“I love what I do, it’s a joy, I never tire of it, never get sick of looking for fabrics. I still go to the D&D BUILDING myself, I’m inspired by every trip I take. I love what I do because it’s so relevant to my life, I love my clients because we have fun. Decorating is a great luxury, and it should be fun–my job is FUN.”
It’s this kind of enthusiasm that makes Alex Papachristidis instantly likeable. He reminds me of the age-old saying ‘Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.’ I told him so, which made him laugh in agreement.
The New York City-based interior designer will create a Designer Vignette for the Grand Entry Hall of THE SAN FRANCISCO FALL SHOW next month, the fair’s 40th Anniversary ‘Ruby Jubilee’. Papachristidis started his eponymous design firm, ALEX PAPACHRISTIDIS INTERIORS in 1987 while studying at Parsons School of Design.
“I was trying to decide what to do with my life,” he explained. “I didn’t want to go into the family business–shipping, I thought about restaurants and fashion, then I called my best friend. She walked into my apartment and said ‘darling! You have such great taste, you should be a decorator!’ I never looked back.”
Kips Bay Decorator Show House, 2016, Designed by Alex Papachristidis. Photograph by Tria Giovan. Chandeliers from Gerald bland with Eve Kaplan gilded ceramic accents, Frederick P. Victoria & Son coffee tables with custom tops by artist Nancy Lorenz, Ceramic gourd by Christopher Spitzmiller, Eighteenth-century Italian giltwood chairs from Dalva Brothers, Custom sofa and Turkish-style poufs designed by Alex Papachristidis, made by J Quintana Upholstery; window treatments made by New York Drapery, fabric Cowtan & Tout fabric and Samuel & Sons trims, Carpet made up of antique Turkish tent panels from Beauvais
Design is ever evolving, always changing, but for the last few years through the pandemic, it is more than taste and aesthetics that have changed. Most of us have changed how we live, and what we need from our homes. “It taught people how important our home is,” says Papachristidis, “that we need to be prepared for all circumstances, need to feel safe and comfortable. I was already from that school, so I spent the COVID years reorganizing. There is nothing more rewarding than feeling organized,” he says.
“People felt there were gaps, they learned that their kitchens didn’t work as well as they should. They didn’t have enough space to work. A house needs to have a level of practicality. Our home is super user-friendly; I am a kitchen tinkerer, not a cook. It’s kind of how I am a decorator—I don’t make the upholstery, I put it together, I oversee.” A man with a vision.
Study designed by Alex Papachristidis. Photograph by Richard Powers. Warren Platner chair, Gabriella Crespi ‘Z Desk’ in bronze, John Currin (above desk) & Elizabeth Peyton (windowsill) paintings, Jean-Michel Frank vintage desk lamp
“A room should be a reflection of how the client lives,” explains Papachristidis. “It’s important that the rooms in your home flatter you; that you love the colors of your rooms, that you feel comfortable, they need to suit you.” That, he says, is the single most important element in a room.
An avid traveler, he cites history and travel as inspiration, but does not follow trends. “Museums, auctions, great houses, I’m a Francophile; I spent much of this summer in the South of France,” he lists these as sources of creativity.
“I think what dates things is when they look too much like everything else. When there is a moment in time when everyone is doing something and you do that thing, it will be dated. I don’t do trends. I go through personal phases of things that inspire me,” (he names Gabriella Crespi furniture as a current favourite), “if used in the right way it won’t be dated: a suite of 18th century furniture in satin – pale teal-bluey green – it will look timeless. Papachristidis is particularly inspired by an elegance of years past, citing Gloria Guiness, Marella Agnelli, Elsie de Wolfe, and ‘everything Rothschild’ as sources of inspiration.
Powder room inspired by The Grotto Hall in Potsdam’s New Palace in Germany, designed by Alex Papachristidis. Photograph by William Abranowicz. Eve Kaplan shell motif gilded ceramic tiles, Custom shell faucet by P.E. Guerin
“I love contemporary, artisanal furniture, 20th century designs – the proportions are important—as with Maria Pergay furniture. I love walls upholstered in velvet, a mix of contemporary and classical. The modern needs to balance with the classical,” says Papachristidis.
