A Chat with Emma Burns and Philip Hooper of Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler

As the oldest interior decorating firm in Great Britain, SIBYL COLEFAX & JOHN FOWLER has mastered the comfortable English Country House aesthetic, in a deeply personal way that mixes present day appeal with old world charm. EMMA BURNS and PHILIP HOOPER are two of the firm’s seven decorators, as well as the Managing Directors. I spoke with them recently from my home in Connecticut, with (this being the age of the Zoom call), Philip Hopper in London, and Emma Burns in Greece. We will meet this coming week in San Francisco for the 40th anniversary ‘Ruby Jubilee’ of THE SAN FRANCISCO FALL SHOW, where Burns and Hooper will create one of the four Designer Vignettes to grace the Grand Entry Hall of the Show. I was eager to know what they have in store…
“Given that it is your ruby anniversary, our room is layers of red,” they shared. “We were inspired us to go down the Indian, Ottoman route, with red velvet panels. We came up with the idea to do divans, and banquettes around the room, giving the feeling of an opium room, lots of layers, very unexpected for us,” said Hooper.

Watercolour sketch by Philip Hooper of the Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler Designer Vignette for the 2022 San Francisco Fall Show

“The Colefax group is an umbrella and we (Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler) are the interior decorating arm,” explained Hooper.  “Our group of decorators each run our own businesses and Emma and I are starting to work together on projects. We have a constant dialogue about what we want to do, working together toward a common goal.”
The two recently worked on the guest bedroom at BELVOIR CASTLE in Leicestershire, England, with the renowned hand-painted wallpaper company, DE GOURNAY. Belvoir Castle is home to the Fall Show’s Co-Honorary Chair, The Duchess of Rutland, Emma Manners, and de Gournay is a major sponsor of the show. “We dressed the incredible 4-poster bed and used Colefax fabrics,” said Hooper. “We drew our scheme from that palette. All the furniture was original to the room, to maintain continuity. We curated this beautiful room using all new components and new de Gournay wallpaper in apricot and blue.”

Philip Hooper and Emma Burns at Work. Photograph by Dean Hearne

Another recent project was the WOW! HOUSE in London, the Design Centre Chelsea Harbour’s design showhouse, showcasing the work of 20 acclaimed interior designers. Hooper and Burns created the Drawing Room for the 2022 Showhouse. “We did a fabulous dark green wall covering, and a high gloss egg yolk yellow on the mirror over the fireplace. The result was beautiful—a nice refreshing take–it played with your mind—it looked gilded,” said Burns. I love this concept and how this translates to the process of creating timeless décor.

Sybil Colefax & John Fowler Room at the Wow! house, designed by Emma Burns and Philip Hooper. Photograph by Christopher Horwood

“It comes back to the layout of the space—which is vital, and not being seduced by trends,” said Burns. “Rooms change subtly, gently over the years. Living in it, you will know how much it has changed. If the volume of what you’ve put into the room is correct, the way the light comes in, the thought that goes into it, it lasts.” But they both agree trends are not all bad. “With trends—you might take something from a trend, but not abjectly follow it”, said Hooper. “Something as simple as a finish–high gloss lacquer, for example.”

Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler decorator, Wendy Nicholls’ London flat.

These days, Burns and Hooper are seeing a demand for more flexibility in their clients’ homes, a result of the increased time we have been spending there–rooms have become more multi-use. “Everything has to perform more than one function these days,” said Burns. “I think homes in general are more important, we don’t take them for granted. In some ways our firm has been cushioned from what is going on because most of our projects are so large they started pre-pandemic and were already in production. But with smaller projects, people want to put walls up vs. taking walls down–no more open floor plans.”
“There is a balance of things,” Burns explained. “You don’t want to have too much of one thing, too many museum quality pieces all together, but if you mix in some modern it balances out. John Fowler famously said ‘the little jug of primrose on the commode makes the room human.’ It’s about being realistic and honest about how you live and what you want to say about yourself.”

Wisconsin Bedroom, designed by Emma Burns for Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler. Photograph by Simon Brown

“I think you can also find a way in which the pieces talk to each other, through finish or color or texture. That’s what is healthy about mixing things up. If you get it right it’s a harmonious mix, adds Hooper” Hooper comes from an architectural background and as such, looks at a space from that perspective. “It is pointless doing decoration if the bones are not right. If you get the proportions right, what you hang on it will feel that much better. There is a skill in thinking in 3-dimensions, it’s a good talent to have! Everything we do is about planning and doing everything to scale. It really is as pragmatic as that.”

Verbier Project, Designed by Philip Hooper for Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler

To be successful, Hooper and Burns need involvement from their clients. “I need their commitment to their project, says Hooper, “they need to put in the homework and the legwork and the time. You need a client who is committed and understanding of what they want. It’s like a tennis match–you knock ideas back and forth.” Burns adds, “I have a wonderful client who likens the design process to a dog sniffing–you get down and down to what you want. There needs to be an openness.”

Connecticut home, designed by Roger Jones for Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler

Travel is a great source of inspiration for both designers, “travel, and seeing things with your eyes. It’s the most important thing you can do,” says Hooper. “And constant curiosity,” adds Burns. “The biggest joy about being able to travel again is being able to see things in person again. During the pandemic, it was all books, and photographs.” Armchair travel, armchair inspiration.

Architecture feature ‘Respect restored’ on interior designer Philip Hooper restoration of late-regency house in Hampshire, England. Interior view of main bedroom with striped armchair and footstool, carpet, window seat, pelmet and curtains and paintings on red wall. From House & Garden

I am always curious what elements designers find to be the most important in a room–without which, nothing else works. For Hooper, comfort is king. I can’t argue with that–if you don’t feel comfortable, it doesn’t matter how stunning the room looks; a room should be used. And Burns’s answer paired well with Hooper’s: “it’s the people in the room,” she concluded. They are the most important element. And that’s what makes a great team.
By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat
Ariane served as Show Director for The San Francisco Fall Show for 7 years through 2019. She is now the show’s Director-at-Large, living in Westport, Connecticut with her family. Follow Ariane on her blog, SOJOURNEST, where she focuses on all things home and travel and on Instagram at @arianetrim


A Conversation with SagreraBrazil Design

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph by Christopher Stark

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

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

Photograph by David Duncan Livingston

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

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

Photograph by Jose Manuel Alorda

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

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

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

Photograph by Jose Manuel Alorda

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

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

Photograph by Jose Manuel Alorda

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

By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat

Ariane served as Show Director for the San Francisco Fall Show for 7 years through 2019. She is now the show’s Director-at-Large, living in Westport, Connecticut with her family.  Follow Ariane on her blog, SOJOURNEST, where she focuses on all things home and travel and on Instagram at @arianetrim

Alex Papachristidis on Design

“I love what I do, it’s a joy, I never tire of it, never get sick of looking for fabrics. I still go to the D&D BUILDING myself, I’m inspired by every trip I take. I love what I do because it’s so relevant to my life, I love my clients because we have fun. Decorating is a great luxury, and it should be fun–my job is FUN.”

It’s this kind of enthusiasm that makes Alex Papachristidis instantly likeable. He reminds me of the age-old saying ‘Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.’ I told him so, which made him laugh in agreement.

Alex Papachristidis

The New York City-based interior designer will create a Designer Vignette for the Grand Entry Hall of THE SAN FRANCISCO FALL SHOW next month, the fair’s 40th Anniversary ‘Ruby Jubilee’. Papachristidis started his eponymous design firm, ALEX PAPACHRISTIDIS INTERIORS in 1987 while studying at Parsons School of Design.

