Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Designer to Watch: Martin Kobus — A Private Design Chat with a Chic and Super-Cosmopolitan Interior Designer

This week we take a closeat the fantastic new work Sausalito interior designer Martin Kobus hasorchestrated the grand scale recently. He works with a dash of modern bravado, with smart tech invention, and classical grandeur. I loved his witty homage to Rembrandt and seventeenth-century Dutch interiors in a recent San Francisco Decorator Showcase. And he’s the darling of tech execs, art collectors, and San Francisco families.

Let’s pay him a visit and see his latest work.

History Enriches Modern

Interior designer Martin Kobus, based in a dramatic bay-view studio in Sausalito, is admired for the intelligence, originality and bold vision of his designs, always with a comfortable human touch.

He launched Martin Kobus Design a dozen years ago.

“I think the sweet spot for me is a modern design, with a relaxed and richly detailed approach,” said Kobus. 

Designer Martin Kobus

“Often modern design can feel cold and uninviting—which is something we avoid entirely. There is definitely a European sensibility in my design that honors material integrity and plays with texture and form. Complementing the selected furnishings with a fresh neutral color palette also helps to add lightness to the space. We create a toned-down backdrop so that furnishings and foreground accents and artwork can pop and have their own spotlight.” Kobus has an encyclopedic knowledge of historical and modern architecture and has the ability to filter new interiors through a classic, historic concept. And it’s always tailored precisely to the site and the region.

The Human Touch

“Creating a simpatico interior and exterior architecture that welcomes the indoor/outdoor connection is high on my agenda,” said Kobus. “The Bay Area is both scenic and tech centric. As such, we are constantly inspired to source new tech and craftsmanship in our design choices, as well as invoke an indoor setting that highlights and complements the natural landscape that we're surrounded by. We love fresh twists on old classics and reinventing pure forms and old techniques into new forms for living.”

Kobus noted that this is a ‘golden age’ of design, as the design world evolves and new clients have enhanced design awareness.

“I’m noticing a wave of young clients very interested and appreciative of good design,” he said. “It seems as though there's a move towards 'the not so big house'-- more manageable, live-able, and less maintenance spaces. They want every inch of that space to be well curated but it's less about opulence and more about experiences. It's been incredibly refreshing for us to design for these clients and be able to mix high and low items in a way that captivates the eye.” 

Multi-Cultural Thinking

Martin Kobus grew up in Holland and studied in the Netherlands and Italy.

“My mother is Dutch and my father was Indonesian so I am lucky to be the product of several cultures,” said the designer. “I was able to pick up five languages during my upbringing. This comes in handy when traveling.”

His roots in Europe and Asian have also informed his design in many ways, he said.

“It can be very drab and rainy in the Netherlands so it has always been my focus to bring brightness to a space in a simple, calm and luxurious way,” said Kobus. “I am constantly inspired to re-invent or re-imagine design choices, furnishings, and art. If my design firm cannot find or engage in what we want or are looking for, we have it made. San Francisco has so many fine artisans.”

Kobus said that Amsterdam is graced with extremely narrow and tall houses. This has heightened the attention for innovative small space design, functionality, and form, he said.

“I’ve always like living hear the water, and the canals and connection with the sea in Sausalito are the reason that I always approach projects with the goal of integrating indoor and outdoor living,” said the designer.

What’s the Latest

A new project Martin Kobus is thrilled about is a landmark residence in Belvedere.

“It is a modern take on a historical Spanish revival,” noted Kobus. “Our friends who bought the house became clients and, we're still friends! It has been a great exercise in collaboration that will spotlight Piet Boon hardware, Waterworks, and many top creators. This is will be a showcase house for us. It is incredibly unique to have such wonderful alignment in design with our clients and to get the green light to execute our vision on a project of this scale. We feel incredibly fortunate for the partnership and know that the complete project will be tremendous.”

Kobus, always designing and dreaming, recently created an amphibious 350 sq ft. house concept.

“We could not be more excited about this new MK Tiny House,” said Kobus. “It’s something that feels fresh, scalable and very now. It will be about 300 sq/ft and is entirely custom-designed by us with high -end design finishes, appliances, and all fixtures. The house is 'portable'. It allows one to be on-the-grid, off-the-grid, or on-the-go. And the houseboats in Sausalito were not our inspiration. The idea actually came from the houseboats that line the canals in Amsterdam. Target launch date will be in 2019.”

Next for Kobus is MK Resort. 

“My spouse, Chris Bergin, and I bought a vineyard in Healdsburg, and we recently conducted the first harvest,” he noted. “This vineyard/ private resort is a bit of a passion project and will be a totally modern oasis with the footprint of the house smack in the middle of the vineyard. So now I’ll be a winemaker and a designer. Always learning, that’s the key.”


Martin Kobus Home
4000 Bridgeway Suite 318
Sausalito,Ca 94965


Douglas Friedman (Dutch Library; Keane Project)
John Merkl
Eric Rorer

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Art and Craft of Design: Béatrice Amblard and the Fine Art of Luxury Leathergoods

In San Francisco, master leather artisan Béatrice Amblard, former Hermès leather artisan with her own elegant handbag collections, now teaches the fine art of luxury leathergoods in private classes.

Béatrice has launched Amblard Leather Atelier to teach the ways of fine leather working using centuries-old tools and techniques that are used today to fashion elegant handbags and accessories.