Living Room Console, designed by Alex Papachristidis. Photograph by Tria Giovan. Porphyry urn and 18th Century German silver tankanrds, Stacked rock console in the manner of Emilio Terry from Glen Dooley Antiques, Tree-branch painting by Adam Ball from Kasmin Gallery
For his Designer Vignette at the Fall Show this year, Papachristidis looked to the show’s dealers. “I went to CARLTON HOBBS and found a big gilt console and a pair of mahogany chairs to which I added cherry red velvet on the poofs,” (in honor of the ruby jubilee). “I found a wonderful mirror from HYDE PARK ANTIQUES and a modern sculpture from GUY REGAL. I have a great love of Chinese wallpaper so with DE GOURNAY (hand painted wallpaper, the Designer Vignette sponsor), we did a collage of Chinese scenes. I added a silver and white chair rail, with a dash of yellow. And the floor will be stenciled by decorative painter JOSEPH STEIERT,” he added. Sounds fabulous, and we will all just have to wait until showtime to see the finished room.
‘Mood Board’ for 2022 San Francisco Fall Show Designer Vignette by Alex Papachristidis. Chairs and console from Carlton Hobbs, Mirror from Hyde Park Antiques, ‘Ophelia’ Lamp by Christopher Spitzmiller
“Good rooms are made for people to use,” says Papachristidis. “They are not made to impress. First and foremost, they should be comfortable, friendly and usable.” I couldn’t agree more.
By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat
Ariane served as Show Director for the San Francisco Fall Show for 7 years through 2019. She is now the show’s Director-at-Large, living in Westport, Connecticut with her family. Follow Ariane on her blog, SOJOURNEST, where she focuses on all things home and travel and on Instagram at @arianetrim
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.
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
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
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.
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.
California native Kendall Wilkinson has spent over two decades creating beautiful spaces for both residential and commercial clients. Her sensibility is rooted in classical design, often creating authentic period looks or mixing modern pieces with older gems. Wilkinson has become one of the most sought-after interior designers and her projects span the globe. Her collection for Fabricut, launched Spring 2016, features indoor/outdoor fabrics in a sophisticated mix of neutrals, bold colors, and innovative patterns.
In 2017, the San Francisco Fall Show invited Wilkinson to create a Designer Vignette for that year’s Flower Power theme. Each of the four designers that year was given a season on which to focus their vignette, and Wilkinson’s was Autumn. She dubbed it ‘The Secret Garden’ and it remains a favorite Show memory for her. “It was inspired by a Valentino dress and our amazing partners, de Gournay,” she shared. “They hand -painted and hand-beaded a floral motif onto an iridescent silk wallpaper in autumnal colors resulting in the most exquisite wall covering. We also incorporated wonderfully crusty stone garden elements from (Fall Show dealer) Finnegan Gallery in Chicago.” I chatted with Wilkinson about running her design firm from home, and how the lockdown has affected her business, her clients and her family life.
‘The Secret Garden’ Designer Vignette by Kendall Wilkinson for the Flower Power theme at the 2017 San Francisco Fall Show. Custom hand-painted wall paper by de Gournay. Photo by Drew Altizer Photography
When the lockdown started, Wilkinson and her sons stayed close to her office, in their home in the Sea Cliff neighbourhood of San Francisco. “The boys still had virtual school to attend”, she shared. “My senior team and I had to piece a plan together to organize my entire staff to work from home. Once school finished, and ‘work-from-home’ became our new normal, we relocated to Stinson Beach close to where I was born and raised. The light, patterns, and nature of this magical place served as inspiration for my fabric collections, and I have realized they continue to inspire my color choices to this day.”
Living Room in Kendall Wilkinson’s San Francisco home Photo by Bill Reitzel
In Wilkinson’s view, memories make a home: “a house is a physical structure, a tangible edifice that is cold and empty.” She believes. “A home is when the house is filled with love, living life, and its inhabitants’ vitality. It’s the culmination of memories–photographs of trips taken, of children growing up, and trails of everyday life. Special pieces that pass on from generation to generation, gifts received, or the art and objects collected over time create a sense of home, belonging, and sentiment!” Her favourite piece is a photograph. “My dear friend Barbara Vaughn captured an exquisite reflection image in Sausalito, titled “Kyrtotis” and hung prominently in my living room, she says. ‘I often sit watching the fire, reading and catching a view of my absolute favourite piece in my home.”
