Monday, September 25, 2017

Celebrating Sophie Donelson’s Brilliant New Book, ‘Style Secrets: What Every Room Needs’ Just Published by Abrams

It’s dynamic, inspiring and full of her design insider ideas and knowledge. It’s fresh, colorful, and an essential reference book for your library.

Sophie, the beloved and admired Editor-in-Chief of
House Beautiful
has created a dazzling idea-filled design book that is vivid, joyful and inspiring.

On its 250 pages and in 8 chapters, Sophie has delineated and illustrated hundreds of decorating and interior architecture ‘secrets’ including the instant effect of using an unexpected color, working with antiques and vintage pieces, making a grand gesture with a large-scale sofa, ensuring a sense of ‘touch’ on fabrics in every room, selecting personal (perhaps eccentric) favorites, and ways of creating a ‘wow’ moment. 

Sophie Donelson, Editor-in-Chief of House Beautiful (Photo exclusive).

Photography includes the new portrait of Sophie Donelson, above, with décor by Ken Fulk. Images from the book (below) include décor by Myra Hoefer (the all-white living room), bedrooms and kitchen details by Benjamin Dhong, and a fireplace vignette by Ken Fulk. Sophie selected highlights from top designers and creatives for ‘Style Secrets’…only the best. The range of ideas is exciting, the images vivid.

Exclusively for THE STYLE SALONSTE: Sophie Donelson’s Style Tips

Best of all, Sophie’s ideas are practical and versatile and they don’t require a huge splurge.

“There is no big budget required for entry or to initiate stylish changes,” she said. ‘Since House Beautiful’s founding in 1896 we’ve engaged readers with ideas to try, not just to buy. Every month, our issue is full of chic concepts, quick upgrades, new colors, designer tips, and new ways of looking at design. So a smart reader walks away with scores of potential new home upgrades in each issue—no shopping required,” said Donelson.

And these artful and smart concepts and fast lessons are on every page of the book.

Sophie’s Choices

“There are many useful and practical design ideas I’ve included in the book many professional ideas and things that most decorators agree that a home needs,” said Donelson. 

“I believe that an over-scale urn or plant or tree always adds gravitas to a room, no matter how small. Unexpected color can cheer a room or change its mood. Luminosity turns a dull room into something spectacular, whether from a crystal chandelier or a mirror. I love a punch of black for contrast. I like the artful use of an unusual or unexpected fabric or leather or antique textiles. And fabrics that are lovely to touch. Avoid having everything brand-new in a room, as it can look rather hotel-like. Old things—a rug, a painting, and a family heirloom—remove that ‘just delivered’ look.” 

These concepts are all shown and described in the new book.

Sophie’s Insider Tips: Exclusively for THE STYLE SALONISTE

I sat down for a chat with Sophie Donelson recently to find out more about her book, and to get a few more ideas. Here are her great pointers.

DDS: Sophie, congratulations. Your book is exuberant, joyful, highly informative, and a great pleasure to read. You’ve selected ideas that are inspired and possible. My readers would love to know what did you set out to accomplish with this book?

The book is a fresh way of presenting the gems that live inside every issue of House Beautiful. We present new-to-market furniture and accessories to our readers each month, but the features in the book go much deeper – they document what makes a room truly special or personal. I felt those ideas deserved a bigger canvas, a treatment that’s bolder, and a format that’s truly keepsake and so that’s when I pitched the book idea.

DDS: The images you’ve chosen for the book are the cream of the crop of House Beautiful recent design features. You feature ideas from top designers in every design hotspot in the country.

How is this book unique and different from other design books?

The truth is, beautiful rooms are defined as much by smart ideas as they are by fine furnishings. So, the mission of the magazine and Style Secrets is to reveal those truths. It’s sort of give a man a fish / teach a man to fish scenario: we will always do shopping stories in the magazine, but true, lasting enjoyment of home is wrought not from possessions, but from how its put together and the vibe it emits.

The most interesting design professionals to me are the ones who can rearrange a homeowners existing furniture and art—and add just a few new elements—to create a magnificent space. They don’t need to start from scratch to relay a vision, nor do our readers. The book gives readers a shorthand guide on how to capture those insights for their own space.

