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

At Home with Designer Ellie Cullman

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

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

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

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

Working Through a Pandemic

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

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

On Collecting

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

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

Shifts in the Design Industry

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

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

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

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

Missing Out

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

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

The Silver Lining

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

By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat

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

At Home with Designer Gary Hutton

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

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

Making a Home

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

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

Nurturing Creativity

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

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

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

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

Design Perspectives

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

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

On Modernism

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

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

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

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

Remote Working

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

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

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

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

On The Fall Show

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

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

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

By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat
Ariane served as Show Director for the San Francisco Fall Show for 7 years through 2019. She is now the show’s international liaison as Director at Large, living in London with her family.  Follow Ariane on her blog, Sojournest, where she focuses on all things home and travel.

A Chat with Designer Alexa Hampton

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

Photograph by Victoria Stevens

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

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

Hampton Escapes to the Hamptons

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

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

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

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

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

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

Favourite Rooms

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

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

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

On Collecting Art & Antiques

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

Alexa Hampton’s NYC Entry. Photograph by Steve Freihon

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

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

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

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

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

 Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse NYC. Photograph by Jean Bourbon

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

Design Predictions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Balfour Bedding by Alexa Hampton for Eastern Accents

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

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

By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat
Ariane Trimuschat served as Show Director for the San Francisco Fall Show for 7 years through 2019. She is now the show’s international liaison as Director at Large, living in London with her family.  Follow Ariane on her blog, Sojournest, where she focuses on all things home and travel.

At Home with Designer Madeline Stuart

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

Photograph by Trevor Tondro

A Book Tour Diverted

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

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

Designing in the Midst of a Pandemic

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

Italianate Living Room by Madeline Stuart. Photograph by Trevor Tondro

A New Attitude

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

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

Hacienda Living Room by Madeline Stuart. Photograph by Trevor Tondro

Stuart’s Approach to Clients

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

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

A Second Home

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

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

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

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

On Collecting Antiques

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jackson Living Room. Photograph by Trevor Tondro

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

Photograph by Trevor Tondro

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

By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat
Ariane served as Show Director for the San Francisco Fall Show for 7 years through 2019. She is now the show’s international liaison as Director at Large, living in London with her family.  Follow Ariane on her blog, Sojournest, where she focuses on all things home and travel.

Coast to Coast with Ken Fulk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Library in Provincetown Home

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

Self Portrait of Charles Hawthorne, 1898

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

Mary Heaton Vorse House, Provincetown, MA

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

By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat
Ariane served as Show Director for the San Francisco Fall Show for 7 years through 2019. She is now the show’s international liaison as Director at Large, living in London with her family. Follow Ariane on her blog, Sojournest, where she focuses on all things home and travel.

David Phoenix at Home, and on the Move

David Phoenix

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

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

Photograph by Jean Rendazzo

A Cross Country Move

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

Turning a House into a Home

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

Photograph courtesy of David Phoenix

Running a Design Firm During Lockdown

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

Photograph courtesy of David Phoenix

An Active Dining Room

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

Photograph courtesy of David Phoenix

On Shopping for Art and Antiques Online

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

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

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

A passion for Baking: Cake by David Phoenix

Life in the Era of a Pandemic

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

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

Such a simple and profound point of view.

By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat
Ariane served as Show Director for the San Francisco Fall Show for 7 years through 2019. She is now the show’s international liaison as Director at Large, living in London with her family.  Follow Ariane on her blog, Sojournest, where she focuses on all things home, design and travel.