“I was trying to decide what to do with my life,” he explained. “I didn’t want to go into the family business–shipping, I thought about restaurants and fashion, then I called my best friend. She walked into my apartment and said ‘darling! You have such great taste, you should be a decorator!’ I never looked back.”

Kips Bay Decorator Show House, 2016, Designed by Alex Papachristidis. Photograph by Tria Giovan.
Chandeliers from Gerald bland with Eve Kaplan gilded ceramic accents, Frederick P. Victoria & Son coffee tables with custom tops by artist Nancy Lorenz, Ceramic gourd by Christopher Spitzmiller, Eighteenth-century Italian giltwood chairs from Dalva Brothers, Custom sofa and Turkish-style poufs designed by Alex Papachristidis, made by J Quintana Upholstery; window treatments made by New York Drapery, fabric Cowtan & Tout fabric and Samuel & Sons trims, Carpet made up of antique Turkish tent panels from Beauvais

Design is ever evolving, always changing, but for the last few years through the pandemic, it is more than taste and aesthetics that have changed. Most of us have changed how we live, and what we need from our homes. “It taught people how important our home is,” says Papachristidis, “that we need to be prepared for all circumstances, need to feel safe and comfortable. I was already from that school, so I spent the COVID years reorganizing. There is nothing more rewarding than feeling organized,” he says.

“People felt there were gaps, they learned that their kitchens didn’t work as well as they should. They didn’t have enough space to work. A house needs to have a level of practicality. Our home is super user-friendly; I am a kitchen tinkerer, not a cook. It’s kind of how I am a decorator—I don’t make the upholstery, I put it together, I oversee.” A man with a vision.

Study designed by Alex Papachristidis. Photograph by Richard Powers.
Warren Platner chair, Gabriella Crespi ‘Z Desk’ in bronze, John Currin (above desk) & Elizabeth Peyton (windowsill) paintings,
Jean-Michel Frank vintage desk lamp

“A room should be a reflection of how the client lives,” explains Papachristidis. “It’s important that the rooms in your home flatter you; that you love the colors of your rooms, that you feel comfortable, they need to suit you.” That, he says, is the single most important element in a room.

An avid traveler, he cites history and travel as inspiration, but does not follow trends. “Museums, auctions, great houses, I’m a Francophile; I spent much of this summer in the South of France,” he lists these as sources of creativity.

“I think what dates things is when they look too much like everything else. When there is a moment in time when everyone is doing something and you do that thing, it will be dated. I don’t do trends. I go through personal phases of things that inspire me,” (he names Gabriella Crespi furniture as a current favourite),  “if used in the right way it won’t be dated: a suite of 18th century furniture in satin – pale teal-bluey green – it will look timeless. Papachristidis is particularly inspired by an elegance of years past, citing Gloria Guiness, Marella Agnelli, Elsie de Wolfe, and ‘everything Rothschild’ as sources of inspiration.

Powder room inspired by The Grotto Hall in Potsdam’s New Palace in Germany, designed by Alex Papachristidis.
Photograph by William Abranowicz. Eve Kaplan shell motif gilded ceramic tiles, Custom shell faucet by P.E. Guerin

“I love contemporary, artisanal furniture, 20th century designs – the proportions are important—as with Maria Pergay furniture. I love walls upholstered in velvet, a mix of contemporary and classical. The modern needs to balance with the classical,” says Papachristidis.

Living Room Console, designed by Alex Papachristidis. Photograph by Tria Giovan. Porphyry urn and 18th Century German silver tankanrds, Stacked rock console in the manner of Emilio Terry from Glen Dooley Antiques, Tree-branch painting by Adam Ball from Kasmin Gallery

For his Designer Vignette at the Fall Show this year, Papachristidis looked to the show’s dealers. “I went to CARLTON HOBBS and found a big gilt console and a pair of mahogany chairs to which I added cherry red velvet on the poofs,” (in honor of the ruby jubilee). “I found a wonderful mirror from HYDE PARK ANTIQUES and a modern sculpture from GUY REGAL. I have a great love of Chinese wallpaper so with DE GOURNAY (hand painted wallpaper, the Designer Vignette sponsor), we did a collage of Chinese scenes. I added a silver and white chair rail, with a dash of yellow. And the floor will be stenciled by decorative painter JOSEPH STEIERT,” he added. Sounds fabulous, and we will all just have to wait until showtime to see the finished room.

‘Mood Board’ for 2022 San Francisco Fall Show Designer Vignette by Alex Papachristidis.
Chairs and console from Carlton Hobbs, Mirror from Hyde Park Antiques, ‘Ophelia’ Lamp by Christopher Spitzmiller

“Good rooms are made for people to use,” says Papachristidis. “They are not made to impress. First and foremost, they should be comfortable, friendly and usable.” I couldn’t agree more.

By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat

Ariane served as Show Director for the San Francisco Fall Show for 7 years through 2019. She is now the show’s Director-at-Large, living in Westport, Connecticut with her family.  Follow Ariane on her blog, SOJOURNEST, where she focuses on all things home and travel and on Instagram at @arianetrim

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.

Designer Discourse: Grant Gibson

A Q&A Series with Prominent Designers Circle Members

Travel is an eternal source of inspiration for many people, especially those in the design industry. The colors, patterns, materials and visual imagery on display throughout a journey are unending. Grant Gibson takes it to another level. His firm of two decades, GRANT K. GIBSON INTERIOR DESIGN + TRAVEL combines his two passions and weaves them together, creating once-in-a-lifetime trips that are as thoughtfully curated as his design work, and bring together travel and design through private tours, experiences and guided shopping excursions, with pre-vetted vendors.

Chair from Paris flea market, Penobscot Bay photography by Grant Gibson. Interiors photograph by Kathryn Macdonald

Personality is the driving force behind Gibson’s design sensibility. His spaces are curated to his clients’ individual tastes, and with a feeling that they are tailored but not too much so. There is a wonderful level of comfort and simplicity in his aesthetic. It offers a carefree feeling with soft, sophisticated hues, pops of color, and imaginative juxtapositions of lines, colors and patterns.

His work has been featured in numerous design publications; he is repeatedly named a ‘Designer to Watch’ and has been included on Elle Décor’s A-List. His design book, ‘THE CURATED HOME | A FRESH TAKE ON TRADITION’ (Gibbs-Smith) was published in 2018.

Custom upholstery, art by James Nares. Photograph by Kathryn Macdonald

Gibson answered my questions recently about the tools, inspiration and principles that propel him in the design field.

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

Grant Gibson: My parents brought me to everything from an early age, from antique stores, auctions, art galleries, and flea markets. If we were on vacation, we would be exploring and end up with some incredible collections.

Christopher Spitzmiller lamp, chest from 1stdibs. Photograph by Kathryn Macdonald

AT: What are your key influences? Where do you get your inspiration?

GG: Travel is always on the top of my list. In addition to interior design, I started a boutique travel company where I take small groups on adventures. We have had such a diverse mix of people of all ages from around the country join the fun. India and Morocco have been favorites, and I can’t wait to add some new adventures in the future. Mexico City, Petra, and Egypt are on the list.

Water Photograph by Peggy Wong. Interior photography by Kathryn Macdonald

AT: Name three design tools you can’t live without.