DDS: Your book is full of fantastic anecdotes, many of them witty, about each image, each room. Can you tell us how design brings joy and fun into your life?

So many ways! Last night I had a few friends and colleagues for dinner and it was just a joy to see the dining room at work. The sconces—a splurge—glowing dimly; vintage dining chairs slapped with Ikea sheepskins on top, the narrow dining table chosen because it’s more intimate for everyday use and fun with a group … and it all worked in symphony with lots of storytelling and laughs around the table. It gives me so much joy to see how the things I’ve invested in can enable happy moments.

I’m happy I have a fine wool rug in the living room; my baby spits up on it and it’s easy to clean and resilient. Plus, all my pictures of him learning to crawl have the BEST background!

DDS: Sophie, thank you so much. I’m re-reading the book for about the twentieth time, and I’m find more ideas, Toward the end of the book, I found pages about ways to do treillage, as well as Chinoiserie murals, and at the very end there are ten pages about Moorish/ Moroccan/ Spanish design ideas, motifs and colors. I’m smitten. Thank you. It’s a keeper.

House Beautiful ‘Style Secrets: What Every Room Needs’ by Sophie Donelson is published by Abrams this month. The 250-page reference/ idea/workbook also includes a very detailed list of credits/ information on each room, as well as a very thorough index.

Photography used here with permission, House Beautiful.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Opera Obsession — San Francisco Opera Fall 2017 Season Opening: The Music and the Glory

San Francisco Opera opens its dynamic Fall 2017 season September 8 with a dazzling series of five classic and new operas through December. 

This week I’ve put together a tip sheet with insider information and images to inspire you. And an exclusive and informative list of season highlights especially for THE STYLE SALONISTE readers, from SF Opera general director, Matthew Shilvock. It’s great.

I love San Francisco Opera. It’s one of the greatest opera companies in the world, with many decades of outstanding new operas, great performers, and vivid artistic relationships with all the top international opera houses.

I’m especially excited about this season with a fantastic series of five operas over three months. In sequence, the fall opera season encompasses,
Turandot, which opens the season, followed by Elektra, La Traviata, Manon, and Girls of the Golden West, the new John Adams opera.

Puccini's Turandot

San Francisco Opera inaugurates its 95th season on Friday, September 8, with Puccini’s Turandot, staged in a vivid, graphic and iconic production by English artist David Hockney and conducted by company music director Nicola Luisotti. Saturday, September 9 features the opening of a new production of Richard Strauss’ Elektra.

The opening weekend festivities continue on Sunday, September 10, with San Francisco Chronicle Presents Opera in the Park, an annual Bay Area tradition celebrating the opening of the opera season with a free concert in Golden Gate Park.

Puccini's Turandot

Puccini's Turandot

The season opens with Turandot. Opera fans that attend every production each season will be excited to hear that San Francisco Opera announced a casting update for its season-opening production.

American soprano Toni Marie Palmertree will sing Liù, replacing Maria Agresta who has withdrawn due to illness. Originally scheduled to portray Puccini’s tragic heroine on September 24 and 30, Palmertree will now perform in all six September performances.

Toni Marie Palmertree

I was fortunate to attend Madama Butterfly last season when…in a stunning surprise for the audience…Palmertree scored a triumph when she substituted for an ailing colleague on two hours’ notice as Cio-Cio-San in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

San Francisco Classical Voice remarked: “The young soprano, Toni Marie Palmertree not only met the challenge, but she claimed her place among the finest vocal interpreters of the role heard here recently.”

Richard Strauss’ Elektra

Richard Strauss’ Elektra

Richard Strauss’ Elektra

Richard Strauss’ Elektra

Richard Strauss’ Elektra

Richard Strauss’ Elektra

La Traviata

La Traviata




Special Insider Information for Opera Lovers—or First-time Opera Attendees

There are two sets of Turandot dates:
  • September 8–30: Nicola Luisotti (Conductor); Martina Serafin (Turandot), Brian Jagde (Calaf), Toni Marie Palmertree (Liù), Raymond Aceto (Timur)
  • November 18–December 9: Christopher Franklin (Conductor); Nina Stemme (Turandot), Brian Jagde (Calaf), Leah Crocetto (Liù), Soloman Howard (Timur)

Nina Stemme will perform as the princess in Turandot on November 18, 25, 28; December 3m, 6 and 9.

