Antonio Martins, Looking Forward

Having lived in ten cities on four continents, Antonio Martins’ design aesthetic is shaped by a unique world view influenced by the colors, textures and moods found in his birthplace of Lisbon, childhood home in Rio, studies in Switzerland, Frankfurt and Venice, hotel career in Hong Kong, Bangkok, Germany and Chicago and finally, graduate school and the founding, in 2004, of his eponymous interior design firm in San Francisco, Antonio Martins Interior Design.

Photograph by David Livingston

Martins’ ability to mix contemporary pieces with antiques have made his eclectic designs stand out; his rooms for the San Francisco Decorator Showcase have been widely praised and his work has been featured in national design publications.

Entrance foyer of “the Jewell Box”, Nob Hill
Photograph by Drew Kelly

His take on the ‘Animalia’ theme for the San Francisco Fall Show Designer Vignettes, ‘Meu Brasil Brasileiro’ was a brilliant and colorful homage to his home country. With a vibrant wallpaper backdrop designed by Martins and custom made by de Gournay, featuring today’s Amazon forest, the scene was created to bring awareness to the endangered species of Brazil. Martins has fond memories of the Fall Show “of course you want to see everything because it’s such a learning experience, a lesson in styles,” he shares. I try to go at least three times: opening night, a second time for browsing, and the third time to purchase. My top three dealers are Carlton Hobbs, Il Segno del Tempo and Galen Lowe—he has such incredible objects and displays them so beautifully. And of course I love the lectures!” he exclaimed.

Meu Brasil Brasileiro, Martins’ Vignette at the 2016 San Francisco Fall Show
Photograph by Drew Altizer

The Future of Design

I chatted with Martins about what he has taken away from the last year and where he sees the design industry post-pandemic. “ Professionally I have had to rely so much on technology and figure it out. The people who were able to embrace tech were able to move forward. There is an auction house in Lisbon, the Palacio do Correio Velho -the owner’s grandchild took over and revamped the technology and it became the most active, best auction house in Lisbon with regular online auctions. Another house did not embrace tech and is not doing so well-they have only had 1-2 online auctions in 10 months,” he explained.

“The Atelier” at the 2013 San Francisco Decorator Showcase, wrapped with Burlap walls.   Collection of Antique Tang and Han dynasty horses from Tim Jacobs.   Metal chair and Library Chairs from Coup D’Etat. Photograph by Drew Kelly

Martins has come to realize how much can be done remotely, “with interior design it’s the same,” he says, “we’ve had to do Zoom, meetings, visit websites instead of the design center, and sometimes it’s even an improvement: meetings on Zoom with our lighting designer work better than ever; we all have our own screen looking at the same thing at the same time. It is much better than everyone crowding around one small screen in a conference room.” He admits not being a millennial has its drawbacks—”the new generation does things in a different way- they are more tech savvy, they grew up with it,” he mused.

“Pacific Heights Residence” with custom designed sofa and armchairs Fabricated by J. Lars upholstery, Cathare Coffee table by Christian Liaigre.  Wing Chair at the back by Jean de Merry.   Antique English portrait of a Gentleman, circa 1634 above fireplace.
Photograph by Drew Kelly

The design industry has had to adapt in 2020, but for Martins, the changes were more personal. “We have a craft and an art that is so incredible, but the main realization this year is that we are not saving lives. It puts things in perspective,” he said. “The economy of design is looking after our employees, our vendors. I think this pandemic has hopefully helped us to be better people, paying people when they can’t work, holding off on furloughs. I realized in some cases it makes no difference for certain employees to work from home. It’s given me time to look at each employee and decide what works best-work from a home/office perspective, people become more productive when they have time,” he explained.

Entrance at “Los Altos Hills Residence.  Eros Table by Angelo Mangiarotti for Dzine with Bazane Stool by Christian Liaigre.  Moon Pendant Light by  Alison Berger for Holly Hunt Photo by Drew Kelly

A Shift in Focus

Now that the world has been spending most of their time at home, Martins is seeing a subtle shift in how people are seeing their homes and what their focus is. “We have a tendency to do big open spaces-people want this,” he explains. “There was always this idea that on the kitchen counter or in the family room there was a computer, and maybe there was a home office for a parent. But when everyone was all of a sudden at home all the time, they were all in the same room; people felt the need to have individual space.”

Kitchen of Sausalito Project. Custom cabinetry by Fabian Fine Furniture and Chandelier by Gregorius Pineo.   Backsplash by Artistic Tile. Photo by Drew Kelly

“If I see a trend, it’s the idea that one big space is not enough; people need their personal space. In time with the idea of big open spaces I suspect we will also see partitions, or ways to separate; more of a tendency to create individual spaces. At the same time, looking at function, not just the beauty of it, but function over form: creating spaces that are comfortable and user friendly, with places for wires and technology and better chairs for doing work.”

“Noe Valley Project” great room. In the Dining room, custom Table by Fabian Fine Furniture mixed with vintage Dining chairs by Kai Kristiansen  purchased from 1stDibs. Torroja Cross by David Weeks studio and Art above Console by Rodrigo Valenzuela.   Kitchen stools by Holly Hunt and pendants by John Pomp. In the den, vintage Spanish chairs by Børge Mogensen purchased from 1stDibs. Photograph by Drew Kelly

Finding Style

When designing, Martins does prioritize certain spaces in the home that require more thought. “The public spaces, where you entertain guests, you want to have a certain look, and the technical spaces-bathrooms and kitchens – showers, drains, tubs, these are much more technical and require more attention,” he says.

“Noe Valley Project” with custom vanity by Fabian Fine Furniture and  Back Tile by Artistic Tile. Antique Kilim. Photograph by Drew Kelly

“Pacific Heights Residence” project with Nick Noyes Architecture. Custom cabinetry by Anderson Quality Woodwork, Art on metal shelf  by John Mayberry. Runner by Stark Carpets. Photograph by Drew Kelly

But it all depends on the client. “My goal is always to find my client’s style– the only place where I want my style is my own home. What colors do they like, what patterns, within any style they want, we work with that. There is the type of client who knows exactly what they want and others who like everything and we guide them. Many times we try to schedule a second meeting and analyze what they want, show them different options mixing two styles together. Communication is crucial to understanding a client’s desires. I always use reference images to appreciate who they are and what they want and then we talk about what level of engagement they want to have. Do they want to be very involved? If a client has great style, I love the collaboration.”

Master Bedroom at the “jewel box” residence, Nob Hill. Custom wallpaper by De Gournay. Photograph by Drew Kelly

Living room at “Sonoma’s weekend retreat”. Guests are welcome by a sketch by Rico Le Brun, a notorious Muralist of the 20s purchased at Bonhams Auction. The sepia tone sketch is highlighted by two large pillows made of  Samarkand suzani pieces.
Photograph by Drew Kelly

Inspiration comes from many places for Martins, most of all from travel. But, with most travel halted for the past year, he has turned to armchair traveling: “movies, TV, books and magazines,” he says. “AD, Elle Décor, Vogue, House Beautiful, Interior Design, and YouTube is amazing for watching small documentaries about art, design, and architecture.”

“The Atelier” at the 2013 San Francisco Decorator Showcase wrapped with Burlap walls.    Paintings by John Mayberry flank Standing Buddha of the Dvaravati Period, 9th-12th Century, Thailand. Photograph by Drew Kelly

Ultimately, Martins says there is one element in a home that is the most important “mood” he says, “and mood is all about the lighting. I love really low lights and lots of spots. I use very little overhead lighting. Dimmers are the most important thing you can have in your home. You can have a room with one statue on a pedestal, and if it is well lit, it would make the room.”

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 and on Instagram @ariantrim

At Home with Designer Ellie Cullman

Ellie Cullman has made her mark in the design industry for over three decades, having co-founded her iconic firm, Cullman & Kravis Associates in 1984. A native New Yorker, Cullman is listed in the AD100 Hall of Fame, was named a Grand Master by Elle Décor and in 2016 was the recipient of the New York School of Interior Design’s Albert Hadley Lifetime Achievement Award. She is the co-author, along with Tracey Pruzan, of three books, From Classic to Contemporary: Decorating with Cullman & Kravis, (Monacelli Press, 2017), The Detailed Interior: Decorating Up Close with Cullman & Kravis (Monacelli Press, 2013) and Decorating Master Class: the Cullman Kravis Way (NY Harry Abrams, 2008).

The living room of Cullman’s country home displays some of her extensive collection of Americana Photograph by Eric Piasecki

A longtime supporter of the arts, Cullman has chaired several antiques shows and is a frequent lecturer and panelist on the subjects of design, art and antiques. In 2017, she spoke at the San Francisco Fall Show’s Lecture Series on the Mix Masters Panel. “The San Francisco Show is the perfect sized show for me”, she says. “excellent quality with a large variety of dealers.” She loves shopping the show and named a few of her favorite finds over the years; a Chinese export porcelain tureen from Earle D. Vandekar of Knightsbridge, a beautiful English Regency chair from Clinton Howell Antiques and a nineteenth century garden sun dial from Finnegan Gallery.

The sun room in Cullman’s Connecticut country home is her favorite room in the house. Photograph by Eric Piasecki

Working Through a Pandemic

While 2020 has kept us all fairly homebound, Cullman has been lucky in that she lives close to her office and the Manhattan showrooms and her weekends are spent at her country house in Connecticut. “spending the weekends in the country with my children and grandchildren has been the silver lining of COVID.” She says. Fortunately, my office (in the city) is a few blocks from home and since we reopened at the end of June, the staff rotates hours and days to create a safe office environment. When home in my apartment from March to June, I was lucky enough to work in my study at a Regency desk (that had actually previously belonged to Bunny Williams), surrounded by my extensive design library, which I finally had a chance to read.”