The school has a waiting list, and Béatrice is working to get the school accreditation. Once that happens (before the end of the year) ALA will officially become the only fine luxury leathergoods and leather school in the US.

“The demand to learn about fine luxurious leather working is amazing me and me and my team,” said Béatrice. Companies send their designers to Béatrice to learn and refine skills, and to learn traditional fine techniques, tools, leatherwork, finishing, leather evaluation, sourcing, and style and design. Beatrice creates superluxe handbags and small leathergoods, and with her atelier she is keeping alive the fading art of leather craftsmanship.

The art and craft of design is an aspect I’ve emphasized in my writing since I started as a journalist and editor. I admire artisans and the crafts they perfect and advance. Interior design and fashion are both enhanced by skilled and devoted craftspeople—who have successful careers as decorative artists, skilled embroiderers, cabinetmakers, faux finish artists, curtain makers, painters, weavers, sculptors, and many more specialties. Béatrice Amblard works very much in that tradition, crafting by hand and making beautiful things—for an appreciative and enthusiastic group of clients who understand Hermès-level luxury goods.

Béatrice was born in France and enrolled in the prestigious Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Paris when she was 16. Immediately after graduation, she was hired by Hermès in Paris as an apprentice leather artisan.

In 1987, Hermès sent Béatrice to San Francisco as an “Ambassador” to their newly opened San Francisco boutique. After designing and working on custom leather goods for 14 years at Hermès, Béatrice launched her own line, April in Paris in 2000. She is the only Hermès artisan in the United States designing under her own label with her own boutique. 

April in Paris is the boutique and workshop of master leather artisan Béatrice Amblard. The sun-drenched location on colorful Clement Street in the Richmond district is admired by devotees for extraordinary custom accessories. All items are handcrafted using centuries-old traditional methods, and every item is one-of-a-kind.

French-born Amblard has more than 30 years of experience in her uncommon trade. After working on the famous Kelly and Constance bags and designing custom leather goods for fourteen years, Béatrice launched her own line, April in Paris. She quickly built up a loyal following and in 2000, Amblard expanded her business and opened a boutique and workshop on Clement Street.

Custom, Handcrafted Luxury Handbags

Béatrice Amblard is best known for her custom handbags, some finished with the classic saddle stitch, in the same tradition that has been done for over 200 years. All of her bags are marked with her logo, an 18-karat gold or sterling silver bee. The bee represents the shortened version of her name, Béatrice, and it is what everyone calls her.

In addition to handbags, Amblard designs an array of accessories including: briefcases, wallets, watchstraps, belts, coin purses, checkbook holders, and home accessories such as custom-crafted watch cases even responsibly farmed crocodile jewelry boxes. She has also designed larger items such as furniture, car and plane interiors. She can create virtually anything a customer desires.

Clients can personally plan with Amblard to design their creations. Clients select from a large inventory of leathers that are kept on the premises. Amblard works primarily with French tanneries and uses only the finest leathers. Some students learn to work with shagreen, crocodile, and other exotic skins. Their instructor also has many insider French sources for fittings, hardware, embellishments. She uses a variety of leathers including calf, alligator, ostrich, lizard, and stingray. Custom colors may be ordered at the request of the client. Currently, there is a five-month wait for a custom handbag because Amblard’s work has become so coveted. There are plenty of handmade bags and accessories for sale at the boutique. 

Béatrice Amblard

Amélie Amblard

Béatrice and Her Daughter, Amélie

Amélie Amblard joined April in Paris in June 2014 after graduating St. Lawrence University with a BA in Fine Art. Amélie completed Amblard Leather Atelier’s 1-year leathergoods program in 2015, then trained with her mother for one year before working as her design assistant.

Amélie now assists her mother with students at Amblard Leather Atelier and is production manager for April in Paris to attend to all clients and special orders.

Amélie is also now designing her own leathergoods collections—with her own style and distinctive materials.

The Amélie Collection

Amblard Leather Academy

Amblard Leather Atelier is the only studio that teaches in-depth the centuries-old craft of fine luxury leather working. Our program has been developed by a Hermès-trained master artisan and teaches the basic understanding of leather working using traditional hand tools.

The program teaches the skill of fine leather working and each project teaches a new progressive skill. For a list of all projects and concepts learned please visit our website at www.amblardleatheratelier.com/classes

There is no experience necessary and we provide everything (tools & leathers) needed to complete all projects.

Amblard Leather Atelier offers half-day and full-day workshops, evening classes, and 12-week sessions. All classes are limited to 10 students to ensure a quality work environment.

Half-day and full-day workshops are designed to learn the basics of leather working and students leave the workshop with a completed piece by the end of the day.

Tuesday evening classes teach beginner level skills with 6 different progressive projects.

12-week sessions teach beginner to master level fine leather working projects. 

Class Dates:

Half-Day and Full-Day workshops are scheduled upon availability in our session class. Please email us with dates desired to check availability.

Evening classes are every Tuesday Evening from 6–8pm.

2019 Session Dates:
Winter: January 8 – March 30
Spring: April 2 – June 22
Summer: July 9 – September 28
Fall: October 1 – December 21

All photography by Amélie Amblard

April in Paris
15 Clement St
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 750-9910
Instagram: www.instagram.com/aprilinparis_sf
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SFAprilinParis

Amblard Leather Atelier
15 Clement St
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 750-9910
Instagram: www.instagram.com/amblardleatheratelier
Facebook: www.facebook.com/AmblardLeatherAtelier