Michael Fabiano will perform the role of Chevalier des Grieux in Manon on November 4, 7, 10, 16, 19m, and 22

Nina Stemme

Michael Fabiano

Special to The Style Saloniste:  An Exclusive Tip Sheet of Matthew Shilvock’s and Insider Notes on the Season

Matthew Shilvock

San Francisco Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock offers his highlighs and insights:

1. The 95th Fall Season opens with Giacomo Puccini’s grand opera “Turandot” featuring our Italian Music Director Nicola Luisotti on the podium leading the cast, orchestra and chorus. What better way to launch the opera year than with this very lush, lyrical and dramatic work all staged in David Hockney’s celebrated production. This presentation coincides with the 80th birthday celebration year of David Hockney.

2. I am particularly pleased that we will present “Turandot” for six performances in September with astonishing soprano Martina Serafin and then in November for six performances with acclaimed Swedish soprano Nina Stemme, our Brunnhilde from the 2011 Ring.

3. Opening night of the fall season begin with the San Francisco Opera Guild’s time-honored tradition of Opera Ball and by all reports, this year’s gala is completely sold-out under the leadership of co-chairs Courtney Labe and Maryam Muduroglu. Opening night and Opera Ball are dedicated to Music Director Nicola Luisotti, who will be relinquishing his post as company music director at the end of the season; Maestro will however return in future seasons as a special guest conductor.

4. Our opening weekend will bring to the stage on Sept 9 the high-voltage lyric drama of “Elektra” by Richard Strauss, a work absent from the War Memorial Opera House stage for 20 years. I’m so terribly proud that we will present one of the world’s leading interpreters of the role, Christine Goerke, along with the extraordinarily talented Micaela Martens, Adrianne Pieczonka and Alfred Walker. In his San Francisco Opera debut, Hungarian conductor Henrik Nánási will lead the 102 musicians in the pit. No pun intended, but this will be an electrifying evening in the Opera House.

5. And for complete contrast, our Opening Weekend includes the annual free San Francisco Opera in the Park Concert on Sunday, Sept 10 at 1.30 pm. Luisotti will be on the podium at Golden Gate Park’s Sharon Meadow leading the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and several stars of the fall season in works by Verdi, Gounod, Wagner, Puccini in this highly popular opera al fresco concert. And don’t forget the audience sing-along to Verdi’s famous “drinking song” from “La Traviata.”

6. “La Traviata” opens Sept 23. I’m thrilled to present the U.S. debut of beautiful and talented Romanian soprano Aurelia Florien along with the company debuts of Brazilian tenor Attalla Aryan and Polish baritone Arturo Ruciński. Very special to me was our ability to secure the return of award winning English director John Copley to oversee his plush and elegant production of mid-19th century Paris along with Shawna Lucey.

7. Our return to elegance will continue November 4 with a new production of Massenet’s opera “Manon,” one of the most romantic works from the French repertory. Soprano Ellie Dehn will make her title role debut and the incomparable tenor Michael Fabiano returns for his role debut as the lover, des Grieux. The French creative team features conductor Patrick Fournillier and director/costume designer Vincent Boussard.

8. Perhaps the musical event of the fall season will be the world premiere of the new John Adams opera, “Girls of the Golden West,” opening November 21 through December 10. This extraordinary creation by John Adams (composer of “Nixon in China,” “The Death of Klinghoffer” and “Doctor Atomic”) is set in the California Gold Rush with a libretto by Peter Sellars drawn from original sources including the well-known “Shirley Letters.” A brilliant, young, talented, and diverse cast of artists will be featured including Julia Bullock, Davóne Tines, J’Nai Bridges, Hye Jung Lee, Ryan McKinny, Elliot Madore, Paul Appleby and former San Francisco Ballet’s prima ballerina, Lorena Feijoo in the role of Lola Montez. I can’t imagine a more compelling opera than this that explores our story, our history and our place in the world. See you at the Opera!

Matthew Shilvock

About Matthew Shilvock, General Director, San Francisco Opera

Matthew Shilvock has devoted his career to executive management in the performing arts. After early work with New Chamber Opera in Oxford, England, and PORTopera in Portland, Maine, he became a 2002 Fellow with OPERA America, the national service organization for opera companies in North America.