Barbara Vaughn photograph, “Kyrtotis” in Kendall Wilkinson’s Living Room Photo by Bill Reitzel
While the lockdown has turned everyone’s lives on end, Wilkinson has found a silver lining. “I have enjoyed observing and interacting with my teenage sons during quarantine in a way that working in the office, going to events, and traveling for projects just didn’t allow me to see day-to-day. The constant companionship of my boys and seeing how they have grown in subtle and overt ways brings me endless joy.” But sharing a house with teenagers does have it’s hurdles “ When school was in session, my house was rotating musical chairs – some days, one of my boys would be at my desk in my “office” located in my upstairs library, and I was relegated to using my laptop on the dining room table. Other days we flipped and sometimes worked on our laptops at the kitchen counter. It all depended on the day! She laughs. “Funny enough, I was the one who had to be utterly nomadic about finding a work spot–sidebar”, she adds—”I have now found my dining room chairs to be terribly uncomfortable and will definitely be needing to find new ones soon- hopefully I’ll be able to purchase them when the antique show comes next year!”
With all the chaos of three people working and home schooling together, Wilkinson retreats to her private space. “not many people know”, she reveals, “but I have a home sanctuary filled with meditative elements, a Moroccan prayer rug, and incense. No one else, not even my beloved pup Biscuit is allowed here. It is the definition of calming and quiet!”
Kitchen in Kendall Wilkinson’s San Francisco home Photo by Bill Reitzel
The isolation of the past several months has changed us all. For interior designers, it is an interesting time as clients are spending so much time at home, and many of us are looking at our homes in a new way, and thinking about how we use our homes and what’s important to us. Wilkinson concurs, “my clients are now far more involved with the details than they were in the past,” she shares. “The extra time has allowed them to be more curious and engaged in the actual business and logistics of design and why we make certain decisions. There is a more inquisitive approach. Hopefully, that means a greater appreciation for what we do and the service we provide.” Kendall Wilkinson Design has always prioritised comfort above form and for current clients she says “they are now fully experiencing their homes and what we designed and created for them. I think they are developing more appreciation for the details and the comfort.”
Library in Kendall Wilkinson’s San Francisco home Photo by Bill Reitzel
Working from home has not slowed Wilkinson down, or opened up her schedule. “My days have been even more consumed than they were pre-COVID. I am on at least 6-8 hours a day of Zoom calls with my team, clients, and vendors before any actual “work” gets done,” she says.
Design is such a collaborative and hands on creative process and that has been the most difficult part of the quarantine for her: “I have missed my team’s interaction, being in the office with them, working with them, and the time spent in my office creating and designing. I also miss site visits and installations, sounds crazy, but even travel! And most of all, the broader design community and my industry friends.”
Kendall Wilkinson with Hannah Cecil Gurney of de Gournay posing in front of ‘The Secret Garden’ Designer Vignette at the 2017 San Francisco Fall Show Photo by Drew Altizer Photography
By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat 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.
Hand painted Amazonia Chinoiserie wallpaper on Pink xuan paper. Photo by Mariam Medvedeva
Walking into a room lined with de Gournay paper is like walking into a painting. This is no mere wallpaper, but rather, exquisitely rendered, custom created scenes that draw you into another world. Claud Cecil Gurney founded de Gournay almost 40 years ago and today it is widely known as the world’s most beautiful hand-painted wallpapers. Every inch of de Gournay paper is painted by skilled artists and artisans, every project a work of art. Their collections cover a breathtaking range: the exotic and flamboyant, Chinoiserie, the stunning block-print-style panoramics of the Scenic Collection, the striking, delicate Japanese & Korean Collection, the graphic and floral patterns of the Eclectic Collection, and the abstract and ornate designs inspired by the decorative movements of 20th century art found in the Diaghilev Collection, among others.
‘Erdem’ hand painted Chinoiserie wallpaper on Adam Grey dyed silk. Photo Sarah Piantadosi
I recently chatted with Claud’s daughters, Rachel Cecil Gurney and Hannah Cecil Gurney about the company, the creation and production process and what sets de Gournay apart.
Ariane: This is very much a family business, can you share how you all work together and what your roles are?
Hannah: My father started the company in 1982 with his nephew, my cousin, Dominic Evans-Freke, so I grew up surrounded by walls filled with designs and colour as the brand grew. My sister, Rachel started working with my father after university and I followed shortly after. My father remains involved in every aspect of the company, and Dominic too, who oversees our production. It’s lovely to be able to work so closely with my family despite the odd and inevitable disagreement!
