A Chat with San Francisco Designer Geoffrey De Sousa

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

Geoffrey De Sousa working from his double parlour

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

Diana the Warrior, prepared for the pandemic

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

De Sousa’s wall of family photographs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Truly a silver lining.

By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat

At Home with Designer Kendall Wilkinson

California native Kendall Wilkinson has spent over two decades creating beautiful spaces for both residential and commercial clients. Her sensibility is rooted in classical design, often creating authentic period looks or mixing modern pieces with older gems. Wilkinson has become one of the most sought-after interior designers and her projects span the globe. Her collection for Fabricut, launched Spring 2016, features indoor/outdoor fabrics in a sophisticated mix of neutrals, bold colors, and innovative patterns. 

In 2017, the San Francisco Fall Show invited Wilkinson to create a Designer Vignette for that year’s Flower Power theme. Each of the four designers that year was given a season on which to focus their vignette, and Wilkinson’s was Autumn. She dubbed it ‘The Secret Garden’ and it remains a favorite Show memory for her. “It was inspired by a Valentino dress and our amazing partners, de Gournay,” she shared. “They hand -painted and hand-beaded a floral motif onto an iridescent silk wallpaper in autumnal colors resulting in the most exquisite wall covering. We also incorporated wonderfully crusty stone garden elements from (Fall Show dealer) Finnegan Gallery in Chicago.” I chatted with Wilkinson about running her design firm from home, and how the lockdown has affected her business, her clients and her family life.

‘The Secret Garden’ Designer Vignette by Kendall Wilkinson for the Flower Power theme at the 2017 San Francisco Fall Show.
Custom hand-painted wall paper by de Gournay.
Photo by Drew Altizer Photography

When the lockdown started, Wilkinson and her sons stayed close to her office, in their home in the Sea Cliff neighbourhood of San Francisco. “The boys still had virtual school to attend”, she shared. “My senior team and I had to piece a plan together to organize my entire staff to work from home.  Once school finished, and ‘work-from-home’ became our new normal, we relocated to Stinson Beach close to where I was born and raised. The light, patterns, and nature of this magical place served as inspiration for my fabric collections, and I have realized they continue to inspire my color choices to this day.”

Living Room in Kendall Wilkinson’s San Francisco home Photo by Bill Reitzel


In Wilkinson’s view, memories make a home: “a house is a physical structure, a tangible edifice that is cold and empty.” She believes. “A home is when the house is filled with love, living life, and its inhabitants’ vitality. It’s the culmination of memories–photographs of trips taken, of children growing up, and trails of everyday life. Special pieces that pass on from generation to generation, gifts received, or the art and objects collected over time create a sense of home, belonging, and sentiment!” Her favourite piece is a photograph. “My dear friend Barbara Vaughn captured an exquisite reflection image in Sausalito, titled “Kyrtotis” and hung prominently in my living room, she says.  ‘I often sit watching the fire, reading and catching a view of my absolute favourite piece in my home.”

Barbara Vaughn photograph, “Kyrtotis” in Kendall Wilkinson’s Living Room
Photo by Bill Reitzel

While the lockdown has turned everyone’s lives on end, Wilkinson has found a silver lining. “I have enjoyed observing and interacting with my teenage sons during quarantine in a way that working in the office, going to events, and traveling for projects just didn’t allow me to see day-to-day. The constant companionship of my boys and seeing how they have grown in subtle and overt ways brings me endless joy.” But sharing a house with teenagers does have it’s hurdles “ When school was in session, my house was rotating musical chairs – some days, one of my boys would be at my desk in my “office” located in my upstairs library, and I was relegated to using my laptop on the dining room table.  Other days we flipped and sometimes worked on our laptops at the kitchen counter.  It all depended on the day! She laughs.  “Funny enough, I was the one who had to be utterly nomadic about finding a work spot–sidebar”, she adds—”I have now found my dining room chairs to be terribly uncomfortable and will definitely be needing to find new ones soon- hopefully I’ll be able to purchase them when the antique show comes next year!”

