Tea With Claudia: Zesty Meyers

claudia juestel and zesty meyers
Claudia Juestel with Zesty Meyers and his son Max (photo: by Deborah Taylor)

This is the first installment of our exciting new interview series at ResideSF.com: Tea With Claudia. As founder of one of San Francisco’s leading design firms, the Adeeni Design Group, Claudia Juestel has access to some of the most exciting figures in the world of design, whether it’s architects, craftsmen, authors, artists, painters or other designers. We’re thrilled that she’s allowing us in on her world, with engaging conversations taking place over a lovely pot of tea!

Samovar Tea Menu on copper. (Photo: Deborah Taylor.)

I recently sat down with Zesty Meyers, co-owner of R Gallery, known as one America’s foremost showcases for 20th century design. Local clients include interior designers Douglas Durkin, Orlando Diaz-Azcuy and Steven Volpe. An artist, gallery owner, curator, and historian, Zesty is an authority on mid-century design. He shared some of his passions with me over tea at Samovar at Yerba Buena Gardens.

Zesty ordered iced Samovar Masal Chai, and I enjoyed the most delicious Blood Orange Pu-erh Tea. We were joined by Zesty’s six year old son Max, who patiently endured the interview with a cup of milk and assorted cookies. Max told me that he wanted to work in a museum when he grew up and, based on my conversation with him, he struck me to be a perfect example for the fact that children can live with fine design. Max has rare pieces in his room by Verner Panton, Sergio Rodrigues, Poul Kjaerholm, Joaquim Tenreiro, and Achille Castiglioni.

Some of the designs his family lives with every day have immense value; but Zesty does not worry about that — like his friends or his son drinking from delicate vintage Venetian glasses. Art and design are meant to be enjoyed, and I was delighted to converse, not only with an expert, but also with one of the youngest collectors of modern design. – Claudia

TEA WITH CLAUDIA: Zesty Meyers

Claudia Juestel: What brings you to San Francisco?

Zesty Meyers: I am here for personal reasons now, but I am coming back in a month for the SF20 show, which is a design show to benefit the SF MOMA. It is comprised of a group of dealers from around America that sell mid century design and clothing from 1945 up until today.

CJ: Is this the first SF 20 show in San Francisco?

ZM: No, it is the second one. However, this is the first time we are participating.

CJ: Tell us more about the upcoming SF20 and how you got involved.

ZM: We wanted to do this because I think Regionalism or something like that has to come back in America. I think the idea of “bespoke”, “atelier”, those kinds of styles have to come out. I am used to performing on a very big world stage, such as Design Basel or Art Basel or Design London, where it is a world marketplace. But it is also very fascinating to me to come into a community like San Francisco to be able to do something. There is an intellect here, there is a sophistication, and there are numerous great collections and other kinds of fashions here that I find America needs more of.

What I mean by “bespoke” or “cottage industry” is that San Francisco is an amazing place for what it has brought to it, if you look at its cultural history. You can see very clearly in the architecture that people cared about how they lived, or where they went to do their business, or where they went to eat, or how they wanted to function. I don’t think you find that everywhere in America. San Francisco has got it, wealth knowledge and interest. What is happening here has the opportunity to influence the rest of the country.

I am impressed with the design collection at the SF MOMA, I am impressed that they have a growing design collection, and I am impressed that they really care, where I think a lot of museums don’t really care about design yet in America. A lot of what we carry today at R Gallery will be gone one day. And once it is gone the curators will be fighting over it, just as they do for a Greek urn that turns out to be fake, or some sarcophagus we read about in newspapers.

SF 20 is only in its second year now, but I believe that it has the potential to become as renowned as the San Francisco Fall Antique Show. In return SF 20 gives San Francisco the opportunity to influence the rest of the country.

CJ: How old were you when you first got interested in modern design? Was there a defining moment that led you in that direction, or did your interest grow gradually?

ZM: I grew up with good design without knowing it. In my son’s bedroom are bookcases from my grandfather’s house, as an example. I guess it has been in the family for four generations now, ever since it was made in the forties. But I did not know this until I was an artist, and I had a performance group, and I had someone starting to collect my artwork who had a design business, and who was an immense and amazing collector. I started to trade my art for great design, and then I started to study and research it. Then it became a hobby.