A view of Ellie’s office in her New York City apartment. Photograph by Nick Johnson

On Collecting

Collecting is a passion of Cullman’s. To her, a house becomes a home through the stories told in the pieces collected over the years, “personal collections-fine or fun, which express the owner’s interests and passions,” she explains. She adds, “of course bowls of candy are important as well!” Cullman’s favorite piece in her collection has a very personal story, “The first piece we ever purchased is still my favorite.  We were living in Japan and found an 18th century screen depicting all the monuments of Kyoto, a magical place that we visited often.  We loved it but called our parents for “permission” to make the purchase.  They told us we would never find a 9-foot wall in a New York City apartment but actually it has held pride of place in all the apartments we have lived in over the years.” She admits her favorite room is her country house sunroom “it is filled with light,” she says “and it’s my favorite place to read and relax.”

The 18th century Japanese screen sits proudly above her living room sofa in Cullman’s
New York City apartment. Photograph by Eric Piasecki

Shifts in the Design Industry

Cullman has seen a shift in the design industry in 2020, both from her own viewpoint and that of her clients. “I have a greater appreciation for how spaces work rather than having aesthetics dominate design, although I still love being surrounded by beauty!” she says.

Cullman’s bedroom in her country home has walls upholstered in hand-embroidered fabric. Photograph by Eric Piasecki

For her clients, this year has shifted attitudes and priorities. “The pandemic has made our clients focus on how their homes must multitask for their families – accommodating office space, school space, play space, even sick bay. It’s a tall order but we have been able to help clients figure these scenarios out. On the flip side, because everyone has been spending more time at home, clients are really focusing on the design side as well – choosing to freshen up upholstery, add finer furniture pieces or purchase some art.”

The library in Cullman’s New York City apartment. Photograph by Eric Piasecki

Missing Out

We are all looking forward to the light at the end of this long pandemic tunnel and we are starting to see it with new vaccines on their way. For Cullman, 2020 has meant missing out on some of her favorite activities. “I’m missing so much” she admits. “First, the theater. Getting personal, my son, Trip is a theater director, and COVID delayed the opening of his next show. Second, movie theaters, a longtime passion of mine. Third, the incredible restaurant scene in New York. Fourth, the art shows and fairs which New York City is famous for. Thank goodness the art museums have reopened – albeit on a limited basis! And the bigger picture – travel. Nothing is more intellectually stimulating than visiting foreign countries. There is always something to “take home.”

The dining room in Ellie Cullman’s country home in Connecticut, Photograph by Eric Piasecki

The Silver Lining

But for all the things she is missing, 2020 has brought her something even better and more valuable, “spending more time watching my grandchildren discover the world!” she exclaims. And, I never miss a nightly cocktail hour!”

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.

At Home with Designer Gary Hutton

Gary Hutton’s 40-year career in design has earned him the moniker “the Dean of West Coast design”. A born and bred Californian, Hutton studied under Wayne Thiebaud, Manuel Neri and Robert Arneson, three 20th century iconic artists, who shaped his vision of art and design. Known for his innovative methods for integrating advanced technology into homes as well as an expertise in sustainability standards and design for off-the-grid living, Hutton, principal and owner of Gary Hutton Design, the San Francisco based interior design firm, lectures around the world, and his furniture collection launched in 1986 has produced iconic designs.

Living Room in Hutton’s San Francisco home: Sectional in Loro Piana fabric, leather-and-oak Havana chair, and A5 polish stainless steel table, three by Gary Hutton Designs, complement a Knoll 1972 Cini Boeri Lunario table. Elsa Peretti candlesticks from Tiffany & Co.,
Photograph on wall by Jonna Arnold, Lighting  by Gary Hutton. Photograph by John Merkl

Making a Home

I spoke with Hutton via FaceTime from his home in San Francisco where he has been spending 2020. Hutton has a contagious enthusiasm for what he does and an easygoing, authentic quality about him that makes you feel like you are talking to an old friend. “I moved in here as a temporary measure 19 years ago,” he said of his flat in Cathedral Hill. “I signed a one-year lease and thought that was it, the location is great, it’s so central. It has become so comfortable. Every time I walk in the door it’s wonderful, there’s a familiarity. There is a nice small entry hall and each one of the rooms is at a different angle from the other, so the floor, the vinyl tiles that I had custom made, are at a different angle and that allows each room to have a different feel. It’s allowed me to experiment,” he shared. “What makes this my home is that it’s wonderful and anonymous. I just started reading a book, The Making of Home by Judith Flanders (Atlantic Books 2015). I am completely fascinated by this. The amount of research is amazing. 500 years ago there was no such thing as privacy.”

Hutton’s entry, looking into the bedroom, Dancers painting by Harley.
Photograph by John Merkl

Nurturing Creativity

Hutton has used the last 9 months of this year wisely. “It’s been a double-edged sword,” he admitted of isolation. “It’s given me a little time to be creative. I bought a block of clay on Amazon and I’ve been sculpting with it, I was a sculpture major and was always experiencing with it. I’ve come up with a new table design that I’m taking to the foundry to have it made in bronze; it will go into my furniture line at Hewn (showroom at the SF Design Center) as an end table.”

Clay form, untitled, photograph and form by Gary Hutton Design  

Creating things brings joy to Hutton’s life, “working with the clay, and cooking-which I can do more of, and trying to get inventive with it. I’ve always been a recipe follower, but I am trying to be more creative in my cooking,” he admitted. “Cooking is my hobby, I’ve always enjoyed it. I miss dinner parties at home. I usually keep them small-four people, that’s a good size. More than six and it breaks down to a couple different conversations at the same time and doesn’t feel inclusive.” Of course, I had to ask him to share some of his favourite dishes, “The Grand Duke Ferdinand’s Soup, a perfectly clarified broth, you crack an egg into the soup, from Giuliano Bugialli’s Foods of Italy” (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, Inc. 1984), he replied. Which sounds amazing.

Hutton’s Kitchen, tailored in dark gray with a backsplash of Brazilian quartzite;
a custom pot rack from Metal Art Concepts holds Hutton’s collection of copper pots and pans. Photograph by John Merkl 

Design Perspectives

Hutton believes the pandemic and time at home has changed his perspective on design and how he lives at home. “I’ve made sure I’m surrounded by the things that bring me joy,” he said. “When I did my remodel there was a lot of purging, so I made the point from that time on that I’m not going to buy anything that I don’t absolutely love. I’ve been working at it. Everything in this apartment is something that brings me joy,” he shared.

Hutton’s Study, collection of war objects. Photograph by John Merkl

On Modernism

He is, at heart is a Modernist. “Philosophically everything is modern when it’s made,” he says. We’re living in this time and I feel like we should capitalize on what we have here and go about things in that modern way. It’s not to the exclusion of any period; I approach design from a modern point of view and a cleanliness in what I do. I like to go about things in a modern way, using modern materials.”

Dining Room, Knollstudio Brno Chair by Miles van der Rohe in 1930, Gary Hutton Design Pier table, painting by Don Rizzo. Photograph by John Merkl

With such a strong interest in Modernism, I was surprised when I asked Hutton to tell me his favourite piece in his home. “I have so many,” he shared, “but my absolute favorite piece is a two-drawer Biedemeyer chest from 1820 left to me by a dear friend who died early in the AIDS epidemic. Biedemeyer was the first modern furniture,” he explained, “It came about because the technology–saws that could cut veneers–allowed more people to have the furniture. It sits just outside my kitchen and is filled with plates and pots and pans.”

Living room, Pierre et Gilles’ Les Cosmonautes is prominently displayed on an 1820 Biedermeier chest. Hutton’s collection of vintage glassware lines the shelves above.
Photograph by John Merkl

Remote Working

Running a business during isolation is a whole new ballgame, especially when your business is so visual and tactile. “The remote working thing takes longer,” Hutton explained. Even with social engagements, travel and commuting out of the equation, “it has required me to get new skills; the time that might have been saved has gotten devoured by the extra logistics that we have to do. If I need to go to the upholstery shop, I have to make an appointment, I can’t just show up. The pandemic precautions, rightfully so, that everyone is taking, all take more time. You can’t just go to one of your people that is working on a project and stand behind them; you have to set up a Zoom meeting. Thursdays I go into the office because that’s the day the cleaning lady comes to my home and she wants me out of here. At the office, everyone picks a day. At the (San Francisco) Design Center, you come in, you have to sign in, hand sanitize, put on gloves, masks, sign out.”

Study, 1950 mid century Paul Frankl desk, Gary Hutton design rug, Kartell Louis Ghost Chair, Gary Hutton’s personal art collection Photograph by John Merkl

With the projects Hutton is working on now, how to meet and communicate with clients via computer is always front of mind. Some of his clients are very used to conference calls, but, he says, computers can’t always do the job. “We’ve had some in-person social distance meetings with clients; but as great as all the online capabilities are, you can’t talk about color or fabrics, you need to see and feel them.”

Study, Toshiyuki Kita for Cassina  Wink Adjustable Lounge Chair, Italy, circa 1980,
opposing chair 1960 Italian Chair.  Photograph by John Merkl

On The Fall Show

Hutton has been a supporter of The San Francisco Fall Show for years, and has been featured in the Lecture Series, most recently in 2016, for a conversation with his client, the art collector Chara Schreyer. The two discussed various projects he worked on for her, covering five residences designed to house 600 works of art which were chronicled in the book, Art House (Assouline Publishing, 2016), by Alisa Carroll.

“I think my favourite thing about the show is that it is a total visual education,” he shared. “One doorway and you’ve got admission to the entire world of furniture, art and antiques history. You could walk from Roman artifacts into mid-century into 18th century. It is this incredible visual feast. I see it as a real educational experience for me. I’ve become a nut about this sort of thing.”

