Friday, September 2, 2022

Celebrating San Francisco Opera: A Glorious Fall Season Celebrating 100 Years

Wishing a Happy Fall cultural season to my beloved friends and followers in San Francisco and around the world. The arts are alive, always inspiring, ennobling — and this week I have the inside scoop on the dazzling fall season of San Francisco Opera. 

You will be happy to hear that art director, Brian Dittmar, and I continue to work together to bring THE STYLE SALONISTE to you.

Brian was the founding art director and he continues to create the beautiful layouts. He is also the owner/founder of a marvelous lifestyle boutique, MAKER + MUSE, in Maplewood, New Jersey. Meet him there. 

And I’m happy that you all followed me over to Instagram, and my two handles @dianedorranssaeks and #mylifetimelibrary. I continue to post my adventures and travels, new books, and flowers and style and especially luxury interiors and great interior designers.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

This week I’m delighted with the news of the opening of San Francisco Opera on September 9 with a gala, followed by a magnificent and bold fall season.

Congratulations to San Francisco Opera, celebrating its Centennial with all-new opera productions, a world premiere, new co-productions, classics, and a beautiful and impressive international roster of leading opera artists, performers, singers, designers, directors, conductors, and superb talents.

Paul Appleby as Caesar (center) and members of the San Francisco Opera Chorus in an early rehearsal of John Adams' "Antony and Cleopatra"   Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

The Glorious Return of San Francisco Opera: 
The 2023 Season Celebrates 100 Years

San Francisco Opera launches a year of celebrations—for its impressive Centennial. Congratulations to all who have created and dreamed up a thrilling 2022-2023 season, which ends with summer opera.

Amina Edris as Cleopatra and Gerald Finley as Antony in an early rehearsal of John Adams' "Antony and Cleopatra"   Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

San Francisco Opera 2022–23 Centennial Season Honors the Company’s First 100 Years While Envisioning a Bold Future

The September 9–11 Opening Weekend features Gala Concert and Opera Ball, and the world premiere of Antony and Cleopatra by John Adams and free Opera in the Park, all conducted by Music Director Eun Sun Kim.

Eight Mainstage Productions Include:

World Premiere of Antony and Cleopatra, Berkeley composer John Adams’ new opera.

Premiere of Co-Commissioned El último sueño de Frida y Diego by Bay Area composer Gabriela Lena Frank and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz

New San Francisco Opera Productions of Verdi’s La Traviata and Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice

New Co-Production of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly with Tokyo, Dresden, Copenhagen

Twentieth-Century masterpieces Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites and Strauss’ Die Frau ohne Schatten return to the stage where they had their U.S. Premieres

Bay Area Premiere of celebrated staging of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin marks the return of Russian Repertoire after 14 years

Opera in the Park returns September 11, 2022   Photo: Drew Altizer Photography

Centennial celebrations Include 100th anniversary concert, Bohème Out of the Box, The Traviata Encounter, Open House, Historic Recordings Project, Community Stories and exhibitions. For more information:

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

I’m looking forward to Antony and Cleopatra, and admire the rigorous intellect of John Adams.

I’ll be seeing all of this season’s operas, all so very different, with dramatic staging and international casts. It’s always interesting, over a season, to see new talent emerge. It’s wonderful to see an international star…and as well, young performers making their breakthrough roles. Oh, the applause.

San Francisco Opera audiences are devoted—and they are generous with cheering and applause and rousing appreciation.

Orpheus and Eurydice will be most fascinating, such an emotional storyline, myth and mystery.

Eugene Onegin! I’ve seen the SF Ballet performances, many times. This will be a new staging of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece. Marvelous story line and settings.

New Madame Butterfly. Always heartbreaking and so very beautiful.

I have never seen Dialogues of the Carmelites and can’t wait for this performance. Poulenc! Modernist. This will be fascinating.

Such a great selection, glorious inventions, scores, and hundreds of world-class talents. All on stage, I cannot wait.

Amina Edris as Cleopatra in an early rehearsal of John Adams' "Antony and Cleopatra"   Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Paul Appleby as Caesar in an early rehearsal of John Adams' "Antony and Cleopatra"  Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Here’s the Scoop on ‘Antony and Cleopatra’

San Francisco Opera presents the world premiere of John Adams’ Antony and Cleopatra on Saturday, September 10, with performances through October 5

Adams is the composter of one of my great favorites, Nixon in China, and this new work is an international co-commission and co-production with the Metropolitan Opera and Barcelona’s Liceu Opera and was created especially for San Francisco Opera’s 100th season.

