Designer Discourse: Eugenia Jesberg

A Q&A Series with Prominent Designers Circle Members

Eugenia Jesberg’s designs can be described as traditional elegance with unexpected pops of color. Her oftentimes neutral palate can take surprising turns with projects infused with rich colorful motifs and textiles. It shows her breadth of knowledge and understanding of a home, not just the architectural structure, but as a reflection of both its location and inhabitants. Interior design must encompass all three. Jesberg founded EJ INTERIOR DESIGN in 1993 as a full-service design firm, providing interior design as well as architecture, furniture design and construction management. Almost two decades later, her portfolio shows a delightful body of work that is artful, tailored and exceptionally livable.

This Stinson Beach project involved taking down a 1950s-era house. EJ Interior Design used a neutral palette within the main house and focused on texture to tell the story of its seaside surroundings.  The barriers between inside and outside seem to melt away in this dreamy beach house. Photograph by Brad Knipstein

I talked with Jesberg recently about the tools, inspiration and principles that propel her in the design field.

Ariane Trimuschat: What was your first introduction to design-what drew your interest in the field as a career?

Eugenia Jesberg: : I grew up in Pasadena, California in a traditional colonial style house. My parents made it beautiful with their growing interest and collecting of antiques, art, and furnishings. My mother, a consummate Francophile, continues to keep her home beautiful and current. In my family we all have a passion for home, garden and entertaining. After college I landed a job in finance but after 8 restless years, I made a decision to follow my love of design. I enrolled in The Academy of Art College to “study” interior design. While taking classes I also worked at a showroom, then a 2 year stint at a design firm on Sacramento Street and then on my own! Fast forward after 28 years of EJ Interior Design I still love what I do. In 2020 the important addition to my business happened… Emma my beautiful, smart, and driven daughter joined EJ Interior Design. I am proud to have a thriving and still growing design business. I am grateful to my committed team and loyal clients.

Craftsman style estate in Kentfield. Jesberg chose a warm neutral palate throughout the public rooms. Andy Warhol poppies and the Christopher Brown bird paintings. Photograph by Eric Rorer

AT: What are your key influences? Where do you get your inspiration?
EJ: Travel! From India to Marfa, every trip near and far provides inspiration. I still turn to my design library of books and magazines for inspiration. Also, my clients inspire me, although we are their guide through the design process, we strive to pull out their best as well. Seeing new product and innovation in the design world also fuels me – we recently were inspired by a Pierre Frey fabric and now have used that as inspiration for a rug! I can’t deny that Instagram is a source – a quick daily scroll allows Emma and my team to bounce ideas around. I am loving some of design podcasts as they have provided me comfort throughout the pandemic.

Craftsman style estate in Kentfield. Jesberg collaborated with IR Hadley Construction for an entire remodel, placing an emphasis on the art and custom details. Photograph by Eric Rorer

AT: Name three design tools you can’t live without.
EJ: Tracing paper, my tape measure & scale.

AT: If you could design any property in the world, which would you tackle?
EJ: Tough question…I like to work all over, variety is the spice of life but as I don’t get to the east coast as much as I like it would be fun to work at a historic Newport, Rhode Island estate. I like clean early lines of American design, but with a modern twist with respect the architectural history and heritage of the area. Also, I love the east coast in the summer!

Stinson Beach, CA. Photograph by Brad Knipstein

AT: What are the first three things you consider when planning the layout of a house?
EJ: Flow, proportion & scale.

AT: What design element should one focus on and invest in most?
EJ: The best quality you can afford and never skimp on the textiles.

Stinson Beach, CA. Bedroom. Photograph by Brad Knipstein

AT: What have you learned during this pandemic? How has it affected your business?
EJ: The importance of home and comfort. Improving our digital presentation materials and processes.

AT: Are you seeing any new trends in what your clients are asking for/ prioritizing after the year we’ve had?
Versatility, indoor and out… and more wine storage!

Stinson Beach, CA Kitchen. Photograph by Brad Knipstein

AT: What course of study was most relevant to what you do as an interior designer?
EJ: Drawing and drafting, I still hand sketch and it is so satisfying.

AT: What is the most impactful interior design lesson you’ve learned in your career?
EJ: All aspects of communication. It is important to be able to effectively convey something very visual. When to put my business hat on… and have a team that can do some things better than me!

Craftsman style estate in Kentfield. Photograph by Eric Rorer

AT: What keeps you coming back to the SF Fall Show each year? What do you most look forward to at the show?
Aside from the caviar and the lamb chops? I love the new show with modern art and furnishings paired with beautiful antiques. I remember attending my first SF Fall Show in the 1980s and purchased a fabulous English print of a seashell, still something that I still cherish.

Prints of seashells, purchased at the Fall Show in the 1980s

AT: What are three things you see shaping the future of design?
I see that the 30 somethings are shifting a bit more to traditional design online purchasing – I hope that this doesn’t eliminate showrooms continued use mix of materials and textures in textiles and furnishings

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 at @arianetrim.