In 2003, he joined Houston Grand Opera as the General Director’s Liaison for David Gockley, who served as General Director for that company from 1972– 2005. Shilvock came to San Francisco Opera in 2005 as part of Gockley’s transition team, serving as General Director’s Associate (2005–2007). He was promoted to Director of New Initiatives (2007–08), Assistant General Director (2008–2010) and in 2010, Associate General Director. In his positions at San Francisco Opera, Shilvock has worked closely with David Gockley on all aspects of managing this institution and nurturing innovative new projects and initiatives.

Matthew Shilvock was born in 1976 in Kidderminster, England. He studied music performance and history, reading music at Christ Church, Oxford University. He also holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, with a specialization in nonprofit administration. Shilvock resides in Marin County with his wife Kate and their two children.
In production and rehearsal: The cast and creative team of Girls of the Golden West.
From left to right: choreographer John Heginbotham; composer John Adams, bass-baritone Davóne Tines, soprano Hye Jung Lee, soprano Julia Bullock, baritone Elliot Madore, mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges, conductor Grand Gershon, librettist and director Peter Sellars
Photo credit: ©Stefan Cohen/San Francisco Opera

Exciting New Production

This fall season also includes a vivid new opera, Girls of the Golden West, composed by John Adams. I’ve always admired Adams, and was fortunate to attend the historic opening night of ‘Doctor Atomic’ at San Francisco Opera House.

The Beaux-Arts San Francisco War Memorial Opera House is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. The interiors—with marble staircases, bronze lanterns, dazzling chandeliers, and grand gilded proscenium and ornate gold silk honors the performances within.

All images here courtesy of San Francisco Opera, used with express permission.



Monday, August 28, 2017

Behind the Scenes at the Real Downton Abbey

‘At Home at Highclere’ by the Countess of Carnavon, newly published by Rizzoli, is an exciting new book for ‘Downton Abbey’ fans. It focuses on entertaining as well as history, recipes, architecture, and behind the scenes at the 'real' Downton Abbey.

If like me you have been obsessed with the fictional ‘abbey’ interiors shown in great detail in the show over the last few years, you will love this insider look at the grand and historic castle where the show is filmed.

The Carnavons at home at Highclere. The library will be very familiar to ‘Downton’ fans. It has been the scene of so many dramatic moments in the series.

In fourteen beautifully illustrated chapters, the book invites readers to breakfast, dinner, lunch, cocktails, and a wonderful taste of afternoon tea, along with traditional English fish and shellfish dishes, cakes, puddings, and regional and seasonal vegetables soups and savouries.

Best of all, there are recipes for those who also want to cook and dine, a la Highclere.

The book is also detailed with the history, architecture, interiors, scandals, royal visits, families, décor, music, famous guests and everything an Anglophile could desire. And the book will be perfect reading as we all wait for the 
‘Downton Abbey’ movie, which is now in production.

Seventeenth-century Highclere Castle, in the Jacobean/ Elizabethan style, is now, thanks to millions of viewers of ‘Downton Abbey’, one of the most famous historic houses in the world. The 5,000-acre estate is located in Hampshire, England, about 5 miles south of Newbury, Berkshire.

Throughout the centuries, Highclere has welcomed royalty, statesmen, Egyptologists, ancestors, and pioneers of technology along with men and women from the worlds of music, literature, art and letters. There have been fascinating guests upstairs, and cooks and housekeepers downstairs keeping everything running smoothly.

Chapters of this book detail the library and the writers who visited, along with a chat with the gamekeeper, a visit from the Prince of Wales, dining traditions, even the long tradition of keeping bees.

The etiquette of the invitation, the balance of guests at a weekend house party, their placement at dinners, and the entertainment of friends, as well as the domestic management required to execute the perfect occasion, have all preoccupied successive generations of châtelaines. Readers learn all of the lore, the rules, the subtle cues, and the country style.

In ‘At Home at Highclere: Entertaining at the Real Downton Abbey’ Lady Fiona Carnavon, the 8th Countess of Carnarvon, entices readers to enjoy five real weekends at Highclere, mid-19th century to the present day.