With all the chaos of three people working and home schooling together, Wilkinson retreats to her private space. “not many people know”, she reveals, “but I have a home sanctuary filled with meditative elements, a Moroccan prayer rug, and incense.  No one else, not even my beloved pup Biscuit is allowed here. It is the definition of calming and quiet!”

Kitchen in Kendall Wilkinson’s San Francisco home Photo by Bill Reitzel

The isolation of the past several months has changed us all. For interior designers, it is an interesting time as clients are spending so much time at home, and many of us are looking at our homes in a new way, and thinking about how we use our homes and what’s important to us. Wilkinson concurs, “my clients are now far more involved with the details than they were in the past,” she shares. “The extra time has allowed them to be more curious and engaged in the actual business and logistics of design and why we make certain decisions. There is a more inquisitive approach. Hopefully, that means a greater appreciation for what we do and the service we provide.”  Kendall Wilkinson Design has always prioritised comfort above form and for current clients she says “they are now fully experiencing their homes and what we designed and created for them.  I think they are developing more appreciation for the details and the comfort.”

Library in Kendall Wilkinson’s San Francisco home Photo by Bill Reitzel

Working from home has not slowed Wilkinson down, or opened up her schedule. “My days have been even more consumed than they were pre-COVID.  I am on at least 6-8 hours a day of Zoom calls with my team, clients, and vendors before any actual “work” gets done,” she says. 

Design is such a collaborative and hands on creative process and that has been the most difficult part of the quarantine for her: “I have missed my team’s interaction, being in the office with them, working with them, and the time spent in my office creating and designing.  I also miss site visits and installations, sounds crazy, but even travel! And most of all, the broader design community and my industry friends.”

Kendall Wilkinson with Hannah Cecil Gurney of de Gournay posing in front of
‘The Secret Garden’ Designer Vignette at the 2017 San Francisco Fall Show
Photo by Drew Altizer Photography

By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat

A Chat with Sisters Hannah and Rachel Cecil Gurney of de Gournay

By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat

Hand painted Amazonia Chinoiserie wallpaper on Pink xuan paper.
Photo by Mariam Medvedeva

Walking into a room lined with de Gournay paper is like walking into a painting. This is no mere wallpaper, but rather, exquisitely rendered, custom created scenes that draw you into another world. Claud Cecil Gurney founded de Gournay almost 40 years ago and today it is widely known as the world’s most beautiful hand-painted wallpapers. Every inch of de Gournay paper is painted by skilled artists and artisans, every project a work of art. Their collections cover a breathtaking range: the exotic and flamboyant, Chinoiserie, the stunning block-print-style panoramics of the Scenic Collection, the striking, delicate Japanese & Korean Collection, the graphic and floral patterns of the Eclectic Collection, and the abstract and ornate designs inspired by the decorative movements of 20th century art found in the Diaghilev Collection, among others.

‘Erdem’ hand painted Chinoiserie wallpaper on Adam Grey dyed silk. Photo Sarah Piantadosi

I recently chatted with Claud’s daughters, Rachel Cecil Gurney and Hannah Cecil Gurney about the company, the creation and production process and what sets de Gournay apart.

Ariane: This is very much a family business, can you share how you all work together and what your roles are?

Hannah: My father started the company in 1982 with his nephew, my cousin, Dominic Evans-Freke, so I grew up surrounded by walls filled with designs and colour as the brand grew. My sister, Rachel started working with my father after university and I followed shortly after. My father remains involved in every aspect of the company, and Dominic too, who oversees our production. It’s lovely to be able to work so closely with my family despite the odd and inevitable disagreement!