GG: My iPhone allows me to take great photos and stay in touch with clients and vendors. My pad of paper and pen, which I take endless notes during client meetings and keep task lists. There is something much more satisfying about a real pen and paper instead of keeping it on your computer or phone. My bookkeeper and office manager (can they be tools?) to run a proper interior design business are essential. I think it is necessary to know where your strengths and weaknesses are and hire professionals for help.

Marin breakfast room, Raoul fabrics, antique French farmhouse table, chairs by Charles Fradin. Photograph by Kathryn Macdonald

AT: If you could design any property in the world, which would you tackle?

GG: I would have to say that I am currently in the process of doing this already. I had always wanted to have a summer home in Maine after spending summer there for ten plus years.
I searched for an old home to restore but ended up purchasing five acres of land with a private beach and designing something new in an old style. My goal is for the house to look like it has always been there and blend in with the rest of the traditional architecture.

AT: What are the first three things you consider when planning the layout of a house?

GG: I always start with a floor plan, which guides what goes where and makes sure everything will fit. It is essential to listen to my clients and how they will use the room. For many years there was a trend to knock down walls and have an open floor plan, but I see the return to rooms back to traditional layouts. Lastly, I think natural light is so important.

Vintage lounge chair, artwork by Walter Kuhlman, fireplace by Jamb. Photograph by Kathryn Macdonald

AT: What design element should one focus on and invest in most?

GG: I would advise you to buy the best of the best that you can afford. When you purchase a quality piece, they stand the test of time. Especially, upholstered pieces that are hand-made will continue to wear well after years of use. I love it when a client calls back after years, and we reupholster a sofa or pair of chairs in new fabric. Pieces should not be thought of as disposable but lifelong pieces that can be used for many years and passed on to younger generations.

Custom vintage-inspired navy blue sofa, artwork by Walter Kuhlman, pair of coffee table from Paris flea market. Photograph by Kathryn Macdonald

AT: What have you learned during this pandemic? How has it affected your business?

GG: Fortunately, I love my home, partner, and dog Alistair, so it has not been a struggle like it has been for some. We love to cook, read and watch movies. This year has made me think of my priorities in life and be grateful and live each day to the fullest. As for my business, we are as busy as ever and have seen a shift of efficiency with Zoom and working with clients, architects, and construction teams. This has changed the interior industry and so many others forever in a positive way.

Katie Ridder wallpaper, mirror from Mecox Gardens NYC, Waterworks plumbing. Photograph by Kathryn Macdonald

AT: Are you seeing any new trends in what your clients are asking for/prioritizing after the year we’ve had?

GG: Home offices, workout rooms, outdoor spaces, and beautiful locations within a house with good zoom backgrounds.

Bunny art by Hunt Slonem. Photograph by Kathryn Macdonald

AT: What course of study was most relevant to what you do as an interior designer?

GG: Psychology!

AT: What is the most impactful interior design lesson you’ve learned in your career?

GG: Always follow your heart and gut with potential clients. If you see red flags in an initial meeting, listen to those as they will come up again when working together.
Designing a home is highly personal and a long-term process, not something that can be rushed or forced.

San Francisco bedroom with Urban Electric light fixture, chairs from Paris flea market. Photograph by Kathryn Macdonald

AT: What keeps you coming back to the SF Fall Show each year? What do you most look forward to at the show?

GG: It’s a tradition and wouldn’t be the same without attending. It’s fun to see friends and go booth to booth to see what treasures have been brought in from around the world. The internet is a fabulous tool, but there is nothing like seeing something in person.

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.

Designer Discourse: Laurie Ghielmetti

A Q&A Series with Prominent Designers Circle Members

Laurie Ghielmetti’s design work can easily be described as sophisticated, daring, and at times, whimsical. It is also unique in its artistic components. Her firm, LAURIE GHIELMETTI, specializes in both interior design and art consulting. An avid collector herself, she incorporates art into her designs as a natural element of any space. She has a keen eye for contemporary art and is passionate and incredibly knowledgeable about it. With more than 30 years of experience in the business, Ghielmetti’s full-service firm works with clients throughout the Bay Area, from initial concept to the final installation. Her work has been featured in numerous prominent design publications.

Living Room, San Francisco Condominium. Photograph by Robert Whitworth Creative

I asked her a few questions 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?
Laurie Ghielmetti: I have always seen design as a natural extension of my passion for contemporary art.  I was fortunate to have as a mentor, my mother’s sister, a designer of note. We began working together in the 1980s, and that experience made me recognize how much I wanted to work in the field and how much there was to learn.  By the end of the decade my aunt guided me towards the start of my own business, a direction that has been life-changing!

AT: What are your key influences? Where do you get your inspiration?
LG: My key influences come from travel and viewing the culture of others, especially how color and architecture drives interior design.  I feel fortunate that inspiration comes readily, as well, from daily life.  Seeing the changes that nature brings and adds with each season and the light and shadows of each day.  We try to use that light to create an additional layer of beauty to each home.

San Francisco Residence. Photograph by Robert Whitworth Creative

AT: Name three design tools you can’t live without.
LG: My ‘tools’ are all relationship-based, the art of collaboration, the discipline of listening, often to discern yearnings left unsaid.  And, the pure joy of working with my colleague of more than two decades, Kelley Matusiak.

AT: If you could design any property in the world, which would you tackle?
LG: In 2005 my firm was hired by the Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand.  We started working in collaboration with a Thai architect on two penthouse units in a luxury building under construction.  Almost a year later, on the day of a final presentation to our client, we learned that there had been a military coup and the Prime Minister and several of his deputies were leaving the country. Needless to say, we did not complete the job for him, and I think about our ideas for furnishings those penthouses to this day!

Dining Room, San Francisco Residence. Photograph by Robert Whitworth Creative

AT: What are the first three things you consider when planning the layout of a house?
LG: Always, the topmost considerations in planning a layout are a deep understanding of the needs and lifestyle of the client, the natural light that influences the rooms at different times of the day, and the strength and beauty of a well-curated marriage of art and furniture.

AT: What design element should one focus on and invest in most?
LG: We advise clients on both art and furnishings, and we underline the importance of the strength and endurance of quality pieces no matter what the budget level.  A case in point is a sofa I purchased in the early 1980’s, which was reborn three times through re-upholstering before I moved on with another piece.

Living Room, Carmel, CA. Photograph by Robert Whitworth Creative

AT: What have you learned during this pandemic? How has it affected your business?
LG: The pandemic has taught us many things, not the least of which is to be grateful for the beauty of a moment.  We have learned even more about the strength of relationships and the importance of personal interactions.  And, I believe we will never take for granted again all of the options and choices provided in our daily lives.

AT: Are you seeing any new trends in what your clients are asking for/ prioritizing after the year we’ve had?
LG: The pandemic has given us reason to rethink how and where we work.  The need for private spaces has never had more meaning, even as rooms are being repurposed to provide multiple functions. A fundamental lesson that this pandemic chapter has shown us is that people want to view their home as a source of beauty, comfort and tranquility.  Our industry is responding to this mandate with positivity, helping to create thoughtful and joyous spaces for each person in the house.

Living Room, San Francisco Residence. Photograph by Robert Whitworth Creative

AT: What course of study was most relevant to what you do as an interior designer?
LG: My course of study is unending.  Over the three decades that I have worked as an art advisor and interior designer, I have found that my education continues on a daily basis.  Learning from clients, from the design community, and from the life experiences that come from travel.