The September 18 matinee performance of Antony and Cleopatra will be livestreamed and available on demand for 48 hours. Virtual tickets for the livestream go on sale later this month.

The libretto for Antony and Cleopatra is adapted from Shakespeare’s drama by the composer with consultation by Elkhanah Pulitzer and Lucia Scheckner. San Francisco Opera Caroline H. Hume Music Director Eun Sun Kim will conduct. 

Amina Edris as Cleopatra and Gerald Finley as Antony in an early rehearsal of John Adams' "Antony and Cleopatra"   Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

The cast is headed by Egyptian soprano Amina Edris creating the role of Cleopatra and noted Adams collaborators bass-baritone Gerald Finley as Antony and tenor Paul Appleby as Caesar. Chorus Director John Keene prepared the San Francisco Opera Chorus to portray the peoples of Rome and Alexandria.

John Adams commented: 
“I am proud to continue my longstanding collaboration with the great San Francisco Opera with this, the fifth opera of mine the company has presented over the years. Antony and Cleopatra is a story that embraces not only the intimate and human but also the geopolitical and the clash of civilizations. As is always the case with Shakespeare, its themes mirror the realities of life even as we live it at this very moment.”

San Francisco Opera Music Director Eun Sun Kim outside the War Memorial Opera House   Photo: Marc Olivier Le Blanc/San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera Music Director Eun Sun Kim

Conductor Eun Sun Kim is San Francisco Opera’s Caroline H. Hume Music Director. This season marks her second as music director. In 2019, Kim became Houston Grand Opera’s first principal guest conductor in 25 years.

Eun Sun Kim kicks off San Francisco Opera’s 2022–23 Season with Opera Ball: The Centennial Celebration and Opera in the Park in Golden Gate Park. She takes to the podium for the world premiere of Bay Area composer John Adams’ Antony and Cleopatra; Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites; and a new production of Verdi’s La Traviata (the latter’s opening night performance will be simulcast for free at Oracle Park, this year’s Opera at the Ballpark presentation). Bookending the season, Kim leads Puccini’s Madame Butterfly and celebrates San Francisco Opera’s centenary with the 100th Anniversary Concert.

San Francisco Opera Music Director Eun Sun Kim at the War Memorial Opera House   Photo: Marc Olivier Le Blanc/San Francisco Opera

Her past Company highlights include performances of Dvořák’s Rusalka, Puccini’s Tosca, and Beethoven’s Fidelio, in addition to leading several concerts (The Homecoming; Eun Sun Kim Conducts Verdi; The Future Is Now Adler Fellows Concert).

Elsewhere, her recent operatic appearances include important debuts at the Vienna State Opera and the Metropolitan Opera (La Bohème); Lyric Opera of Chicago (Tosca); and LA Opera (Roberto Devereux). Her numerous worldwide podium engagements this season include performances at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala and the Vienna State Opera (La Bohème); Dutch National Opera (Verdi Requiem); and Houston Grand Opera (Salome).

Among Kim’s many international orchestral turns are appearances with Seoul Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre National de France, Beethoven Orchestra Bonn, and Stuttgart Philharmonic, as well as orchestras in Madrid, Marseille, Munich, Lille, Nancy, Milan, Palermo, Turin, Milwaukee, Calgary, and Santiago de Compostela. In North America, she has recently conducted The Philadelphia Orchestra, LA Philharmonic, and the symphony orchestras of Cincinnati, Detroit, Portland, Seattle, and Toronto. 

Eun Sun Kim conduct's Puccini's "Tosca" at San Francisco Opera.   Photo: Kristen Loken/San Francisco Opera

Eun Sun Kim studied composition and conducting in her hometown of Seoul, South Korea before continuing her studies in Stuttgart, Germany, where she graduated with distinction. Directly after graduation, she was awarded the First Prize in the International Jesús López Cobos Opera Conducting Competition at Madrid’s Teatro Real.

Follow her on Instagram: @ESKConductor

San Francisco Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock   Photo: Kristen Loken

About The General Director, Matthew Shilvock

I have admired Matthew Shilvock since he first arrived at San Francisco Opera, and especially after his appointment as General Director.