Which brought the idea of Modernism full circle for us. Walking through the show, everything you see was modern in its time. A bit of a mind-bending concept when looking at an ancient artifact, but in 2020, time has become almost a state of mind; as we live through this period that will surely be written up in the history books of the future.

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.

A Chat with Designer Alexa Hampton

Alexa Hampton’s down to earth, relaxed disposition belies her impressive resumé. As owner and president of her father, Mark Hampton’s celebrated design firm for over twenty years, she has advanced its legacy and expanded the firm, winning industry awards, honorary degrees and repeated inclusion on the AD100, Elle Décor A-List and House Beautiful’s Top Designer lists. The author of two books on design, The Language of Interior Design (Clarkson Potter, 2010) and Decorating in Detail (Potter Style, 2013), Hampton is a force in the interior design industry.

Photograph by Victoria Stevens

Hampton was honored by the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art (ICAA NoCal) at the 2016 San Francisco Fall Show, and spoke in the Lecture Series that year, and my first impression of her was her hilarious sense of humor and her authenticity.

Garden Room: Bridgehampton, NY – Private Residence.
Photograph by Steve Freihon

Hampton Escapes to the Hamptons

I spoke with Hampton by phone months into isolation due to the pandemic. “I have been squatting at my mother’s house in the Hamptons,” she told me. As the pandemic started last spring, “my husband came home (to New York City) from Greece, and I was in San Francisco. He got a call a week later from the Greek Ministry of Health that there were 50 confirmed cases on his flight. I had to call my children’s schools and they shut down. We were caught off guard and decamped for South Hampton”

But being with family ended up being the silver lining of 2020. “I travel so much in my normal life,” she admits, “I had 20 flights in January! In my whole adult life, I’ve never spent this much time in one place.” Hampton has taken the time and opportunity to spend time with her family and re-decorate her mother’s pool house.

Den: Upper East Side, NY – Private Residence. Photograph by Steve Freihon

She worked there for most of the lockdown, and turned to tech. “I have done intricate FaceTimes,” she said. “I had images on my iPad Pro, and on my iPhone I was FaceTiming and then a pad next to me so I could show what I was drawing. If I wanted a perfect scenario, I would have a tiny video camera pointing at my hand. There are ways to do it,” she said.

Nothing compares to being on site with a client, though, as Hampton sees past the room she is in when visualizing a space. “If you are always looking at a floorplan you tend to look at it room by room and that leads you to forget hallways; sometimes you don’t get the global view. I’ll be sitting at my desk looking at the one room on a floorplan, it’s different than standing in that space that’s essential to how things connect and must be addressed,” she explained. “I look at so many floorplans, and I see the flow from one room to the next. There can’t be a completely jarring transition.”

Living Room: New Orleans, LA – Private Residence. Photograph by Scott Frances

Favourite Rooms

Hampton has two favourite rooms, the first at her mother’s house, “the beautiful living room my father did when I was 13. It’s one of those rooms that has aged really well,” she shared. “He designed it in 1984! There is lots of seating, lots of light. That’s where we all live.”

In her Manhattan home it’s her bedroom. “I am a very recumbent person,” she admitted. “I work in bed, and I do very good work in the shower; people have good ideas in water. I began this bedroom in white and grey. It was too cool, not sexy, no vim or vigor. It didn’t bring it. We ended with a very rich custom color, we busted through apartments, and put a TV behind the painting on an easel, (you have to have a Samsung screen for that to work),” she advised. The result is an inviting, warm space.

Alexa Hampton’s NYC Master Bedroom. Photograph by Steve Freihon

On Collecting Art & Antiques

Choosing a favorite piece in her home was easy. “In my entry hall I have a beautiful Neo-Egyptian cabinet. It’s a dramatic opening statement – everything in my entry hall is from an antiques shop. Because a lot of rooms shoot off from the entry, it has to be the center of the wheel.” She said.

Alexa Hampton’s NYC Entry. Photograph by Steve Freihon

But when it comes to making a house a home, books and art are a must. “Art makes my heart sing” she said, and added: “I like checking my kids book spines to see where they have read up to.” Hampton has no qualms about living amongst beautiful antiques in a house with children. “We have had accidents, “she admitted. “I once found my daughter grasping an alabaster carving of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and all the arches were broken off, she was a tiny baby. I suppose it’s how I was brought up. I want for myself to live in the way I live and for them to have that experience. I want them to have had this experience at this time with me. I don’t have rooms where they are not allowed.”

Alexa Hampton’s NYC Dining Room. Photograph by Steve Freihon

As a collector of art and antiques, the San Francisco Fall Show holds a special place for Hampton. “It’s a beautiful show, it feels very mystical,” she shared. “The great antiques shows are very ambitious; the buying is as important as the seeing. (Art dealer) Charles Plante has everything, if I won the lottery, I would clean him out. It’s a farmers’ market for amazingness.”

Charles Plante Fine Arts booth at the 2019 Fall Show. Photograph by Gustavo Perez

Hampton also shops for antiques online. “I always call and ask for non-beauty shots, and ask them to show the piece in proximity to something else,” she said. “If it’s domestic, they allow me to take it on approval. I always confirm the measurements as sometimes there’s a typo. If it is an antiques store, I ask them to take a picture of where it is right now in their shop-you can see it differently that way. Rugs are impossible to tell from a photo; for rugs you have to go in person. I always go first to the people who I admire and know,” she advised.

 Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse NYC. Photograph by Jean Bourbon

Dining Room: Upper East Side, NY – Private Residence. Photograph by Steve Freihon

Design Predictions

Hampton believes the pandemic has changed people’s design sensibilities and the way they live. “A lot of people who fled the city and went to vacation areas find they love it are not coming back,” she predicts. “I assume in the next 6-8 months there is going to be a huge decorating boom. A lot of people left London, left New York, and now they are worried about selling houses, their kids finishing school, what will the year look like. Once January/February rolls around they might have a better sense of financial wellness, and that program will begin anew. They will need to create areas where kids can learn and we (adults) can work; space and quiet and storage.

Living Room: Upper West Side, NY – Private Residence. Photograph by Scott Frances

Dining Room: Bridgehampton, NY – Private Residence. Photograph by Steve Freihon

I think we will see urban design in country houses, things will sneak in. There will be an interesting birth of a new design style: “Adaptive Urban Country”. The consignment world is going to blow up, which will make room for a huge wave of antiques buying. There is a great Welsh word that means nostalgia for a place or time you have never been. ‘Hiraeth’ – it’s an earnest longing or desire or sense of regret. I’m a New York City girl. I spent my life looking at Neo-Classical houses, I am ambitious for that.

Living Room: Upper East Side, NY – Private Residence. Photograph by Steve Freihon

With most social engagements and travel cancelled this year, Hampton is doing just fine, “I’m a homebody,” she admits, but she seems to keep busy enough working from home. In addition to running her design firm, she has several projects in the works. “I’ve been working on a bedding collection with Eastern Accents, 13 new bed programs and each bed has a European square of one fabric, I already have 5 on my website. We’ve been able to work quickly. I also have some new pieces in collaboration with Theodore Alexander furniture.”

Balfour Bedding by Alexa Hampton for Eastern Accents

Bedding by Alexa Hampton at Theodore Alexander Showroom in High Point.
Photograph by Steve Freihon

But for Hampton, the hardest thing right now is not knowing what’s going to happen next. “I’m not used to having to be this nimble,” she admits. I am just trying to keep my kids under my thumb. My husband is a good cook. In times of trouble you find out what kind of person someone is–he’s amazing. She works hard but doesn’t find the need to break rules, “I’m pretty self-indulgent,” she admits, “so I don’t really have rules to break.”

By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat
Ariane Trimuschat 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.

At Home with Designer Madeline Stuart

Madeline Stuart’s inspiration board is filled with quotes from designers, architects and writers of the past, along with images of nature, travel and art. The detail of a pile of butter beans, a bird’s eye view of the Rockies, a close-up image of a cobblestone street, all combine to create and inspire her unique vision. Stuart is a leading American interior designer, based in Los Angeles who appears regularly on both the AD100 list and the Elle Décor A-List, but both her personality and design aesthetic lack pretense. She is approachable, friendly, and open, and this mindset translates to her work. Form and function are a crucial marriage for her, and she achieves this with an attention to detail that creates a timeless design. Stuart’s design firm, Madeline Stuart Associates is known for both interior design as well as architectural restoration and remodelling, with a focus on reversing years of neglect and damage to properties. I spoke with Stuart by phone from her home in L.A. about working through a pandemic and her design vision.

Photograph by Trevor Tondro

A Book Tour Diverted

Stuart was in the middle of her book tour when the lockdown happened. Her book, ‘No Place Like Home, Interiors by Madeline Stuart (Rizzoli, 2019) was published the previous September and her last talk on the East Coast was March 12th “half the people didn’t come,” she recalled. “It hit home in a profoundly clear way that this was now happening. It had taken hold, everyone was fearful, I couldn’t wait to get home. The next day we closed our office for three months; L.A. was on such a strict lockdown. There was something oddly, eerily blissful about L.A. with no people; something kind of captivating about it. It was not something anyone had every witnessed, it was serene,” she shared.