Rachel: My father is the one with boundless energy even at 70 so funnily enough he is the one who constantly looks to develop new fields in the business and has recently set up our embroidery studio in India offering stunning hand embroidered fabrics. He is also the one opening new showrooms around the world, the latest one in Beirut, an exciting cultural melting pot of creativity. He loves travelling and meeting people. My cousin manages the production in our studio near Shanghai and helped my father set up the studio back in the 1980’s so he oversees all the detail and has a huge depth of knowledge in all the technical side of things. My sister handles PR & marketing and is always dreaming up a new collaboration or looking for inspiration for a new design. I manage worldwide sales so am constantly in touch with all our showrooms worldwide about their projects and trying to keep all our clients happy!

‘St. Laurent’ hand painted Chinoiserie wallpaper on Edo painted xuan India Tea Paper Interior by Martyn Lawrence Bullard. Photo by James McDonald

For our Chinoiserie collection we look back to iconic 18th century rooms such as Yves Saint Laurent’s drawing room or Pauline de Rotshchilds’s bedroom and try to recreate the depth, beauty and aged feel of the original papers.

Detail of image above

Ariane: What is the process for developing a new wallpaper design? Where does the inspiration come from?

Hannah: We’re always looking for ways to develop our collections and create new designs. Inspiration can come from anywhere – the world around you, art, books, history, that’s the beauty of creating something from scratch – there are limitless sources to be inspired by. As well as creating new designs, some of our wallpapers are based on beautiful originals, which can be found in grand English houses or taken from ancient Chinese scrolls.

Rachel: Our more traditional wallpapers tend to be reproductions of original designs. For our Chinoiserie collection we look back to iconic 18th century rooms such as Yves Saint Laurent’s drawing room or Pauline de Rotshchilds’s bedroom and try to recreate the depth, beauty and aged feel of the original papers. Our Papiers Peints Panoramiques collection refers back to 19th century hand block printed wallpaper but we hand paint in this style giving much more flexibility for the client to customize colours and tailor the design to fit the space. Our Japanese & Korean collection is inspired by works of art from the Edo period such as kimonos and screens.
Some designs are developed as a result of a collaboration such as our whimsical English garden re-interpretation of a Chinoiserie with Erdem, our tropical Chinoiserie design with monkeys and toucans inspired by the Amazon developed with Aquazurra or our Anemones in Light wallpaper inspired by Kate Moss’s favourite flower and reflecting her more modern aesthetic.

‘Fishes’ hand painted wallpaper with hand embroidered beaded embellishment
on Tarnished Silver gilded silk

Ariane: What materials are used in your wallpaper design? What sets it apart from other wallpapers?

Hannah: Our range of finishes and grounds are what makes de Gournay wallpapers special. We’ve spent a great deal of time developing these over the years by studying various techniques and materials used around the world, particularly from China, which is renowned for producing the most stunning hand painted porcelain & murals. Our wallpaper grounds play a large role in the overall effect of the wallpaper. For example, ‘Williamsburg’ is a finish with an antique feel to it, whereas Metallic silk is a far more contemporary finish which plays with the light. We also have finishes such as pearlescent antiquing, beading and embroidery which, as a final flourish, has the ability to turn the wallpaper into something mesmerizing.

Rachel: The wallpaper is usually made of painted Xuan “rice” paper or a paper-backed silk onto which the design is painted. The background is typically painted in gouache, and then the design is meticulously painted on using watercolour. Every detail and element of the design is first outlined in pencil — so if you look very closely at any of de Gournay’s wallpaper, you’ll see the pencil marks, which is obviously a sign that it’s handmade.

‘Houghton’ hand painted Chinoiserie wallpaper in Rose design colours on Williamsburg

Ariane: How long does it take from idea to completed product?

Hannah: The time varies relative to the complexity of the design, the size of the project and the client. We work very closely with our clients from start to finish to ensure they are truly satisfied with their finished product but of course, minds can change! Once the order has been confirmed then the time frame for production starts at around 3 months.