Rachel: My father is the one with boundless energy even at 70 so funnily enough he is the one who constantly looks to develop new fields in the business and has recently set up our embroidery studio in India offering stunning hand embroidered fabrics. He is also the one opening new showrooms around the world, the latest one in Beirut, an exciting cultural melting pot of creativity. He loves travelling and meeting people. My cousin manages the production in our studio near Shanghai and helped my father set up the studio back in the 1980’s so he oversees all the detail and has a huge depth of knowledge in all the technical side of things. My sister handles PR & marketing and is always dreaming up a new collaboration or looking for inspiration for a new design. I manage worldwide sales so am constantly in touch with all our showrooms worldwide about their projects and trying to keep all our clients happy!
‘St. Laurent’ hand painted Chinoiserie wallpaper on Edo painted xuan India Tea Paper Interior by Martyn Lawrence Bullard. Photo by James McDonald
For our Chinoiserie collection we look back to iconic 18th century rooms such as Yves Saint Laurent’s drawing room or Pauline de Rotshchilds’s bedroom and try to recreate the depth, beauty and aged feel of the original papers.
Detail of image above
Ariane: What is the process for developing a new wallpaper design? Where does the inspiration come from?
Hannah: We’re always looking for ways to develop our collections and create new designs. Inspiration can come from anywhere – the world around you, art, books, history, that’s the beauty of creating something from scratch – there are limitless sources to be inspired by. As well as creating new designs, some of our wallpapers are based on beautiful originals, which can be found in grand English houses or taken from ancient Chinese scrolls.
Rachel: Our more traditional wallpapers tend to be reproductions of original designs. For our Chinoiserie collection we look back to iconic 18th century rooms such as Yves Saint Laurent’s drawing room or Pauline de Rotshchilds’s bedroom and try to recreate the depth, beauty and aged feel of the original papers. Our Papiers Peints Panoramiques collection refers back to 19th century hand block printed wallpaper but we hand paint in this style giving much more flexibility for the client to customize colours and tailor the design to fit the space. Our Japanese & Korean collection is inspired by works of art from the Edo period such as kimonos and screens. Some designs are developed as a result of a collaboration such as our whimsical English garden re-interpretation of a Chinoiserie with Erdem, our tropical Chinoiserie design with monkeys and toucans inspired by the Amazon developed with Aquazurra or our Anemones in Light wallpaper inspired by Kate Moss’s favourite flower and reflecting her more modern aesthetic.
‘Fishes’ hand painted wallpaper with hand embroidered beaded embellishment on Tarnished Silver gilded silk
Ariane: What materials are used in your wallpaper design? What sets it apart from other wallpapers?
Hannah: Our range of finishes and grounds are what makes de Gournay wallpapers special. We’ve spent a great deal of time developing these over the years by studying various techniques and materials used around the world, particularly from China, which is renowned for producing the most stunning hand painted porcelain & murals. Our wallpaper grounds play a large role in the overall effect of the wallpaper. For example, ‘Williamsburg’ is a finish with an antique feel to it, whereas Metallic silk is a far more contemporary finish which plays with the light. We also have finishes such as pearlescent antiquing, beading and embroidery which, as a final flourish, has the ability to turn the wallpaper into something mesmerizing.
Rachel: The wallpaper is usually made of painted Xuan “rice” paper or a paper-backed silk onto which the design is painted. The background is typically painted in gouache, and then the design is meticulously painted on using watercolour. Every detail and element of the design is first outlined in pencil — so if you look very closely at any of de Gournay’s wallpaper, you’ll see the pencil marks, which is obviously a sign that it’s handmade.
‘Houghton’ hand painted Chinoiserie wallpaper in Rose design colours on Williamsburg
Ariane: How long does it take from idea to completed product?
Hannah: The time varies relative to the complexity of the design, the size of the project and the client. We work very closely with our clients from start to finish to ensure they are truly satisfied with their finished product but of course, minds can change! Once the order has been confirmed then the time frame for production starts at around 3 months.
Rachel: There’s always a team of artists — generally about six to ten people — working on one order. An average panel is about 90cm wide and about 2.5 metres high. It takes around 150 hours for six artists to produce one panel. Most of our designs are about 20 panels, so a full order can take anywhere from three to six months — longer if there are bespoke elements. I think a lot of people, when they see the wallpaper, think, “Oh, it’s printed.” They don’t realise that it’s all painted by hand.