Benjamin Disraeli’s reform cabinet in 1866, a literary weekend with Henry James in 1886, a visit from the Prince of Wales in 1895, a musical Easter with Malcolm Sargent in1935 and the vivid and outdoorsy life in the weekend of Highclere today.

Lady Carnarvon tells the stories of the great and the good, the art of hosting through the ages, and, most critically, the delicious recipes to suit every occasion and guest, from the crowd- pleasing Highclere Loin of Venison for a weekend treat or Summer Pudding, a favorite of Lord Carnarvon and his cricket team. 

At Home At Highclere is a richly detailed compendium of historical reports, vivid stories and delicious recipes from a stately residence that is not just a castle but also a home. 

No surprise, in the 300 pages, the author takes readers ‘downstairs’ to meet housekeepers and cooks and staff with specialized talents for taking care of antiques and art.

The Countess of Carnarvon in the library. Photo copyright Adam Hillier Photography.

About the Author

Fiona, 8th Countess of Carnarvon, is the wife of Geordie, 8th Earl of Carnarvon.

She is an alumna of St Andrews University, a former auditor for Coopers & Lybrand accountants and she created her own clothes brand in the 1990s.

She and her husband and son live ‘quietly’ with seven dogs, many beloved horses, a brood of chickens, a pet rabbit and a sheep, as well as a number of beehives. Together, they manage a range of businesses at Highflier Castle, home of the television drama Downtown Abbey. And they host the actors and production staff when ‘Downtown’ is being film in the castle, in the grounds, and all over the estate.

Fascinated by the history of the people as well as the Castle at Highclere, Lady Carnarvon has written two New York Times bestsellers: Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere (2011) and Lady Catherine and the Real Downton Abbey (2013).


AT HOME AT HIGHCLERE: Entertaining at The Real Downton Abbey
by the Countess of Carnarvon
300 color photographs.
Published by Rizzoli New York

Monday, August 14, 2017

Bravo, Brian — and Eight Years of The Style Saloniste

I founded THE STYLE SALONISTE as an online style magazine in Summer 2009. And in the months before the launch I searched for an art director for the blog. I was fortunate to be introduced to Brian Dittmar. Our mutual friend, Lisa Boquiren, told me that Brian, an accomplished interior designer, had extensive previous training as a graphic designer / art director.

Brian and I first set to work to design the logo…which has remained the same crisp Bodoni typeface from the time THE STYLE SALONISTE went live.

This week as we celebrate eight years of THE STYLE SALONISTE, I want to express my gratitude to thousands of readers in 149 countries around the world. I’ve made so many blog friends since we went live. I know many readers…and many many international readers have become very dear and appreciated friends.

And this week I would like to express my deep gratitude to Brian Dittmar who has been the outstanding and truly wonderful art director of THE STYLE SALONISTE for all these years. Brian Dittmar is both an accomplished and acclaimed San Francisco-based interior designer — and he is also a very talented art director and graphic designer. 

I love Brian’s design and art direction—and it is always thrilling to see his polished and elegant work. We are a great team of two!  

I plan and research and write all text and select and plan all images. Brian…a brilliant tech person as well…presents and gives all images and text their best concept and design. I love the polish and clarity of his design. Thank you — and bravo, Brian. I’m grateful and honored to work with you for many happy years. It has been a pleasure.

Exclusively this week on THE STYLE SALONISTE we are presenting Brian’s San Francisco apartment. It’s perched on a tree-framed hill in the center of the city. And I had a lively conversation with Brian, speaking of design, travel, ideas, design trends…and living with (and designing around) a beloved dog.

Pour a cup of tea or a glass of rosé, and come with us for a visit — and meet Freddie, his delightful 6-year-old pug.

Brian’s apartment, near Buena Vista Park, is in a very beautiful area of San Francisco. Brian acquired the apartment 14 years ago, and has added his favorite art, a handsome John Dickinson table, his clock collection, beautiful rugs, delicious textiles, and a sense of comfort and ease.