He has deftly directed the company through several challenging years. I especially have been impressed with his demeanor and management as the company has traversed the Covid year, and now emergence.

I also admire and appreciate that Matthew is passionate about telling profound stories of humanity through the total art-form of opera, connecting audiences with the emotional core of the repertoire, and empowering the whole Company. 

Now in his fourth season as General Director, Matthew has overseen a major restructure of the senior management team, and the inception of an endowment campaign in support of the Company’s second century. He initiated the production of two world premiere operas: John Adams’ Girls of the Golden West and Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber, and the development of a number of programs aimed at highlighting the talents of the Company, including annual concerts of the Opera Chorus and a new side-by-side orchestra program with San Francisco Unified School District schools.

His priorities include replenishing the core repertory productions of San Francisco Opera, creating a dynamic audience experience and community pride, connecting the Company to the fast-growing swirl of new thinking and new technologies in the Bay Area, and developing a stable financial model for large-scale repertory opera in the 21st century.

San Francisco Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock Photo: Sasha Arutyunova

“Opera gives us opportunities to gather and share in deep, collective, emotional expression. And as we raise the curtain with Anthony and Cleopatra on September 10, we will do just that. We commence our exciting season, with a new music director in Eun Sun Kim!

“That so many productions this season will be new or recently new to our stage is a testament to the local artists and musicians and composers and designers and artisans and talents of all kinds and the local community which have supported this Company so magnificently during recent year—and for the past hundred years.

– General Director, Matthew Shilvock

War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco  Photo by David Wakely for San Francisco Opera

For More Information on San Francisco Opera:

For tickets, and programs for the season, and many events that are taking place online, off-site, including at the Ballpark:

Subscriptions to San Francisco Opera’s 100th Season are now on sale via the San Francisco Opera Box Office at (415) 864-3330 and online at

Virtual tickets for the September 18 livestream of Antony and Cleopatra will be available later this month for $27.50. For more tickets and more information, visit

100 Dolby Family Opera for the Bay tickets, offered in partnership with the Dolby family, will be available for each performance of Antony and Cleopatra at $10 each while supplies last. Eligible Bay Area residents (home address zip code between 94000–95999 who have not purchased a San Francisco Opera ticket in the past three years) may purchase two $10 tickets for one performance during the Centennial Season. For tickets and more information about Opera for the Bay, visit

War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco  Photo by David Wakely for San Francisco Opera

COVID-19 safety protocols will be in effect for all performances and events. For up-to-date information about San Francisco Opera’s safety measures, visit

All patrons are required to wear a face mask while attending performances. 

Ventilation systems in the War Memorial Opera House meet Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.

All front-of-house and backstage employees will follow rigorous safety protocols including a vaccination requirement. 

War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco  Photo by Joel Puliatti

The War Memorial Opera House is located at 301 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco.

For more information and to book tickets:

Friday, August 26, 2022

Welcome to the Very Exciting New RH San Francisco Gallery — Glamour and Glory

RH San Francisco Gallery opened earlier this summer—and it has rapidly become an essential visit for viewing newest RH designs, for dining, for checking the dramatic new lighting collections, wine-tasting on the roof deck, and especially for making an appointment for a design consultation. The Palm Court restaurant is all the buzz.

The superb new CONTEMPORARY collection is now in all the galleries, and it’s compelling and wonderfully cosmopolitan. The new international group of design talent is impressive and exciting. I’m so happy that California design legend, Ron Mann, introduces his first new product for RH. A handsome plaster lamp.

At the RH San Francisco opening party, guests arrived to discover a neighborhood they’d never visited, and to see the impressive restoration. Palatial, indeed.

CEO Gary Friedman was the genial host and fun-leader for the lively opening celebrations. He welcomed celebs and sports champions who danced and frolicked into the night, stargazed on the roof, and checked dramatic new collections. Guests at the star-studded opening party included Portia de Rossi and Ellen DeGeneres, along with leaders and founders of San Francisco’s vivid charities. The evening benefited the Tipping Point Community.

