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Schuyler Bailey | Photo: Aubrie Pick | March 31, 2016
Interior designer Lizette Bruckstein transforms an average townhouse into a tailored abode for a globe-trotting family.
When Rob and Tali Levy downsized from their Los Gatos home to a townhouse in a San Mateo complex, they did it for good reason—sending their two children to more challenging schools was the utmost priority. But for the South African natives, who have spent their marriage living and traveling abroad, collecting myriad trinkets along the way, a cookie-cutter domicile in suburbia just wouldn’t cut it. So they took to Google to find someone to transform their box into a custom beauty worthy of their worldly curios and art collection—not to mention functional for a family of four.
Interior designer Lizette Bruckstein of Lizette Marie Interior Design struck their fancy. Bruckstein, who is typically charged with kitting out San Francisco and Peninsula manses from the ground up, was wary of the task a townhouse posed—namely working within a pre-packaged structure devoid of personality—until she met the Levys. “They have such interesting pieces and are such interesting people that it was really fun to incorporate and build off of that,” she explains. Her expertise manifested itself in marrying the couple’s differing modern tastes—her penchant for art deco, his for sleek minimalism—through bespoke furnishings in luxe fabrics, custom built-ins for nearly every room and one-of-a-kind pieces by local artisans for some knockout moments over three floors.
With the open floor plan of the first level’s main living area, Bruckstein was challenged to create dramatic moments that didn’t compete with one another, which she achieved through the characteristic use of black (her favorite color) in accessories, fabric and furniture, as well as echoes of deco throughout. The tone is set from the minute one walks into the entry, fitted with an antique mirror-backed built-in full of nooks and crannies to contain what Bruckstein endearingly calls the Levys’ “travelers’ trophies”—from Buddhas to books to blue-and-white porcelain vessels. The mirror’s reflection offers a preview of the living room—a thoughtful scene that showcases Bruckstein’s deftness at creating depth—while a Selva Bergère chair, a stunning specimen with a dramatic back dressed in gold velvet, provides a preamble to the first floor’s deco theme.
A painting by Carmel-based artist Johnny Apodaca—found and fallen in love with by the Levys while strolling past his gallery—served as the starting point for the living room. “I wanted the color palette to complement and speak to it but not be so matchy-matchy,” says Bruckstein, who pulled subtle mauves out from the composition of trees with adjacent window treatments. Overhead, an Oly Studio fixture of iridescent, cloud-like resin spheres offers a whimsical counter to the 100-year-old Indian temple door-turned-coffee table—the only piece of furniture the Levys brought from their former home. Just beyond, the black and gold palette suggested by the entry’s Bergère chair gets blown out in all its deco glory in the dining room, with graphic spire wallpaper covered with a collection of old and new mirrors, a racetrack oval glass-top table fitted with a custom metal base, and a Downtown Dante V brass and blackened steel showstopper of a chandelier. “It was the last piece to go in,” says Bruckstein.
The second floor, which houses the three bedrooms, features flourishes of all persuasions designed specifically for each inhabitant. In the first bedroom, Bruckstein conjured an ideal respite for both homework and hangouts for the Levys’ 12-year-old daughter. Its limited square footage reaches its full potential with built-ins that provide ample storage for books, clothes and linens. The shelving units border a makeshift daybed that was created by framing a nook with two headboards upholstered in quilted blue velvet. The 17-year-old son’s bedroom offers a decidedly more midcentury perspective, with a modern bamboo wall backing a bright-green upholstered headboard and a classic walnut bedside table. Meanwhile, the master’s look and feel stems from the couple’s pair of Fortuny silk pendant lamps, which flank a floor-to-ceiling headboard upholstered in gray velvet—a hue echoed in the space-dyed wallpaper behind it and textural window treatments; its masculine tone is paired with a more feminine orange.
The third floor is the most casual, with the family room and art studio’s lighthearted spirit echoed in a purple neon sign fabricated by Shawna Peterson of Peterson Neon stating the family’s motto that, “Life Is Good.” And for the Levys, it appears to be so.
Originally published in the March issue of Silicon Valley