San Francisco Decorator Showcase 2013

BY Claudia Juestel - June 22, 2013


San Francisco Decorator Showcase 2013, The home for this year's San Francisco Decorator Showcase was the
“Atelier” by Antonio Martins (Photo: Drew Kelly)

What would Spring be without the San Francisco Decorator Showcase?

The home for this year’s showcase was the “Herbst Manor” on 2800 Pacific Avenue, built in 1899 by English-born architect Ernest Coxhead, who had originally started his career in California designing churches, but later focused on residential architecture that included townhouses and large homes in San Francisco, Palo Alto and Berkeley.

2800 Pacific Avenue
2800 Pacific Avenue, San Francisco

Coxhead built the Georgian-style home for Mrs. Sarah Spooner who was a transplant from Philadelphia and an avid art collector, and whose handsome budget allowed for only the best European craftsmen and finest materials. But only years later before the 1906 earthquake, real estate investor Herman Shainwald and his wife Matilda purchased the residence. In 1914 it changed hands once again and became the long time family home of Union Iron Works’ president John A. McGregor and his heirs.

2800 Pacific Avenue
2800 Pacific Avenue, San Francisco

In 1967 furniture store chain owner Adrian Herbst Gruhn and his wife, Jazz singer Lee Herbst Gruhn acquired the grand 19th century home and gave it a bit of a late ‘60s / ‘70s makeover, loaded with Mrs. Herbst Gruhn’s exuberant style. It was exhibited with endless walls of mirrors, gold paint, bejeweled carousal horses and stuffed animals. Mrs. Herbst Gruhn was also known as a consummate hostess, entertaining society and royalty alike.

Once again her home was transformed by 27 designers who set the stage for a month-long slew of parties, including the patron and opening galas attended by supporters of the showcase’s beneficiary San Francisco University Highschool and noted design connoisseurs.

Ashley Sharpe, Clayton Timbrell, Erica Reed
Sandra Jones Desguin and Brooks Walker

Ashley Sharpe, Clayton Timbrell, Erica Reed – Sandra Jones Desguin and Brooks Walker

Vernon Applegate, Gioi Tran, Gail Walker, Bob Walker
Vernon Applegate, Gioi Tran, Gail Walker, Bob Walker

A decorator showcase could be likened to a couture fashion show where designers are not as much constrained by the confines of budgetary or aesthetic limitations clients may impose, and where they are able to push the boundaries of convention and beauty. When done best, a showcase room is an interior designer’s true expression of concept and creativity not driven by a concern of appealing to everyone. It tells an intricately detailed story expressed in two- and three-dimensional elements that keep you lingering, while you take apart the narrative piece by piece and then reassemble it in all its exuberance.

Showcase veterans Gioi Tran and Vernon Applegate of Applegate Tran achieved just that in their bedroom designed for a creative teenager aiming to escape her beauty queen mother’s narrow perspective of what is considered beautiful and appropriate. The room not only expressed a bit of youthful rebellion but also a high level of originality.

The more Tran and Applegate delved into the mind of their imaginary muse they realized what they were looking for mostly did not exist. So they custom-designed almost every single piece in the room, from the ceiling panel of a map of London and the wall-hung desk, both made from Kinon composite panels, to the hand-painted wall finish, four-poster bed wrapped in yarn, high pile double oval rug and multi-head snake ceiling fixture. No detail was missed here.

Applegate Tran
Applegate Tran

Teenager’s room by Applegate Tran (Photo: Chris Stark Photography)

Applegate Tran
Applegate Tran

Teenager’s room by Applegate Tran (Photo: Chris Stark Photography)

Catherine Kwong took a much more restrained approach to manifesting her inspiration of glamorous Bianca and Mick Jagger stylishly parading around the South of France in the 1970s.

San Francisco Decorator Showcase 2013, The home for this year's San Francisco Decorator Showcase was the

Living room designed by Catherine Kwong (Photo: David Duncan Livingston)

Sparsely furnished in tones of white, black, gray and gold, Kwong’s living room was aimed at setting the stage for late night parties for rock stars and the jet set, one might add, sans the white powder that was most certainly part of such gatherings in those days. Nontheless the piece de resistance, the white gigantic and dramatic brushstrokes on the black floor, based on works by Cy Twombly and created by Stancil Studios, relayed that sense of abandonment.

Catherine Kwong

Living room designed by Catherine Kwong (Photo: David Duncan Livingston)
Brenda Mickel, Katherine Kwong, Ned Mobley
Karen Villanueva, Kendra Reichenau, Julia Marinho

Brenda Mickel, Katherine Kwong, Ned Mobley – Karen Villanueva, Kendra Reichenau, Julia Marinho

Tricia Foster, Zahid Sardar, Tasneem Karimbhai

Tricia Foster, Zahid Sardar, Tasneem Karimbhai

Two of this year’s rooms were conceived to honor the amazing craftsmen without whom no designers could realize their visions. Antonio Martins’ masculine yet intimate “Atelier,” planned as the refuge for a man who spends his leisure hours restoring treasured objects, was full of passion while highlighting the elegance of humble materials and objects in a never before seen way.

The unassuming beauty of antique tools, collected from around the world by Martins himself, was raised into an art display covering the burlap wall above the custom rough wood and lacquer desk. Its cascading red drawers were a stunning contrast to the dark steel floors. This room was a perfect example of a designer who, through his impeccable selection and pairing of materials, was able to truly elevate each and make them sing in harmony.