Dining Room, San Francisco Residence. Photograph by Robert Whitworth Creative

AT: What is the most impactful interior design lesson you’ve learned in your career?
LG: I have learned that a home is never truly completed, nor should it be.  As life’s chapters unfold, we have the opportunity and actual need for growth and change.  A client who downsized from a larger home understood that not all of the furniture could be used in the transition, but asked that we find space for all of the art pieces collected over time.  In so doing we discovered that in the smaller space, the art was actually more of a focal point and changed the way that all of us looked at the space and the collection.

AT: What keeps you coming back to the San Francisco Fall Show each year? What do you most look forward to at the show?
LG: The Fall Show is made up of countless moments of inspiration. Each year offers the pleasure of the search, the discovering of something meaningful for a client, and the moments of clarity that come from ideas learned from one of the lectures.  One of the great joys of an antiques show is the knowledge that the addition of a single piece that has already had a long life, can add and expand an already beautifully curated space. One of our clients with whom we have a decades-long relationship, is delighted and enthusiastic each year as we find and share our ideas on pieces every year from the show.  The result is an eclectic collection of wonderful one-of-a-kind pieces that represent the quality and diversity of the offerings of The Fall Show.

Living Room, San Francisco Residence. Photograph by Robert Whitworth Creative

AT: What are three things you see shaping the future of design?
LG: As a designer I have learned to embrace the fact that change is constant, and adapting to change is essential.  Clients are so much involved in every decision now and offer the strength of knowledgeable opinions. This more than anything has changed the nature of collaboration and made it a more intensely rewarding process.  In many ways it has helped us share the joy of interior design and art consulting.  As long as that thread holds that spirit together, the future is welcoming.

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.

Designer Discourse: Kelly Hohla

A Q&A Series with Prominent Designer Circle Members

Of all the terms interior designer Kelly Hohla uses to describe her design philosophy, I love ‘unexpected edge’ the most. I think this is what most people want. It’s what makes a room unique and interesting. Hohla delivers on this with rooms that are tailored and stylish, but never boring; they are layered and intriguing, they draw you in. She opened her San Francisco based firm, KELLY HOHLA INTERIORS, in 2011 after starting in the business working for two other renowned Designer Circle members, Paul Wiseman and Jay Jeffers. Her portfolio includes homes across the United States, from the Bay Area to Hawaii to Montana to New York.

Tahoe open Living/Dining/Kitchen space.  Soaring ceilings paired with pocketed doors that push in to open the entire room to the outdoors.  Sheer drapery softens the architecture and frames the view.  There is a mix of custom and vintage furniture including a 13’-0” slab top walnut dining table paired with vintage chairs by Harvey Prober, vintage inspired chairs by Van Akker, and chandelier by Gabrielle Scott.  Art by Nathan Olivera from Berggruen Gallery.  An extra large bronze coffee table by Tuell and Reynolds is the center of the lounge area, with leather wrapped sofa by Jeup, and vintage inspired chairs atop a custom designed rug fabricated by Mark Nelson, custom designed walnut side tables fabricated by Tom Sellars and blue glass lamps from Porta Romana. Architect: Shay Zak, Contractor: Vineyard Construction, Photographer: Mathew Millman

Hohla’s offering for the 2020 SAN FRANCISCO DECORATOR SHOWCASE, ‘Salon d’Etude’ was one of my favourites in the house. It was a dining room for our current times, a place that understands that dining rooms can (and should) be for more than just formal dining.

Hohla answered my questions 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?
Kelly Hohla: My first job in interior design was at the Wiseman Group, where I spent the first 4 ½ years of my career. To be honest, it wasn’t a job that had ever occurred to me before. When I interviewed and learned about all of the detail and creativity that goes into great interior design, I knew it was a good path for me. Not a bad place to learn- I am forever grateful to TWG, & adore them to this day.

AT: What are your key influences? Where do you get your inspiration?
KH: I find that I am inspired by fine art, movement, nature, complimentary contrasts, craft, good conversation, history and travel.

Bay Area Peninsula, CA: Entry to the home we continued many of the exterior materials in through this space so that it would have an in door/outdoor feel such as the limestone floors, stone walls, and cedar ceiling.  The double height windows by Brombal frame the view and set off the sculptural plaster stairs.  Double height sheer drapery was brought in to soften the materials and frame the view, and elegant custom stair runner from Mark Nelson draws you into the space. Architect: Richard Beard, Contractor: PCH, Photographer: Paul Dyer

AT: Name three design tools you can’t live without.
KH: My scale, measuring tape, books.

AT: If you could design any property in the world, which would you tackle?
KH: A 2-story library–anywhere.

Jackson Hole great room.  Custom KHI designed digi-camo rug fabricated by Tai Ping.  Coxy extra large sectional by B & B Italia.  Sculptural coffee tables by Juin Ho, and swivel chairs upholstered in a Holland and Sherry wool check fabric mad by Bright group. Architect: Blaze Makoid, Photographer: Paul Dyer

AT: What are the first three things you consider when planning the layout of a house?
KH: Who is living there, how do they live, and what are their key words that define their ideal home.

AT: What design element should one focus on and invest in most?
KH: We often start with light fixtures–as they feel like part of the architecture and help to build the language for the rest of the interiors. Rugs are also very important–and the foundation of each space.

Bay Area Peninsula: The dining area in the great room was built around the idea to have a backdrop with a wall of chinoiserie wallpaper- hand painted by Fromental and custom colored for the space.  Whimsical and light vintage inspired floral glass pendants bring in the client’s personality, as does the antique rug from Tony Kitz.  Dining table is from Dessin Fournier with whitewashed wood top and hammered bronze bases.  Extra large mirror is from Coup de Etat.  Custom embroidered drapery panels add a layer of detail and elegance.  The teal green butler’s pantry peeks through in the background, drawing you forward to explore that and the kitchen and family spaces behind. Architect: Richard Beard, Contractor: PCH, Photographer: Paul Dyer

AT: What have you learned during this pandemic? How has it affected your business?
KH: Communication is key. Getting on the phone, having personal calls and chats with clients and vendors has really been instrumental in keeping connected and moving things forward with positivity. This has been a stressful time for all of us, & tends to make people a little indecisive, or spun about. Reaching out to connect and let clients know that we are here to help, and that they can lean on us with big decisions has been important & relationship building.

AT: Are you seeing any new trends in what your clients are asking for/ prioritizing after the year we’ve had?
KH: Of course, everyone is thinking differently about their work lives- where is there a table or desk space, how comfortable is the chair, and most importantly what is their home-zoom-background going to be when they are in a meeting. Additionally, people are dreaming about entertaining again, so the dining and entertaining spaces are key, as well as the outdoor spaces.

Bay Area Peninsula: Architect: Richard Beard, Contractor: PCH, Photographer: Paul Dyer

AT: What course of study was most relevant to what you do as an interior designer?
KH: Visual Arts- drawing, painting, sculpture. Also, I have a Communications degree, which is heavy in writing- and has been helpful with PR/Social Media.

Bay Area Peninsula: Kitchen with marble slab walls, waterworks fixtures, and an Aqua La Corneu range for a splash of color.  Pendants by Urban Electric, and comfy bar stools by Bright Chair.  A subtle grasscloth was applied to the ceiling to add texture and warmth to the clean white space. Architect: Richard Beard, Contractor: PCH, Photographer: Paul Dyer

AT: What is the most impactful interior design lesson you’ve learned in your career?
KH: There is no “wrong” or “right” in design- just different people, and opinions. If you are in the creative realm- there are going to be people that LOVE what you do, and people who just have a different perspective. The good news is – there are so many designers out there, so there is truly someone for everyone! Don’t force a client relationship, or “look”, or a budget that just isn’t a fit for your company or brand. Put yourself out there for projects and people that you are excited about (and who are excited about you). If it is meant to be, it will be.

