San Francisco Decorator Showcase 2016

I just attended, as I do every year, the San Francisco Decorator Showcase (previously here and here). For the last many years, the Showcase was located in a grand home either on Nob Hill or in Pacific Heights, but this year, it jumped a neighborhood or two, to Telegraph Hill. Called Villa de Martini, this lovely Mediterranean-style home was built between 1930 and 1932 for a Louis Demartini. It is curious that such a grand home was being constructed at the time of The Great Depression...and it is smaller than some of the other SF Showcase homes, but it still packs a wallop, especially with the views of The Bay from the upper floors.

The tour starts, as it usually does, outside on the grounds. The stairway up to the house was embellished by Davis Dalbok of Living Green Design. He titled the fantasia "The Sea Is Rising"...because it certainly is. He combined mythological sea creatures with gigantic shells and magical silver gazing balls cascading down the hill to create a pretty but sober reminder of what is happening to the planet...

Veteran Showcase designer Antonio Martins was in charge of the first Living Room one sees upon entering the house. I love sleek modern designs paired with a traditional background (the new makes the old stand out even more and the old makes the new stand out even more...just look at the iconic I.M. Pei glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris). And Martins did that in this room that features original archways and Palladian putting in ultra modern sofas, console tables, lighting, and artwork...along with two Empire stools by the windows facing The Bay, all against a white lacquered wall backdrop (see my #1 Design Mantra, to the right: "Contrast brings interest!"). He told me that the floor, which looks like waxed concrete is actually sheets of hot-rolled steel! He also specified some very special, fascinating wall sconces, seen in the sixth  image down: they consist of a series of glossy blocks which twist to reflect the light shining up from only the bottom block.

The dining room-lounge and kitchen area designed by Martin Kobus continued the neutrals from the previous living room, but he added some softness with organic materials. The amazing light over the dining table in cast glass and bronze was created by master craftsman John Liston, as were the very beautiful cast glass bar stools in the kitchen.

The kitchen cabinetry which looks like cerused oak is actually a resin product as is the walnut slab and the marble island. Easier to care for, especially in an area that sees a lot of action and chemicals--both food and cleaning--that can wreak havoc on natural wood and stone!

Kobus and his team left two windows over the sink but chose to frame them in a very minimalist way with a sheet of bronze glass.

The ceiling plane is one of the forgotten areas of most rooms and homes, but of course us designers have them in mind when we are designing (see a gold metallic ceiling I installed in a dining room here). This absolutely stunning powder room, already very engaging and special because of the integrated marble sink, steel backsplash, concave mirror light fixtures, mirrored wall, and exquisitely moody color scheme was made all the more special with a surprising mural of a blue eye on the ceiling. Beth Martin, who designed the room, says the design was inspired by a long slim window at the back right which made her think about light and how we all view space...hence the eye.

The first floor study turned out to be an extremely subtle but rewarding experience. Upon first entering, it might be easy to look around, perceive it as pleasant enough, and move on. But closer inspection reveals a wealth of tone, pattern, and texture which, if one is looking, ultimately seduces. Stephan Jones did a wonderful job of layering many elements without the room feeling burdened or busy. I got a lovely ethnic vibe as well from the Asian-esque pattern on the corner sofa, the rug, and the Japanese boro pillows and calligraphy-like art work series on the wall.

The only room in the Showcase house this year to truly embrace color--well, to shout it out loud really--is this fantastically fun bedroom by Annie Lowengart who dubbed it "Smoll's Room Redux" after her sister's childhood bedroom...which must have been some bedroom judging by this! As one climbs the stairs to the second level, the geometric, faceted ceiling is seen before the room itself--a delightful prologue of things to come. A palette of bright, saturated oranges and pinks is whimsically punctuated with some leopard and donuts. The walls are an orange-stained wood pattern!

Stevie Nicks inspired Ian Stallings to create a special little corner room off the upstairs hall. Too small to be a bedroom or lounge, Stallings decided to make "The White Witch" room a study with a small desk for writing and reflecting while looking out across the rooftops to views of the San Francisco Bay. In keeping with designers' awareness of the ceiling plane, Stallings specified a marvelous, colorful wallpaper from Scottish company Timorous Beasties.

The Loft Bar, also located in the upstairs hall, and also coincidentally utilizing a Timorous Beasties wallcovering on the wall and not ceiling, was created by Linda Sullivan. Now, I suppose if I were a designer faced with an odd, little, one-off niche in a hallway that used to be a storage closet, I might be at a bit of a loss as to what to put there. It seems that a bar doesn't fit on the second floor private bedroom area of this house, but...maybe I am making too much of it. I am aware that designers participate in show houses not because clients are involved, but precisely because clients are not involved, thus letting a designer's creativity run wild. So I can forgive Sullivan...and besides, she did a lovely job with the color palette and materials. I really like the mix of cool colors in the cabinetry and wallpaper with the warm metals of the door and drawer hardware and the industrial dome light fixtures.

Tineke Triggs of Artistic Designs For Living was inspired by the romance between rock legend David Bowie and his super model wife Iman...on all of our minds since Bowie's shocking and untimely death earlier this year. Triggs says, "A sophisticated palette of black, gold and cream reflect Iman's timeless glamour while modern furnishings and angular forms speak to David's more edgy persona." The beautiful dark lacquered ceiling reflects light and brings a calm hush to the space.

Unique clusters of hanging lights function as night table lights while a small wire sculpture of a quote in French by author Alistair Stuart MacLean ("Un baiser est une gourmandise qui ne fait pas grossir": A kiss is a gourmet treat that won't make you fat) is mounted over the bed. And a tiny black and white photo of Bowie and Iman sits on a night table.

The northern view from this bedroom is jaw-dropping with a panorama that includes the Marin Headlands, Sausalito, Angel Island, and Alcatraz!

Highlights from the lower levels of the house:

A fantastic bathroom featuring Deco Monkeys, an amazing hand painted de Gournay wallcovering, by Shelley and Company...

...a sweet, light children's room with a double head-to-head bed (excellent use of space!) called Two Bedheads Are Better Than One by Nest Design Co. featuring a climbing wall and soft felt "boulders" below to catch falls...

...and another curious spot that used to be a storage closet like the Loft Bar that has been transformed into a vague, multi-use area by Lois Vinsel...but I really like the Scandinavian feeling of this space with white washed wood, simple and clean country-like accessories, and a phenomenal Venetian plaster ceiling INLAID WITH SHELL BUTTERFLIES!!! Also notice the sweet little paper butterfly settled on the ceiling light fixture over the counter.

The Showcase House this year is at 298 Chestnut St. and will be open through May 30, 2016. It's a great opportunity to see the work of some talented designers (there are a lot of us here in Northern California) and to see a special, historic San Francisco home.

Happy designing!