Monday, July 21, 2008

House Voyeur: Art and Elegance in San Francisco

A couple of weeks ago, Nick and I drove over to San Francisco's Noe Valley to retrieve a slatted wooden bench that we'd found on craigslist. To say that we were blown away by the home of the couple we bought it from is an understatement. I was literally struck dumb by the wide-open, high-ceiling space, and by the wealth of pedigreed furniture and amazing original art all around.

The next day, I snapped out of my stupor and wrote the owners, Donald and Philip, begging them to let me feature their place on the blog. I'm so happy they were game!

Here, Donald leads us on a virtual tour through their art-filled home:

“My partner Philip and I purchased our place around two years ago, after searching for the ‘perfect’ space for almost two years. It's a 1906 Edwardian with two flats; ours is the lower unit. The flat was completely remodeled before we bought it, with the total size doubled to about 2,000 square feet. Our favorite things about it are the open floor plan and the mix of the Edwardian façade and the thoroughly modern interior.

We’ve tried our best to make our home a reflection of our personal style, which I’d say is classic contemporary with modernist influences. We love to mix newer furnishings, including classic styles from Williams-Sonoma Home (where I’ve worked for four years), with key vintage finds to create an eclectic perspective. We’ve also tried to maintain a neutral color palette for our base furnishings, since the art brings in the color and adds energy and excitement. Painting by Marcus Linnenbrink; circa-1950s architect's desk and Carl Jacobs chair for Kandya.

Painting by David Huffman; sculptures by David Ireland and Ann Hamilton; steel-and-glass credenza from Limn.

Our vintage furnishings include a pair of wonderful 1950s stools by Charlotte Perriand, one of which is shown above. They came from the Marie Blanche chalet in the French Alps. The wood-fired ceramics are from Trax Gallery; the Gilda floor lamp is from Design Within Reach; the chair is Lignet Roset; and the ikat pillow is from Madeline Weinrib.

This painting is by Anne Rothenstein (wife of film director Stephen Frears); the bronze sculpture is by Peter King.

Our aesthetic is inspired by a mix of influences: Our love of art came from our days working at Gap, Inc., where the founder, Don Fisher, assembled a world-class contemporary art collection -- much of which was displayed at the Gap headquarters, so it was readily accessible to us every day. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with some incredibly creative people, all of whom I’ve learned a great deal from, creating a strong point of view and an instinct for putting things together. The large pink painting to the right of the fireplace is by Isca Greenfield-Sanders.

Finally, I love to pour over home magazines and books. They’re a great reference point -- when you see something you like, tear it out and place it in a file. When you look back through the tearsheets, your own aesthetic begins to emerge.

Vintage tufted slipper chairs from Downtown, Los Angeles; Nassau bamboo coffee table and faux-zebra hide rug from Williams-Sonoma Home; low white leather table by Henry Beguelin.

On the coffee table: An antique African carved miniature stool, plus part of our collection of carvings by Alma Allen. (I can't stop bringing them home! I think we're up to 12 or 13 and I have another on the way. Brilliant work.) We found the African terra cotta ceremonial necklace at Martin in St. Helena. The magnifying lens on the stand is from Blackman Cruz in Los Angeles, and the shagreen box was from Williams-Sonoma Home.

When it comes to our home, Philip and I splurge on two things: great art and quality vintage furniture. Our art collection includes everything from students’ work to established artists from the Bay Area and the international arena. For example, we recently purchased the two lovely works above, which are by Christina Empedocles, a recent MFA graduate from the California College of Art in Oakland. That same week, we also bought a beautiful portrait by Chantal Joffe, a London artist whose work is in many of the world’s best collections. It’s about buying what you love and can live with every day.

Built-in shelves hold art and other treasures by Anne Rothenstein, Hermes, Joe Brubaker, Otto and Vivika Heino, Hugo Guinness, Deborah Barrett, Kathryn Spence, Roy McMakin for Heath Ceramics, Donald Baechler, Edward del Rosario, Scott Parody, and Jordan Taylor, among others.