Rachel: There’s always a team of artists — generally about six to ten people — working on one order. An average panel is about 90cm wide and about 2.5 metres high. It takes around 150 hours for six artists to produce one panel. Most of our designs are about 20 panels, so a full order can take anywhere from three to six months — longer if there are bespoke elements. I think a lot of people, when they see the wallpaper, think, “Oh, it’s printed.” They don’t realise that it’s all painted by hand.

‘Wisteria’ design hand embroidered upon Almost Mauve dyed silk

Ariane: Where is your wallpaper produced? And has production slowed or changed during the pandemic?

Hannah: We have a team of incredibly skilled artists based in a studio just outside Shanghai where all of our wallpapers are hand painted. As well as the painting studio, we also have a team of designers based in our London showroom, who play a vital role in the development of new designs and ongoing client projects. Our painting studio in Shanghai went into lockdown before the UK and was back up and running whilst we were still in the thick of lockdown so I’m please to say we have been able to keep orders in production despite the expected slight lull in the middle. In spite of this, lockdown provided a good opportunity for our designers to work on a lot of in house projects so we’ve certainly stayed busy.

Rachel: There are still artisans on the mainland using the original wallpaper-making techniques that have been passed down from generation to generation. My father’s idea when he set up de Gournay was to bring these chinoiserie wallpapers back into European homes, and to produce them in the same way as they were originally made.
Our production ironically enough was not affected by the pandemic as we are based in China and they recovered the most quickly from the pandemic so we were only closed for a few weeks. Unlike many other suppliers clients did not have to experience any significant delays to their orders.

‘Anemones in Light’ hand painted wallpaper in Dusk design colours on painted xuan paper. Designed with Kate Moss. Photo by Simon Brown

Ariane: How does wallpaper change a room?

Hannah: I love how wallpaper holds the ability to be able to transport oneself. I have our Flamingo’s design in my bathroom and I always look forward to the evening when I can slip into the bath and be carried to a watery land full of gossiping pink birds! There’s something special about a wallpaper which draws you in so you can’t resist the temptation to be lured in to inspect the finer details.

Rachel: It transforms a room bringing life and colour to it and lifting your mood. It is a window onto another world, stepping into a fantastical ‘Narnia’ like landscape.

‘Flamingos’ hand painted scenic wallpaper on Sterling Silver gilded xuan paper
with Yellow ombré effect. Photo by Douglas Friedman

Ariane: You’ve been collaborating with the Fall Show for 5 years. What are some good memories, your favourite show theme?

Hannah: The theme which stayed with me was ‘Animalia’ in 2016, it was so playful! The show is truly special to me as it brings together the most amazing group of antiques dealers all under one roof, each with a perfectly curated exhibit of products to pour over. I love that every exhibitor goes the extra mile to make their stand a masterpiece, decorated beautifully and full of inspiring vignettes.

Rachel: We love the show and look forward to it every year. There is always such a buzz around it and everyone gets dressed up which I know is unusual for San Francisco! My father is an avid collector of antiques and is always on the lookout for new pieces for our showroom. I loved the year where the theme was ‘Flower Power’ as each designer had a different season so there was a very different feel to each vignette. Last year there was an incredible Mexican red lacquer cabinet which stood out amongst the other pieces.

Designer Vignettes at the San Francisco Fall Show
Custom wallpapers by de Gournay in collaboration with the designers
Clockwise from top left by: Faux Bois hand embroidered Moire by Alessandra Branca (2019, Wanderlust), Zodiac hand painted wallpaper with embroidery by Ken Fulk (2018, The Sun, the Moon & The Stars), Ferns hand painted wallpaper by Veere Grenney (2019, Wanderlust), Dancing Arucaria hand painted wallpaper by Geoffrey De Sousa (2015, Time After Time) Photos by Drew Altizer Photography

Ariane: Let’s get practical. What should one think about before adding wallpaper to a room?