RH Chairman & CEO Gary Friedman with Jessica Alba, Alex Daddario and Bella Hunter. Photo by Drew Altizer

Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. Photo by Drew Altizer

Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. Photo by Drew Altizer

Friends of RH: Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi are frisky and fun at the RH San Francisco opening party. It was a memorable and luxurious opening party. Bellinis, caviar, and a joyful evening. CEO Gary Friedman greeted friends, sports champions, Hollywood stars, realtors, developers, dancers, designers, architects, cultural creative, and talented and accomplishment style lovers from near and far.

Yes, The Palm Court restaurant in the heart of RH San Francisco is the chicest new setting in California. It’s the site for languorous lunches, sipping Bellinis, conversation, delight, a fresh point of view, and enjoying an elegant dinner beneath inspirational RH chandeliers. Outstanding wine lists. Forty different wines by the glass.

Recently I invited a friend to enjoy a leisurely lunch with me at The Palm Court. We immersed in conversation and tasting and observing everything.

After several hours, we ventured forth to peruse the galleries, obsess about the sheets, check the luxurious cashmere blankets, and study the new lighting.

We cruised the new furniture vignettes in the expansive galleries, and eventually we headed up to the Roof Deck for bay views, sipping wine, and taking in this great setting in a former shipbuilding neighborhood, now in revival thanks to RH.

Photo by Diane Dorrans Saeks

On the menu: my favorite first course, a wood-grilled avocado with 10g of Beluga caviar, crème fraiche, and a dash of olive oil.

Also offered at the Palm Court is the fish of the day, artful salads, and several perfect plant-based dishes, along with Wagyu, and beautifully prepared truffle fries.

Photo by Diane Dorrans Saeks

My ‘Secret Affogato’ Dessert That I Invented (and You Will Love)

We enjoyed lovely fresh dishes…salad and Branzino especially. And when time came for dessert, I requested simple vanilla ice cream.

My friend ordered an espresso.

The ice cream arrived, along with the espresso.

And I saw that I had the perfect ingredients for creating one of my favorite Italian deserts, Affogato, which is vanilla ice cream ‘drowned’ in hot espresso.

I asked my friend if I may use his espresso (I ordered another for him). I poured the hot coffee (see my notes below about the fantastic coffee at RH) …and then dipped my spoon into the ice cream, now with the tang and power and intensity of the coffee in contrast to the ice cream’s sweet creamy texture. Ultra-delicious.

Be sure to ask for Diane’s Secret Affogato. Delicious.

Photo by Diane Dorrans Saeks

Sawada Project X Coffee: Japanese Coffee Master — A Marvelous Discovery

The exclusive coffee at The Palm Court restaurant at RH San Francisco is worth a detour. This rich and well-balanced coffee has a medium roast that brings out the coffee flavor and aromas.

I admired the coffee so much, I asked the Maître d’ for more information. Here’s the inside scoop about the special exclusive Chicago-created coffee RH has selected.

The coffee program at RH Hospitality was inspired by Hiroshi Sawada, world renowned barista, latte art expert and founder of Streamer Coffee in Tokyo. 

The highly trained baristas at Streamer stunned visitors with lattes showcasing perfect art and balance, only achievable through Sawada’s practice-makes-perfect philosophy emphasizing simplicity, teaching and community building around coffee.

RH uses Metropolis 'Project X' coffee beans (exclusive blend for RH, can only be enjoyed in RH spaces!)

Proprietary blend of beans from Mogiana, Brazil that have a darker roast, creating a rich, chocolaty, nutty flavor profile.

RH uses these beans for our espresso, drip coffee and cold brew because the flavor characteristics remain consistent through all of these extraction methods.

Metropolis, the RH Hospitality coffee supplier, purchases only arabica coffee.

The Historic Setting Near the Waterfront in San Francisco — RH San Francisco Gallery at the Former Bethlehem Steel Headquarters

An 80,000-square-foot, five-level architectural masterpiece, RH San Francisco at the historic Bethlehem Steel Building is an immersive design experience.

Collections include RH Modern and RH Outdoors as well as RH Contemporary and rooms of lighting and decorative accessories.

RH San Francisco also includes the largest RH Interior Design Atelier to date, providing professional design services with private client presentation rooms and state-of-the-art technology.

The landmark building was constructed in 1917. Designed by preeminent architect Frederick H. Meyer it has been meticulously restored with great respect for its original vision. The monumental structure has a distinctive beveled corner, elegant neoclassical detailing, and hand-forged iron doors.

