At Home with Paul Vincent Wiseman of The Wiseman Group

Paul Wiseman’s iconic design firm, The Wiseman Group was founded in 1980, just two years before the founding of The San Francisco Fall Show. And he has been an avid supporter throughout the show’s 38-year history. His whole team arrives to preview the show each year and I have watched Paul take them on his own personal guided tour, chatting with dealers and locating treasures. So it was an honor to have The Wiseman Group create a Designer Vignette for the Grand Entry of 2018 Show. Wiseman chose “Stars” as the focus for the vignette, from that year’s theme, The Sun, The Moon, and The Stars. Not surprisingly, the celestial imagery incorporated into the display, through a combination of surrealist works by American artist and filmmaker Joseph Cornell and custom wallpaper designed in collaboration with de Gournay, offered a sparkling deep blue night sky with an otherworldly aura.

STARS – Designer Vignette by The Wiseman Group at the 2018 San Francisco Fall Show
Photo by Drew Altizer

I chatted by phone with Wiseman from his home in Belvedere, CA, and asked about how he brings design into his own home and what turns a house into a retreat. “When people of all walks of life can be comfortable in your home, when the owner of the home has things that are very personal—things that make you real,” he says. Wiseman has an affinity for unique objects, antiques, and art “pieces that have soul-even if you don’t know what you are looking at.” But he doesn’t have a favourite piece. “Each piece is from a different realm of beauty,” he says. “I view all my objects as some aspect of myself. They caught my eye and gave me pleasure. My home is my sacred temple.” When pressed, however, he was able to name four pieces that bring him joy:

William Kentridge wall sculpture

A William Kentridge wall sculpture. “It is so much about shadow and dark and light, it’s made of black steel, is 5’ tall x 4’ wide and looks like a calligraphy stroke,” says Wiseman.

Han Dynasty 3-Footed Vessel

“A period Ming lacquered scholar’s desk that I use as a coffee table in my living room” and a Han Dynasty 3-footed vessel. “It looks quite contemporary” he shares, “but it is 2-3,000 years old.” If it looks familiar, you may have seen it on the cover of Wiseman’s design book Inner Spaces (Gibbs Smith 2014)

Opalized Ammonite

An opalized ammonite. “It’s the second largest in the world,” he shares (The Smithsonian has the largest). “It is 80 million years old and changes colors when you pass by it: green to red to orange.”

Wiseman has been working on his home in Belvedere for 20 years. “I’ve created a summer house environment. The staff is surly,” he jokes, “Spa Belvedere.” But he has created an oasis. “I have a 100-year old arbor, I’ve created an herb garden and a Bali Bed with pillows and cushions. I love going down there. I have a pair of 2nd-century Roman busts and they sit there between the columns, looking down on the bed. It’s heaven, it is its own world. I sit and watch the water and the boats.”

Color is important to Wiseman. “I was born and raised in California. The greens and golds of our landscape have always resonated with me. I appreciate so many other colors—nature shows you colors that you never thought could work together. I collect Wedgwood, I love the color. I bought three pieces from Bill Blass’s collection and sent them to Peru with Sandra Jordan (of Sandra Jordan Prima Alpaca) and she made me an Alpaca textile in that color.”

During this time of quarantine, I asked Wiseman how he is creating a space to separate work from personal life. “My home and garden is my workspace,” he says. “Even at my office, I don’t have a desk, I have a chaise.” And what is the thing he is indulging in during the pandemic that he normally doesn’t allow himself? “Baking! I’ve done three bread puddings with bourbon, raisins, brown sugar, pecans, and vanilla. I have leftovers for breakfast. Yesterday I baked Martha Stewart’s Meyer Lemon Upside Down cake. Instead of flour, you use ground almonds.”

I’d call that Home SWEET home.

By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat

At Home with San Francisco Designer Jay Jeffers

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

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

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

Photography credit: Matthew Millman

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

Photography credit: Matthew Millman

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

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

Photography credit: Matthew Millman

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

Photography credit: Matthew Millman

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

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

by Ariane Trimuschat, Director at Large/Europe