Now in its 34th year, the San Francisco Decorator Showcase again drew hundreds of submissions from leading interior designers throughout the Bay Area eager to show off their creativity. But only a few got the opportunity to display their talents at the 1929 French Normandy-style home, designed by Albert L. Farr. There was universal agreement that the outcome was a huge success, and the owners and listing agents (the home is on the market with David Barrett of Warwick Properties and Joel Goodrich of Coldwell Banker) could not have been more pleased with the transformation.
This year the design community says farewell to Executive Director Delanie Borden who is known for her infinite charm and patience. After ten years she wanted to hand over the reigns to a new generation, and this time she was shadowed by her successor Michaele M. James. Together they coordinated a most successful showcase that highlights the skills of almost thirty talented interior designers, architects, landscape designers and artists. The average person may not realize the efficiency and finesse it takes to organize such an extensive renovation in only three months. My hat goes off to these ladies!
Upon entering this gracious home immediately to the right is the powder room designed by Matthew Turner of MacCaul Turner Design who drew inspiration from the myth of Narcissus, which he felt should lend much reflection and also some darkness to his design.
After the jury accepted his design Matthew learned that the homeowners wanted something light. Although he had to make major revisions to his palette none of the magic of the original design was lost. Each component makes subtle references to the myth, as the ‘vanity’, which is real rift-sawn white oak in contrast to the faux wood finish on the walls.
This major contribution to the success of the roomcame from the talented decorative artist Katherine Jacobus whose most meticulous faux bois work on the walls and silver linen texture on the ceiling are simply exquisite. Together they took an overworked and dated closet and powder room and turned it into a timeless and masculine space, which offers function while intriguing our senses.
Across from the lobby you enter a vestibule that leads into the generously scaled dining room designed by Tucker & Marks whose principal Suzanne Tucker not only succeeded with a most comfortable and inviting room that can serve more than one function, but also beautifully showcased her new fabric collection, such as the floral drapery fabric, which has a border incorporated into the yardage.
A perfect balance of casual and elegant it is not only a place for dining, but also a light-filled retreat for reading, listening to music and conversing, as Suzanne added a grand bookcase along the back wall, a large dry bar near the entrance and a generously-sized curved sofa in the bay window. Contemporary art and objects, such as the portentous “Horny” bronze table lamp from Blackman Cruz, add contrast and relevance to this otherwise feminine and light dining room. This is a place where you can get happily lost in the details.
The kitchen was a challenging space to configure, long and narrow, with an enclosed staircase and a dark pantry breaking up the back area. Jennifer Hershon and JoAnn Hartley of Hershon Hartley Design took a chef’s approach and built the design like well-thought-out recipe.
They used neutral tones, subtle colors and textures to visually expand the width of the space. Materials included white oak for the floors, a combination of natural and painted quarter-swan oak for the cabinets, CaesarStone on the counter tops, walnut and steel for the island, and cast concrete tile by Andrew Fleischman on the backsplash behind the range. Venetian plaster by Affinity Studios was not only used on the walls, it also covered the hood above the range, which consisted heavily troweled plaster embossed with real giant Tasmanian tree fern fronds.
The breakfast nook was carved from a small corner next to the staircase. A built-in leather and fabric banquette and round table make maximal use of the awkward space. Now the kitchen now is not only up to date and more functional, but it also appears brighter and more comfortable, as a visitor noted, “I could live in here.”
The library, one of the most popular rooms during the selection process, went to Darin Geise of Coup d’Etat, who had earned much respect last year with an amazing transformation of a basement closet. His “Hall of Wisdom and Enlightenment” is a true reflection of the aesthetic of his showroom, dark, masculine and warm with touches of whimsy and surprise, like the red velvet wing chairs with Anglo-Indian gilded canopies fit for a king.
The room is layered with unique furnishings, curious objects, tons of antique leather books in various languages, a unique infinity mirror over the mantel, and an eclectic grouping of art including a large painting called “Taiho Rock” (turned on its side) by landscape designer and artist Topher Delaney and a photographic study of nests by Sharon Beales.