Living Room Details from Stuart’s Santa Barbara home. Photograph by Trevor Tondro

Designing in the Midst of a Pandemic

Working in isolation took some adjustments. “Ours is a tactile business,” said Stuart, “it’s such a collaborative effort. You can’t look at fabric, samples or trims online.” I have a project in Seaside, Florida that we pushed to September, and I finished it remotely. I have a great friend there and she and I Facetimed for 2 or 3 days. She did the styling while I directed her, and it worked! I worked with the art installer this way too; he was responsive and I was fully present and accounted for. Most of the work was already done before the pandemic hit. I re-designed all the interiors; the project had been ongoing for a couple of years. The installation and unveiling is my glory moment; so much of what you’re doing is in your head and when all the instruments in the orchestra reach the final crescendo—the installation is akin to that, so not being onsite is not my preference. We’re all willing to take certain chances, but how much of a chance? How far are we willing to go? I don’t want to test those waters,” she admitted.

Italianate Living Room by Madeline Stuart. Photograph by Trevor Tondro

A New Attitude

The lockdown changed Stuart’s view of her own home, a 1930s Spanish Revival house in the Hollywood Hills. “If I’m to be perfectly honest,” she said, “my house isn’t a collection of exquisitely curated furniture and objects–I’d say it’s more like an accumulation of stuff and things. There are antiques and vintage pieces, custom furniture that I designed, and a Dunbar sofa that was my parents when they were first married and lived in Manhattan in the mid-50s (needless to say, it’s been recovered many times since then.)  There are flea market finds, some contemporary things, and a few pieces I regret buying,” she admitted.

“The one thing lockdown has done is make me want to change every single thing in my house,” she said, “the more time I spent in L.A., the more I wanted a new look, I wanted to experience something different, I wanted to SAY something different. So, I think I’m committed to making incremental changes that will refresh and revive my house. We all bring things in and take things out–I want to start over. I’m a shopper by birth–and profession–and have found some beautiful things that are exceptionally meaningful to me: I placed an Arne Bang ceramic vessel next to an Edo period bronze turtle, which sidles up to a Jean Dunand vase, that sits on a monograph of Hiroshi Sugimoto’s work.  I have artwork that was given to me by my father and three 16th century Iznik tiles that came from the collection of Lockwood de Forest.  Without some of these highly personal objects, my house would lack its center and its soul. These are the pieces I see when I curl up on the sofa in my living room, which is like a tufted island in the storm. It’s always been a place of peace for me, but even more so now, during this challenging time.  Ideally there’s a pile of magazines and newspapers on the floor at my side, a cup of Earl Grey tea on the table, and my dogs at my feet.   The worries of the world are held at arm’s length, at least for a short while.”

Hacienda Living Room by Madeline Stuart. Photograph by Trevor Tondro

Stuart’s Approach to Clients

Stuart takes a very different approach when creating a home for her clients, “designing for yourself and for clients is such a different approach,” she explains, “I don’t design for myself, It’s a process of accretion, accumulating things over times that might have struck my fancy at one time and now not so much. When I am designing for clients I am trying to design for a level of permanence; everyone changes their mind, their taste. My approach is to find, buy and install things that are timeless, and worthy. You can’t help but design in your own time and of the moment. I am always designing for them, their needs, level of comfort, how they want to live and present themselves to the world. It’s a very different process.”

La Jolla Living Room by Madeline Stuart. Photograph by Trevor Tondro

A Second Home

Stuart and her husband bought a second home in Santa Barbara, which gave her a new project. “Some designers design their homes to represent a specific style of how they want to present themselves to the world,” she said, “I’ve never been able to design my home that way. But in my Santa Barbara home, I was able to start from scratch. I was almost paralyzed because I knew it was going to represent me and my style and every decision I made would be analyzed. ‘Why did she choose that lamp? Why put that painting there?’ she pondered.

My former assistant forced me into a direction that I am glad I took. As designers, we are judged and the decisions we make are up for consideration by others, it’s interesting. I design because I have firm beliefs about approach. For a client you are designing for them and are also aware of others experiencing the home you have created for these people. There are judgments being made,” she explained.

Stuart believes a certain degree of insecurity is a good thing. “When designers get too cocky, they lose the ability to step back and see their work in a realistic way.  I don’t think of myself as a decorator in the truest sense of the word.  There are those who decorate at such a profound level (i.e. Mario Buatta), and while I admire that kind of work, that’s not my process.  I maintain enough insecurity that it causes me to think carefully about my decisions–I just don’t throw everything out and see what sticks. I think my approach towards designing a home is more restrained, more reductionist.  I never want my interiors to appear overly decorated.  For me it’s about acquiring beautiful things and putting them in a setting that feels cohesive and comfortable for the people who live there,” she shared.

Interior of Madeline Stuart’s house in Santa Barbara for C Magazine. Photograph by Trevor Tondro

On Collecting Antiques

Stuart is a collector and enthusiast of antiques and always tries to weave pieces from different eras into her projects. “I can’t imagine creating a room without furniture and objects from the past,” she shared. “Even when I design interiors that might be considered contemporary or modern, I always include something old alongside something new. Without that juxtaposition, I think a room lacks interest, depth, and soul. I’m not snobbish about antiques, I can find a marvelous piece at a brocante, an established dealer, or a prestigious show.  The item doesn’t have to be expensive to be worthy–some of my greatest finds are things I bought for a song,” she admitted. “For me, it’s not always about provenance or price–it’s about introducing an element or an object that brings with it a bit of history,” she explained.

Stuart has long been an avid shopper and is a past lecturer at the San Francisco Fall show and was invited to create a Designer Vignette for the Grand Entry of the 2018 show with the show theme “The Sun, the Moon and the Stars”. The result, ‘Moon’, with custom designed de Gournay wallpaper and panels inspired by the work of Japanese artist, Matazo Kayama, was magical and illuminating.

‘Moon’, Designer Vignette by Madeline Stuart at the 2018 San Francisco Fall Show.
Custom wallpaper by de Gournay. Photograph by Drew Altizer

Stuart is a champion of the show, “The level of satisfaction I have when walking through the show with a client, when we would see something and then see that thing in their home that we created together, it becomes not just an object but a thing of meaning,” she shared. “There is no show like the Fall Show. There is a level of excitement and energy at that show that I’ve never felt anywhere. Conviviality, people not jaded, not walking the show with a jaundiced eye. There is an enthusiasm and joy that I’ve never experienced elsewhere. It’s about the dealers, the history, years of tradition. It’s the level of connoisseurship that is on display. What you’re seeing is of such a high level and exquisite beauty and it shines and makes you excited. There is such a welcoming atmosphere. People dive in and want to have fun. I’ve spoken to so many dealers in the past few months about how much I’ll miss seeing them this year,” she reminisced.

This image features pieces that represent myriad eras, cultures, and styles:  The chairs are 18th c. Italian, and the gilt bronze lantern in the doorway is by Caldwell, an American lighting company founded in the 19th century.  The screens are 19th c. Chinese, and the tables are fashioned from eggshell lacquer trays made in France in the 1930s. The carpet is an antique Oushak,  the brass palm tree lamps are mid-century, and they sit on a pair of Italian 19th c. bronze and marble tables.  The oldest piece in the room is the white porcelain vessel in the foreground.  It’s Chinese, from the Southern Song dynasty, which dates from 1127-1279, and was purchased from the Lotus Collection at the San Francisco Fall Show a few years ago. Photograph by Trevor Tondro

Stuart developed her taste and eye for antiques over years of exploration, education, and relentless curiosity.  “I relish the hunt, what I call the ‘seek and ye shall find’ approach,” she shared. “I learned most of what I know about antique or vintage furniture and accessories by seeing things in person, chatting with dealers, and appreciating the patina that develops only with time.  Besides, I’m an inveterate shopper, so even when I’m not shopping for work, I’m shopping for pleasure,” she said.

She admits her work isn’t tied to any particular period, “although there are some I favor and a few I eschew,” she admitted. “For me it’s all about how a particular piece can find its way into my life, or into a client’s home; whether those items or objects date to the 1970s, the 17th century, or 700 BC, these things are part of our collective history and shared memory, and as a designer, I treasure being able to incorporate something truly unique into a space,” she shared.

“I think the most beautiful homes are those that reflect the personality and lives of the people who live there.  An exquisitely decorated house may contain a collection of nice things, but I find it a bit sad when those things have no connection to their owner.  Find stuff you love–whether it’s of great significance or sentimental value–and surround yourself with pieces that remind you of who you are, what you care about, and where you’ve been,” she advises.

Jackson Living Room. Photograph by Trevor Tondro

With the pandemic closing out the year, Stuart is missing the energy of the design industry, “I love traveling and meeting people all over the country, being a part of an industry that is social and engaged,” she says. “I love hosting dinner parties, I miss having people over, I miss living!” She exclaimed. “You have to feel creative, and this current atmosphere is not conducive to feeling creative, I think there is a lot of unrest, discomfort, unease, so you have to work harder to be creative. I work and go home, and I am grateful and lucky to have a place in Santa Barbara to go. It’s a little house but I love every corner and it brings me peace and joy and that’s all we can ask for – a little spot where we can find joy at the end of the day. I still find wonderful moments in a day-I love pulling fabrics and collaborating with my staff, I’m still completely immersed and invested in that,” she shared.

Photograph by Trevor Tondro

“We’re all doing our best and making it up as we go along. Hoping we arrive on the other side with our sanity, humour, creativity and good will towards others still evident.”

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.

Coast to Coast with Ken Fulk

Ken Fulk is not known for minimalism. One has only to visit his San Francisco Magic Factory, St. Joseph’s Art Society, or any of his restaurants, clubs, hotels or other myriad of properties he has designed to see the sheer breadth of his imagination. He is at once an old soul and a forward thinker and has become known globally as not just a leader in the design field, but a stylemaker across multiple platforms. He and his team of 75 designers, event specialists and architects are split between SoMa in San Francisco and TriBeCa in New York City conceiving, creating and producing for his namesake company, Ken Fulk, Inc.

