A Conversation with SagreraBrazil Design

For 15 years the design team of Cecilia Sagrera-Hill and George Brazil of SagreraBrazil Design have created unique and unexpected results for their clients, and their Designer Vignette for the 2019 Fall Show did not disappoint. For the Wanderlust theme, they focused on “West” and worked with de Gournay on a custom scenic wallpaper illustrating Venice and its role in the silk trade, its appeal to those on the Grand Tour and its sometimes perilous existence. The result was mesmerizing.

Cecilia Sagrera-Hill and George Brazil in their Designer Vignette “West” at The San Francisco Fall Show 2019 (Photo – Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography)

I recently chatted with Sagrera-Hill and Brazil about their approach to decorating with antiques. “We love to incorporate antiques into our interiors, as they are pieces that tell a story” they shared. “Most of our projects are contemporary or modern designs and the idea of incorporating antiques seems foreign to most of our clients. Once they see the completed space, they understand how antiques add a warmth and depth that an otherwise contemporary interior might lack,” they explained.

Photo-Christopher Stark Photography

Their favorite periods are Biedermeier and Art Deco. “They are styles that can effortlessly be incorporated into contemporary interiors. Their restrained geometry, fine craftsmanship and rich materials deliver a modern aesthetic.” When shopping for antiques the sculptural quality of an antique is important to them, “we can’t deny that craftsmanship and rich materials are also key components. The uniqueness contributes to the overall story of a project.”

Photo-Christopher Stark Photography
Photo-Christopher Stark Photography

When I asked them each to name a favorite decorative piece in their home, not surprisingly, both turned to their love of travel. Brazil chose an entire wall, “a gallery wall of art in our dining room that we have collected together over the past 20 years. The art reminds me of our travels and shopping at antique fairs and markets, he shared.” Sagrera-Hill named two pieces that make her smile every time she sees them, “an Indian head my husband, Harold and I found on our trip to India to celebrate our 5th anniversary,” was the first. The second one is a large painting titled Frijol Negro by Arturo Monroy, a Guatemalan artist. “As the title describes, it is a painting of a large black bean which I found in a local gallery in San Salvador, El Salvador, where I am from. I fell in love with it, it reminds me of my childhood. The original piece I saw was sold by the time we decided to purchase the piece so the artist commissioned one for us,” she shared.

Indian Head Sculpture

Both have been longtime supporters of the Fall Show and are sad to see 2020 take a hiatus due to the pandemic. “I love the Opening Night Gala” says Brazil, “reconnecting with guests and dealers you don’t see that often. And I love that the show can be a great educational experience if you want it to be. All the dealers are so willing to educate you. I always learn something new.” Sagrera-Hill concurs “the galleries that participate are always willing to provide you with an education, and what better way to learn than from someone who is passionate about what they sell.”

The San Francisco Fall Show Opening Night Preview Gala 2019
(Photo – Andrew Caulfield for Drew Altizer Photography)

Their most memorable purchases at the show? “it was really a series of purchases for a client we made a few years back,” says Brazil. “Being able to preview the show and pre-shop (as members of the exclusive Designers Circle) helped us identify the perfect pieces of art and accessories for our client. Later, we were then able to spend a few hours with our client taking them through the show and finalizing our selections. It worked out so perfectly for them,” he reminisced. Sagrera-Hill added “it was fantastic. We would otherwise have taken multiply trips to various galleries. At the show we were able to see things in person over the course of a few days and create relationships with these galleries that we might not have had an opportunity before.” Sagrera-Hill has also has become a repeat customer of a show dealer, Rainforest Baskets, “the Embera Woven Masks” she shared. “So far we have a hummingbird and an owl. The owl is super special to me because anything that we have associated with owls always reminds me of our daughter, Sofia, which means wisdom.”

Rainforest Baskets Booth at the 2019 Fall Show

For Brazil, the pandemic and isolation has had a silver lining “It has been great being home with my partner Vasili and just slowing down a bit, cooking a lot and spending time with our dogs. Also, I’ve been on the phone a lot more with family and friends catching up – something I normally don’t do.” For Sagrera-Hill, “It has been great being home with my husband and two children.  The challenges outweigh the time we are spending together, which has been joyful. I have found that we create more art projects, build new Legos together and simply hangout with each other.”

SagreraBrazil’s Collecting Do’s and Don’t’s
It is all about a cohesive and orchestrated interior that respects the architecture as well as enhances the design and reflects the client’s personality:

A single piece at the end of a hallway can be that signature piece and becomes a sculptural element, which we would consider a “do” moment.

Don’t choose pieces that scream “Look at me, I’m an antique!” This tends to create a division of the overall aesthetic and feel of the space.

Do choose pieces that provide a function as well as provide beauty and authenticity. There’s nothing worse than an antique chair or table and the client has to tell someone not to sit on it or use it.

By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat
Ariane served as Show Director for the San Francisco Fall Show for 7 years through 2019. She is now the show’s international liaison as Director at Large, living in London with her family.  Follow Ariane on her blog, Sojournest, where she focuses on all things home and travel.