Darin used bold scale with Topher’s painting, the imposing spherical chandelier made from rusted metal banding and the Silo light installation next to the leather sofa, which is comprised of industrial grain lids and is strangely reminiscent of some medieval torture device. So why does it feel right in the room?
Moving on to the second floor, the master bedroom suite underwent the biggest transition architecturally, as it had the most awkward layout. Shelby de Quesada in collaboration with her husband Jorge de Quesada of De Quesada Architects completely reconfigured the space to create a luxurious retreat for the home’s future owners.
Originally the entrance was where the bed is now situated, and the bedroom was flanked by two oddly configured spaces, a combination of a closet and bathroom on one side and a Jacuzzi tub recessed in a raised carpeted platform and more closets on the other. The new layout is not only much more functional, but also provides more interesting focal points. Upon entering the room the light-filled gallery catches the eye, and the bed is tucked away to the right while still taking advantage of the views through the bay windows.
Shelby described the overall design concept as a contemporary adaption of Neo-Classical principals. The walls were treated in traditional Grasello Venetian plaster, expertly executed in shades of cafe au lait by Willem Racke. The Klismos-style bed from Therien Studio Workshops anchors the room furnished with a mixture of antiques with classical lines and exquisite woods. Thierry Chantrel’s living green console and plant arrangements truly bring the gallery to life with succulents and air plants.
The warm palette continues into the bathroom pairing pear wood with more Venetian plaster, white Calacatta marble and nickel-plated trim and fittings. Nods to designer for the separate toilet room and overall to a very successful transformation.
Will Wick’s room immediately took me out of San Francisco, away to a place somewhere in the Mediterranean, perhaps occupied by an artistic American woman with a minimal and modern aesthetic. I guess Will got his point across, as his inspiration was a guest quarter in Mongibello, Sicily.
Pale gray plaster walls and limed oak floors serve as the base for an eclectic mix of rustic and masculine furnishings, which invoke a sense of cool austerity. The minimal decor is accentuated by a grouping of interesting portraits on one wall and a very large photograph of water by Richard Misrach on the other. This ethereal guestroom definitely transports you to another place.
The adjoining dressing room and bathroom were designed by showcase newcomers Cecilia Sagrera Hill and George Brazil of Sagrera Brazil who envisioned a retreat for a young lady who had moved back home after graduating from University. Although a likely scenario these days most graduates may not have such a gorgeous boudoir designed for them.
There are many wonderful elements in the very small dressing room, from the charming aqua wallpaper, over the graceful Roman shade with two-color trim, the lovely custom dressing table and stool, to the marvelous glass bubble ceiling fixtures, and the iPad with wardrobe selections by Barney’s personal shopper especially compiled for the young fashionista.
The pair’s attention to detail continued in the bathroom where they replaced the pedestal sink with a custom vanity and laid out the marble tub surround in an over-scaled chevron pattern and added an off-center shampoo niche. My favorite of the small touches was 3″ by 3″ painting from one of the designers’ personal art collection. Not a detail was overlooked! Cecilia and George achieved a perfect balance between timeless elegance and fashionable femininity.
The guestroom designed by Marion Philpotts and Jonathan Staub on the second floor was described by the designers as “Elemental Luxe” in where they went for a fresh, natural Asian island feel, quite possibly inspired by the location of their second office in Hawaii. They set pale neutrals and textures against a turquoise Chinese daybed painted with automobile paint for durability. Also here the walls had a lot to say with wall covering from Nobilis, one side in a silver paper covered with lacy handmade paper and the rest with “Papier Bois”, which has a light oak texture.
They also extended their design out to the terrace where they added a splash of color with orange wire chairs. The warmth of the outside successfully contrasted their cool and soothing sleeping quarters.
The adjacent closet and bathroom got a distinctive makeover by of De Meza + Architecture + Interiors, also first-timers at the showcase this year. In their “Modernism Talks Back” bathroom Gregg de Meza and his team of hardworking ladies, namely Jennifer Gustafson and Michelle Nelson, did not go the understated route, as many of the other designers, when they chose black and white contrasted by bright yellow as their color scheme.
