This article was submitted by guest author Beryn Hammil, owner of Beryn Hammil Designs, a San Francisco Bay Area interior design and decorating firm. She is known for “creating spaces that people love coming home to every day.” As a designer, Beryn listens carefully to her clients’ needs, and then expands on them to create the homes that people enjoy living in for years after the work is complete.
If you love beautiful homes, (and is there anyone reading this who doesn’t?) then you will love this year’s San Francisco Decorator Showcase house. Perfectly situated for breathtaking views of San Francisco Bay, what this year’s designers have done with this elegant, Italian villa style mansion gives the word “transformation” a new meaning.
Designed in 1927 by architects Gottshalk and Rist for William R. Clark, a successful paving contractor, the 6,224 square foot house sits on an 8,000 square foot lot. But because it’s situated on a hill so steep that it was deemed impassable for the horse drawn fire trucks of the era, construction of the house includes steel framing, better enabling it to withstand earthquakes and fires than its neighbors. This quality of construction has stood the test of time, and no major work had been done on it in more than 80 years.
The house has changed hands several times in the intervening years until Joseph Tarantino purchased it in 1975 for his family. It is still owned by his grown children today, and that brings us to the Decorators Showcase.
The overall impression one gets when touring this year’s showcase house is of attention to detail, old and new harmoniously combined, and that nothing is spared to give the visitor a wonderful experience of luxurious living. Remember to look up as you tour the house as most of the rooms have interesting details on the ceiling as well.
Entering the foyer one immediately gets the sense of how beautiful this house truly is in its bones; the original floor and ceiling details, the iron grill of the front door, and the shape of the stately staircase are all evidence of a well-designed house. Fortunately, the designers working on this space, Leigh Edwards and Willem Racké of Willem Racké Studio respected the original enough to only enhance the details rather than rework them. A modern sculpture, a nod to the future, is nestled in the curve of the beautiful banister.
To the right of the foyer is the living room. Arched windows frame the kazillion dollar view of San Francisco Bay, which designer Kathleen Navarra maximized by bravely placing a free form sculpture that resembles a winged angel on the narrow balcony just outside one window.
The original fireplace anchors one side of the living room while a table and chairs are the featured area of the other side. Seemingly unrelated textures, patterns, and colors are deftly layered, one upon the other, to give the room a pulled together feeling without it being stuffy or over-done. Even the ceiling is cleverly addressed.
On the other side of the foyer is the formal Dining Room which one enters through a pair of heavy, arched, wood doors. The floor immediately grabs your attention with its dynamic, bold pattern, but it’s balanced by the soft hue of the fabric on the walls, the drapery panels, and the faux finished ceiling. The wood dining table, highly polished to a reflective glow, and the many chairs around it, fill the room. Each element on its own makes a statement, but the clever combination of modern and traditional furniture with hits of color are so well-put together by designer Grant K. Gibson, that it magically works.
Leaving the dining room, the next area to admire is the Kitchen. Designer Tish Key kept one of the original features of the room, the brick arched niche over the cooking area, as the focal point for this part of the space. A bead board ceiling over the breakfast area keeps a sense of period and adds texture. New appliances, white marble, cobalt blue lava stone countertops, and lit niches add modern touches, so the overall effect is that new meets old, and it’s all very efficient, and effective.
Beyond the kitchen, tucked in a tiny, little space is a quiet reading room. Shelves filled with cookbooks and a small writing table suggests that this is a perfect place to plan elaborate dinner parties. The designer, Brian Dittmar, appropriately calls this “The Cookbook Nook,” but a comfortable reading chair suggests that it could also be a private hideaway from the hustle and bustle of the day.
Conveniently located next to this nook is a powder room, beautifully transformed by JoAnn Hartley. Its tranquil non-colors on the walls and floors are a big change from the original materials she found at the start of the project. A dramatic floral arrangement uses a predictable bathroom fixture as a surface and distracts the eye, letting the visit forget that this is actually a bathroom.
En route up the stairs and on this landing, every wall is used to display art, and a number of artists’ works are shown here. They include Richard Misrach and Lee Friedlander represented by Fraenkel Gallery, and photographer Robin Reynolds, who uses the effect of the afternoon light that shines through a dappled glass window to enhance her beautiful images.