‘Wisteria’ design hand embroidered upon Almost Mauve dyed silk
Ariane: Where is your wallpaper produced? And has production slowed or changed during the pandemic?
Hannah: We have a team of incredibly skilled artists based in a studio just outside Shanghai where all of our wallpapers are hand painted. As well as the painting studio, we also have a team of designers based in our London showroom, who play a vital role in the development of new designs and ongoing client projects. Our painting studio in Shanghai went into lockdown before the UK and was back up and running whilst we were still in the thick of lockdown so I’m please to say we have been able to keep orders in production despite the expected slight lull in the middle. In spite of this, lockdown provided a good opportunity for our designers to work on a lot of in house projects so we’ve certainly stayed busy.
Rachel: There are still artisans on the mainland using the original wallpaper-making techniques that have been passed down from generation to generation. My father’s idea when he set up de Gournay was to bring these chinoiserie wallpapers back into European homes, and to produce them in the same way as they were originally made. Our production ironically enough was not affected by the pandemic as we are based in China and they recovered the most quickly from the pandemic so we were only closed for a few weeks. Unlike many other suppliers clients did not have to experience any significant delays to their orders.
‘Anemones in Light’ hand painted wallpaper in Dusk design colours on painted xuan paper. Designed with Kate Moss. Photo by Simon Brown
Ariane: How does wallpaper change a room?
Hannah: I love how wallpaper holds the ability to be able to transport oneself. I have our Flamingo’s design in my bathroom and I always look forward to the evening when I can slip into the bath and be carried to a watery land full of gossiping pink birds! There’s something special about a wallpaper which draws you in so you can’t resist the temptation to be lured in to inspect the finer details.
Rachel: It transforms a room bringing life and colour to it and lifting your mood. It is a window onto another world, stepping into a fantastical ‘Narnia’ like landscape.
‘Flamingos’ hand painted scenic wallpaper on Sterling Silver gilded xuan paper with Yellow ombré effect. Photo by Douglas Friedman
Ariane: You’ve been collaborating with the Fall Show for 5 years. What are some good memories, your favourite show theme?
Hannah: The theme which stayed with me was ‘Animalia’ in 2016, it was so playful! The show is truly special to me as it brings together the most amazing group of antiques dealers all under one roof, each with a perfectly curated exhibit of products to pour over. I love that every exhibitor goes the extra mile to make their stand a masterpiece, decorated beautifully and full of inspiring vignettes.
Rachel: We love the show and look forward to it every year. There is always such a buzz around it and everyone gets dressed up which I know is unusual for San Francisco! My father is an avid collector of antiques and is always on the lookout for new pieces for our showroom. I loved the year where the theme was ‘Flower Power’ as each designer had a different season so there was a very different feel to each vignette. Last year there was an incredible Mexican red lacquer cabinet which stood out amongst the other pieces.
Designer Vignettes at the San Francisco Fall Show Custom wallpapers by de Gournay in collaboration with the designers Clockwise from top left by: Faux Bois hand embroidered Moire by Alessandra Branca (2019, Wanderlust), Zodiac hand painted wallpaper with embroidery by Ken Fulk (2018, The Sun, the Moon & The Stars), Ferns hand painted wallpaper by Veere Grenney (2019, Wanderlust), Dancing Arucaria hand painted wallpaper by Geoffrey De Sousa (2015, Time After Time) Photos by Drew Altizer Photography
Ariane: Let’s get practical. What should one think about before adding wallpaper to a room?
Hannah: It’s certainly important to take into account the practical aspects of a room – like light and purpose, but don’t let this make you feel like you can’t be adventurous. As I mentioned, my house is covered in de Gournay wallpaper, so I believe each wall should receive attention, no matter where it is. That’s no means to say you should have an bold and colourful design in every room and corridor, even if it’s just a beautiful silk wallpaper in a soft hue, this still makes a difference as it adds texture and interest.
‘African Savannah’ hand painted scenic wallpaper in monochromatic design colours Photo by Douglas Friedman
Ariane: What are important considerations when selecting a wallpaper design?
Hannah: I think it’s important to gather your feelings about what you want to experience from a finished space. Perhaps you want to walk in and feel instantly calm, or maybe you want to be transported to a far land filled with beautiful birds and verdant vistas. Once you have established this, you will be able to guide your mind towards the right design. Although I must admit, there is so much to choose from so this can often be very tricky. My house is covered head to toe in de Gournay wallpapers, it’s mad! But I’m delighted with how it all works together, and this is because I trusted in the process, there’s my tip!