“I love mixing styles throughout this apartment. More traditional rugs paired with more modern furniture. Traditional architectural paneling details contrast with transitional metal light fixtures. Antique items alongside contemporary pieces. It is similar to my reaction to the architecture in London — a fabulous mix of old and new side-by-side and juxtaposed, creating a very interesting urban fabric.” — Brian Dittmar

In Conversation with Brian Dittmar

TSS: What design trends on the horizon are you excited about?

In Europe recently I was captivated by window displays featuring blush and dusty pink clothing and accessories — it creates such a soft, ethereal and warm vibe. Now I see those soft neutral rose-colored tones in interior design world ‘trend reports
 and I love it. I’ve already included some similar pink and copper tones in our living room, so I guess now I’m ‘on trend.’ 

I’ve also been noticing interesting bronze mirrored furniture pieces that pair very well with matte brass/gold metal trend we’ve been seeing over the last few years. Very warm and very rich — and certainly not the garish polished brass of the 80s.

Freddie the pug holding court on a swivel chair upholstered in a Barbara Barry gray wool. Behind him is a 1940s Swedish Art Moderne credenza from the Scandinavian vintage collection of Björk Studio in Atlanta.

TSS: Everyone in San Francisco lives with a beloved dog. How have you as a designer adapted your apartment/ décor/ living to welcome your dear Freddie?

Years ago someone told me that pugs don’t shed — clearly they never lived with a pug. They shed — a lot! Freddie and our late pug, Moe, both have had the full run of our house and that’s how my partner, Thomas, and I want it. But it has certainly created some design challenges to work around.

Fabrics and rugs with texture and pattern can be your best defense with a dog, as they both hide a million sins. The sofa fabric has proved to be indestructible. It’s deep taupe textured chenille velvet from Romo’s Villa Nova line (through De Sousa Hughes) that looks almost as good today as it did when it was new. Sadly, it’s been discontinued, so I am in search of the next best thing for when it comes time to reupholster!

Indoor/outdoor fabrics now have options that are perfect for a sofa or chair in the living room of a residence with a dog. Sunbrella is probably the most widely known brand, but Perennials has become one of my favorite lines with many very interesting textures and weaves. They even have outdoor velvets.

And then, of course, washable items are smart choices when decorating around a pet. The Matouk coverlet on our bed is cream and it’s washable. 

In 2010, Brian debuted at the San Francisco Decorator Showcase with his room "Poetry in Time" that highlighted his long-time interest in clocks. Above are three from his collection: The Bavarian cuckoo clock was a wedding gift to his great-grandparents; an 1860s bronze French Empire mantle clock; and a custom-made industrial clock by metal artist Paul Benson — created especially for the showcase room.

A vintage wooden cog and gear from Ohmega Salvage in Berkeley becomes a perch for a stack of favorite design books.

TSS: In your apartment, you’ve used lots of neutral tones and the effect is, at the same time, very rich.

When I launched my interior business after years as a graphic designer, I wanted to see color, color and more color. But as time has gone by, in my personal space — as well as in my other projects — I want less bold color, fewer patterns and a calmer overall environment.

I am always a huge fan of blues, greens and teals, so they are the primary accent colors I have used throughout. The Turkish-style rug in the living room has accents of persimmon, oyster, pale blue and navy, which play well with all the other neutrals in the space. The striped pillows on the sofa are in a Barbara Barry's ‘cinnabar' fabric, along with the other solid pillows in fabrics from Threads by Lee Jofa (cream) and Kirkby Design (teal). 

Across the room, the matte white John Dickinson 'African Table' reissued by Sutherland nestles up to a vintage Hollywood Regency tufted chair, which I inherited from my grandmother. When she had it, it was upholstered in a lime green, powder pink and white stripe fabric — certainly very on-trend in the late 60s.  Now it's recovered in camel toned velvet with a cream contrast welt. 

In the dining room, vintage Milo Baughman chairs from 1stDibs were recovered in Pollack speckled 'tidal pool' velvet, which I absolutely love. They sit around a vintage 1960s walnut table from Brown Saltman and underneath a birdcage-style chandelier by Avrett, a custom lighting studio in Charleston, South Carolina. Some people may recognize that fixture from my 2012 San Francisco Decorator Showcase room…the benefit of doing showcase rooms is that some items eventually find their way into designers’ own homes!