We've purchased some wonderful vintage items from eBay, including a 1950s iron and string chair by Allan Gould. We’ve seen similar examples of the same chair at vintage stores in Palm Springs and Los Angeles for three to four times the price! There are still bargains to be found on eBay if you keep a watchful eye and know what you’re looking for. The wonderfully organic side table is by George Nakashima; it's something that I'd always coveted and finally found in L.A. More carved sculptures by Alma Allen. The wood-fired ceramic sculpture is by Akio Takamori.

The Wilshire sofa in our sitting room is from Williams-Sonoma Home, and the Tolomeo Mega lamp is from DWR. The wall behind them is cement, which took on the grain and knots of the wood that was used in the form when it was poured.

We found the antique Santo at Tail of the Yak in Berkeley; another Alma Allen wood carving; the small sculptural side table is from Jonathan Adler.

Photogram by Adam Fuss; Aorta vases (no longer in production) by Jonathan Adler; antique Santo from Colonial Arts; the credenza is vintage George Jensen.

More artful objects (clockwise from top left): Vintage bronze side table by Baker; wire sculpture by Blanka Sperkova; "Borrowing Owls" and "Mud Animal" sculptures by Kathryn Spence.

Since the flat was already remodeled when we moved in, there was no need for any additional work aside from changing out a few light fixtures. DIY is great for HGTV, but not for us. Being in retail for my entire career, I love ‘merchandising’ our space, but the minute a hammer or any equipment is involved, it’s time to bring in the professionals! The dining table is a Mies Van Der Rohe design from The Magazine in Berkeley; dining chairs from Flexform.

Jenn-Air refrigerator and Viking range/oven; pendant lighting by Philippe Starck for Flos; wood-fired pottery by Ben Waterman, Chuck Hindes, and Scott Parody; silver gelatin photograph by Brett Weston.

Pendant light by Philippe Starck for Flos; Walter Robinson sculpture; Eero Saarinen marble-topped dining table; the chairs were from Pottery Barn (similar ones can be found here).

We believe your home should reflect your life and your travels. It should have a point of view, but one that's developed over time. Keep your furnishings neutral in color, classic in design, and of the best quality you can afford -- that’s your 'base.' Then layer in great accessories and decorative accents, bringing in a bit of color. And, of course, buy art that you love! Clockwise from top left: Artwork by Deborah Barrett, Nigel Poor, Lucy Puls, Adam Fuss, Mirko Baricchi, and Adam Fuss again.

These are some of our favorite sources:

Williams-Sonoma Home (of course!): Classic styles that will last a lifetime -- and custom upholstery in 45 days.

1stDibs: A wonderful place to find quality vintage furniture and décor. Even if you can’t afford it, it’s a great resource for learning about designers, styles, and periods.

Tradesmen: A little gem of a storefront. The shop is rarely open, but you can see everything from the front windows. The owner, Marc, has an incredible eye for great vintage finds and if you see something you like his phone number is on a little card in the window -- give him a call!

Patricia Sweetow Gallery: Patricia has a genuine interest in the work and development of the artists she represents, and she creates an open and inviting atmosphere for her clients -- what more could you ask for?

Gallery Paule Anglim: A great stable of Bay area and International artists. Ed, the director, has a wealth of knowledge and experience and is a joy to work with.

Gregory Lind Gallery: Gregory offers well-priced emerging artists and is one of the nicest people in the business.

Fraenkel Gallery: The BEST in photography.

Stephen Wirtz Gallery: Great gallery with a heavy emphasis on Bay Area artists.

Painting by Yi Chen; sculpture by Joe Brubaker; watercolor portraits by Billy Sullivan and Stella Vine.

Iron-and-wood chair and nesting stools by Luther Conover.

Portraits (including one of Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, top left) by Stella Vine; painting by Aya Takano; sculpture by Yoshitomo Nara.

Mies van der Rohe Barcelona stools; zebra crewel rug and throw pillows from Williams-Sonoma Home; artwork by Barry McGee; quilt and shams from Crate & Barrel.

Pottery by Otto and Vivika Heino; painting by the late Margaret Kilgallen; Chelsea wing chair, silk Greek key pillow (no longer available), and cashmere throw from Williams-Sonoma Home; another Gilda floor lamp.