To heighten the contrast and to infuse whimsy they used a black and white mosaic tile by Trend USA with the quote “wash behind your ears” repeated in the shower and a dizzying custom pattern on the floor that only appears random. From what Gregg explained it was a very deliberate pattern they had created, and it came with a very detailed map for installation.
They designed a vanity whose details on the exterior are reminiscent of those on the existing closet doors, but whose interior is a cleverly thought-out space-saver with plenty of storage lined in bright yellow for a wake-up kind of surprise. They also painstakingly painted the inside of the closet drawers in yellow. DMA’s first showcase room debuted with a splash and with no detail overlooked.
Anastasia Faiella in collaboration with Rothblatt Architecture took the second floor kitchenette from drab and uninviting space to a treat that anyone would appreciate on his or her bedroom floor. Anastasia and her collaborators got a rid of the opening into the adjacent sitting room and reconfigured the whole layout. They kept it light and airy with pale walls in a raw and troweled plaster finish with a pigmented top coat executed in an ever so subtle fashion by Ted Sogyi of Probert Art, white cabinetry, gray “Flatiron” marble bricks on the backsplash and Carrara marble on the counter tops.
This generously sized kitchenette has all the essentials needed to satisfy a midnight craving, such as a large sink, a microwave, Fisher Paykel’s drawer dishwasher, a two-drawer-combo refrigerator and wine fridge from U-Line, and Miele’s built-in whole bean coffee system. Could anyone ask for more?
Next door in the official second floor sitting room Charles de Lisle got creative in covering the outdated floral wallpaper on the walls. Inspired by all the smocking and ruching in fashion Charles had been dying to use ruffles and such. If your clients won’t let you use ruffles in their homes what better place than a showcase to install 200 yards of black and white gingham as a wall treatment?
My memories of gingham took me back to my childhood of dirndl dresses and aprons. But my brain went to different universe when I entered this room. The black and white ruched walls with ruffled tops and bottoms were contrasted with white, gray and bright chartreuse yellow, and furnishings that are decidedly modern and paired down. My memories of the Alps have faded into space. Inspired by Frances Elkin and Michael Taylor, Charles put his modern and offbeat spin on the room. I feel that showcase houses should be inspiring, and this room is unexpected — perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea, but it gets a strong nod from me.
The chairs upholstered in custom-dyed chartreuse hemp twill and the minimal brass floor lamp are designs of the CDL Workshop. The armoire was constructed from an art-shipping crate, the benches from I-beams covered in cushions fashioned from moving blankets, and the fire place mantel out of perforated galvanized steel. These are humble materials taken to another level. Charles created a sophisticated and intriguing room full of surprises.
Another designer going against the staid grain was Michael Burg who fell in love with a tiny attic room that had a corner sink in it. With bold strokes he transformed a tiny attic room into sexy chamber.
When Michael first saw the space it reminded him of the many small European hotel rooms he had stayed in. He even kept what other designers may have considered flaws, such as the corner sink and the exposed radiator. These more humble aspects are set against bold strokes. He covered the walls and ceiling with a black wallcovering with a subtle fretwork pattern, and thought of the essentials, something to rest on, something to regenerate, and something to inspire the mind.
So the main pieces are a tufted Napoleon-3rd-style red leather campaign bed and Edwardian lounge chair, a vintage glass vitrine with toiletries and piccolo bottles of champagne and liquor, and a mortician’s table with a mini TV, and a Louis-XVI-style secretaire. Michael designed a room that is utterly unafraid and charmingly enveloping.
Michael Burg, to someone wondering what the strange noises were coming from miniature TV.
In another small attic space Cecilie Starin aimed to create a space for contemplation and reading, which she called “Ivory Tower: A Room for Thought”.