Rachel: The design needs to suit the aesthetic of the house so for example in a Georgian property interior, I would recommend one of our historic Chinoiserie designs, garden scenes of Chinese birds and flowers, hand painted onto an aged handmade rice ‘Xuan’ paper, which are the most faithful reproductions of originals, unaltered in scale or design to suit modern interiors. Our Japanese & Korean collection lends itself well to a more modern interior with its bold imagery and more free flowing brushwork. We can paint these onto our metallic grounds gilded with precious and non-precious metals, in addition to more subtle pearlescent grounds, for an even more contemporary feel.
‘Coco Coromandel’ hand painted Chinoserie wallpaper on Burnt Umber xuan paper Photo by Douglas Friedman
Tips for Adding Wallpaper to a Room:
HOW TO PREP A ROOM: Hannah: Prepping a room for wallpaper, especially de Gournay, is an extremely important part of the process. If the joinery and walls aren’t ready for the paper, it will show and can end up being a time consuming mistake to correct. We recommend using lining paper before all of our installs, this is to ensure a smooth finish and act as a barrier between the raw wall and our paper. It also means that the wallpaper can be removed at some point down the line, re-backed, then re-installed somewhere else! So my tip is to pay attention to all the small details in a room to ensure it’s completely ready for the wallpaper, it’s much easier to notice and tweak details before the paper is up then have to deal with correcting them after install!
Rachel: Old uneven walls would need to be re-plastered before applying de Gournay wallpaper to ensure a smooth even finish and good design join from panel to panel. All walls need to be lined prior to applying the wallpaper to avoid moisture coming through to the surface of the panels and to get a more professional finish.
Pay attention to all the small details in a room to ensure it’s completely ready for the wallpaper.
‘Early Views of India’ hand painted scenic wallpaper. Interior by Miles Redd. Photo by Simon Upton
PROPER WALL SURFACES: Hannah: There are spaces which lend themselves to paper, with tall, straight and smooth walls, and some which don’t. For example, my son’s room has strange angles and sloping walls and naturally the paper I chose for the room was one of our more complicated designs with animals and foliage (oops!). We used a preferred installer and he did a fantastic job, so it is important to research your installer before. I think you have to be realistic with a room and wallpaper – if it’s a very intricate design and you have an awkward space with no straight lines and sloping walls, it could end up being a very tricky project.
Rachel: Before adding wallpaper to a room you should think about whether the scale of the design suits the room and whether a lighter or more dense design would work better in the space. You also need to think about which construction type is most suitable for the space for example a silk with a lustre, a gilded reflective ground or an aged matt painted ground. It is also very important to see the sample options in the space to see how the light affects the colour. For taller rooms it may be nice to install a chair rail to start the design higher up whereas for a shorter room it would look better to have the design run the whole height of the wall and even be cut off at the top to give an illusion of height. If your room has lots of light it is best not to go for a silk but to go for a ground which will not fade such as our dyed paper, metallic or scenic paper grounds. For a bathroom we would always suggesting adding a glaze to the wallpaper in case of splashes. We can help guide you as to what wallpaper would best suit your purpose.Most clients choosing a de Gournay wallpaper will start with that as their focal point then work the other elements around it, sometimes to contrast against the colours in the wallpaper and sometimes to incorporate or tone with the colours in their wallpaper. Providing the colours do not clash, I think it is important not to be afraid of layering rich colours and patterns within a room; Colour and pattern are what brings a room to life. A lot of colours from our papers and fabrics refer back to colours used frequently in classic Georgian interiors-soft greys, dusky pinks, sage greens, blue greys and burgundy’s-and I think Georgian colours are timeless and elegant and work as well today as they did then.
‘Amazonia’ hand painted Chinoiserie wallpaper on Pink xuan paper
Ariane Maclean 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.
San Francisco designer extraordinaire Ken Fulk will dream up the fourth vignette at the upcoming Fall Art & Antiques Show. Ken is a designer of experiences big and small. He is renowned for his exuberant interiors, high-concept brand identities and over-the-top parties. The Virginia-born designer has spent the last 25 years developing a business by elevating the daily lives of his clients, not only designing their homes, jets, restaurants and hotels but also directing their birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and family getaways.
