture.
But it’s through the invisible details that the designer executed her most potent changes. “The clients were extremely interested in a healthy, chemical-free home, and they had educated themselves on all the options,” says Jones, who often designs furnishings herself and then works with a fabricator to construct them using natural latex; organic wool; nontoxic adhesives; and sustainably harvested wood, as certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). “Creating custom pieces is the only way to guarantee that there won’t be any off-gassing. Some manufacturers are starting to offer poly foams with no flame retardants, but there are still other chemicals in foam. It’s much better than in years past, but if you want something truly chemical-free, custom is the way to go.”
Heeding Jones’s advice, the clients opted for bespoke pieces in the spaces in which they would spend the most time: the family room and the bedrooms. Two midcentury-inspired sofas designed by Jones in organic gray wool anchor the family room, while the master bedroom has an expansive upholstered bed (also by Jones) as its centerpiece. For other areas, the couple chose off-the-shelf, flame-retardant-free pieces from trusted vendors such as Cisco Home and Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. All the rugs are made from organic wool; the wood furnishings are crafted with salvaged or FSC-certified materials.
With baby set to arrive any day now, the couple have settled into their new home nicely. “It feels so much more like them,” says Jones, who is a mother herself and is passionate about helping her clients envision the best future possible—both for their families and the world they inhabit. “Projects like this are my favorite kind.”