This California Renovation Pulls Inspiration From Far-flung Destinations 

Notes of Persia, Mexico, and Provence come together in a perfect harmony for one California family. 

A few years ago, Ali Partovi and his soon-to-be-wife, Melissa, were looking to buy a house in Piedmont, a small California town adjacent to Oakland. Melissa was an early employee at Dropbox, and Ali has been an angel investor in Facebook, Airbnb, and Uber, and they found Piedmont attractive for its un–Silicon Valley qualities. “It feels like a city that existed 50 years ago,” says Melissa. “You see second-graders walking to school on their own.”

The couple scooped up a six-bedroom, 9,300-square-foot house built in 1930. The most recent residents, an elderly couple, had kept it in pristine shape. “The finishes were dated,” says Melissa, “but I could immediately see past that to the generous scale of the rooms and the care that went into the woodwork.”


The foyer is centered by a Niermann Weeks table and a custom rug from Mark Nelson Designs and features an Antony Gormley sculpture.  John Merkl

The combination of large house, extensive renovations, and busy couple meant that a professional designer was in order. Melissa scoured books and magazines before coming across a monograph by the namesake firm of Andrew Fisher and Jeffry Weisman, who divide their time between San Francisco and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. “There was a Moroccan flavor to some of their spaces that we liked,” says Ali. He and Melissa asked the designers to transform the existing French-country aesthetic into something contemporary and sophisticated, but also friendly and flexible enough for Ali’s three energetic young children from a previous marriage.

“Refined as it may be,” says Weisman, “the house seemed intended for a low-key decor. Ali and Melissa wanted a hit of glamour, but we had to add it carefully to work in the context of the architecture. We then layered the materials to create a sense of luxury with some drama.”


The master bedroom includes an Acanthus Minor desk from the Fisher Weisman Collection and sconces by Tuell & Reynolds . John Merkl

To that end, the designers deployed items from their own furniture collection. Fisher is also an artist—his work includes tapestries coated in gold leaf and sculptures made of gilded steel—and he brings a playful elegance to the firm’s furnishings, which are made by Mexican artisans. A pair of grand chandeliers, with five tiers of gilded fringe, like a flapper’s dress, hang in the Partovis’ dining room; a writing desk in the master bedroom has sculpted bronze legs and a top covered in paper that’s made from ficus bark. Fisher Weisman also custom-designed a number of pieces, including a cabinet in the foyer that suggests North African architecture. Unbeknownst to most guests, the mirror over the cabinet is two-way and reflects outward from a secret room adjacent to the children’s playroom. “During parties the kids can sneak in there through a hinged bookcase and pull aside a red velvet curtain to watch everyone in secret,” Weisman says.

The beehive lattice that covers the glass is a playful complement to the cabinet’s nearest neighbor, a multifaceted sculpture by Antony Gormley of a person doing a headstand. The Partovis are drawn to art that wavers between the figurative and the abstract; in the broad pink daubs that make up the foyer’s large painting, as in other works throughout the house, you can make out elements of the body. “We like art where you can still see something human in it,” says Ali.


Left: In the family room, the walnut side table with gilded edges and handblown glass was designed by Fisher Weisman; the carpet is from Stark. Right: Another view of the garden . John Merkl

In the dining room, Fisher and Weisman went “all in,” Weisman says, with shattered-acrylic-top tables and gilded chairs. Upholstered in mohair, the chairs are in jewel tones that pair well with a large Persian rug, the only piece that Ali brought from his previous life. The stuffed peacock on the mantel is another reference to his Iranian heritage. The designers convinced the couple that a pair of dining tables would work better than a single long one, given their taste for throwing small dinner parties as well as large functions. “It allows for any configuration of people while still feeling intimate,” says Ali.

The library was meant to be a formal space, but it has become the rehearsal room for the family band. Ali, Melissa, and the three oldest kids each play an instrument, from guitar to saxophone to conga drums, with a repertoire that ranges from the Beatles to Ed Sheeran. It was here that Ali popped the question to Melissa in 2015. “We were rehearsing a song to perform at Thanksgiving,” says Ali, “and when we finished, we proposed to her collectively.” The Partovis held their wedding ceremony and reception at the house the next year.