YOUR FIRST LOOK AT THE 2019 SAN FRANCISCO DECORATOR SHOWCASE
DOZENS OF BAY AREA DESIGNERS TRANSFORM 18,000-SQUARE-FOOT PRESIDIO HEIGHTS MANSION INTO A PLAYGROUND OF INTERIOR DESIGN
By Brock Keeling, Photography by Patricia Chang | April 26, 2019
While the last two annual San Francisco Decorator Showcase—where Bay Area designers choose a room inside a tony SF home to unleash interior sorcery—were, at best, restrained affairs, this year’s event is the best one in ages.
This year’s 18,000-square-foot Presidio Heights home (3800 Washington) is known in local real estate mythology as Le Petit Trianon, a circa-1904 mansion inspired by the original Chateau at the Versailles Palace in France.
In recent years, the house made headlines for briefly turning the head of Taylor Swift, as well as playing host to a tenacious squatter who occupied the long-vacant home for months and sold the valuables he had looted from its glamorous confines.
What’s in store for interior-design aficionados? Everyone will be whispering about the downstairs ballroom by Vernon Applegate and Gioi Tran (Applegate Tran Interiors), who transformed the stodgy, windowless space into sleek, black discotheque reminiscent of a Berlin nightclub. Jonathan Rachman’s Houghton Hall-inspired living room with 200-year-old de Gournay wallpaper reeks of 1930s allure. The child’s “maker studio” bedroom by architect Virginie Manichon is a hands-on affair inspired by robots of her own creation. And Brandon Pruett’s balcony garden, a verdant halo encircling the home’s central atrium features cascading tree ferns, orchids, and Rhipsalis (which looks like green spaghetti hanging down).
“It’s meant to be looked at from down below,” says Mission District-based gardener and landscape artist Brandon Pruett of Brandon Pruett Design, whose garden perch drapes off the top-floor railings just under the central atrium.
In addition to providing a shock of greenery to the home’s white center, as well as being a refreshing break from the ubiquitous living wall, Pruett’s work, which features an array of plants and ferns from California to Colombia, also filters the air.
A home of this magnitude offers several living rooms. Two noteworthy ones inside the 2019 showcase are located on the first floor toward the back. First, the Wiseman Group’s room, inspired by Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent (who both founded the YSL label), uses browns and earth tones to bring reign in the space with classical, contemporary, and custom furnishings. Of special note, a Ming Dynasty coffee table and a sprawling two-window seat banquette.
On the opposite side of the Wiseman Group’s room is Chris and Susan Weir Collins’s minimalist living room, providing a balance to the former’s ’70s maximalism. Here you will find walls painted uniform white, mirrors reflecting the garden outside, and an aubergine circular sectional.
Created for 13-year-old twin girls “who recently relocated from Singapore,” Eva Muller Bradley and Alicia Cheung Lichtenstein’s bedroom features flora and fauna prints, bamboo light fixture, and two acyclic swings at the foot of the beds.
The beetle-print wallpaper gracing the room’s entrance provides a whimsical, entomological touch.
Susan Lind Chastain, who dreamed up the Rooftop Rendez-vous Retreat, took the French theme of the house and ran with it for this corner room. The chartreuse sofas that sit ramrod straight also come with metal studs adorning the top to give them a contrasting edge.
“They will also keep people from sitting on the arms of the sofa,” notes Chastain.
And the wallpaper done in a custom toile print, designed by Willem Racké, will delight locals with very, very Sn Francisco scenes, like a protest at Justin Herman Plaza, nude bike riders, and a scene outside the Castro Theatre.
Both the Breakfast Room and Wabi Sabi Soak Room are peaceful affairs that take advantage for the top-floor’s abundance of natural light. The soaking room/toilet is highlighted by wooden slats covering the rub, vanity, and skylight, with a metal Foscarini Spokes light fixture adding a sculptural touch. The nearby morning dining room comes with a new terrazzo floor flecked with greens and grays, adding a vibe that plays well with the vintage furniture.
Jonathan Rachman’s emerald living room from 2017 was still being talked about at the press preview for this year’s showcase. His work for 2019 will also be one of the most talked about spaces. Once again, the designer wisely sticks to de Gournay wallpaper—in this case, recently discovered blue rolls that date approximately 200 years—for his room inspired by Houghton Hall, a circa-1722 country mansion built for Britain’s first Prime Minister.
The lengthy power pink sofa pairs nicely with the comparatively calmer walls and decorative ceiling. Lauren Bacall and Humphry Bogart’s old credenza is here. There’s even a small salon room, drenched in jewel blue, just off the main room, ideal for private one-on-ones.
Don’t miss the horsetail hair used as trim on the coffee table.
Alexis Humiston conceived of this master bathroom as a room of repose for Eloise, the granddaughter of La Petit Trianon’s original homeowner, Cora Koshland. (Psst, be on the lookout for an actor playing Cora’s ghost.) This luxe bathroom, which comes with a fireplace, features garden and oceanic themes, as seen in the de Gournay wallpaper.
Highlights here include the 1970s marble cocktail bar reused as a toiletry vanity and the tiled shower closet with dual heads.
“Feminine and fanciful in its design,” notes designer Dina Bandmanm, who created Marie’s Magnolia’s as a reimagined space for Marie Antoinette. Most notable is the plaster treatment of white magnolia branches and flowers that creep up the walls and onto the ceiling.
From the mind of Sunset District-based architect Virginie Manichon, the Bizibots Bedroom displays her handcrafted wooden toy creation, the Bizibot robot. A rocket room divider pairs perfectly with the adorable, mechanical creatures.
Manichon’s window screens use Paris Metro maps as a design reference—which will thrill kids and transit geeks alike—while the galaxy ceiling lights up in an array of colors, replete with the occasional passing comet.
Catharine Clark’s vestibule/foyer adds a moment of contemporary reflection—literally. Her use of artist Katherine Vetne’s melted leaded sculptures, akin to your great-grandparent’s wedding silver, take an old reference and make it fresh.
The most Instagrammable moments will be found in the basement inside Vernon Applegate and Gioi Tran’s (Applegate Tran Interiors) updated ballroom. The expansive space, which once played host to many a cotillion with crinolines galore, has been transformed into a swank spot to sip rose and lean in for that first kiss.
A Kyle Bunting hide rug can be found on the ceiling. Why not? A white balloon wedding dress stands at the far end of the room, waiting to be featured on various social media platforms. Contemporary art from Alex Ray Art Advisory adorns the walls. And an illuminated wine rack from Reliable Hardware and Steel at the bar uses bottles of rose as a nifty design element.
An ideal way of bringing together two generations—18th century and 21st century, to be exact—for nightlife and frivolity.
In the adjoining hallway, Scott McMahan of Scott Robert Design uses a chevron pattern with oak and steel panels on the floor, which is reflected in the black lacquered ceiling. The light fixture, a standout ring of glass and metal, ties the whole thing together. A clever use of small space.
Kelly Hola’s unisex lounge/cave features abstract floral wallpaper in purple and lavender hues that give this room a soft yet edgy look. The mini bar is a much-needed tipsy touch.
Don’t forget to peek outside to see one of the home’s more dramatic moments: Jarrod Baumann’s geometric garden that tips its hat to both neoclassical and contemporary styles. The white sculpture was designed by Yoko Kubrick, whose work is the focal point of this expansive exterior space.
“From the beginning light of day and on into the evening, the garden will continue to change and offer constant surprises,” says Baumann.