Hannah: It’s certainly important to take into account the practical aspects of a room – like light and purpose, but don’t let this make you feel like you can’t be adventurous. As I mentioned, my house is covered in de Gournay wallpaper, so I believe each wall should receive attention, no matter where it is. That’s no means to say you should have an bold and colourful design in every room and corridor, even if it’s just a beautiful silk wallpaper in a soft hue, this still makes a difference as it adds texture and interest.

‘African Savannah’ hand painted scenic wallpaper in monochromatic design colours
Photo by Douglas Friedman

Ariane: What are important considerations when selecting a wallpaper design?

Hannah: I think it’s important to gather your feelings about what you want to experience from a finished space. Perhaps you want to walk in and feel instantly calm, or maybe you want to be transported to a far land filled with beautiful birds and verdant vistas. Once you have established this, you will be able to guide your mind towards the right design. Although I must admit, there is so much to choose from so this can often be very tricky. My house is covered head to toe in de Gournay wallpapers, it’s mad! But I’m delighted with how it all works together, and this is because I trusted in the process, there’s my tip!

Rachel: The design needs to suit the aesthetic of the house so for example in a Georgian property interior, I would recommend one of our historic Chinoiserie designs, garden scenes of Chinese birds and flowers, hand painted onto an aged handmade rice ‘Xuan’ paper, which are the most faithful reproductions of originals, unaltered in scale or design to suit modern interiors.
Our Japanese & Korean collection lends itself well to a more modern interior with its bold imagery and more free flowing brushwork. We can paint these onto our metallic grounds gilded with precious and non-precious metals, in addition to more subtle pearlescent grounds, for an even more contemporary feel.

‘Coco Coromandel’ hand painted Chinoserie wallpaper on Burnt Umber xuan paper
Photo by Douglas Friedman

Tips for Adding Wallpaper to a Room:

HOW TO PREP A ROOM:
Hannah: Prepping a room for wallpaper, especially de Gournay, is an extremely important part of the process. If the joinery and walls aren’t ready for the paper, it will show and can end up being a time consuming mistake to correct. We recommend using lining paper before all of our installs, this is to ensure a smooth finish and act as a barrier between the raw wall and our paper. It also means that the wallpaper can be removed at some point down the line, re-backed, then re-installed somewhere else! So my tip is to pay attention to all the small details in a room to ensure it’s completely ready for the wallpaper, it’s much easier to notice and tweak details before the paper is up then have to deal with correcting them after install!

Rachel: Old uneven walls would need to be re-plastered before applying de Gournay wallpaper to ensure a smooth even finish and good design join from panel to panel. All walls need to be lined prior to applying the wallpaper to avoid moisture coming through to the surface of the panels and to get a more professional finish.

Pay attention to all the small details in a room to ensure it’s completely ready for the wallpaper.

‘Early Views of India’ hand painted scenic wallpaper.
Interior by Miles Redd. Photo by Simon Upton

PROPER WALL SURFACES:
Hannah: There are spaces which lend themselves to paper, with tall, straight and smooth walls, and some which don’t. For example, my son’s room has strange angles and sloping walls and naturally the paper I chose for the room was one of our more complicated designs with animals and foliage (oops!). We used a preferred installer and he did a fantastic job, so it is important to research your installer before. I think you have to be realistic with a room and wallpaper – if it’s a very intricate design and you have an awkward space with no straight lines and sloping walls, it could end up being a very tricky project.