The bedroom conveys a restful, feeling. The carpet, from Mark Nelson Designs, is pale blue and cream woven wool, which is very flat but also very soft. The walls are covered in a Kneedler|Fauchère linen wallpaper, which is subtle in tone, but adds a great dimension and texture.

The bedroom lamps are by Avrett; nightstands by Vanguard; oversized houndstooth pillow fabric by Kravet and teal green velvet by Pollack.

A grouping of art adorns the bedroom wall, including a 60s vintage abstract painting; a framed abstract drawing by one of the youth members of San Francisco's Creativity Explored; and an Op Art-inspired painting by Bay Area artist Mel Prest.

Rustic flowers in a vintage cream ceramic container sit in front of a black and white photo by San Francisco artist Durwood Zedd.

To finish off the bedroom, the ceiling is painted in a smokey blue color which helps to bring the ceiling down and the room into proportion — as the space is as wide as it is tall. Many people assume you must paint the ceiling white, but I strongly disagree and often paint ceilings interesting colors or even wallpaper them. Ceilings are the “fifth wall" after all.

The large abstract painting on the wall of the den is by Brian Dittmar. A collection of ceramic foo dog statues are interspersed throughout the bookcase. Blue and cream woven wool carpet is from Mark Nelson Designs.

The study is the smallest room in the apartment so I went bolder with color and wallpapered the walls in a wonderful textured blue grasscloth — 'Broadway Blues' by Phillip Jeffries. It’s one of my favorite elements in the entire apartment and contrasts well against the white bookcases. On the loveseat, covered in a pale gold Glant fabric, multi-color patterned pillows in a watercolor motif fabric by Thomas O’Brien for Lee Jofa accompany an orange felt pillow. 

A 1950s teak bar cabinet was a special find at Stuff, the vintage collection in San Francisco's Mission district.

TSS: Secret design sources you can share with us?

I’m very exited to be able to share news of a forthcoming design showroom that I know will become a go-to source for many designers — as well as the general public. Design Theory Hardware, a new decorative hardware showroom, will be opening in early 2018 near the San Francisco Design Center. Brett Rogers and Marc Waisanen, of Hayes Valley’s Plantation Design have teamed up with Selena Fong, who brings over a decade of decorative, architectural hardware experience, to launch the new showroom. Decorative hardware is like jewelry and can make a kitchen, bathroom or piece of furniture really sing.  I cannot wait for Design Theory Hardware’s grand opening!

For lighting, I’ve become fond of the products from Cedar & Moss, a Portland-based artisanal studio specializing in modernist and mid-century fixtures. Their products showed up quite a bit in this year’s San Francisco Decorator Showcase, which was great to see. I have loved the fixtures from Brooklyn-based Apparatus Studio for quite some time as well. Their 'Cloud 37’ chandelier was the focal point of a great room I designed several years ago.

Recently, I’ve been following several friends on Instagram and their interest in Shibori, the Japanese dyeing technique which produces organic patterns on fabric. It’s beautiful and resonates with me and where my interest in design is going. Shibori has a natural hand-made quality that I love. It’s simple, graphic and rich.

For the best in vintage finds, Palm Springs has become widely known for treasuring and advancing appreciation for mid-century design. I always relish popping into the many galleries along Palm Canyon Drive in the Uptown Design district — including the Palm Canyon Galleria and Towne in The Shops at Thirteen Forty Five — to see what is on display. But many other fabulous treasures can be found several miles east at the Perez Art & Design Center along Perez Road in Cathedral City.

Definitely off the beaten path and in a nondescript warehouse district, this little gem is headlined by HEDGE (not to be confused with Hedge Gallery in San Francisco) and Spaces, a gallery comprised of multiple dealers specializing in mid-century modern, modernist, Brutalist, and Hollywood Regency furniture and decor.

The kitchen backsplash is a custom mosaic tile from Pratt & Larsen that features a mix of all the neutral tones in the apartment; honed quartz countertops by Caesarstone; taupe limestone floor tile by Ann Sacks.

TSS: Where are you traveling next?

My partner and I always try to make it down to Palm Springs several times a year. It is definitely my “happy place” — a one-hour flight from San Francisco, but a world away...from the desert landscape and mountains to the weather and the wide array of vintage design shops.