Bay Area Peninsula: The Living room side of the great room has a steel bookcase to mimic the window materials, and feature the client’s collection of antique porcelain, and boxes.  The fireplace wall is mad of limestone that runs throughout the house, and the mantle is a Sir Edwin Lutchens inspired design.  Custom designed brass and marble coffee tables anchor the room, and are surrounded by holly hunt chairs, and a pair of Paul Frankel vintage chairs, and antique side tables. Architect: Richard Beard, Contractor: PCH, Photographer: Paul Dyer

AT: What keeps you coming back to the Fall Show each year? What do you most look forward to at the show?
KH: I have been attending for about 20 years now, and it’s been fun to watch things change over time. There are fewer antique galleries in San Francisco now than there used to be, it is really a great opportunity to see amazing and unique pieces with soul from around the globe, under one roof. Even if you can’t personally afford any of the pieces, to be in their presence & appreciate them is a gift, and hear about their stories. So many wonderful contemporary ideas come from inspiration opportunities such as this. Just as many great abstract painters first master more traditional techniques, I think many great designers do the same. Learning about the past is the most informed, and interesting path to the future.

Additionally, I get inspiration from conversation- so I look forward to that aspect of the Show as well. Connecting with individuals who make you think about something in a different way is inspiring to me. I don’t want mirrors around me- I want communication and thought-provoking contradiction. By connecting with other colleagues who I may only see once a year and hearing their experiences and opinions, and also by connecting with the dealers who are so passionate about their pieces- new ideas flow.

Tahoe master bedroom with custom designed bed, rug and ottoman.  Vintage benches add a kick of personality to the serene space.  Vintage inspired wing chairs are placed in the window to take in the views.  Chevron wallpaper by Philip Jeffries adds texture and warmth to the space. Architect: Shay Zak, Contractor: Vineyard Construction, Photographer: Mathew Millman

AT: What are three things you see shaping the future of design?
KH: The pandemic has definitely changed the way that we work, and present to clients. People’s ability & comfortability with Zoom and other online meeting tools has completely changed the way that we are able to work- it is easier to be more available, there are more short quick meetings, and you can work from anywhere. Additionally, I think that the end of the pandemic will bring a good amount of growth and change to the design industry- as people are looking at their homes differently and placing different value on the things in their home than they may have before. People are also evaluating relationships & who they want to spend time with- and where. I hear many people saying that they want to get back to entertaining, and can’t wait to have intimate groups of friends and family back into their homes. Less big parties- more quality time with loved ones.

Renderings have gone from watercolor/or hand drawn (which I love)- to photorealistic quality. There are good and bad elements to this for me. On the one hand, clients are able to see clearly and understand what they are getting, on the other hand- it takes a bit of the artistic quality and whimsy out of a space evolving more organically in the mind of the designer. Over-rendering can be painful when people spend too much time what-if-ing every minute detail. Sometimes the unexpected/unplanned elements are the best part of a fresh design- so we have to leave room for that.

Social Media continues to play a huge part in current design trends- as magazines get thinner as they shift more heavily to their online platforms. Instagram and Pinterest put images and ideas out at rapid rates- clients are participating more in the design process and ideas than they have previously. Again- this has both positives and negatives. Images, ideas and inspiration are at everyone’s fingertips- but it leads to a bit of an indecisiveness at the same time, and can water down the creative process. Designers can use images to be inspired, clients tend to want to duplicate only what they “can see”. At the same time, these are also great tools for designers, architects, and contractors to spread their vision to a wider audience and come in contact with more potential clients than was previously possible. Lots of growth and change the last several years- we are enjoying riding the wave and experiencing new ways of doing things, and watching new young designers emerge out of all of this.

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

A Few Questions for Miles Redd

Photograph of Miles Redd, Courtesy of Ballard Designs

A few adjectives come to mind when thinking about the design work of Miles Redd: daring, whimsical, cultivated, and of course, chic. Redd founded his eponymous design firm in New York City in 1998 after learning the business under designer Bunny Williams and antiques dealer John Rosselli and has been a regular on the lists of top designers in national design publications ever since. In 2019 he partnered with David Kaihoi and renamed the firm REDD KAIHOI. His tome, THE BIG BOOK OF CHIC (Assouline 2012) is, in his words, “about dreams coming true” with mesmerizing images on oversized pages that speak to his vision.

Redd spoke at the 2017 Fall Show Lecture Series on the ‘Inspiration and Influence in Interior Design’ examining many of the 18th- 20th century tastemakers who have influenced him, and how he has reinterpreted ideas to make them current and exciting for today’s modern needs. He believes that all ideas are a just a juxtaposition of another idea, and that if you borrow from many, it is merely research.

View of Redd’s living room featuring a ionic column pedestal topped with a white porcelain vase. Photo credit: Paul Costello/OTTO

Now a year into this pandemic, I asked Redd a few questions about the past year.

Ariane Trimuschat: Where have you been spending the last several months of isolation?
Miles Redd: NYC Baby! 

AT: What has NYC been like during the pandemic? Is it strange to see it with no tourists? 
MR: It has been quiet, but with quiet comes a kind of peace, but she is back. The sun and vaccine has the city buzzing again.

AT: Have you been experiencing the city in a new way? 
MR: It is beautiful to see New York rest a bit. I don’t want to say I have enjoyed the pandemic, but I try to look for the positives and the still city was comforting once you got used to it.

AT: What is your favorite piece in your home?
MR: A drawing of panther done by an old friend which hangs in my living room.

View of the living room featuring a William Kent console and panther illustration above. Artist is a friend of the designer.
Photo credit: Paul Costello/OTTO

AT: Aside from people and pets, what makes a house a home? 
MR: Life really, but I always say the second you bring plant material in, and it could be a leaf in a vase, life sparks.

 View from the kitchen. Bust of Diana. Planters by Accents of France. Photo credit: Paul Costello/OTTO

AT: What brings you joy about spending more time at home? 
MR: I am a bit of a homebody, I just love being around things I have collected that bring me joy, but having friends over to enjoy the ambiance and atmosphere gives me the most joy.

The den features a plaster table and custom, red velvet sectional and painted floors. Photo credit: Paul Costello/OTTO

AT: What is your favorite room or area in your home? Where do you go for a moment of quiet and calm?  
MR: My bedroom, I like to stretch out and meditate, because it is cool and peaceful.  

Master bedroom with canopy bed by Larrea Studio. Photo credit: Paul Costello/OTTO

Master bedroom – view of Tuxe- do chest and side chair. Faux fur throw. Photo credit: Paul Costello/OTTO

AT: As we are all mostly working from home, what do you do to create a space, to separate work from your personal life? 
MR: I have small office at home, that I keep isolated for work. 

AT: How has the last few months of isolation changed your design sense, your perspective on interior design and how people live at home?
MR: I think it has really emphasized how important a nest is where you are comfortable and soothed and  can take refuge from the world.