Visitors will encounter a rare octagonal lobby featuring the building’s original stair rotunda.

Photo by Diane Dorrans Saeks

Photo by Diane Dorrans Saeks

Photo by Diane Dorrans Saeks

Photo by Diane Dorrans Saeks

My Favorite Bedding

I admire (and use on my bed) the RH Italian bed linens and cashmere blankets and throws. They’re classics and very elegant.

One throw this season I highly recommend is the cashmere double-face blanket / throw with ivory on one side and pale grey on the reverse. It’s sumptuous and light and looks beautiful on the bed.

When I visited RH San Francisco recently, I invited an interior designer friend to join me. I wanted a reaction about the selection, the accessories like alpaca blankets and cashmere blankets. I wanted a professional point of view.

I’ve always been a fan of the Italian bedding created for RH…with beautiful Egyptian cotton, a variety of thread counts and styles. I use only white sheets, but the other colors like ivory and pale grey are very attractive as well.

Video by Diane Dorrans Saeks

Bravo to Gary Friedman

“RH San Francisco Gallery is a deeply personal project which has taken almost a decade to fulfill.” 

“It’s a reflection of our very best work to date — an architecturally inspiring historic building, in the century-old shipbuilding neighborhood of San Francisco. Re-purposing this historic building, formerly the Bethlehem Steel headquarters, to a design center was our highest aspiration.” 

“This is designed as an immersive experience that blurs the lines between residential and hospitality.” 

“Our entire team is proud and honored to bring this innovative concept and hospitality and design to San Francisco.” 

– RH Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Gary Friedman

Photo by Diane Dorrans Saeks


Most images of the new gallery are from RH.

I also shot the restaurant dishes and desert, along with updated images of the Contemporary collections and lighting.

Opening party images by Drew Altizer |

Video by Diane Dorrans Saeks


Note: RH is not officially on Instagram. But there are thousands of #restorationhardware and #rhrestorationhardware tags to click on to see more designs and interiors.

590 20th Street
San Francisco, California

Valet Parking:
Mon-Sun 10am-9pm

Palm Court Restaurant:
Mon-Sun 10am-9pm

To Request a Design Consultation:

Sunday, August 21, 2022

The Great Fred Lyon: The finest photographer of California design. The most charming man. And the most dapper and stylish. A great pleasure to work with him…and chat to him at a dinner party. A lively and witty raconteur.

Congratulations, Fred Lyon, 97, on your new book.

After eight decades of photographing top interior designers work, along with glamorous interiors and wineries and travel, Fred's classic images of design have recently been published in a large new volume by Rizzoli, and it is a beauty.

The dramatic new book, ‘Inventing the California Look: Through the Lens of Fred Lyon’, written by San Francisco author, Philip Meza and published by Rizzoli. This beautiful new volume documents California interior designs of legendary Michael Taylor, the trend-setting Frances Elkins, and universally admired John Dickinson. There are also handsome interior designs by Anthony Hail, and Penny Rozis. It’s beautifully designed by Doug Turshen. Very very collectible.

California’s Legendary Photographer, Fred Lyon, at 97, with his wife Penny Rozis, author Phillip Meza and his wife Marjorie Qualey at the Hudson Grace booksigning.

I have known Fred Lyon for ages…and always loved seeing him at social events, and at art galleries, at photography shows and opening parties. A sharp eye and killer wit. Anecdotes…of working with John Dickinson and Frances Elkins and Michael Taylor.

He photographed for all the top magazines, such as HOLIDAY, and LIFE and House & Garden and Vogue, and has published multiple books, including the new NOIR, black and white images of San Francisco in the forties and fifties. 

This week I’m celebrating the great San Francisco photographer, Fred Lyon, as he approaches his hundredth year.

In recent decades Lyon’s fine art photography has been featured at prestigious international art fairs, including Masterpiece London, AIPAD’s The Photography Show and Paris Photo. His work also is held in museums and important private collections.

He is represented by Peter Fetterman Gallery in Los Angeles.

He and his book author, Phillip E. Meza, recently had a fantastic booksigning party at HUDSON GRACE, the wonderful design shop in Presidio Heights, San Francisco.

