House Tour: Happy Haven

Lily Kanter, CEO of home decor company Serena & Lily, tackles her biggest design challenge yet -- her family's turn-of-the-century house.


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Happy Haven

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Lily Kanter's Mill Valley, CA, home looks like a page taken from a stylish design catalog. No surprise, since Lily is cofounder and CEO of the 11-year-old decor and lifestyle brand Serena & Lily, known for its casual chic furnishings. When she and her husband, Marc, bought the historic 1907 hillside property 10 years ago, almost every room needed a complete renovation. "I'm an old-home junkie and loved the coffered ceilings and the wainscoting," she says. "We wanted to keep all the character but brighten it up." Once they updated the plumbing, painted the dark wood trim and paneling white throughout, and installed a new kitchen, Lily turned her attention to decorating. She selected a soft gray palette for most of the interior, outfitting it with her company's sophisticated classics along with pieces she's collected on family trips to Africa and Asia. Vibrant, happy hues add a fun kick to the bedrooms of her three sons -- ages 9, 11 and 13. "I love mixing and matching patterns and colors," Lily says, "but cozy and playful always rule."


Comfy wicker sofas piled high with cushions help create an inviting spot for bringing family and friends together on the deck. "We're big entertainers," Lily says. "We host dinner just about every week, and in the summer we move the party outdoors. My foolproof formula for an inviting alfresco room: Roll out a weather-resistant rug, add a comfy sectional and bring in a low table for appetizers and cocktails."


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Clean and Streamlined

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"The kitchen was 1940s horrible," Lily says. She gutted the space down to the studs, then rebuilt with new glass-front cabinets, marble counters and a subway tile backsplash that matched the gray beadboard on the walls.


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Book Smart

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Lily revamped the library with bold shades that play off the room's Tibetan rug. "With four men in the house, I needed an escape, a fun girlie-girl room," she says. The back of the bookshelves is painted Benjamin Moore's Tasty Apple (416) and the ladder is Benjamin Moore's Cool Aqua (2056-40).


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A Place at the Table

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Graceful white-waxed oak chairs and a locally crafted 14-foot teak table are the stars of the dining room. Lily wanted a look that wasn't too casual or modern. "It can go in either direction depending on what dishes and accessories I use," she says. Instead of one large chandelier, try two or three pendant lamps hung in a row over a dining table for a more contemporary look.


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Wooden it Be Nice

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With its clean-lined linen sofas and quiet sandy tones, the living area is a far cry from its former stuffy self. Lily pulled in accessories in a variety of textures -- a leather stool, crushed bamboo coffee table and cowhide-patched rug. Turn up the heat on neutral charcoals and pebble grays by pairing them with hot corals and reds. The key to mixing patterns is to keep the colors complementary.


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Pennant Race

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For her son Zeke's eighth birthday, Lily decorated an entire wall in his bedroom with memorabilia from the Yankees, his favorite baseball team.


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Room with a View

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The kids' tree house perches above a terraced vegetable garden and the backyard chicken coop.


Originally published in the May 2015 issue of Family Circle magazine.