This lamp is a vintage Barovier & Toso found on eBay; bedding by Matteo.

Sculpture by Joe Brubaker; vintage Danish armchair from Tradesmen; stainless steel medical cabinet from The Industrialists; artwork by Asuka Ohsawa; task lamp by Philippe Starck for Flos.

Believe it or not, we’re now leaving our 'perfect home' behind. After four years as a VP at Williams-Sonoma Home, I’ve accepted a new job at Burberry, the British luxury house -- which means we’ll soon be starting a new adventure in London!”

Donald and Philip, thank you so much for sharing your amazing home with us! Bon voyage as you begin your new lives in London. (And consider this official notice: I'm expecting a full update after you're settled into your Sloane Square cottage!)

P.S. Want to see more? Click here for a peek inside other readers' homes.

20 comments:

Suzanne said...

Their house is absolutely amazing. If I stepped foot in their house, I don't think I would have been able to leave.

corine said...

wow girlfriend. All this before 7 in the morning!!?

I love their art work. How cool. My first place in the US was in Noe Valley. Nostalgia.

janis said...

Great interview! I love this place and the artwork is amazing. Thank you for sharing your experience.

Ann said...

And who wouldn't be blown-away by such artworks and furniture?!

I love the coffee table and all the chairs...they are treasures.

The couple have obviously great taste and you have the skillful eye to see beauty when it is upon you.

Tracey said...

Wow- I absolutely love how simple and clean it is! The huge coffee table with items corraled in trays is a favorite of mine. Great find!

Kate of All Trades said...

Love it! Thanks to the boys for sharing and to you, Leah, for getting them to. I agree, can't wait to see how they do this London-style!

HHughes said...

Absolutely amazing! To think you found them through a craigslist post?! Thank so very much sharing your beautiful collection.

narangkar said...

that is a serious art collection

Carrie said...

I am DROOLING over the whole place. I'm especially enchanted with the little eating nook with the round table. It just looks so beautiful and serene and cozy. And of course the artwork blows me away. I have been wanting to develop a sensibility about art (and a collection to match) but am afraid to get started. It is so encouraging to see a houseful of interesting, eclectic pieces and realize that there is no right way to go about these things. Thanks for sharing!

Things That Inspire said...

What a great post. I love their home; the assymetry of the art arrangements really appeals. The Anne Rothenstein above the fireplace...the placement is genius.

Sloane Square is in my absolute favorite area of London. I just did a post about my recent trip to London, and many of the pictures I took were in the Kensington and Chelsea area. I wonder if they would send you some pictures for a post on their London home?

Leah said...

TTI -- I have my fingers crossed!

;-)

Leah

Tiffany S. said...

Swoon.

Erianna said...

Donald has been one of my close personal friends for over twenty years. I have watched his curiosity, obsession and great love for art and design develop. Every time I am in that house, I have a hard time leaving...there is so much to explore and learn about..Can't wait to see the new "sloane square" project develop. Thank you for featuring them!

Jane said...

What a stunningly stylish home. It must have taken them years to build such an eclectic collection. I have serious house envy.

Milie said...

I hope they put Empedocles' painting of "the queen" in a prominent spot in case she drops in.....(the queen, that is)

Visual Vamp said...

It's my birthday today and I am wasting time, uh, treating myself by reading my favorite blogs. What a great post, and what great photos. When uber real spaces look this good, it kind of makes one want to give it all up and live in a simple and tasteful cardboard refrigerator box. I'm stealing one photo so I can send some folks your way to check this out.

Anonymous said...

It's just...too.

Too inhuman. Too art-directed. Something.

Beth Goolsby said...

their art collection is truly inspiring. i will soon be taking on redecorating my house (unfortunately with roommates) and this serves for inspiration. Thanks!

http://www.shoot-scoop.com said...

This is great, I am drooling over their art collection.

Anonymous said...

I am late to the party, but what an amazing house! I had a similar experience here in NYC, when I went to look at something off Craigslist, and the house was this beautifully furnished, deconsecrated church in Chelsea. We were just in awe.

 

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