Hudson Grace store in San Francisco, the scene of the Fred Lyon book signing

“Over the years I have discovered that I like to work fast and take lots of pictures in natural light. I’m very systematic. I shoot a great opener and a lot of strong and memorable and well-composted shots that tell the story with no fluff, and no weak shots. Editors and art directors like to get a range of strong images.” — Fred Lyon

Since 1947, Fred has focused his lenses on the most beautiful rooms throughout California, captured the poetry and originality of designs by Michael Taylor and the quirkiness and glamour of rooms limned by John Dickinson. In the process, Lyon has influenced all subsequent generations of interiors photographers and decorators, and given the greatest designers their well-deserved immortality.

“I have known Fred since my early days in design, working for Michael Taylor in the eighties. Fred Lyon simply has the best eye in the business,”
said San Francisco decorator, Suzanne Tucker, who recently commissioned Lyon to shoot her own house. “I first saw the masterful way he photographed Michael Taylor’s interiors. His images simply don’t date.”

Since he arrived in San Francisco from Washington DC in 1947, armed with just one camera, Lyon has recorded thousands of glamorous interiors and hundreds of accomplished people, including five US presidents. Lyon has also shot food, galas, luscious landscapes, grand hotels, and international wineries — the good life — for every style-conscious magazine, from Vogue, House & Garden, Glamour, House Beautiful, and Flair.

Fred Lyon on John Dickinson

“John Dickinson was the best, and he was heaven to work with. A total gentleman. I first met him when he was working for the E. Coleman Dick design studio on Sutter Street in the fifties. Soon after, he went out on his own, and has me shoot six of his interiors in one day. His firehouse interior was dramatic and so chic. Who else would have combined carnival heads from the Old Spaghetti Factory with a grand Art Nouveau dining table, and plaster tables? Like Jean-Michel Frank, who he admired, he could take humble materials like straw, leather, plaster, pine plants, or galvanized metal, and have them crafted in the most luxurious manner so that the seemed precious. He was a true original, and the greatest of them all.”

Designer John Dickinson at his firehouse in San Francisco.

Lyon is famous for creating authoritative and elegant photographs of classic beauty. Images he shot in the forties, fifties and sixties are perfectly composed and superbly lit and even today they retain their allure.

“The architects and designs put all their talent and style and taste into the rooms I’m shooting, so I never want to impose a “look”, Fred told me. “That’s too gimmicky for me. I want a harmonious composition. Working with designers like Michael Taylor, Frances Elkins, or John Dickinson, I did not have to go into a trance or torture it. My job was and is to show the design and tell the story—not to make a design statement of my own.”

“Fred’s fine art photography today is featured at prestigious international art fairs and held in museums and important private collections. They are arresting images. Many were taken in San Francisco. They show high society, low society and many worlds in between. Fred has always been a flâneur and his ambit is vast and includes the midcentury art and jazz scenes, when Fred befriended artists like abstract expressionist Richard Diebenkorn, and captured jazz greats Billie Holiday, Sonny Rollins, Bobby Troup, Percy Heath and others. Fred captured beat poetry happenings and haunted the best nightspots with the city’s “poet laureate”[i] newspaper columnist Herb Caen in the days when San Francisco was the “cool, gray city of love.”[ii]  – Philip E. Meza, from ‘A Wonderful Life: Fred Lyon’s 75 Years of Photography.’

Interior designer Michael Taylor

Fred Lyon shot almost everything Michael Taylor created, for House & Garden and Vogue and Lyon recalls him with great affection.

“Those were the days of the decorator-as-despot,” said Lyon. “ Michael was bold and outspoken and his clients were completely in awe of everything he said and did. But his rooms for each client were elegant, sometimes eccentric, and always highly individual.”

For the brilliant and egotistical Michael Taylor, however, the rooms he designed for his clients were merely full of possibility, waiting for the flourish he would add for the camera.

“We were once faced with a “nothing” corner at a beach house in Pebble Beach that we were shooting for House & Garden,” recalled Lyon. “I told Michael it was lacking pizzazz and had no focal point. He immediately got on the phone to John Berggruen. He’d been to an opening at his gallery the night before. He asked John to send down the centrepiece of the entire show right away. Three hours later, a truck arrived and the large abstract canvas was hung on the wall. The photo made the cover of the magazine, and the client bought the painting.”