Master bathroom-purchased from a David Adler house and reassembled in Miles’ New York townhouse. Photo credit: Paul Costello/OTTO

AT: How has the pandemic changed the design attitudes of your clients? The things they are asking for or wanting in their homes? 
MR: I think clients realize they may be spending more time at home, so they are more focused and detailed, and going for it a bit more.
AT: What are you missing most these days?
MR: Human connection is suffering – it is just hard to reach out and make new friends at the moment, but good to focus on old friendships and family.  
AT: You spoke in the 2017 Fall Show Lecture Series about the people who have influenced you and what inspires you in design. What do you love about the Fall Show/a favorite memory?
MR: I am really impressed with the booth designs, I feel like the dealers make such an effort on design and it is very inspiring.

Miles Redd speaking in the San Francisco Fall Show Lecture Series

AT: With no social engagements or traveling/commuting, do you have more free time on your hands? What are you doing with this time?
MR: Taking a breath, relaxing, enjoying the peace.

Looking onto the back terrace from the master bedroom. Faux horn windows painted by Agustin Hurtado. Photo credit: Paul Costello/OTTO

AT: What rule are you breaking during isolation that you normally don’t allow yourself? 
MR: I don’t believe in rules.

AT: What is the first thing you’ll do when all restrictions are lifted? 
MR: Kiss a handsome stranger! HA!

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.



Jeff Schlarb, Classic Contemporary Design

Jeff Schlarb’s designs are not shy. He describes his design sensibility as ‘classic contemporary’, but one look at his creations, filled with bold color combinations, geometric shapes and whimsical objects, and you realize that this is not a design sense that can be labeled.

Russian Hill Living/Dining Room: Wallpaper- Trove Indi -birds in pink. Sofa- Custom from Jeff Schlarb Design. Floor lamp: Acquired through 1st dibs. Tiffany contemporary Floor Lamp powder Silk, antiqued Brass, Silvered Glass. Rug: Custom with Tai Ping. Bunny Rocking Chair: Acquired through 1st dibs.  Rulla Leather & Brass Rocking Chair by Mario Milana Handcrafted in Italy. Photography by Aubrie Pick

It’s no wonder his firm, Jeff Schlarb Design Studio has been tapped four times for the San Francisco Decorator Showcase, as well as the Modernism Week Palm Springs Showhouse, and has been featured often in major design publications. Schlarb has been a member of the Fall Show Designers Circle for years and in 2016 designed the Author’s Alcove where book signings take place at the show. “I love the show,” he says. “I am always inspired by the Designer Vignettes in the Entry Hall, and I love the dealers-especially the exceptional art dealers”

Bed: Custom bed design by Jeff Schlarb Design. Fabric: KOHR, ITALY/ KV056883 BRITNEY/ KOOO22- DEEP WATERS. Wing Chairs: Longwave High Back Armchair by Diesel with Moroso. Fabric: Holland and Sherry/Aria Burgundy, cotton velvet/DE11511. Photography by Aubrie Pick

We chatted by phone recently about the design industry as the pandemic turns a corner with vaccinations heading into 2021. He is seeing an interesting shift in clients’ perspectives, a more adventurous and exciting response; his team has doubled since the pandemic started. “People used to go out to events and parties and when they came home, they would want it to be peaceful. But since life is so boring right now, they want more,” he explains. “What we may have done on a small scale in a powder room before, we are now doing in the family room or den. The discussions we have are that the home is now 100% delivering all the excitement. How many times have you been to a restaurant and thought “this is so cool!” but wouldn’t want my home like this.” But now that we can’t go to restaurants, we do want to bring that energy home. People are willing to take chances on bold design in the larger rooms.”

Healdsburg Dining Room Wallpaper: Porter Teleo, hand painted. Chairs: Fleecer Dining Chair by Caste. Photography by Aubrie Pick

“I see a lot of value in the furniture, the feel,” says Schlarb. “When you come home and it feels put together, recharging, that is so satisfying. We’re exploring what I would call ‘new antiques’– furniture that has a forever feel but with designers and fabricators that are today. With a staying power, fresh and alive with lasting power and always with an artistic bend to it. I love our portfolio because it looks like us delivering for our clients. There is a common thread; these are all homes that are reflective of our clients and we’ve partnered to make it something exceptional. “Every project is different, and I think that is so exciting. If you look at our interior finishes, kitchens and bathrooms, it’s always rooted in the classics. Though when we get to furniture and fixtures, we use more patterns, more wallpaper and we just let loose.”

Leather Wing Chair- from 1st dibs. “Lou Read” Leather and Reinforced Polyurethane Armchair by P. Starck for Driade / Philippe Starck (Designer), Driade (Manufacturer) Chandelier: CASTLE 18-03 BY JASON MILLER/ Black, Bronze and Smoked Glass. Photography by Aubrie Pick

He admits he has no rules as far as what styles and eras can be mixed in a room. “ I’m more concerned with the shape of each piece and how they look next to each other,” he shares. “It’s about finding just the right thing for the right space.” For Schlarb, timeless, lasting décor, is achieved when the combination of the furniture feels all collected. “If you have a 1970s piece with a Holly Hunt sofa, put them together so it doesn’t feel like an era. Be keenly aware of what is being produced and over produced. The ‘Pinterestation’ of design is a problem” he says. “They deliver the most liked picture–and people buy. Don’t select the highest common denominator, the favorite flavor of the moment. You should not be able to pick the era of a room–it should be collective. “ he explains.

Wallpaper: Philip Jeffries. Serenity Chandelier: Entler. Studio Coffee Table: Vintage Acquired by Chairish: Brass ram heads/ 1970s. Sofa: Custom Jeff Schlarb Design. Art: Angela Blem from Liz Lidgett Gallery. Photography by Aubrie Pick

Schlarb sees the single most important element of a room as scale. “It’s the only thing that is a must,” he says. “I don’t want to make decisions in isolation. I like to make a decision on everything all at once and see it all together, I call it incremental design. We want to know how it will present itself, how will it be focused. Will it be organic? We have a project in L.A. right now, and most of what we are doing is to add layers: drawers, handles, details on an island, miniscule details that make it layered. I’m compelled to make sure we do lots of curves, even if it’s a structured living room. The back of a sofa, arms of a chair, oval dining table. The structure of most rooms is so hard. It needs to be softened.”

BAR- Certified Mahogany hardwood, forged iron base, double ultra- suede lined drawers, inside has a custom blue lacquer paint for a thrill when opened. Hand crafted and carved with signature carved knot design pulls. Photography by Aubrie Pick

Wood carved snake door pulls to an armoire. Snakes Cabinet in Black Finish Birchwood
and Bronze Snakes, Paris, France. Photography by Aubrie Pick

Inspiration comes from many sources for Schlarb, including the last project he’s worked on, as well as travel, Instagram, the marble from a visit to the stone yard, “it’s always coming at me from every direction,” he shares. “What we’re always trying to decide is “is that killer, or not good at all? It’s either deadly killer or not. That’s where the magic is.”

Russian Hill Library: A custom library with a secret hidden door. We custom matched the colors to be the same blue for the cabinetry, walls, trim, drapery, and tassel trim on the leading-edge drapery panels. Brass hand tieback for a little humor. Lamp shade- House of Hackney. Photography by Aubrie Pick

As we enter a new world, coming out of an intense year, there are two things Schlarb depends on from his clients: trust and engagement. “They have to really want to do what they have hired us for,” he says. “ Right now, their home is all encompassing, their hobby is their home, they don’t have anything going on outside the home.” As far as tools of the trade go, 3D renderings are a game changer. We do 3D maps, photo realism renderings, VR. With that same technology we send photo realism of rooms. There are some learning curves, it’s all a brave new world. I feel like we are on the leading edge of it. It takes time to do a rendering, it’s a ton of work, but you get a decision faster because they can see it clearly. But the result is that some people want to see more options–for the most part it’s specific changes to this and that,” he explains. He would like to see that process improve and become easier to create and edit renderings. “Our work is so custom,” he says “Every line is drawn, color applied, it takes time. The ordering process also takes a long time—”the documentation process takes forever,” he says. “I would like to see a way to streamline and make it more efficient. If each manufacturer had an easy way to select what you need.”