Fulk is a longtime a supporter of the Fall Show, most recently serving as Chair of the exclusive Designers Circle, and, in 2018, designing a Vignette for the Grand Entry Hall of the Show. The theme that year was “The Sun, The Moon & The Stars” and in typical fashion, Fulk took it one further and dubbed his vignette the “Zodiac bar”, an imaginary 1980’s private lounge for Fulk and his jet-setting friends, lined with jewel encrusted custom-made de Gournay wallpaper. The vignette came complete with a story filled with scandalous activities, affairs, and courtroom drama, spun from his creative mind.

The ‘Zodiac Bar’, Designer Vignette by Ken Fulk at the 2018 Fall Show.
Custom Wallpaper by de Gournay. Photograph by Drew Altizer.

Fulk knows a thing or two about throwing a good party, so his take on the Fall Show’s Opening Night held some weight, “it remains the best party of the year” he exclaimed, – “everyone is dressed to the nines, you see all of your friends, and who doesn’t love mounds of caviar!” Indeed.

Ken Fulk with Diane Keaton and Ray Azoulay at the 2012 Fall Show Opening Night Gala, Photograph by Drew Altizer Photography

An active shopper at the show, Fulk shared one prized purchase in particular with me, “my favourite find at the show over the years has been a pair of 19th century Scottish urns (from Finnegan Gallery) shaped like trees that flank the entry to our home in San Francisco.”

Scottish Urns flanking Fulk’s San Francisco home, from Finnegan Gallery

With homes in San Francisco, Napa, New York City and Provincetown, and clients around the world, Fulk is not used to staying still. As with us all, 2020 changed all that for Fulk who was in San Francisco when the lockdown started. “We spent the first two months in San Francisco and then decamped to our home in Provincetown, MA.,” he shared. We make this annual pilgrimage and it felt important to uphold the tradition this year.” The home is charming and one can see what draws him to this summer fishing village and artist colony. His favourite room in the house is his library, “it has been adopted by the dogs as their room – so we tend to all gather there for naps, fires, and reading,” he says. It’s painted a glorious curry color and glistens in the morning sun and glows with candlelight in the eve.” Books, history and stories are important to Fulk, who is drawn to creature comforts, “I think it’s important to be surrounded by things you love that provide comfort, tell a story and anchor you in a place. Books, objects, furnishings – layered or minimal  – all help craft our own personal narrative. There’s nothing better than a deep comfortable chair by the fire and a great novel – oh and a nice glass of wine doesn’t hurt,” he adds.

Library in Provincetown Home

His favourite piece in the house is a painting. “We own a seven foot tall self-portrait of Charles Hawthorne from 1898.” he shared. “He painted it just a few years prior to founding the Cape School of Art establishing Provincetown as the foremost artist colony in the U.S.”

Self Portrait of Charles Hawthorne, 1898

Work does not halt while Fulk is summering in P-Town, “I am fortunate enough to have a studio space across the street in a home we recently restored. It’s a 1780’s sea captain’s house and later was home to Mary Heaton Vorse a key figure in the labor and civil rights movement and founder of the Provincetown Playhouse. It now houses the Provincetown Arts Society an extension of our non-profit arts hub – the Saint Joseph’s Arts Foundation in San Francisco,” he explained.   “Thankfully we have never been busier so there’s little free time – but it is nice to balance all the work with more time hiking and swimming with the family.” 

Mary Heaton Vorse House, Provincetown, MA

The pandemic has curtailed his schedule, but Fulk has found a silver lining. “Certainly I agonize over the immense tragedy and tumult we’ve experienced during this time – but simultaneously this period has been filled with great beauty for me; months spent with dear friends, my dogs & husband cooking, laughing and holding on to one another. I am deeply grateful to be healthy and safe, sheltered in a crooked house by the sea with creatures I love.” 

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.

David Phoenix at Home, and on the Move

David Phoenix

A master at combining modern and traditional design elements and creating interiors that are thoughtful, well designed and, most importantly, liveable, David Phoenix is one of America’s most influential interior designers. His firm, David Phoenix Interior Design has won numerous awards, and his interiors have appeared in, and on the cover of, the major national design magazines and industry publications. In addition to his full-service design firm, he has created a line of furniture, lighting and decorative accessories for Hickory Chair and a collection of fabrics and trims for Kravet.

I chatted by phone with Phoenix, who has attended the San Francisco Fall Show almost every year since 1994 and has been featured in the Lecture Series. He is a devotee of the show, “it’s the best of it’s kind” he shared. “The quality of the dealers–the Show has trusted dealers–which is nice; everyone puts their best foot forward. It is incredibly well run and has the best speakers. If you want great antiques, it’s where you go.”

Photograph by Jean Rendazzo

A Cross Country Move

2020 has been anything but boring for Phoenix who moved in the midst of the pandemic. “I wanted a new chapter,” he said. “I was in Los Angeles for the beginning of the lock down but I moved to Palm Beach in June. It’s a different vibe here, the light is different. It was something I had been wanting to do, and the pandemic brought the opportunity for looking at things differently. I’ve never been happier; it was time. I had been in L.A. since I was a teenager, for 35 years. The reasons I moved there were different than the reality of today, but this whole thing forced me into it. I felt like once I made the decision to do it, everything fell right into place. I was able to use the quarantine time to go through storage and lighten my load,” he shared. “There is something very freeing about letting go of things; being a designer I always want to redo rooms. When you start becoming controlled by your things, it becomes cumbersome. It’s cathartic to get rid of stuff, you learn what’s important to you. When you have things in storage-it’s impossible to remember what you have. I encourage people to purge,” he advises.

Turning a House into a Home

Phoenix believes the definition of home is different for everyone. “It’s about making it comfortable for you,” he says. “Some people are big into bedrooms, the right linens, pillows, etc. For me, I have a big collection of books: I read real paper books, and I like paper magazines and newspapers. I just like holding them, it’s easier. Once you look at a story online it’s hard to find again.” Phoenix finds his bedroom to be a place of quiet and calm. “I like to read in bed,” he admits. “I like to linger in the morning and ease into the day.” Home is also about food and Phoenix is an avid cook. “I spend a lot of time baking, I find it relaxing,” he says. “Then I bring it to someone.”

Photograph courtesy of David Phoenix

Running a Design Firm During Lockdown

Having just moved in the midst of a pandemic, Phoenix gave up his brick and mortar office in L.A. and has yet to open a new one in Palm Beach. “I like going someplace,” he admits. “I feel like as a designer, it’s nice to go to an office. I like the discipline of it and having a library of samples. Designers accumulate a lot of stuff,” he admitted. But business has not slowed. If anything, given how life has changed this year, for most people spending a great deal of time at home, says Phoenix, “I think everyone is in the redoing mood. When people are on the treadmill of life and have kids and work and life at high speed, they aren’t noticing things that were looking tired. Now that everyone is at home all day for school and work, people are looking at their homes differently, and they say, let’s redo this room now because its tired looking, or now that I’m cooking at home more I don’t have enough space. People are revisiting those rooms.”

Photograph courtesy of David Phoenix

An Active Dining Room

Phoenix is a great believer in dining rooms. “When I grew up you had dinner at home every night; going out was a special treat,” he says. “There is something to be said for eating at home: people gathering, coming together, whether you are single or in a family. (Pre-pandemic) many people were eating out seven days a week. Dining rooms are coming back in; people need a place to eat. We’re going to see a resurgence of dining rooms,” he predicts. “I have a library table/dining table in Palm Beach. It’s nice to get out of the kitchen, to set the table, making dinner special with flowers and music.”

Photograph courtesy of David Phoenix

On Shopping for Art and Antiques Online

The 2020 Fall Show, like many others is online this year, due to the pandemic. We chatted about buying art and antiques online versus at a show or gallery. Phoenix loves meeting dealers, developing relationships which then gives him peace of mind when buying from them online. “People need to touch and feel,” he admits. When buying online he offers some sage advice: “Ask a lot of questions” A few smart questions and requests he advises people to make before purchasing online:

• Ask for a photo of someone standing next to the piece, to get a sense of its true size
• Ask them to tip it over to see the bottom
• Ask them to hold a tape measure to it
• Double check how it is being shipped—who is paying for shipping?
Is it being white gloved delivered? Is it going to a receiver? Will the delivery person bring it in to the house or leave it on the curb?
• Is it insured on the trip?
• Is it blanket wrapped? Crated?

These questions are very important because you don’t want to get into a situation where you are finger pointing” he says. Sage advice.

A passion for Baking: Cake by David Phoenix

Life in the Era of a Pandemic

Now deep into 2020, we’ve all been through the ringer this year. “the first three weeks I did not leave the house,” Phoenix admits, “I would watch a movie in the middle of the day—if not now, when?” he laughed. “My diet went out the window with all the baking, I was definitely off my food game, it was hard. It got a little depressing from an isolation standpoint. I bought a bike and started bike riding, which I love and do everyday. It’s great to get outside and explore.”

“I’ve been very diligent about washing hands and wearing a mask–it’s not about taking a stance, it’s about being thoughtful—you wouldn’t sneeze on someone’s face or cough on them, it’s the same thing. I feel, especially now with everything going on, I have a new sense of gratitude: to be grateful that you are healthy. When you’re grateful, it’s hard to be angry or sad—when you switch your mindset from focusing on what you don’t have to the little things—I am grateful for my desk, good coffee, my Zoom meetings—it’s easy to add to that list.”

Such a simple and profound point of view.

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, design and travel.