Rachel: Before adding wallpaper to a room you should think about whether the scale of the design suits the room and whether a lighter or more dense design would work better in the space. You also need to think about which construction type is most suitable for the space for example a silk with a lustre, a gilded reflective ground or an aged matt painted ground. It is also very important to see the sample options in the space to see how the light affects the colour. For taller rooms it may be nice to install a chair rail to start the design higher up whereas for a shorter room it would look better to have the design run the whole height of the wall and even be cut off at the top to give an illusion of height.
If your room has lots of light it is best not to go for a silk but to go for a ground which will not fade such as our dyed paper, metallic or scenic paper grounds. For a bathroom we would always suggesting adding a glaze to the wallpaper in case of splashes. We can help guide you as to what wallpaper would best suit your purpose.Most clients choosing a de Gournay wallpaper will start with that as their focal point then work the other elements around it, sometimes to contrast against the colours in the wallpaper and sometimes to incorporate or tone with the colours in their wallpaper. Providing the colours do not clash, I think it is important not to be afraid of layering rich colours and patterns within a room; Colour and pattern are what brings a room to life. A lot of colours from our papers and fabrics refer back to colours used frequently in classic Georgian interiors-soft greys, dusky pinks, sage greens, blue greys and burgundy’s-and I think Georgian colours are timeless and elegant and work as well today as they did then.

‘Amazonia’ hand painted Chinoiserie wallpaper on Pink xuan paper

At Home with Tastemaker Steven Stolman

Photography credit: Nick Mele

Steven Stolman knows a thing or two about style. The designer, tastemaker, and man-about-town is an expert on the subject. And he has the resume to prove it. From his own sought-after line of resort wear to his tenure as President of the textile house, Scalamandre, he is an observer of good taste, which is why we love having him to speak in the Fall Show Lecture Series. Stolman has been a longtime supporter and speaker at the show. 

Scalamandre Haute Decor by Steven Stolman (Gibbs Smith 2013)

I chatted with Stolman about how he manages to stay stylish with nowhere to go these days, and how the concept of home has changed, starting with where he has been sheltering in place. “My husband Rich and I were at our home in Palm Beach from the start of Florida’s Safer at Home directive in March until our annual migration to our summer home on the east end of Long Island, New York in June.” He said. For a moment of quiet, Stolman looks to the ocean “We’re very fortunate to have a balcony overlooking the Atlantic. There’s a certain calm from simply staring out into that huge expanse of water and sky. Until it got too hot, we would end every workday out there.” Style has taken a back seat to comfort these days, with a few standard rituals put on hold “shaving daily for one,” he shared “and dressing without an awful lot of thought. Even though our condo pool was closed for much of the lockdown, I wore a bathing suit pretty much every day. I also stopped wearing a wristwatch.”

Stolman admits that he and his husband are the opposite of homebodies, so staying home has not been easy. “I suppose there’s a peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re in a safe place.” He says. “There was and still is the constant worry about others-especially those most vulnerable to CoVid19. It’s ever present.” 

As the author of two books on entertaining, Confessions of a Serial Entertainer (Gibbs Smith, 2015) and The Serial Entertainer’s Passion for Parties (Gibbs Smith, 2016), the most difficult part of lockdown for Stolman has been the inability to entertain. “Generosity of spirit and gracious hospitality make a home.” He shared. “The toughest part of lockdown has been not being able to welcome friends into our home the way we usually do. It has been agonizing!” Although parties are on hold for now, work still has to be done, from home.  “Rich has worked remotely or traveled for work for almost 20 years. I’m a bit newer to the game. While Rich can work from anywhere- I like a proper desk. I found a wonderful desk by Jack Cartwright for Founders at a local vintage dealer. It’s in our guest room and serves as my command center.” 

Desk by Jack Cartwright for Founders

Desk by Jack Cartwright for Founders

The things we live with, the treasures we collect make our homes unique and for Stolman, his favorite pieces are the bookcases “oddly, in the dining area of our home,” he says. “They hold a lifetime of memories. If I had to pick one thing, it would be a little ceramic ink pot in the shape of a bear. It belonged to Babe Paley, who kept postage stamps in it on her desk.

With all the extra time saved from not traveling, commuting, or social engagements, Stolman has found that he has more time on his hands, but his free time gives him more time to worry “This pandemic has weighed heavily on us. The way it’s disproportionately affecting communities of color and poverty is a disgrace to our society. How could this possibly happen in the world’s supposedly most advanced nation?” 