This primary bathroom rendering for our client’s lakehouse in Geneva Switzerland showcases the unique architecture of Huf Haus, the high end pre-fab company building this home. The walls are covered in a white lilac marble and a water monopoly tub (in a custom Farrow & Ball Inchyra Blue) rest on a black herringbone floor.

Now, well into 2021, his design studio has a full plate of projects, including an 8,000 square foot house on the shores of Lake Geneva. “It’s the most high-quality factory made, pre-fab house, built in Germany. It takes 2-3 weeks to construct it on site. “It is the most fascinating project; we’ll be installing in summer 2022.”

Schlarb has a solid outlook on design and is introspective when it comes to the secret to his success. “It’s not enough to be a great curator of cool things,” he says. “Being able to listen to our clients, to collaborate with them and go on a skillful journey alongside them is the key. I love working with our team, to continue my growth, and to mentor designers. I have learned to curate a team who listens to clients and that creates the transference of ideas, trust and ensures the best outcome.”

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.

David Netto, On Design

David Netto doesn’t have a signature style. “I come at every project with respect for the architecture,” he says “I try to make a portrait of the client, the person, it’s not about me.” Netto grew up in New York City and escaped to Los Angeles, where he settled with his family and business. He is a multi-talented creative: his interior design firm, David Netto Design was founded in 2000, followed by his line of modern children’s furniture, NettoCollection which he sold in 2009, and his lighting collaboration with the artist, Jennifer Nocon, Netto Nocon Lamps. He is a writer for publications including The New York Times, Town & Country and The Wall Street Journal, along with a monograph on the work of Francois Catroux, published by Rizzoli in 2016.

Photography by Katrina Dickson

Netto spoke in the Fall Show Lecture Series in 2016 upon the release of the book. He is enamored with San Francisco “It is such a great town for antiques and design and has a legacy of great style; it is a town that really celebrates the Fall Show,” he shared. “There is a passion for the home in a very sophisticated way in San Francisco, the same way there is a great opera there. San Francisco is interested in the best so you always know you’ll experience something special.”

Living room of a modern beach house for a newlywed couple with Calder tapestry. Photography by Gieves Anderson

I recently spoke with Netto about coming out of the pandemic and how it has changed his design sensibility. “It’s made me a lot more efficient because I used to wait to go somewhere to see something and everything would take weeks between meetings and you had the impression, out of habit, that in-person was the only way to conduct design meetings. I just made a very complex presentation with someone who wants very complex patterns and textiles. The idea of explaining without being able to put the samples in her hand was weird. We just did it in zoom and it worked. In this reality I’m busier than I’ve ever been.”

View of Living Room of Southampton country house. A pair of Jean Michel Frank armchairs sit near a Motherwell tapestry in a room overlooking the ocean. Photography by Paul Costello

Could it be that the new virtual world has made things more efficient? “The hardest thing for me is that you can’t just go shopping,” he says. “I love to go to showrooms, it’s a contact sport.” The lockdowns have had a dramatic effect on the way showrooms and galleries are able to operate – “the thing I fear the most,” says Netto, “is the loss of the shops and businesses; so many are going out of business. That’s going to start affecting antiques dealers and the network of small businesses. That’s the industry change I dread the most. I do much more at auction now. If there is one thing I am doing-I am buying much more inventory and holding onto it; I have much more of a commitment to holding special furniture in inventory.”

Mirrored chimney breast in Upper East Side Apartment with antique mantel and Pierre Paulin Tongue Chairs. Photography by Francesco Lagnese

As far as what clients are asking for in these new times, Netto says their needs haven’t changed wildly, except for one thing, “People want Zoom backdrops in their house.” But Netto sees one room in particular coming to the forefront: “2020 has been the comeback of the formal dining room. “The meals are more old-fashioned and structured, and people look forward to that. I think that will continue,” he forecasts. Let’s hope.

 View from living room to entrance gallery of Upper East Side Apartment showing walls replaced by half height bookcases. Photography by Francesco Lagnese

Netto sees every room as needing the same amount of attention when it comes to design, but not necessarily the same financial investment. “Every room should get equal amounts of thought, but I don’t think there is any need to spend consistently in every room; some rooms can be accomplished without any contents put into them; beautiful plasterwork can make a room -the most important space can be the least expensive” he says. He also believes that we should celebrate stairs and passages with considerable thought as these areas of a house are as important as the rooms.

Lower 5th Avenue Apartment of photography collectors, entry hall. Floor contains reclaimed heart pine boards framed by borders of white oak. Photography by Don Hamerman

When it comes to mixing styles and periods, it’s nothing new for Netto : “I don’t ever not do that, it brings young energy,” he says. “One mixing secret is to use the same period, with different cultures.” What to avoid, he says, is not using contents of high quality. “If you are mixing high quality pieces, you’ll have success.”

Color is the scariest thing for him. “I am an architect by training. I always have to draw and I am always jealous of peoples use of color, the really flamboyant designers like David Hicks. There is something optimistic about the colors I’m drawn to. One of the nicest compliments I ever received was from my friend Miles Redd. He said-‘I love your style, it’s so optimistic.’ Stephen Sills is a master of color and juxtaposition; he says ‘there are no ugly colors, it’s all what you put them next to.’” For Netto, color is a history lesson, and he is inspired by the French 1960s design where they were not afraid to try every possible use of color—designers such as Georges Geffroy – Christian Dior’s designer. “I try to challenge myself,” he shares.

Netto’s Kips Bay Showhouse room is an eclectic composition featuring Art Deco club chairs and a Lalanne bird table. The lamp in foreground is from his lighting collection with contemporary ceramics artist Jennifer Nocon

But nothing matters without the right lighting. “It doesn’t matter what you do if you don’t know how to light a room,” he says. And it’s not so easy—not everyone knows how to properly light a room. “Recessed lighting can work – a little technology -I love recessed lighting when it is artfully deployed; two over a window to illuminate the curtains gives a nice effect,” he says. “Every switch has to have a dimmer, no bulb should be more than 40 watts. That’s a thing for me, I like very low lighting, lower than you think you want,” he stresses, and when I pushed back, imagining putting on makeup or reading a book with a 40-watt bulb, Netto stood his ground, which I admire.

Entry Hall of Southampton country house with secret door concealed in bookcase to guest room. Photography by Paul Costello

When working with new clients, Netto says he first needs to get to know them, and then create options for how they will love their house. “It comes out in dialogue– It’s my job to tease it out of them – I want to give them something they never knew they wanted,” he says. “Every room should have three good reasons to enter, and there should be two good reasons for making a design decision. I will have completely failed if my clients rarely use a room.” Clients who collect make it easy. “The nicest thing is when someone is a collector, one of my earliest projects was with a photography collector–you can’t make it look bad. And everyone needs books; I don’t do many houses that aren’t filled with books,” he admits.