The focal point is a French day bed with a linen canopy and luscious pillows, perfectly fitted in between the windows. Despite a generous amount of furniture the small room does not feel cramped, and there are interesting details everywhere, like the rustic chandelier by Jim Misner made from vintage parts, and the stunning stenciled cream and tan custom wallpaper in a crackled linen look by Jennifer La Pierre on the ceiling. An open metal bookcase is filled with baskets, boxes and objects, arranged in a slightly haphazard fashion, giving the sense that they hadbeen collected over time on various traveling adventures. The result is a reflection of how Cecilie likes to live and most inviting to visitors.
room has a “steampunk” vibe to it. I love that!”
Brian Dittmar’s debut at the showcase came with immediate accolades from Diane Dorrans Saeks who detailed his process before the rooms were even open to the public. Brian’s study was perhaps the most personal room in the house reflecting his lifelong passion for horology. A collection of time pieces from various periods are displayed throughout, which include an 1860s French “Portico” clock, an Art Deco wall clock, a 1950s German “Hoop” clock, unusual hour glasses, an armillary, antique pocket watches from Brian’s grandfather, and a one-of-a-kind “Skeleton” wall clock by furniture designer and metal artist Paul Benson who also created the floor lamp besides the custom wing chair.
Time was also subtly reflected in many of the furnishings, as in the custom rug with the quote “Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely” by Auguste Rodin and the mirror with a poem by John Muir about how time relates to the earth etched upon it. Hard to tell what time it is in here, but time very well spent by Brian.
Val Fiscalini utilized every inch of the oddly shaped petite attic bathroom and maximized space with a wall-hung vanity from Kohler in the shape of a hat box, a wall faucet and narrow shelves. Reflecting the light from the small windows and expanding the space is a mirrored wall that consists of an oval Venetian-style mirror mounted on an mirror panel etched in a large Fortuny-inspired pattern, which was also applied onto wallpaper by Jennifer La Pierre for continuity.
The tub was replaced with an open shower with a partial frameless glass panel. Honed Avorio marble lines the wall of the shower and on the floor an ivory ceramic tile simulating the texture of pebbled leather is bordered in a thin line of the same tile in chocolate. Val took a tiny, awkward and drab bathroom to an understated jewel box.
Benjamin Dhong was awarded the attic room right next door with breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge through the small dormer windows. Inspired by the romance of Parisian garrets and the birds-eye view Benjamin called it “The Aerie” and played on a theme of skies, trees, and birds. The palette is comprised of warm grays, taupes, creams and teal, with touches of ivory, gold and ebony.
The walls were painted by Linda Horning with the subtlest shadows of tree branches in a foggy greenish gray. Furnishings are a mixture of traditional and modern: a French Directoire daybed and a 1960s bone marquetry table with chalice base by Anthony Redmille from Lebreton Gallery, a parchment-covered stool inspired by Jean Michel Frank from Coup d’Etat, the “Egg” chair by Arne Jacobsen upholstered in a shimmery cream velvet cut in the shape of clouds, and the “Tete de la Femme” lamp by Giacometti. A statue of the “Winged Victory” from Candace Barnes Antiques and a wood sculpture of a Titmouse bird and her nest introduced Avian elements to the design. Benjamin’s garret is certainly the chic nest he dreamed of high above the Bay.
Benjamin Dhong to Cecilie Starin when noticing they both used a zebra rug.
One of the many qualities a talented designer brings to the table is an attention to details. The shape of a chair arm, the curve of a table leg, the exact shade of a certain color, the trim on a pillow, the texture of a custom finish, the distinctive grouping of objects, all of those small things can make a huge difference. Upon closer inspection many of these special details were revealed in this showcase.
Of course none of the rooms were short on art in one form or another. Shelby de Quesada and Brian Dittmar consulted art advisors Baxter & Cook to put the perfect collections together for them. Shelby wanted Bay Area figurative artists, and Brian needed pieces that supported his theme of horology.
Other designers worked directly with galleries. Among them were the Dolby Chadwick Gallery who assisted De Meza + Architecture + Interiorsand Benjamin Dhong and Silverman Gallery who loaned works to Charles de Lisle.