With the annual San Francisco Fall Show at Fort Mason Center on hiatus during the 2020 pandemic, I asked Stolman to share a favorite memory of the show. “Seeing so many friends from across the country. I cannot tell you how much I look forward to the opening night every year- and it’s not just because of the caviar. There’s a joie de vivre that I have never experienced at any other similar event.”

Opening Night Gala at the San Francisco Fall Show

Of course, there was always one small painting- usually impressionist- that would bring tears to my eyes. But it was really the joy of seeing so many wonderful friends all in one place at one time for such a great cause. I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that Rich’s favorite part of the evening was the eye-popping candy bar at the exit. He’s such a big kid at heart.” 

The ever popular End-of-Evening Candy Bar at the Fall Show Gala

The one thing Stolman misses most these days? “Cocktail parties. And peace of mind. There won’t be any of that until there’s an effective treatment or a vaccine.” Let’s hope that comes soon.

By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat

At Home with San Francisco Designer Jay Jeffers

San Francisco designer Jay Jeffers knows a thing or two about beautiful objects. His retail showroom Jay Jeffers-The Store offers a collection of furniture and pieces discovered along his travels. When he agreed to create a vignette for the 2017 Fall Show, the theme that year was Flower Power and the vignettes focused on the Four Seasons. Jeffers’ boldly graphic, deep plum showcase beautifully conveyed the warmth of a cozy winter evening.

2017 San Francisco Fall Show Designer Vignette “Winter” by Jay Jeffers
Photography credit: Drew Altizer

I recently chatted with Jay about the many cozy days and nights we are all spending at home during quarantine, and how that has impacted his life, and his appreciation of his own collection of beautiful objects. “One of my favorite pieces is by New York artist Forrest Williams. It has a mysterious haunting quality that I love” says Jeffers.

Photography credit: Matthew Millman

In designing a house, there are certain things that make it a home. For Jeffers, it is the personal effects that create memories, “whether it is art you have collected, or family photos, books, some kooky object that you bought when traveling in Africa—those things that invoke memories of a time and place. This is what created soul in a home.”

Photography credit: Matthew Millman

Jeffers is spending quarantine in the Napa home he shares with his husband Michael Purdy. “I have commandeered one of the guest bedrooms as my office. The closet holds my papers and files. There is a small desk, though I admit most of my computer and zoom meetings have taken place on the guest bed with my laptop.”

The best part of spending so much time at home? “Well, my dog, Olive is by my side, basically all day long, which is so nice. We have been cooking, setting the table every night with candles and linen napkins, and just generally slowed down a little bit.” He shares. His favorite room is the living room, “A fire in the fireplace, with the fire going is a good spot for me. I’m an early bird and always the first one up. It is so nice to sit by the fire and have my coffee and slowly wake up.”

Photography credit: Matthew Millman

When it comes to the San Francisco Fall Show, Jay has discovered many treasures over the years. His favorite find? “A pair of art deco club chairs that were made in India out of rosewood. Their new home are clients of mine that are of Indian descent so these chairs fit perfectly with our design and reminded them of home at the same time.” Jay has been a longtime supporter of the Show “it is so great to see the entire design community out and supporting an amazing cause that I have been involved with for years” he says. “But also for me it’s a chance to see beautiful things from galleries all over the world that I may not have visited. The internet, 1stdibs and all of the other sights are a wonderful tool for sourcing, but nothing compares to seeing the beauty and the condition of a piece in person.”

Photography credit: Matthew Millman

With no social engagements, travel or commute, Jeffers is appreciating the extra free time, and using it well. “I’m finding more time to deep dive into inspiration—Pinterest, Instagram, etc. There are some crazy talented people out there I am just discovering. In the evenings, I’m taking the dog for a walk or going on an easy bike ride.”

With all that is going on in the world, I think we all get a pass to break a rule or two. What is Jeffers? “Cocktails every night!” Cheers to that!

by Ariane Trimuschat, Director at Large/Europe