Leading a team of 70 architects, designers, artisans, branding and event specialists in both San Francisco and New York, Fulk has expanded his impact around the globe. In addition to current residential work from Mexico to Miami and Provence to Provincetown, Ken Fulk has made his mark in New York over the past year with three new restaurants including the renowned Legacy Records restaurant, the highly decorative Felix Roasting Co., and Noda, an exquisite omakase jewel box. And now, with the long-awaited launch of Saint Joseph’s Arts Society in San Francisco, Fulk is able to offer his rarefied experiences to the community at large.
How did you first become interested in antiques? Growing up in Virginia I was absolutely enthralled by the many historic homes and the wonderful antiques that often filled them. Are there any specific historic periods that you are drawn to? I have a fondness for early primitive American pieces and folk art. I also have a mild obsession with Biedermeier furniture.
In your interior design work, what is your approach to incorporating art and antiques? Buy what you love. Every project needs tension. A modern painting never looked better than when it’s sitting above an 18th century chest. What was your most favorite/memorable art/antique find? Or alternatively, can you tell us about “the one that got away”? Many years ago, on a buying trip to London, I happened upon a series of antique haberdashery cabinets that had been removed from a famed Savile Row storefront. They were so beautifully crafted that I snapped them up hoping that someday I’d find a home for them. Thankfully, they worked perfectly when it came time to outfit my San Francisco dressing room. Each morning I get the pleasure of “shopping” for that day’s wardrobe. What most excites you about coming to the San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show? It’s such a celebratory occasion. Everyone truly seems excited to be there; dealers and patrons alike.
Our third vignette designer for the 2018 show is Madeline Stuart, a leading member of the Los Angeles design community whose projects reflect a collaborative relationship between architecture and furniture, function and form, client and designer. Over the past 25 years, the work of Madeline Stuart & Associates has been featured in numerous publications including Architectural Digest, Elle Décor, Veranda, Town & Country, House & Garden and House Beautiful. The firm has been distinguished by its inclusion on the AD100, Architectural Digest‘s prestigious list of the top 100 design & architecture firms. Since 2010 Elle Décor has included Madeline on their A-List as one of the top designers in the country as well.
Madeline lives in the Hollywood Hills and Santa Barbara with her husband, writer Steve Oney, and Beatrice & Mr. Peabody, professional Jack Russell terriers. Here are her thoughts on decorating with art and antiques – and why the lamb chops at the opening night gala of the San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show are not to be missed:
How did you first become interested in antiques? I’ve been interested in antiques for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a house filled with beautiful antique furniture and objects and every piece told a story of a period and a place. Contemporary furniture represents a snapshot of the moment—antiques represent history. They possess a patina that can only be achieved through time. My mother would go to London when you could still find exceptional things for a pittance. I remember being fascinated by an antique brass scale with all the little brass weights.
Are there any specific historic periods that you are drawn to? I’d prefer to answer a slightly different question. Namely, please identify what specific historic periods you’re NOT drawn to! That would have to be the Victorian period, specifically in this country. I have a love—or at least an appreciation—for so many different periods and so many different countries. I wouldn’t know how to narrow it down.
In your interior design work, what is your approach to incorporating art and antiques? It’s the difference between couture and prêt-à-porter. I’d much rather find something unique than something that’s been mass produced. How thrilling it is to locate the perfect antique chandelier or an exceptional piece of artwork! I love the idea that you can suss out a piece that’s capable of transforming an interior from one that’s merely good to one that’s truly extraordinary. Antiques are one-of-a-kind and their uniqueness is what brings life and soul to a room.
What was your most favorite/memorable art/antique find? Or alternatively, can you tell us about “the one that got away”? I have a friend who was in a junk shop and discovered a painting by Charles Sheeler, an artist whose paintings I adore. Sadly I don’t have such a dramatic tale to tell… I recently found a stunning little Jean Dunand vase for a terrific price. I felt like I’d stumbled upon a rare gem in a field of rocks—there’s nothing like the thrill of the hunt. At last year’s antique show I was so determined not to “let one get away” that I bought a Portuguese cabinet just because I didn’t want anyone else to have it! It’s sitting in storage because it doesn’t fit in either my LA or Santa Barbara house, but I fell so deeply in love with it, I bought it anyway!