The master bedroom is on one end of this storey of the house and spans almost from front to back, so that in addition to the obvious place for a sleeping area, it has its own place for two people to sit and have a lengthy conversation on a pair of chaises that face each other.
Neutral colors form the visual backbone, but one would be hard pressed to think of this space as boring; accessories add pops of color, and draw the eye to specific areas. A black area rug with white stripes ties both sides of the room together to give it a cohesive feeling. Painted portraits and antique furniture add to the feeling that this is a personal space.
There’s a small closet at one side of the bedroom, and in it stand three mannequins adorned with pale grey silk evening gowns. These are obviously of couture quality, and indeed they are; designed by James Tarantino, he is one of the children who grew up in this home. He moved to New York City to make his way (and succeed) in the fashion world, so it’s a lovely touch to have something in the house from one of its original residents.
Adjacent to the master bedroom is a narrow little closet, now very creatively tricked out by designer Tinsley Hutson-Wiley as a shoe closet. A lipstick red chair seems like the perfect place on which to sit while slipping on a pair of stiletto heels.
Next to the shoe closet is the “Shangri-La” Master Bath, designed and remodeled by Val Fiscalini. Light and airy, this bathroom isn’t a bathroom so much as it’s a place to rejuvenate oneself; the bathtub looks more like a chaise than a tub, the cabinet that holds the double sink seems to be more furniture than plumbing fixture, and the entry to the shower and WC are now symmetrical thanks to moving a doorway to create balance in the room. A club chair with a side table, and a mini-bar suggests just how relaxed one can become in this very tranquil bathroom.
No home of this stature would be complete without a Library, and this one is no exception. A small anteroom flanked with cabinets on which hang a pair of antique mirrors is a prelude of what’s to come.
Designed by Heather Hilliard, this space looks like it’s been here forever, which is exactly the feeling one wants from a library. Instead of wall-to-wall bookcases, this paneled library has three separate seating areas; against the first wall is a couch on which one could spend hours reading a good book; overlooking one of the most desired views in the world are a pair of chairs and table that would be an ideal place for an afternoon cup of tea with a friend; and another pair of chairs and ottoman flank the fireplace.
As though it was always there, an antique writing desk fits into a small corner space under a pair of windows. Right now the one wall of bookshelves has interesting objects to admire interspersed with a few antique books, but one day it could easy be filled with lots of well-read books. This is a room that’s difficult to leave, which is probably the designer’s intention.
Next to the library is a small bedroom that, in honor of the Royal Wedding, which is the talk of just about every town around the world, designer Josephine Fisher decided should be a romantic interpretation of what a room where a bride prepares for her big day should look like. White silk drapes evoke the wedding gown of Princess Diana. Framed by these drapes is a dressmaker’s form adorned by a beautiful lace gown. On a sunny yellow tufted ottoman sits a white porcelain tray, teapot, and one white cup and saucer, perhaps to calm the jittery bride’s nerves before the big event. A day bed and dressing table are every little girl’s fantasy of pretty and sweet.
Architect Barbara Chambers of Chambers + Chambers Architects collaborated with designer Nancy Hammonds to transform the bathroom adjacent to this Bedroom. Despite its small size, the marble counter, mosaic tile, and textured wall covering all combine to perfectly evoke luxury.
The next storey contains several guest bedrooms, bathrooms, as well as a “Rumpus Room.” Jonathan Staub, Lowell Tom, and Marion Philpotts, all of Philpotts Interiors worked together to design this space for creative living. It’s a “do what you want, anything goes” kind of place. Light maple floors stand in sharp contrast to the indigo blue walls while tribal artifacts and photographs of tribes-people add color and texture. A large block of wood upon which is placed an upholstered bench style seat is at one end of the room, and a seating area with four comfortable chairs and a low table takes advantage of the view at the other. The Rumpus Room’s potential runs the spectrum from a contemplative place to a party room, your choice, but these talented designers have seen to it that you’ll have fun no matter what you’re doing here.
The next area to view is a pair of bedrooms titled “Two Sides to Every Story” by designers Jeff Schlarb and Lisa Bakamis. Imagine being presented with two color palettes to choose from for the same bedroom; one is colorful, the other neutral. But you can’t make up your mind. Okay, let’s do both. Voilá; two rooms, identical furniture, fabrics, and accessories, but different palettes. It’s like being in a creative alternative universe. One room has orange and brown striped wallpaper, brightly patterned upholstery on the pair of chairs, and a colorful patterned Oriental rug. It’s exciting and energized.