A Conversation with Designer Beth Webb

On Virtual Designing, the Importance of Comfort, and Cooking Everyday

Beth Webb

Texture, tension and light are the three tenets that distinguish Beth Webb’s design sensibility. The Atlanta based interior designer is known for her sophisticated interiors that marry elegance with ease and simplicity–the result is a breadth of work that conveys a sense of well being–a combination of beauty and comfort. Her ability to layer and contrast textures and light creates an inviting warmth in the rooms she designs. Webb is recognised internationally for her interiors, and has been featured in magazines including Veranda, Elle Décor, House Beautiful, Milieu, and Luxe. She serves as a board member of the prestigious interior design and architecture organization, the Design Leadership Network (DLN).

In 2017, her book An Eye for Beauty (Rizzoli 2017) was published and that year she spoke on the ‘Mix Masters’ panel at the Fall Show Lecture Series, which focused on combining different styles, finishes and periods to create a room with multiple personalities. She has found the Fall Show to be invaluable in her search for pieces for clients, both while she is there and afterwards. When she buys online, she says, she buys from dealers she has met in person. “I’ve developed relationships with dealers at shows,” she explained. “when you are buying online, it’s good to know the dealer; dealers I have met usually follow up with me. If you are buying from a dealer you know and have a history with, have a conversation with the dealer first.”

Beth Webb (second from left) on the Mix Masters Panel at the 2017 Fall Show,
along with designers Ellie Cullman, David Phoenix and Suzanne Tucker.

I spoke by phone with Webb about work and life in an increasingly virtual world. Although her business is based in Atlanta, she has spent most of 2020 (and lockdown) in the weekend home on Brays Island in South Carolina that she shares with her husband. “It’s a sporting collective,” she shared “my husband built the house in 2006 in the Lowcountry, inland on the river. We were set up to go remote 3 weeks before the lockdown. My staff has been stellar, I have a principal who is in Atlanta and everyone is staggered coming in and out of the office,” she said. “At first it felt like slogging through quicksand, but we’ve really pivoted in a miraculous way. I’m finding our clients are doing well with Zoom. We’ve done installations remotely—hired local stylists, and I was on Facetime the whole time—we’ve had 2 or 3 installations during lockdown. As we’ve gotten further into it, we’ve learned safer ways to do things. We have stringent PPE rules and always call ahead to make sure everyone is safe and well”.

View from kitchen door on Brays Island, Photograph by Beth Webb

With so much of design being textures and colors, at some point people need to see and touch things first-hand. Webb has that covered, “when we have a virtual presentation, we send a box of “goodies”; physical assets to the clients in advance so they can feel everything. They are very much a part of it. We send renderings of the rooms, physical boards, a tactile presentation. It’s more thoughtful design,” she explained. “(Pre-pandemic) we were on planes 3-4 days a week. We had industry events constantly. We loved doing all those things but it takes time, and all of a sudden I have that time back, and I’m able to do more design work than I have in years. I have become much more circumspect and I’m more engaged with my clients and staff.”

Living Room in Brays Island Home, Photograph courtesy of Beth Webb

Silver Linings

Once the events of 2020 are a thing of the past, there has been much speculation about the lasting effects—what habits will remain? Webb hopes this new concept of time is one, “I hope it lasts,” she confesses. “I’ve been reminded of my early days in the business where I had one job and I had time to work on it. I’d stay up all hours of the night scheming and dreaming. I think we have found that we don’t need to travel so much; there was a lot of thinking that you couldn’t do without it, but you can! I am excited to be able to be on a job site again and do the work. On the other hand, I’ve learned that I don’t need to be there for five days–I can hire a stylist–we’re learning new tricks; that’s the silver lining. We’ve always had a lot of remote work–we’re all used to working all over the place, remote has always been in the equation–but we’ve gotten even more adept.”

A Tale of Two Homes

Webb’s two homes couldn’t be more different. “Atlanta is the more intimate, formal space,” she says, while Brays Island is ‘not decorated’. “My husband built the house-it’s a super modern glass house; when I met him, he had two sofas and a lamp!” she joked. “For the past five years we’ve been focusing on the yard.”

Atlanta House Dining Room, Photo courtesy of Beth Webb

Choosing a favorite piece in her homes was easy. “I do love art,” she admitted. “I was on the board of the Florence Academy of Art. If I have to pick one piece, it would be a drawing by Charles Weed, a head study-a portrait in the dining room in Atlanta. I love to collect. We buy antiques when we travel,” she shared. I shop a lot in London. I love Pimlico Road. We are always shopping the globe.”

Charles Weed drawing in the Atlanta dining room, Photo courtesy of Beth Webb


The one thing the two homes have in common is comfort. “I’m such a comfort person,” Webb admits. “Your house can be beautiful but if it’s not comfortable, no one wants to be there. You need to infuse your home with soul, create intimacy; the ergonomics of design are important to me,” she shares. Webb also focuses on the usability of rooms, “I like every room in a house to be used,” she said, “I don’t want a useless living room. If you engineer those rooms correctly, they will have all the parts and pieces that make it work–tuck a TV into a bookshelf in the dining room, for example, get custom cabinetry and comfortable upholstery,-relax the room, humanize it and make it less intimidating,” she advises. “I’m in the study all day long, then at night we’re in the main living area. The table is set for dinner every night and we have club chairs in the bedroom and go in there in the evening to have a cocktail.”

Living Room in Brays Island

Design Perspectives in a Time of Isolation

Webb has noticed an increase in the discussion around how the months of isolation have changed people’s perspectives on their homes and design. She typically gets two types of calls as a prospective designer for a client: “first, Zen,” she says, meaning a peaceful, relaxed design. The second is “traditional—comfort and familiarity. People are gravitating toward warmth,” she explains. “Hard edged metal surfaces, super modern, cold—that’s a hard sell. I’m always going to make it warm in some way whether it’s contemporary or not. I’m not a trendy designer; I listen to my clients and do what they want. You can make anything interesting–it’s tactile–you want to feel cocooned. Now more than ever, our home is our haven.”

Webb does miss travel though, “I love to travel,” she admits. “We were so lucky. Just before all this happened, we went to London, Paris, St. Barts. Back in the day, you used to get dressed up to get on a plane, one of the civilities that use to be a part of travel. I do hope that comes back—the thoughtfulness of travel.”

Japanese bronze Lobster from Cliff Leonard in Atlanta Living Room

Cooking is Like Design

With no travel, and no social engagements, Webb has never been busier. “we had a collection launched with Arteriors in March-accessories, furniture, and lighting. I am the guest designer for spring of 2020 and I’ll have a presence at Highpoint in October. And I’ve been busy thinking about my next book…” she shared.

The Beth Webb Collection for Arteriors

But there is time for relaxing and fun. “My husband has lost 15 pounds and I’ve lost 10! We walk more-we’re in a place where we can, and we ride bikes. We have a 5-acre community garden, and we had a glorious spring; we go to the garden every day and get fresh vegetables: squash, okra, melons. I love to cook, I cook everyday and my husband has learned to cook.” she shared.

Produce from the Brays Island Garden

“Cooking is like design: you have to plan for it. We also order food online—we’ve found all these great places that ship-pizzas from Italy, homemade chicken pot pie…” Sounds delightful.

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.

A Chat with Designer Timothy Corrigan

On French Châteaus, The Comforts of Home
and Being Grounded in 2020

For someone who travels around the world on a monthly basis, is renovating (not his first) 18th century French château, Château de la Chevallerie, and has been named to most of the design world’s ‘Best Designer’ lists, Timothy Corrigan is refreshingly down to earth. We chatted by FaceTime and our conversation went in several directions as we talked about our mutual passion for travel and tabletop settings among other things.

Timothy Corrigan | Photograph by Nathan Kirkman

I first met Corrigan in 2013 in my first year as Show Director of the San Francisco Fall Show, when he gave a fabulous lecture about his renovation of the 45,000 square foot Château du Grand-Lucé in France’s Loire Valley (he has since sold it and it is now a luxury hotel) and again in my final year as Director in 2019 when he spoke about living with stylish and comfortable rooms. He names the Lecture Series one of his favorite elements of the show. “I love the lectures and the programs.” he admits. I still remember several lectures I saw over the years, a wonderful talk with Lady Henrietta Spencer-Churchill, and the one with Nina Campbell, Charlotte Moss and Suzanne Tucker,” “The Divas of Design!” I reminded him. “To me,” he said, “the quality of your lecture speakers is second to none in terms of shows. And the support of the design community is amazing. It’s palpable.”

Timothy Corrigan, at his post-lecture book signing for “The New Elegance”
at the 2019 Fall Show | Photograph by Hernan Santander

Corrigan opened his design firm, Timothy Corrigan, Inc. in 1997 after a career in advertising, heading up Saatchi & Saatchi Bates Worldwide’s international operations. Today it is one of the leading design firms in the world, with offices in Paris and Los Angeles. He is a master at combining “European elegance with California comfort”. Corrigan has won numerous awards and is the author of two bestselling books, An Invitation to Château Grand- Lucé (Rizzoli, 2013), which chronicles his acquisition, restoration and decoration of a great French country house, and The New Elegance: Stylish, Comfortable Rooms for Today (Rizzoli, 2019).

With clients on four continents Corrigan is not used to sitting still, so the pandemic has been especially jarring. “I have not travelled this little in 30 years,” he admits. “I currently have projects in China, Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East and in six different states in America.” Despite this, he has spent most of 2020, during lockdown at his home in L.A., however, he was able to go to his office. “I’m very lucky, because our office has many windows and everyone has a private office. It helped me maintain structure and routine,” he shared.

Chateau de la Chevallerie in the Loire Valley

An Interesting Time for a Move

While most of us were getting used to the new normal as lockdown went into effect, Corrigan was moving. “The day L.A. was shut down was the first day of a 3-day move,” he shared. I was between two houses and spent the first three months unpacking. I had sold my last house unexpectedly and took a rental which I realised I hated; I did not like being home, he said. “I always tell clients their home should be a sanctuary, but this was not, so I moved and it was the most wonderful thing. I really do love this new house—the scale of the rooms—bigger rooms and fewer of them; I’m 6’4” and I need bigger spaces! And, it is much lighter and brighter—I need light.”

