Vision Maker: Ari Citron

Words by Sheri Baer

Photos by Matt Anell

Words by Sheri Baer

Arielle Citron Leonard recently had a new client contact her about a remodeling idea that was just taking shape. The homeowner hadn’t talked with anyone else yet and launched the call with a somewhat-sheepish query. “They asked, ‘Is this the right time to reach out to you?’” recounts Arielle. “And I responded, ‘Most people don’t but it’s so important because we see the project through from nothing until it’s complete.’”

As the principal of Citron Home, a full-service Peninsula-focused interior design firm founded in 2016, Arielle frequently finds herself clarifying the role that interior designers play. “People think that we just come in and put furniture in the space,” she explains. “We definitely can do that, but if you are doing a whole renovation or a new-build construction, it’s to your benefit to bring us in early.”

Whether working on spec projects or with individual homeowners, Arielle touts the value of weighing in from the outset. When she’s brought in by developers, she works hand in hand with the architect to convey the overall vision for the home, which is frequently influenced by the Peninsula’s many family-friendly neighborhoods. “Seeing it through that lens means making sure that it’s not just a pretty home but it also makes sense and it flows,” she notes, citing examples like sufficiently wide hallways, ample storage, a laundry room that’s close to the bedrooms and a proper mud room.

COVER IMAGE: We wanted the beautiful exterior vintage oak trees to be an integral element in designing this great room. Large windows, soft ripple-fold drapes and a light fixture with oak accents intrinsically link the space with the outdoors.

“We make sure that the kitchen has everything that’s needed for a family and that there’s great usability and flow between the spaces,” Arielle continues. “And nowadays, a lot more people are working from home, so instead of doing one office, we’re doing two offices or a flex space. We look into areas where kids can play or that can also be used as a guest room or a study room.” From a design perspective, Arielle appreciates the flexibility that comes with spec projects. “There’s not as much direction,” she points out. “There’s no client, so we have more range to be fully creative.”

That said, Arielle also enjoys partnering with homeowners, who typically have a personal style they want to achieve. “We work together to really understand their aesthetic, so we can carry that vision through to the end,” she says. “Not only do we have the layout of the home in our heads, but we also consider how somebody is going to live there.”

Being involved from the start allows for input on space planning, scale and core decisions. That includes door and window placement, floor selections, baseboards, TV locations and even outlets. “If you have a vacuum that needs to be charged, we make sure that there’s a plug there so that it can be put away. Even electric toothbrushes—we like to have everything plugged away in drawers,” Arielle relays.

Small details make the difference in this staircase design. Adding picture lights to the ceiling to allow for a statement piece of art to shine introduces depth, illuminates the space and draws the eye upwards to take in the full effect.

The list goes on. Stone choices, sconces, window treatments and stair railings. Ceiling height, ceiling pitches and locations for recessed lighting and switches. “All the plumbing fixtures and faucets,” adds Arielle. “Even the height of the shower and where the temperature control goes so that you don’t get wet when you turn the shower on.” For a client who likes to cook, Citron Home makes sure there’s plenty of room for pots and pans. If they like to host big dinner parties, the design team ensures there’s sufficient table space for guests. “We definitely voice our opinion on what we think the client would love and appreciate, and after that, it’s their decision on what they want in their home.”

Raised in Menlo Park, Arielle says it feels like a natural extension to create beautiful and functional living spaces on the Peninsula. “New construction and renovations keep the community thriving and bring new life and young kids into the area,” she reflects. “When I drive by all the parks and they’re filled with kids, I think, ‘I was one of those kids.’” She credits her parents with sparking her passion for design and timeless art. “They built their own home, and I got to watch that at a young age,” she recalls. “And then they built spec homes throughout my childhood so I was able to learn about that and see it with my own eyes and become more involved as I got older. Design is something that’s in my blood, and I’m fortunate enough to have known it my whole life.”

After earning a design and architecture degree from UC Berkeley, Arielle pursued additional coursework in interior architecture and interior design. She worked for an interior design firm until she realized she was ready to go out on her own. “That’s what I always envisioned myself doing,” she shares, “and so I took the leap.”

Continuing the indoor-outdoor flow throughout the home creates a cohesive and clean atmosphere. The window treatments span the length of the room, drawing your eye across, while the horizontal lines are brought together by the European white oak floors and the linear oak pendant.

Now married with two “rambunctious” kids, Arielle has renewed appreciation for the Peninsula’s vibrant green spaces, high-quality schools and charming tree-lined streets. She also recognizes that it’s not easy to get into this market, which underscores why the right design team should be in place sooner than later: “I think the worst thing that could happen is that you spend two years building or renovating your dream home, and it doesn’t have everything you need.”

As she partners through the construction process, Arielle also consults with clients on furnishings. “That way, once their construction is done, they can move right in,” she says. “Having a family of my own allows me to have more insight into what families need that they don’t necessarily know that they need.” Drawing from first-hand experience, Arielle cites examples like easy-to-clean fabrics and carpeting. “I think we have a good grasp on durability and just making sure things are timeless.”

While she finds the entire design process stimulating, Arielle doesn’t hesitate when asked what’s most satisfying. “Seeing the project at the end of the day and closing the door for the last time,” she smiles. “To see families move in and create their own memories in a space that I’ve designed feels really special.”

designing every detail –