Antonio Martins

Desk area in the “Atelier” by Antonio Martins (Photo: Drew Kelly)
Antonio Martins

Lounge area in the “Atelier” by Antonio Martins (Photo: Drew Kelly)
Antonio Martins

Antonio Martins in his “Atelier”
Matthew Leverone

Matthew Leverone in his “Salon”

In contrast, “The Maker’s Mark Retreat,” fashioned by Kelly Hohla, principal at Jeffers Design Group, was all about luxury. Composed as an homage to the talented artisans the firm has collaborated with over the years, it perfectly exemplified their well-edited and tailored style, which is always infused with bespoke originality.

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Hohla highlighted the foggy grey and blue palette of wools and embroidered linens by Holland & Sherry with rich wood, warm metals, such as brass and bronze, and accented it with blackened steel and dark lacquer. Kyle Bunting’s fabulously textured and patterned cowhide wall covering served as the backdrop for the study’s desk and the stunning walnut credenza by New York artist Michael Coffey. It was a testament to contemporary craftsmanship presented with understated, yet richly layered elegance.

Jeffers Design Group

Work area in the “Maker’s Mark Retreat” by Jeffers Design Group (Photo: Matthew Millman)
Jeffers Design Group

Sitting area in the “Maker’s Mark Retreat” by Jeffers Design Group (Photo: Matthew Millman)
Antonio Martins

“Maker’s Mark Retreat” by Jeffers Design Group (Photo: Matthew Millman)
Antonio Martins

Desk area in the “Maker’s Mark Retreat” by Jeffers Design Group (Photo: Matthew Millman)
Kelly Hohla

Kelly Hohla in her “Maker’s Mark Retreat”
Liz Hill, Doug Hill
Karen Bruehl, Karen Kubin

Liz Hill, Doug Hill – Karen Bruehl, Karen Kubin

Lindsay Joost, Demetre Savala, Serena Gomez, Willa Callahan, Terris Guell

Lindsay Joost, Demetre Savala, Serena Gomez, Willa Callahan, Terris Guell

Known for intelligent and often transcendental design, Kevin Hackett and Jessica Weigley of Siol Studios truly turned the notion of how a bathroom is supposed to be perceived and laid out upside down, and very successfully so. They revived the ancient ritual of bathing by dividing the space in a new and fresh way, subtly inspired by the sacred plan of a Gothic church. A “healing wall” backs the freestanding tub by Blu Bathworks the location of the “altar”, and the light-filled windows situated at the “gates” are bordered by column sinks, reminiscent of holy water stoups.

With this uncommon layout Hackett and Weigley thoroughly thought about the process of cleansing by anchoring the walk-through limestone shower in the center of the room, flanking it with U-shaped walls, which frame his and hers dressers, and fronting it with sliding iron screens. Design comes together beautifully when form and function harmonize like in this space.

Siol Sketch

3D sketch of master bathroom by Siol Studios
Siol Studios

Bathing area in the master bathroom by Siol Studios
Siol Studios
Siol Studios

Shower and sink in the master bathroom by Siol Studios

Kevin Hackett and Jessica Weigley
Davis Dalbock and Jane Richardson Mack

Kevin Hackett and Jessica Weigley – Davis Dalbock and Jane Richardson Mack

Alfredo Gregory addressed the small size of his “Elysium” guest bathroom by keeping it entirely open without any separation between the fixtures. He then concentrated on the materials of each and how they worked in a practical sense with everything getting wet while still interacting in aesthetic unison. Gregory designed the encaustic cement tile floor by Waterworks, cement sink and cascading crystal light fixture. In this he achieved calming simplicity enhanced by the subtle detailing.

Alfredo Gregory
Alfredo Gregory

“Elysium” bathroom by Alfredo Gregory

Alfredo Gregory
Alfredo Gregory

“Elysium” bathroom by Alfredo Gregory

Michael Miller and Alfredo Gregory

Michael Miller and Alfredo Gregory
Zoe Hsu

Zoe Hsu in her master sitting room

Martha Angus and Eche Martinez of Martha Angus Inc. gave shape to a play space in the home’s library, which they aptly named “DANGER ZONE”, keen to similar signage often displayed by kids on their bedroom doors to ward off intruding adults. They conceived a contemporary play room enveloped by tradition, where bold colors are set against rich wood-paneled walls and an ornate plaster ceiling, showing that youth and history can co-mingle aesthetically and functionally. And who would not want to hang out in a teepee made from Prima Alpaca by Sandra Jordan?

Martha Angus

“DANGER ZONE” playroom by Martha Angus Inc. (Photo: Brad Knipstein)
Martha Angus
Martha Angus

“DANGER ZONE” playroom by Martha Angus Inc.

Eche Martinez and Martha Angus

Eche Martinez and Martha Angus
Emilie Munroe and Willem Racke
Chris Conners, Karen Villanueva

Emilie Munroe and Willem Racke – Chris Conners, Karen Villanueva

If you were unable to attend the San Francisco Decorator Showcase this year mark your calendars now for Spring 2014 when another group of talented interior designers re-envision yet another Pacific Heights landmark.

Martha Angus

“DANGER ZONE” playroom by Martha Angus Inc. (Photo: Brad Knipstein)