As moving usually does, unpacking gave Corrigan the opportunity to take stock of his art and furniture in a new way and he gained a new appreciation for one work in particular, “my Carolus-Duran painting—he was a portrait artist—a master of shadow and light,” he explained. “In the other house the walls were white, white, white. The color of walls really impact light; with paintings the background color really affects how you see the painting. I painted the walls in the new house a warm, golden, honey color—not a color that was in the painting—I just really knew that the painting needed the warm tones.”

Carolus-Duran painting | Photograph by Massimo Listri

Home Comforts

For Corrigan, home is about comfort. “We’ve all walked into a room and you can tell that no one uses it—the formal room—those are deadly rooms,” he says. “It’s partially that the furniture is not really comfortable. It’s also a mindset where you are decorating with fabric that is too fine, too delicate.” Corrigan favors comfortable furniture where you can put your feet up. “We often put marine varnish on furniture and antiques so that you can put a hot coffee mug or a wet glass down. We use performance fabrics so you don’t have to worry about spilling wine and you can comfortably use the room, all these elements are practical.”

Jardin Tibetan Knot rug designed by Timothy Corrigan for Perrenials
Photograph by Nathan Kirkman

Corrigan feels rooms should be used. “Every room has a purpose,” he explains, “a reason for going there. In my own living room, I wasn’t using it, so I put a desk in there. You don’t have to use a room for its intended purpose; the dining room can also be a library. Rooms can have dual or multiple uses, just make sure every room is working hard for you.” For Corrigan, his favorite room in his house is anywhere he can curl up and read in a comfortable chair. “I have really enjoyed doing a lot of reading these last months. I purposely don’t read the paper in the morning, instead, I save it and come home and read The New York Times at night. It creates these special occasions for me within my home. The world is so heavy and dark right now, I don’t want to start my day with the news.”

Photograph by Amy Barnard

The New Normal

The pandemic has not changed Corrigan’s design sense, but it has changed how he works. “With so many international clients, we always did Zoom meetings, even pre-pandemic,” he said, “but we didn’t do it as much with domestic clients. I’ve learned we can be just as productive and even once the pandemic is in the past, we’ll probably do more meetings this way. I believe that just as WWI changed so many people’s habits and patterns, so will this. Nothing is like connecting in person, that will always be important, but we can be very efficient these days with technology.” Corrigan has also noticed that his clients are looking at their houses in a new way, “we’ve received phone calls from clients who say they never really appreciated their home until now,” he shares. “For a lot of my clients, their homes are showplaces, as they have several and they haven’t really experienced them until now; they are gaining a new appreciation.”

Photograph by Lee Manning

The thing Corrigan is missing most at the moment is France. “I have a new apartment in Paris, and the château I am renovating. I have been trying to do it from L.A. but there is nothing like being there.” He is now working on a new book about Château de la Chevallerie called Town & Country which is scheduled to be published in 2022.

Room at Château de la Chevallerie | Photograph by Eric Piasecki

The lockdown has not slowed Corrigan down. “We’ve gotten four new projects during this process—new construction. That part has been busy. I’ve also used the time to develop a collection of new tiles for New Ravenna, the ‘Rolls Royce’ of tiles. I do the drawings myself. And I have a new collection of fabrics and rugs which I launched a year ago with Perrenials. I am also doing a third collection of china patterns for Royal Limoges. I have 14 sets of china at the chateau,” he admitted, which got us once again talking about tabletop.

Jardin Français Collection by Timothy Corrigan for Royal Limoges

With no social engagements or travel, he has found a bit of time for relaxing, “I have never been a television person, but I’ve started watching a new Australian series called ‘A Place to Call Home’, and time for reflection, he shared his perspective on this time we are living in: “I think it is so important for people to try to find the positive thing in all this; more time with family, not traveling so much. I am trying to consider what the gift is in this. To me that is the biggest lesson.”
Wise words.

By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat
Ariane served as Show Director for the San Francisco Fall Show for seven 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.

At Home in Connecticut with Designer Bunny Williams

Anyone who knows interior design knows the name Bunny Williams. She has made an indelible mark and is one of the most recognizable names in the industry. Her half-century career started with an apprenticeship at the legendary design firm Parish-Hadley Associates. Then, in 1988 she started her own firm and the rest is history. Bunny and her team work their magic for commissions across the globe, many for repeat, longtime clients.

Bunny has authored seven books on design and gardening, her latest Love Affairs with Houses (Abrams, 2019), presents new work from 15 houses she has decorated and fallen in love with. She has won numerous awards, has devoted her time to several philanthropic organisations and is a coveted speaker on the topics of design, gardening, and entertaining. The San Francisco Fall Show has featured her in its Lecture Series several times over the years.

Bunny and her husband, the antiques dealer John Rosselli, have their primary residence and offices in Manhattan, but for the last six months of 2020, they have been hunkering down in their home in Connecticut, which is where she was when we chatted by phone. “Do I ever want to go back to New York City?” she mused, “many people in the city have moved out.” But her Connecticut home sounds dreamy. “I have a studio that is my office–it’s a house up on a hill in the clouds—a separate building next to our house, and I have built up an incredible library of samples and textiles there. I can’t tell you how much this studio means to me,” she shared. “If you can do your work in another place, you can reduce the time you spend in the city.”

Bunny created this spacious, bright studio space as a place to work, paint, study and be absorbed in her many projects. She wanted the space to feel modern in contrast to her more traditional house and barn.
Photograph by Carter Berg

Bunny’s homes have provided inspiration for many of her books, and with a collection of so many beautiful pieces, she had trouble picking a favourite. “It’s usually the newest thing I bought,” she confessed. But if I have to choose, I have a Danish Neo-Classical secretary desk in Connecticut; my house is Federal and it fits with the house, it has personality and I never get tired of it. I like things that are unique, that have a soul.”

Bunny purchased this Swedish secretary desk from Danish antiques dealer ​Arne Schlesch​ at auction when he was closing his New York shop to return to Denmark. The height of the piece helps balance the elevation of the door on the other side of the fireplace. Photograph courtesy of Bunny Williams

The secretary desktop: Bunny likes to surround herself with small objects that bring back special memories when she sits down at her desk.
Photograph by Timothy Street-Porter

Not wanting to leave out her New York residence, she shared: “John found a four-poster canopy bed at a Sotheby’s auction 30 years ago. It was designed by the Parisian designer, Serge Roche. It is covered with antique mirrors and I just love it.”

In Bunny’s New York City apartment, a mirrored bed by Serge Roche takes center stage in her bedroom. It is from the 1940s and previously belonged to socialite Dorothy Hart Hirshon. Bunny’s husband, John Rosselli, spotted it dismantled at a Sotheby’s auction years ago. Photograph by Reid Rolls

It was also not easy to nail Bunny down on a favourite room. “I move around a lot,” she admitted. “I use the whole house; I think people should use their whole house. We use every room. Sometimes people need to force themselves to use a room. For instance, if you have a formal living room that you find you rarely use, put a square game table in there for puzzles and chess and checkers, or put a TV in there, somewhere that you can hide it away,” she suggested.

“In the summer, we’re out on the screened-in porch a lot, but I suppose my favourite space is my huge studio. It’s a dream. I have a drafting table and I work here, the dogs are outside playing, then I go down to the house and have dinner with John,” she shared. “You have to live in your house. You have to decorate it, of course, but it’s the newspapers on the bench, the books on the shelf, the flowers and plants that make it a home,” she explained. “I love ‘playing house’.” I do flower arrangements every weekend and the house comes alive. Flowers keep a home from becoming stale.”

Screened-in Porch, Photograph by Tony Vu

Wicker chaises with botanical pillows make for the perfect reading spot.

A metal mesh table with four chairs is a common summer lunch spot.
Photograph by Tony Vu

An antique plant stand is covered with ivies, ferns, and other plants. A wicker dog carrier and a few birdhouses (which Bunny collects) are tucked underneath.

These pieces were collected over time with little emphasis on matching – though there is a pair of matching tole tables and rush-bottomed Irish chairs.

The lockdown–and being at home for such an extended period of time–has not changed Bunny’s design sense, “but it has slowed me down” she admitted. “For the first time I have had no speaking engagements, and no travel for six months! It has given me more time to focus on design and to think about things. I work on so many projects, it has given me time to do research.”

But even with no events or travel on the calendar, Bunny keeps busy. “I have a huge garden and I have been trying to learn the plant names and do a herbarium on all my plants. Pre-pandemic, I took a course at the New York Botanical Gardens, but the irony is that once the pandemic struck, I had to devote most of my extra time to the computer—there was such a learning curve for me–to work remotely, and so I haven’t had much time for the herbarium!”

But the downtime has allowed Bunny to focus on herself, “one thing I decided was to take the time to exercise more. I have a little gym, and I have a trainer who comes three days a week. I’ve allowed myself to take better care of myself.”

The 11-foot-long library table in the middle of Bunny’s studio is from RT Facts in Kent, Connecticut. Floors are polished concrete and the walls have a natural, hand-troweled finish. Photograph by Carter Berg

Bunny built bookcases along the North wall to house her collection of design, architecture, art and gardening books. Photograph by Carter Berg

As the Fall Show will be online, (on InCollect) this year, I asked Bunny what she will miss and what she loves about attending the annual San Francisco fair. To her, it is all about the dealers: “I love the variety of the dealers the show brings: French, English, Asian, Modern Art and Fine Art, decorative objects and furniture…” she said. “And the price points vary wonderfully. I have always bought something. You have to really walk around the show, you have to look at every booth, there is such great variety, and it is all so beautiful.”

