Ellice Condon: Tips for Redesigning A Home

Interior DesignerSan Francisco, CAPhotos & story by Lauri Levenfeld

In the case of interior designer Ellice Condon of Velvet & Green, her client’s home redesign happened to be the hidden treasure The Albion Castle, a 145-year-old castle with underground caves located in San Francisco’s Hunters Point neighborhood.

Even with a property so magnificent and daunting,  Condon describes a doable approach and easy tips which can be applied to a home of any size and structure,  each suggestion guiding you to create your own personal masterpiece-one that is fit for a queen. And has left this castle a cozy, dreamy winter oasis.  

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Albion Castle, with ivy covered walls and a gate guarding it’s entrance, was built in 1870 by John Hamlin Burnell as the site for his brewery – the Albion Porter & Ale Brewery. The castle, which was partially constructed from cargo ship ballast stones, sits above two 200 ft. wide stone cisterns, each capturing 8,000 – 10,000 gallons of spring water per day


The Job:

I was hired by the current owner to create a more cohesive look throughout the property and bring together the details that others had added. Anytime you purchase a property from a previous owner, there are elements that just don’t fit with your style. Unfortunately, often times after having invested in real estate, there is not much left in the budget for design. Luckily, with a really smart approach, you can create a totally custom home that will look like you hired a designer.


First things first- decide on the direction you are going. My favorite thing to do after looking at a new space is to design a pinterest board. Start collecting images that inspire you, that make your eyes go big and say ‘YES!’. This is the beginning of your style emerging- trust me, a trend will appear. Develop your style and color scheme early on and stick to it. You will question your purchases less and be able to edit down what you already own by sticking to this.



Work with what your home already offers. What’s unique about your space? What elements do you love? What can you draw front and center? A design detail I can’t stress enough- new paint and repetition of colors. It creates flow, a feeling of newness, openness and light. I could have a bed on the floor with all white linens in a freshly painted dove gray bedroom and feel like all is right in the world. If there is one thing you do invest in when you move into a new house, hire a color consultant and a painter. It’s not just about new colors; it’s about the right colors. You cannot match the transformation.

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What I did:

Albion Castle had a feminine, whimsical presence. I wanted to create what felt like a natural fit with castles rustic interior stone walls, wooden beamed ceilings and Normandy style architecture without doing too much. I chose colors such as apparition, dragon’s breath, cloud cover, and shale all by Benjamin Moore that would be carried throughout all 6 stories. Design elements that looked like they could have been collected all over the world over a lifetime such as Moravian star lights, a sequined canopy, velvet chairs, wool and antique Persian rugs tied each room together.

Stick to it:

Chances are, the things you already own have a similar style. When you start to refine your personal style, you are able to see a clearer picture of the story your home tells. We all have that table in the corner or the old brown buffet in the dining room that just feels heavy every time you look at it. So, toss it! Donate it, paint it, sell it- just get rid of it. The only way to see your true style emerge is to free yourself of everything you don’t truly love, keep the things you do, then add more of the same.

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Here are 5 tips I live by and have put together as a quick guide to decorating for anyone to follow:


1. Choose a basic color scheme. Gray, blue, black and white is a great starting point. Your space will appear cleaner and more organized. You can swap things out between rooms this way and keep things from getting tired looking. Art, plants and colorful pillows & throws will be your pops of color.


2. Keep it white. When in doubt, go white for items like towels, sheets, bedding and dishes. Again, it keeps things looking clean and thought out, but yet nothing has to “match”. You can easily mix high and low-end pieces and you will have a seamless, fresh and finished look.


3. Don’t be afraid of paint. It is quite possibly the least expensive and most dramatic way to decorate. My current go-to paint color is Benjamin Moore’s stonington gray. It is a clean, light gray neutral and looks excellent with black, brown, blue, white, pink or yellow.

4. Edit. It is better to have a few perfect items than too many so-so items. My rule is if I don’t love it, it doesn’t get to stay. Our days are filled with cluttering thoughts and things that don’t necessarily serve us. You’re in control of your home environment it should be a reflection of who you are.


5. Find your local thrift store and shop it often. People are constantly clearing out estates and dropping items here by the box load. I have purchased Waterford Crystal wine glasses for $1.25 each, a vintage Shreve & Co. gurgle pitcher for $2.99 and set of China for $19.99. You can’t beat the high quality or the low price. Plus, it’s sort of like a treasure hunt.


For more on Ellice and how to curate a room, check out her story on TPFW.

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