Living room of Lower 5th Avenue Apartment. The mantel is exaggerated in width to disguise awkward proportions of firebox. Photography by Don Hamerman

For all that goes into transforming a house through design, Netto’s key to creating timeless décor is simple. “It’s all about quality,” he says. “If you choose great things and have really good furniture, it’s the best way to make a room look timeless. The thing is if you’re a good decorator you just don’t think about it being timeless; in my own work I don’t think about that and my work has aged pretty well.

Living Room of Connecticut House; Louis XV ebonized desk with a pair of Isamu Kenmochi wicker chairs, an African clay bowl sits on the brass table by the fireplace. Photography by Francesco Lagnese 

One style I like right now that is agreeable is the re-emergence of wicker that is everywhere. But a good decorator shouldn’t follow trends, they should set the trends. If you’re not setting trends you’re not doing the highest level of work.”

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.

A Conversation with Designer Brian McCarthy

A Room is Like a Cocktail Party, and all the Pieces Merely Guests

2020 has made designer Brian McCarthy grateful. “I’m one of the lucky ones,” he admits. “We have loved being in New York City during this past year, it has reconnected us with the city in a new way; when the gyms closed, I have had to adopt a new practice: walking. I go up to Riverside Park and use the parallel bars, it keeps me fit. I live in midtown Manhattan, opposite Carnegie Hall and it’s been dead. While most of my employees had the din of sirens, we had silence.”

Photography by Francesco Lagnese

One of the country’s top interior designers, McCarthy’s clients span the globe. A former partner at Parish-Hadley, he founded his eponymous design firm in 1992. McCarthy is a regular on the major design publications’ lists of the best designers, is the author of two books on design, Luminous Interiors and Parish-Hadley Tree of Life, which he co-authored with Bunny Williams, and has won numerous awards for his work, so he is not used to sitting still. “If I didn’t have my office I wouldn’t be able to do my job,” he says. “Everyone in my office was working from home. And like everyone, we were doing Zoom meetings, which take a lot out of you.”

Library of home in Southampton – Photography by Thomas Loof

But with all the adjustments of last year, McCarthy has not seen a dramatic change in his design sensibility. “The idea of a home being comfortable and practical has become more important for people, because they have been nesting, and they are looking at things in ways they didn’t before. We didn’t look at our homes endlessly before. For me it was great fun, but it raised questions for clients because they were looking at the same things so much.”

Living room of home in Palm Beach – Photography by Fritz von der Schulenburg

Looking forward to 2021 and beyond, It will be curious to see what habits we retain from this pandemic and how industries will change the way they work. “For decorators, thinking about our offices, we can do a lot more online,” says McCarthy. But, he explains, with interior design, it is tricky as it is such a visual and tactile industry. “During lockdown you couldn’t go to the D&D building. Seeing is believing; unless you really know furniture, it’s easy to make a mistake; seeing something online is not the same as holding it, touching it. Interviewing young designers, they are so used to looking at a computer screen, it is troubling.”

Dining room of home in Palm Beach – Photography by Fritz von der Schulenburg

For clients, McCarthy sees a subtle shift. “Most of my clients have big enough houses, but some could function better. A line of questioning that would occur today is what would make your life function better? If it’s a scenario where someone may work at home, they may need a change in the day to day. I think it’s been interesting to see families who were empty nesters now have a full house with kids home from college. There is a new stress on the use of house,” he says. And for most homes, there are some rooms that get the most traffic. “Not in terms of distribution of time, but for sure we focus on where the majority of time will be spent—which is usually the family room. It all depends on how they live, whether they have help. Incorporating smart thinking that will affect their quality of life, bathrooms, good closets, he says.”

Living room of home in Southampton – Photography by Thomas Loof

Setting the Stage

The most important element in the room is not always the same for McCarthy. “I talk about what the key pieces should be. You have your leading man/woman, then the co-stars, and the supporting cast. The lead doesn’t have to be the most expensive piece. To throw art into the mix–if art is a component of how you see your lives moving forward–if there is a wall that may get a big painting, that will contribute. Art becomes this very important part of a room. We think about the foreground: what are the silhouettes of the furniture? What is landscape in the mid-ground as it relates to the art on the wall? It is all connected.”

Living room of home in Palm Beach – Photography by Fritz von der Schulenburg

On Timeless Decor

“You live long enough, you live through all these different swings and styles,” says McCarthy. “I was incredibly blessed to start at Parish-Hadley. I had a start in the classics and traditional. That has shifted–it is now a new classical–we are always referencing it. Twenty years from now there will always be some aspects of design that will look tired. But I don’t follow trends, I create what inspires me; it’s about being true to yourself and true to your clients.

Dining room of home in Los Angeles – Photography by Fritz von der Schulenburg

The benefit of getting older is the experience, but my team is always looking at new artists, new designers. All the galleries we work with are constantly showing us new work. I need the young energy—they see things differently. I definitely find inspiration from other people’s work, but I’m not so much looking for that when I’m looking at what people do.

Media room of home in Palm Beach – Photography by Fritz von der Schulenburg

The Times They Are Changing

The design world has changed dramatically in the last few decades in terms of the technology available. For McCarthy, the most profound change is the use of 3D modeling. “we can now draw a house and have the whole thing modelled—we do this with all our projects. Our clients can walk in the front door and though the house; it takes all the questions out of the equation. In the past you would be looking at renderings, and 2D. At this point in time, the most important technology for me is 3D. For clients who need a visual aid, it is incredibly helpful, and the beauty of it is, that we can go into the 3D and update things as we make change.

Main Lounge final installation – Photography by Thomas Loof

The Process

Every project has a starting point, and for McCarthy, it is gaining an understanding of his clients’ needs and desires. “One of my first questions for any client is if they keep an image book. Do they save images of things they love? If not, I ask them to gather together as much as they can: what they love, and what they don’t like—all of that starts to sharpen the point. Start with magazines and tear out pictures. Some people are great at keeping digital images; Pinterest is great for that. Rugs, patterns, colors, no detail too small; it’s all incredible food for thought. A lot of people can’t verbalize what it is that moves them; a picture can do that. And that can help me ask questions. If someone can show me their current home—and the things they want to take to the next home, that helps paint the picture. I love a collaborative client with a strong point of view,” he admits.

Inspiration to Design

Inspiration to Design

What’s Next

Looking forward, McCarthy has several projects on the horizon, including a 9,300 square foot duplex in Manhattan with 15’ ceilings and unbelievable views and a 510’ tri-hull boat, “the main deck is 80’ wide–enormous,” he says. “It will be super modern, an entirely different direction for me.” Also in the works is a project in Monaco. “We’ve worked on this apartment in the past, we just finished last year redoing the owner’s suite, and he is now is ready to gut the whole apartment, but we know it very well so in that regard, the current travel restrictions don’t prevent us from moving forward.

Grand Salon in Chalet in Switzerland

On Rooms and Cocktail Parties

McCarthy has a charming tendency to turn design into a living breathing thing: a room is the stage and the pieces in it merely players. Or, put another way, he says: “I draw the analogy between decorating and a good cocktail party—who’s on the guest list? You want to make it animated, lively, smart. Each client has their own taste. The one component I bring is introducing them to the guests—the ideas—that may relate to what they know they like but bringing something new to the conversation. It’s like everything, it’s part of building the relationship; you establish a dialogue when you discuss different ideas. You don’t have to play it safe, you want to find something that’s really great. It’s all about presenting things in a way that helps them decide—it has to be their decision. Nothing is too good to be true, there’s always something else, frankly you might find something better. It’s all about discovery, particularly if you’re curious.”

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 and on Instagram @arianetrim.

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