We are heading to Italy soon and this trip includes time at a villa in Tuscany with friends and then quick stops in Venice, Cinque Terre, Lake Como and Milan.

Milan is one of the most underrated cities of Europe. While it may not have as much to offer as Paris or London, it has a great energy and wonderful design all around. Window-shopping along the Via Montenapoleone is always a pleasure. The Duomo in Milan is a Gothic fantasy — and climbing around the top of it is great fun, with spectacular views.

In Milan, I especially enjoy some of the newest architecture in the Porta Nuova district, including Cesar Pelli’s spire-topped, glass semi-circular Unicredit Tower (the tallest building in Italy) and the pair of residential towers called “Bosco Verticale” (translation: vertical forest) by Boeri Studio which all 20+ floors are virtually covered in living trees and other plants. 

Cesar Pelli's Unicredit Tower next to Bosco Verticale in Milan's Porta Nuova district. Photo from Wikipedia by Thomas Ledl.

TSS:  Thank you, Brian. I wish you many more years of success, great clients and design.

Originally built as St. Joseph’s Hospital in 1926, the Mediterranean Revival building Brian lives in was converted to condominiums in 1986. It was designed by Arthur Brown, Jr. of the architecture firm, Bakewell & Brown — better known for designing such landmarks as San Francisco City Hall, the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House, Coit Tower and several buildings on the campus of Stanford University. The façade of the building was cast as the sanatorium in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 film, Vertigo.

It sits on the southern edge of Buena Vista Park and overlooks the Castro district, Corona Heights, Dolores Park and the Bay beyond. 

A West Elm chevron pattern bone inlay lamp and a rock crystal votive holder sit atop a 1950s teak bar cabinet — the view out the window overlooks Corona Heights park.

Bronze and brass wall sconces by Hudson Valley Lighting adorn the paneled structural columns separating the living room from the dining room.

Thank You — We Love Our Readers

I am so honored to have the best and most talented members and subscribers and followers. THE STYLE SALONISTE has an international retinue of pals — as well as thousands of Facebook friends and Pinterest pinners and Instagram followers and friends, along with Tweeters and emailers, and message-writers and readers all over the world.

Hundreds of thousands of unique visitors each month. Millions of unique visits. Most exciting. This is a niche blog, very specialized and focused, and my goal is to delight, inspire, inform, and amuse and entertain my readers each week.

After more than eight years, THE STYLE SALONISTE has a worldwide audience of curious, passionate, stylish, talented, philanthropic, creative and excited readers.

Thank you to all the photographers, interior designers, architects, artists, storeowners, creative talents, inspirations, writer, art dealers, authors, artists, gallery directors, and so many fantastically super-bright and enthusiastic creators I’ve written about and published.

Cheers and cheers. I send my gratitude.

The small plaster tile is a 3D topographical map called "San Francisco Terrain" by the late antique dealer Connor Fennessy.


Brian Dittmar

Brian's favorite design sources in his apartment:

Art above the sofa:
Cassandria Blackmore

John Dickinson table:
Sutherland Furniture

Chandelier and bedside lamps:

Carpet in bedroom and study:
Mark Nelson Designs

Grasscloth wallpaper in study:
Phillip Jeffries Ltd. 

Linen wallpaper in bedroom:

Vintage Scandinavian credenza:
Björk Studio

Custom metal clock and aluminum drink table:
Paul Benson

Pillows and window treatments:
Ewing & Ball Custom Fine Sewing

Wallpaper installation:
Photo by David Duncan Livingston.

About Brian Dittmar Design

Brian’s design aesthetic and approach to the process are influenced by his long-time passion for the graphic arts and architecture. He honed his interest in classical furniture and furnishings — by exploring the interiors and collections of the Wintherthur Museum, near his childhood home in Wilmington, Delaware. 

Brian has appeared on HGTV and his work has been featured in local and national magazines. Also a former graphic designer, he has worked for clients including Stanford University, Chronicle Books and Lincoln Center. He lives in San Francisco with his partner, Thomas Carragher, a merchandising executive at Gap Inc., and their pug Freddie.


Phone: 415.235.0529
Fax: 415.558.9693

And I know we have many dog and pug lovers among our readers — be sure to follow the adventures of Freddie the pug on Instagram: @freddiethepuginsf