In Oakland, a Century-Old Tudor Receives a Jet-Set Makeover

Looking at Tiffany Thompson’s portfolio, no one would guess that interior design wasn’t her initial career choice.

“I fell into design while working in marketing at Nike,” the Portland, Oregon−based decorator says. “After redoing an office there, I was asked to decorate the offices of some of the vice presidents, and it became a side hobby.” Three years ago, Thompson made the leap and launched her very own firm, Duett Interiors.

Recently, she was tapped to decorate the house of a friend’s mother in Oakland, California. The client, a tech company executive and first-time homebuyer, had relocated from New York to the Bay Area to be near her children and grandchildren. She settled on a 2,500-square-foot, four-bedroom Tudor-style residence from the 1920s—a far cry from the super-contemporary glass penthouse she had been living in.

A vibrant dining nook features a custom robins-egg blue banquette.
Marni Epstein-Mervis

“The place was in great condition and didn’t require any renovation, but it was all white and very bare-bones,” recalls Thompson. “Because the client lives alone and the space is all about her, we wanted to have some fun and play with color and texture.”

Aside from injecting some life into the home, Thompson wanted to convey a feeling of warmth. “This house is meant to serve as a backdrop for creating memories with her family,” she says. “It’s a place where they can come together and hang out, so comfort was also at the top of the list. And even though my client just recently purchased this property, it feels like it could have been in the family for years.”

To enhance this idea of time-worn history, Thompson avoided flat paint altogether and opted for plaster and limewash throughout. “The walls already had a bit of texture since the home is quite old, so we simply continued with that look,” she says. “I love the uneven quality.”

wooden staircase leading to second floor with a modern pedestal table next to the banister with a yellow stone vase with greenery in it

Thompson kept a soft palette of limewash throughout, in keeping with the home’s history.
Marni Epstein-Mervis

Since this was the client’s first house, Thompson started from scratch when it came to the furnishings, curating an interesting mix of custom and contemporary furniture alongside vintage accessories and lighting in addition to a few standout pieces that allude to the homeowner’s love of travel. A hand-painted table and brass lantern from Morocco add character to a guest room; an onyx-and-oak cocktail table from Portugal is paired with a leather-and-brass sideboard from South Africa in the living room; and another South African find—an ostrich-feather-and-velvet sofa—commands attention in the primary bedroom, a serene space whose walls and ceiling are adorned with a soft pink plaster. “My client loves Morocco, South Africa, and Europe, so this is a way to bring in some of her favorite places,” says Thompson.

bed with tall peach colored upholstered headboard several throws on it with a three drawer wood nightstand next to it and a striped folding screen to the left near the window and two dark orange chairs at the foot with a inlaid hexagon box on a low table between them

A guest bedroom features treasures from the homeowner’s global travels.
Marni Epstein-Mervis

In fact, the overall palette—which features pops of blue, orange, green, and pink—was also inspired by the client’s affinity for exploring the globe as well as the vibrant murals found in the neighborhood. “I think we found a nice balance of modern living while complementing the residence’s history and style,” says the designer.

But she was also sure to empower the client to be able to fill in some of the blanks herself: “As this client continues to travel, she will add more artwork, collectibles, and vintage items to the space, which is why we left some of the walls bare,” Thompson explains. “Rather than taking a project to 100 percent completion, I prefer to leave it a little undone and allow the client to put on the finishing touches.”

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