Next door to it is a room with identical furniture, but the feeling of the room is quite different; restful and quiet. If you look carefully, you’ll see that the pattern on the upholstery is identical to the other room, and the accessories are the same, but the palette is completely different. Red wine versus champagne; same principle, different response.
The bathroom for this part of the house was created by Stephen Rice and Lynn DeTienne of Rice and DeTienne Designs. It’s a veritable day at the beach with its stripes of beach blanket colors. Using mosaic tiles, high gloss paints and well designed storage spaces, this small bathroom is the epitome of efficiency.
Moving through the hallway to another Guest Bedroom, one pauses to admire the art by Jennings Tofel that’s presented by Lost Art Salon. It makes for a quiet moment to catch one’s breath.
Beyond the hallway is the Penthouse Bedroom by designer Cathleen Gouveia. The view of the bay from this room is the most spectacular of all, and on a foggy day the line between outside and in would be seamless with the room’s neutral taupe plaster finished walls. A sense of the wharfs of San Francisco permeates the space and is reinforced by a platform bed that hangs from rope that’s strong enough to tie an ocean liner to a dock.
The En Suite bathroom for this bedroom is a continuation of the neutral palette, but with the added dimension of a very subtle pattern added to the walls. Designer Mark Newman recruited the talents of faux artist Willem Racké to create the illusion. Mimicking the pattern in the stone shower surround, Racké’s formula for how he accomplished the effect on the walls is his secret, and truly memorable. An intriguing use of wood on front of the sink cabinet is an excellent contrast to all the neutrals.
Every little nook and cranny is used in Designer Showcase houses so everyone interesting in doing so has an opportunity to show off their talents and skills. This year’s house is no exception; Elan Evans and Charlotte Meyn of Sonoma Decorative Arts turned a walk-in closet into a gift-wrapping room. Nothing is left out of this wonderful little space, and happy would be the recipient of a present wrapped here.
The downstairs-most level of this home has also benefited from these same designers’ skills. The public powder room is imaginatively hand painted to give the illusion of streams of bubbles traveling up the walls.
A studio craft room is a perfect place to unleash one’s imagination. Clearly, this is what Jeannie Fraise of Lotus Bleu did when she designed this lively room. Color and patterns, textures and whimsy all come together is this little corner of the world. Crayons, chalk, stencils, blocks, and who knows what other tools, are all there to manifest the dreams of budding artists.
Who wouldn’t want to be the nanny for this household if you get to live in the Nanny Suite by Emily Taylor! A little reading chair and lamp are de rigeur for any nanny’s room, but since this one is modern, perhaps reading stories about space travel is more appropriate than Winnie The Pooh. No matter, nanny would be very comfortable here.
Her bathroom is a wonderland of textures and patterns; a pebble-textured wall is juxtaposed to a wall that contains embroidery and texture in the wallpaper. Both just beg to be touched to experience what the eyes behold.
Using classic materials with modern design is an effective way to make the most of a small space. That’s just what contractor Mark Manning of Farallon Construction did when he so effectively collaborated with Sonya Jacobs-Burking of Artistic Designs for Living to remodel the bathroom that’s on this level. Isn’t that exactly what a “Loo” should be?
Hidden in a little corner is the cozy Champagne Cellar by Alison Davin of Jute. With its oak clad walls, it’s the perfect space in which to sip and taste to determine if a wine is ready to serve to guests.
No showcase house is complete without paying attention to the landscape around it. The entry terrace by Kate Michels Landscape Design provides the welcome that a house of this stature deserves. Before it, the entry garden by Christopher Yates Landscapes Architecture is a contemporary interpretation of a traditional parterre garden, incorporating bands of boxwood globes that alternate with perennials in planting beds. Topiaries add a geometric framework to the whole.
As time and opportunity permit, this is a showcase house worthy of multiple visits to absorb all the small details that so cleverly intertwine to make each room as special as it is. And wouldn’t it be lovely to be able to live here. Sigh….
DATES: April 30 – May 30, 2011
WHERE: 2950 Vallejo Streeet (between Lyon and Baker)
Visit the Decorators Showcase Web Site for information about hours, special events, driving instructions, and links to designers’ web sites.
All proceeds benefit the financial aid program at San Francisco University High School.