It’s May, which means winter in San Francisco. But even grey skies can inspire us to get cozy inside, and in so doing increase the amount of beauty with which we surround ourselves. Yesterday was more on the chilly side of overcast, so Goldie and I took off for the Presidio to check out the annual San Francisco Decorator Showcase!
First, a little bit about this year’s showhouse. It’s a Julia Morgan. It’s a large, multi-level estate. Its style is Elizabethan, and yes, the molding has been maintained since 1917. It’s a sage-olive green on the outside – and it was built for Abraham Rosenberg, the “Dried Fruit King.”
That last data point serves as a perfect foundation for the literal opener you encounter when approaching the entryway. This jauntily angled trellis of a thing is “FACET,” a creation by landscape architect Katharine (“Kate”) Webster – who also happened to be our guide for the day! When Kate was first approached to whip up something spectacular in five weeks’ time, top priority was not just to source drought-tolerant shrubbery, but to also tackle the house’s expansive – empty – wall. (Perhaps an afterthought: The original structure was 2.5 levels, eventually expanded to three.) Taking a cue from history, Kate employed the team at Repurposed Grain from Idaho to turn the idea of dried fruit shipping crates into a static structure that seemingly flows off the street.
The result is something technically modern but just as easily established-cool. Kate’s angles play off of the existing herringbone brick. The lightly washed wood is easier on the eyes than a straight-up opaque paint job, and clearly displays Kate’s affinity for more bringing out dimension through tonality.
Along the side of the house is another Katharine Webster find: This Clement Meadmore sculpture busting out of low manicured shrubs to remind you you’re in the tech-minded Bay. While constructed from a very non-fruit crate material, it’s playful where its ivy backdrop isn’t. Even from above (as viewed from the salon du thé), the sculpture is like a superbold asterisk twisting around, telling you to just relax. You may be in the Presidio, but you can be irreverent in the Presidio, too. Funky art amongst the topiaries, it works! Like Kate said,
I want to creative a conversation for art to live in the landscape.
– and she’s no stranger to injecting art into the land. Kate also designed the rebar-grapevine orbs flanking the wine cave hobbit doors at Dutch Henry! You might be wondering what a Harvard-educated landscape architect makes of trying to meld art into planted environments during legit California drought paranoia. Kate is smart about it. She’s got a 7′ tall “drought deputy” on staff, endeavors to use only water-wise plant combinations, and doesn’t skimp when it comes to employing efficient irrigation systems. You can still have your grass, California. Just make it no-mow. (Not talking about the other type of grass here, obviously.)
…But back to the house. Walking through this house was an experience! Each space of the house (Katharine Webster’s landscaping, each room, the art featured on the stairwell) is composed and curated by a different designer. There’s more to love around every corner, but here are some of my favorite elements:
First off, I totally love and want this thing (you do, too):
This is a mosasaur dinosaur chandelier designed by Jocelyn Marsh. Absolutely incredible. Rose gold in a marsala-painted pent room makes moody, shaken-not-stirred sense. (Someone had to incorporate Pantone’s Color of the Year, and that someone was Jeff Schlarb of Green Couch.)
Murals in a dining room? Anything too formal would be uncivilized.
Ian Ross did these paintings (and paint can sculptures!) for Cecilie Starin Design’s “Street Soirée.” SF natives might recognize Ross’ work in other parts of the city. He’s been known to paint the home exteriors of an early Facebook employee or two.
Even the way the striped ceiling reflects in a spoon is cool.
This Carolynn Haydu piece was a perfect visual break for the eyes in the salon de thé:
Finally, what over-the-top “salon” would be complete without:
A Yayoi Kusama stool!
I can’t help but wonder what Kate would have done if given a room to design. The only landscape designer to ever collaborate with Neiman Marcus on an outdoor furniture collection, I don’t see why one shouldn’t be allowed to take her bright ikat prints inside.
Other Things of Note:
- Heather Hilliard’s ladies’ dressing room included the Alice + Olivia dress that inspired my rehearsal dress purchase…and a dress worn by some Molly Ringwald person.
- I don’t like allover prints of lips, butterflies, or Vogue magazine covers.
- I don’t like allover prints of lips, butterflies, or Vogue magazine covers as wallpaper.
- Despite the house being designed over by 27 separate individuals, it’s interesting to see that some designers independently chose to use the same highlight accents: mossy green downstairs, bold green upstairs.
- Modge-podging fake love notes on the stairwell shouldn’t be a thing.
- Gregg De Meza’s David Hockney-inspired bathroom tiling makes me feel less bad about flooding my aunt’s shower when I was seventeen.
The Decorator Showcase continues through this weekend, wrapping up at the end of Monday (Memorial Day!). At $35 a pop for the general public, tickets aren’t cheap, but proceeds benefit the University High School financial aid program. If you want to see what a full blast of luxury would be against a multitude of rooms, check it out at 3630 Jackson Street. (If you miss FACET this weekend, visit its second life at Pier 70 later!)
For photos (of just some!) of the showhouse’s complete ensembles, check out SF Curbed.