A Conversation with SagreraBrazil Design

There is an easy banter that evolves in a conversation with Cecilia Sagrera-Hill and George Brazil, the principals in SAGRERABRAZIL DESIGN. It is perhaps a result of working together for two decades, and it gives insight into their creative thought process and view of their roles as decorators~as designers, keepers of the home, and stewards of the environment.

George Brazil and Cecilia Sagrera-Hill in their Vignette at the 2019 San Francisco Fall Show. Photograph by Jose Manuel Alorda

They have a ‘farm-to-table’ concept of design: locally sourced to the craftsmen. “We try to minimize how many things have to be shipped in containers overseas,” says Sagrera-Hill

“It’s more of a control issue, she says. We go back to the sustainability of it, educating our clients about antiques. The younger generation may not understand the value behind antiques, getting away from disposable furniture in your homes—not even in the kids rooms, it just goes into a landfill. In addition to antiques, locally made, locally crafted furniture is something we focus on. We are blessed being in California, we are surrounded by amazing craftspeople,” she says.

Brazil agrees, “This whole pandemic experience has made everyone go inward and do some soul searching. Everything needs to serve a purpose, have a meaning. In some ways that is expressing itself in more custom items, more one of a kind. Pieces that look good and feel good and have a meaning behind them, it’s a cause we can get behind, sustainable, locally made.”

Photograph by Christopher Stark

Both designers agree there needs to be purpose in design, and mixing antiques into a space. “When you are choosing an antique for a contemporary space, is it the focus of a room, is it going to be functional, or is it decorative? If you have an amazing Biedermeier cabinet in a high-rise, how do you design around that—you don’t want it to stick out like a sore thumb,” says Sagrera-Hill. If you have a collection of beautiful modern pieces, is there a wood tone, a shape something that brings them together?” You need to find that component she explains.

“It also has to do with the architecture of the space,” Says Brazil. “All the components, not just the furniture—the textiles, moldings. We start by creating a vision so there is a cohesiveness from when we start until we install the last tile. We translate the same traditional classical principles in our contemporary work. We are able to do that in a contemporary high-rise even if it’s just the way the furniture is laid out.”

Photograph by David Duncan Livingston

In the wake of the pandemic, Brazil is seeing a rise in their clients’ interest in antiques and how they can work for them “Now is the perfect time to buy brown furniture,” he says. “It fell out of vogue in recent years, but it is coming back and today you can get some amazing pieces.” Sagrera-Hill adds “buying antiques is similar to collecting art, a lot of it boils down to the value. Antiques hold their value-it’s an investment.”

People are living differently these days, and seeing their homes in a whole new way. “What we’ve realized now is that we need truly functioning convertible spaces,” says Brazil. “A guest bedroom that needs to become a secondary office, or you may need two offices. More multi-use rooms, or convertible rooms, and works spaces, ‘Zoom’ spaces, homework/craft spaces.  Not open spaces; the spaces are not single use anymore. The sitting room is not just a sitting room anymore–everything has multiple uses.”

Photograph by Jose Manuel Alorda

“And people want to create private sanctuaries,” adds Sagrera-Hill. “Master bedrooms also have a sitting area, everyone wants their own sanctuary to escape to.  We have to take into consideration those holistic spaces that we can retreat to.”

With THE SAN FRANCISCO FALL SHOW coming up in less than two weeks, I had to know what these two were most looking forward to. “I am excited to touch and feel things, to physically be there, to get off screen!” says Sagrera-Hill “And to talk with the dealers-getting knowledge from them–you can’t get that online.”

Brazil adds, “I am looking forward to walking the show with clients–the energy of the show gets our clients excited.”

Photograph by Jose Manuel Alorda

Both designers have been long time supporters of the show, as members of the DESIGN COUNCIL, past speakers in the show LECTURE SERIES, and having created a stunning Designer Vignette for the 2019 “Wanderlust’ Show. “I’ve been coming to the Show for 25 years,” says Brazil. I realized early on its one of the best and least expensive educations you can get on art and antiques. The minute you ask a dealer about a piece, their eyes light up.”

As current President of the NoCal chapter of the ICAA (Institute of Classical Architecture & Art), Brazil also supports the show in that role with their annual Saturday Luncheon at the Show. “I’ve been an ICAA member for 6-7 years and am currently in a three-year term as President. My role is to be the steward of our mission, which focuses on education. We have collaborated with the ACADEMY OF ART UNIVERSITY in teaching architecture and helped developed the curriculum for their school of interior design.”

Photograph by Jose Manuel Alorda

The ICAA will be back at the show for its upcoming 40th anniversary. “We are hosting our luncheon at the show this year honoring the interior designer Michael Smith who will be speaking with Show Chair, Suzanne Tucker in the Lecture Series. It is one of our major fundraisers and will help us to continue our programming throughout the year,” he says. “Our mission is to provide educational programs to our membership but also to junior high schools and high schools. We want to expose students to art and architecture, as so many schools are limiting or eliminating their arts programs.” A worthy endeavor.

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 Director-at-Large, living in Westport, Connecticut with her family.  Follow Ariane on her blog, SOJOURNEST, where she focuses on all things home and travel and on Instagram at @arianetrim