Bunny speaking to a packed house at the 2019 San Francisco Fall Show Lecture Series

And what does she look forward to when the world goes ‘back to normal’? “I’m very happy right now,” she confessed. “I’ll be missing the city when the Fall comes; the openings, the theatre, opera and the culture, but being in my house in Connecticut, I have been able to enjoy something I haven’t really had the time to enjoy for the last 30 years. The plus is that I’m married to someone I want to be married to.”

I’d call that a big plus.

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.

At Home with Interior Designer Nina Campbell

When Nina Campbell opened her eponymous firm in 1972, one of her first commissions was a castle in Scotland; she has not looked back since. Her unmistakably rich and elegant colour palette has made her one of the most influential designers in the world and her design firm is internationally known and respected.

Blue Arles Tray, Blue Monkey Napkin, Blue Gien Nets Plate from Nina Campbell shop

The business has grown to include a successful line of fabrics, wallpaper and trimmings distributed by Osborne and Little, as well as her retail shop, (a favorite of mine) for home accessories and gifts in London’s Knightsbridge neighbourhood and a showroom at the Design Center Chelsea Harbour. She has also authored several books on design.

Interior of Nina Campbell shop at 9 Walton Street, London

Campbell most recently spoke in the Fall Show’s Lecture Series in 2018. The panel discussion, “Divas of Design” featured Nina Campbell and Charlotte Moss, moderated by Show Chair, Suzanne Tucker. The design divas spoke to a packed house (who knew those words would become so taboo!?) “The Fall Show is always so glamourous and beautiful” she muses “I have found wonderful things there. I think there is a comradship amongst all the dealers. It is lovely to just connect and meet and talk with them. You might change your view on a style, or a period that you start to understand better. It’s like going to a museum.”

Nina Campbell speaking at the Divas of Design Panel at the 2018 Fall Show Lecture Series
Photography by Hernan Santander

I chatted with Campbell by phone from our respective London homes about design in the era of a pandemic. Luckily, isolation was not so isolating for Campbell, as she spent the beginning of the lockdown with her daughter and granddaughter on a farm in the country. “I did come back to my own home in London in June and promptly started cleaning out my cupboards.” She says being home has made her appreciate it more “everyone is always in a rush, coming in and out of the house, spending more time there, you can be amongst your possessions and appreciate them more. I think your possessions—the things you have bought on travels, that hold memories, that mean something to you, make a home.” She says. “I have lots of people in my home, and two pets. I also have my paintings, most of which are done by friends, and it’s all very cosy with people and memories.” When asked to name a favourite piece, she thought it over and replied “a Kate Malone ceramic pumpkin, inspired by the gardens at Waddeston (the 19th Century Waddeston Manor built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in Buckinghampshire).

Blue Sprig China, Blue Arles Tray from Nina Campbell shop

With more time spent at home, I asked what her favourite room is, where she goes for a moment of quiet and calm. “I love my bedroom because it looks out on the gardens” she shared. “It is peaceful. If I’m home alone I have the whole house, but with others there it’s wonderful to retreat to my bedroom.” But work needs a table “I work on my dining room table which is practically half in the garden.”

Tiffany Dining Table and Jennifer Chairs from Nina Campbell shop

She admits that the thing that has changed her perspective most is people’s attitudes. “Everything has become more casual” she says, “people coming by unannounced – the formality is gone.” But the isolation has not altered her design sense. “I haven’t really isolated as I was with family. Now I go into shops, talk with neighbours. It hasn’t really affected me. I talk endlessly to friends, especially in my neighbourhood. I have enjoyed the more casual social engagements. I haven’t been commuting. I am not travelling so my dogs are thrilled.”

A selection of Miami and Kendall desk accessories from Nina Campbell shop

Campbell says her clients attitudes have not changed much with one exception: “I think everyone has carried on, but in the shop I have seen people wanting new things. Tabletop has become much more in demand – people are growing tired of their place settings as they are now eating at home for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They want some variety, something new.”

Green Gallina Linen, Green Nets Gien Plate, detail, Nina Campbell shop

Blue Gallina Matte Linen, Blue Gien Nets Plate, Bistrot Cutlery, Nina Campbell shop

These days, spontaneity is what Campbell misses most, and the theatre, the opera, the ballet, and travel. Everything is just so much more complicated- “It stops you from being spontaneous.” She shares. “But there are people suffering so much more so I just feel incredibly lucky actually. In a way there have been many silver linings, but I feel uncomfortable enjoying it. I am very aware of it all.”

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.

A Chat with San Francisco Designer Geoffrey De Sousa

Known as one of the top interior designers in San Francisco and regularly featured in national design publications, Geoffrey De Sousa brings a mix of tradition, cosmopolitan flair and modernism to his projects. De Sousa Hughes, the 30,000 square foot showroom at the San Francisco Design Center that he co-owns with Erik Hughes, is known for its bespoke collection of furnishings, textiles, lighting and accessories by designers and artists across the United States and Europe. De Sousa served as Designers Circle Chair for the San Francisco Fall Show from 2016-2018 and hosted several fabulous parties in honor of the show’s designer patrons.

Geoffrey De Sousa working from his double parlour

He’s a busy man, but lately, De Sousa, like the rest of us, has been spending a lot more time at home. We chatted by phone, he from his 1874 San Francisco Victorian, with a black facade. “When I renovated it in 2013 it was just me and little dog,” he said. “Then Jose and I got married, he’s an interiors and architecture photographer and has his office downstairs. The pandemic has informed us as to how we are living here, how we use the space. I had been debating turning the second parlour into a dining room; it makes us think about what’s comfortable.” The double parlour is currently a living room and is where De Sousa gravitates to for work, and a moment of quiet and calm. His morning staff meetings happen there. “Because Jose is a photographer, he has lots of tripods. I set up right there and we have staff meetings every morning with the iPhone on tripods.” Right off the bat, I was thinking, how can we get people into our showroom? I called a friend who is a Realtor who recommended the company Matterport. They did a 3D tour of showroom to put on our website, it’s fantastic.

Diana the Warrior, prepared for the pandemic

The most interesting piece in the living room was bought from former San Francisco antiques dealer, Ed Hardy “a 19th century bust of Diana the warrior 3 ½ ft x 2 feet that sits on a pedestal in the bay window in the living room,” shares De Sousa. “I’ve had it forever. People stop in front of the house constantly to talk about it. It is one of the finest pieces I bought from Ed when I moved to San Francisco. About 2 weeks into the quarantine, I turned it around to face the street and put a black mask on her. It has become very instagrammable.”

De Sousa’s wall of family photographs

For De Sousa, home has to have a sense of history. “It has to be about you, your trips, your family, the things that bring memories, a small piece of glass, an amazing photograph, having those pieces interspaced within your interiors, that juxtaposition and the ability to combine those things in a house gives it soul.” He says. “I have a wall that is 60 photographs dating from the mid the 1800s of my family memories; all different sizes, I have my great, great grandfather and grandmother. I have an amazing photo of my great grandmother at a wedding when she first came to America in 1917. My mother’s side has been in Boston since 1632. Walking by the wall and seeing these people everyday makes my house a home.”

Communication was the biggest change De Sousa encountered from the new virtual workday. “At first everyone went into shock mode and then had to get the projects rolling. How we deliver to clients is different, but people are now used to it, they are adapting pretty well,” he says, “There are people spending a lot of time in their homes and looking at things a little differently. They want the spaces to be usable and comfortable. Each client is so individual. I am really fortunate to have a wide array of clients with very different aesthetics.” De Sousa is seeing a change in attitude and in how clients are using their homes. “I don’t see people asking for home offices right now,” he says, “but I do see people coming to me saying that they are using some rooms more often now than before–using rooms for the first time–using their outdoor spaces more now, not just on the weekends. I also see people who left the city and went to their second homes and they are now really looking at how they use those homes and how they can make them equally usable. People are thinking about nesting, comfort, and entertaining again.”

With no social engagements due to the lockdown, De Sousa anticipated having lots of free time, “I always wanted to learn to needlepoint; I opened the box and never touched it. I bought a Georgian dollhouse for my nieces, but have not started it. Once we started our meetings in the mornings, the day gets away. I’ve taken on three large projects during the pandemic!

‘Passagem do Tempo’ Designer Vignette by Geoffrey De Sousa Interior Design at the 2015 San Francisco Fall Show. Custom wallpaper by de Gournay.
Photo by Drew Altizer Photography

In 2015, De Sousa was among the three designers invited to participate in the inaugural return of the Designer Vignettes for the Grand Entry Hall of the Fall Show. Taking on the theme “Time After Time”, De Sousa called his vignette ‘Passagem do Tempo’ (Passage of Time), paying homage to the mid-20th century Brazilian furniture designer Joaquim Tenreiro and his language of organic simplicity. It was surrounded by the sculptural Araucaria forest hand painted on silk by de Gournay. I asked him about a favourite show memory. “Really and truly”, he confessed, “the Preview Gala is one of the ultimate parties of San Francisco every year. When you are all wrapped up in your business and life, to be able to stand with your contemporaries, talk about business, see clients, catch up. You know everyone is going to be there. It kicks off the holiday season. It’s always an upbeat feeling. That will be missed the most in this year.”

But with the isolation, there is an upside: “Jose and I are relative newlyweds so this time we have had and with my dog has been really lovely. We spend a lot of time together, watching a great movie–we watched Hamilton the other night–it’s been great. And we’ve been reaching out to friends on Zoom that I probably would not be talking to so much otherwise.”

Truly a silver lining.

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.