Bedroom by Michael Taylor

Taylor worked on the fly, improvising as the photo shoot went from room to room, said Lyon.

“In the early sixties, we were debating shooting a small room in the attic of a Pacific Heights mansion,” said the photographer. “Michael draped it in white linen, arranged a pair of French painted chairs and an antique desk, and brought in masses of terra cotta pots of white hydrangeas. It was great instant decor for the camera.”

To the chagrin of the grande dame who lived in the mansion, her maid’s room soon appeared in full glory on the cover of House & Garden.

Taylor was not the only dictatorial decorator Lyon photographed. Frances Elkins cut a swathe through San Francisco society, and designed extraordinarily chic interiors for the likes of Nan Kempner’s parents, and young Nan, and for a bevy of demanding clients.

“Frances Elkins made charts for all their maids, showing precisely where to place ashtrays and where flowers were to be arranged on tables,’ Lyon commented. “She had keys to every client’s house, and would sweep in unannounced, saying imperiously, and “Those cushions look tired. They must be replaced” or “That wall needs repainting” and it would be done without a whimper. People were so pleased and impressed to be working with her that they would turn over their lives to her.”

Living Room at De Guigne in Hillsborough, California by Tony Hail

Lyon later worked with other towering talents, including Anthony Hail, Margot Grant of Gensler, and Charles Pfister. Lyon, genial, modest and droll, relished shooting their designs.

“I like to work fast and take lots of pictures in natural light,” explained the photographer. “You take a great opener and a lot of great shots that tell the story, with no fluff, no weak shots with nothing in them. You put in a good day’s work. That’s what professionals do.”

Fred Lyon and his elegant blonde wife, Anne Murray Lyon were fixtures on the social scene and regulars on Herb Caen’s column for decades. Anne, who died ten years ago, had been one of Richard Avedon’s favorite models.

Fred Lyon is still in demand today to shoot interiors for discerning designers, and to capture wineries around the world for leading magazines. He has, reportedly, the largest archive of wine-related photography in the world.

“My friends still call me a Young Turk,” said the indefatigable Lyon who now also shoots with digital cameras. “I spent all those years learning now to be a photographer. It has been exciting, unexpected and tremendously rewarding.”

Dining Room by Frances Elkins

Fred Lyon: Fine Art Photography

Fred is also known as a fine art photographer whose best work is “the equivalent of Brassaï or Cartier-Bresson” (gallerist Peter Fetterman).

Lyon began his career photographing fashion with the first American supermodels, including the iconic Dorian Leigh. He then became a contract photographer for the best titles of the magazine age, including Life, Holiday, Fortune, Vogue and Sports Illustrated and earned esteem for his photographs, in black and white and color, of interior décor for influential shelter magazines.

Join me to encounter some of Fred Lyon’s most celebration black and white photography.

San Francisco has never looked so alluring.

“There is an incredible empathy and sensitivity in Fred’s work,” Fetterman says, “Once you meet Fred, you understand where it comes from. Fred is in the tradition of many of the great French humanist photographers we have worked with like Willy Ronis, Edouard Boubat, Robert Doisneau mixed in with a touch of Brassaï and Cartier-Bresson.”[iii]  Fetterman continued, “Wistful, dreamlike nostalgia envelopes Fred’s work, and envelopes the clients when they see it. We all need relief from contemporary life. And sometimes when we look at Fred’s images, they give us that.”[iv]  – Los Angeles gallerist Peter Fetterman, as quoted in ‘A Wonderful Life: Fred Lyon’s 75 Years of Photography’ by Philip E. Meza


Fred Lyon’s photography is available through the Peter Fetterman gallery.

The new Fred Lyon book is published by Rizzoli Books. It’s available now. Follow Rizzoli on Instagram @rizzolibooks — and it can be acquired via @rizzolibookstore in New York City and other fine independent book stores as well as


Fred Lyon

Author Philip E. Meza

[i] R.W. Apple, “On the Road; Even in Fog, That City on a Hill Dazzles,” The New York Times, June 25, 1999, Section E, Page 27.

[ii] George Sterling, “The Cool, Grey City of Love,” The San Francisco Bulletin, vol. 133, no. 31 (Dec. 11, 1920), p. 1.

[iii] Interview with Peter Fetterman 24 March 2020.

[iv] Interview with Peter Fetterman 24 March 2020.