What most excites you about coming to the San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show? The lamb chops! (seriously—my record is 13!) And the people watching! I have such respect for the dealers and am fascinated by their unbridled passion for whatever it is they believe in, whether that be Asian antiquities or American folk art. I’m awestruck by the incredible range of beautiful things. And I love the enthusiasm of the people who attend—these are folks who truly enjoy a good party. And of course I’m compelled to torture myself by looking at all the exquisite jewelry that I can’t possibly afford to buy. I’m also excited to wear what I bought just for the show—so fabulous!
How do you walk the show? What are you looking for? Any tips for shopping the show? I realize that everyone has a different technique when attending an antique show and I’m not sure my method has any merit. I have to go “round and round” – there’s no way I can see everything on the first pass. I find myself discovering objects toward the end of an evening, even though I may have spent time in a particular booth early on… Let’s face it, there’s a lot to see and a lot of lamb chops to eat in a very short period of time!
(Room photos, from top, by Victoria Pearson, Simon Upton, Dominique Vorillion, Trevor Tondro, Simon Upton)
Paul Vincent Wiseman, one of the four vignette designers of the 2018 San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show, was born in the rich delta country of California’s Sacramento Valley. His formative years in an agricultural community have made him both sensible and grounded, but he has always marched to the beat of his own drum. After studying at the University of California- Berkeley, his zest for travel took him all over Europe and the Far East. By his mid-twenties, he had lived for extended periods in both France and Australia. It was during these youthful travels that he realized his passion for design. His eponymous interior design studio, The Wiseman Group, was founded in 1980. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, arguably one of the most dynamic and creative regions in the country, The Wiseman Group benefits from the cross-pollination of ideas and aesthetics in this high-energy locale. Influenced by both the city’s rich history and traditions and its proximity to Silicon Valley, the cutting edge of modern technology, the firm buzzes with vibrancy.
Direct, thoughtful exposure to the disparate cultures of the world has allowed Paul to be truthful to what is authentic. He has been influenced by the classic European motifs of Italy, France, England, and Spain, but is equally inspired by Asia and Africa. His is a global perspective on design—eclectic in the best sense of the word. Paul has a deep appreciation for history, culture, art, and architecture. This love, paired with exposure to fine decorative arts through travel, has inspired his patronage of superb craftspeople. Artisan studios from Paris to the Far East provide the custom design elements that have become a signature of TWG projects.
In anticipation of his vignette at the entrance of the 2018 San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show, we asked Paul about his approach to collecting and decorating with art and antiques:
How did you first become interested in antiques? I am a history buff and I was fascinated how history is often manifested through objects. For example, the neoclassicism of the late 18th century was directly connected with the discovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum. There are many other examples such as the Napoleonic campaign furniture. Once I became an interior designer, I loved using antiques to give people a more in-depth reflection of time and space.
Are there any specific historic periods that you are drawn to? There are many. For me personally, Japanese and Chinese Asian antiquities from the Han and Ming periods and the 20th Century Japanese Art Deco period are particular favorites. I have a 500-year-old Ming table in my living room and on it a Three-legged Han Vessel from a tomb and behind that is a 1920’s Japanese Screen of gold and silver leaf. Each one of these pieces drew my eyes as they were not heavily ornamented.
In your interior design work, what is your approach to incorporating art and antiques? I love the tension of combining contemporary art with antiques. I think that it reminds us that we are just not of one time or place. Our homes are a great reflection of this dynamic.
What was your most favorite/memorable art/antique find? Or alternatively, can you tell us about “the one that got away”? I think my favorite find was a console table that I spotted at a Sotheby’s auction in London. My clients got it for a very good price. We found later that it had royal inventory markings that Sotheby’s had missed.
What most excites you about coming to the San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show? Of course the Opening Night Gala is the best party in town, but that is a known fact! I like the way the show is evolving which includes more diverse periods including contemporary art.
How do you walk the show? What are you looking for? Any tips for shopping the show? I always pre-tour the show with my staff to scout out objects that will fit our various clients’ needs. During this tour, everyone gathers images and vendor information. We then follow-up the next morning with a breakfast meeting at our office to review and share all our wonderful finds. We engage clients before the show to gain their approval on prized pieces so we can purchase on their behalf as soon as the show opens. What we look for varies each year and depends on the phases of our projects. Educating one’s eye is key to a successful show. Due to my experience I can recognize an unusual, unique find in order to educate my designers and clients.