Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Diary of a Showcase Room

San Francisco designer Brian Dittmar debuts at the San Francisco Decorator Showcase April 28 with a brilliant and original room that highlights fine craftsmanship, exquisite tonalities, and the allure of obsession. Bravo, Brian!

A last minute revision to the design after The Style Saloniste photo shoot: Brian moved the clock out of the corner...much better and more elegant.

The prestigious San Francisco Decorator Showcase, now in its 33rd year, opens this week, with a press preview on April 28, followed by glamorous sponsor and patron parties. It is open to the public May 1 through May 31.

With the sudden postponement of the Kips Bay Showcase, all eyes are on San Francisco. 

Leading designers at the house include Suzanne Tucker, David Kensington, Darin Geise, Cecilie Starin, Benjamin Dhong, Shirley Robinson, Will Wick, Shelby de Quesada, Michael Burg, Siol Studios, Thad Warren, George Brazil and Cecilia Sagrera-Hill, Philpotts & Associates, Charles de Lisle, and Brian Dittmar.

The house is superbly located in Presidio Heights, with verdant views over the Presidio to the Golden Gate Bridge.

It’s a fabulous, classical house—full of surprises, extreme elegance, great art, spectacular decorative painting, and charming and dreamy rooms. There is even a nursery for triplets (a first, I think, at a design showcase) which is very apt, considering the numbers of large-scale strollers rolling along the sidewalks of Pacific Heights.

3450 Washington Street in San Francisco

The house before the transformation began.

San Francisco interior designer Brian Dittmar designs his first showcase room, ‘Poetry in Time: The Horologist’s Laboratory’

Meet THE STYLE SALONISTE Art Director, Brian Dittmar, and enter his fascinating room at the San Francisco Decorator Showcase, opening this week. You’ve seen his signature company logo on THE STYLE SALONISTE—and admired my blog's logo. It was designed, I am pleased to say, by Brian.

Follow along as we show you his completed room. It is a tiny former maid’s room beneath the eaves. This small dimension appealed to Brian—who decided it would be the perfect size for his first showcase outing.

Fortunately, his design proposal was selected from among many beautiful presentations.

Join us as we walk through the room, and show how it came together. Brian kept a diary, and you’ll see all the ‘ingredients’—the handsome custom-made rug, Paul Benson’s new lamp, and of course the divine clocks.

Room Concept:  Tucked away in the attic space, this sunny room-with-a-view is a retreat for an horologist — an aficionado of the art or science of measuring time. He appreciates the beauty, technology and craftsmanship that goes into the making of watches, clocks, timepieces and sundials, but he is also fascinated by the passing of time and of history. This is his ‘laboratory’ — a place where he can escape to study and learn more about his passion.

Brian guides us through the room 
This room serves first and foremost as a display area for the horologist’s collection of timepieces. The largest clock in the collection is a 1950s German sculptural ‘hoop clock’ made of five overlapping tubular steel ovals (purchased from Vermillion Gallery in Miami).

Additional clocks include: a 1860s French ‘Portico’ clock made of two shades of bronze; a small Art Deco hanging wall clock; a very unusual antique ‘globe clock’ ca. 1880 found in Argentina and on loan from
McRae & Co.; a Sonic Woodblock Clock (by San Francisco-based Shine Labs) that incorporates a one inch high LED time display that shines through a thin wood veneer face; and a one-of-a-kind, hand-made skeleton wall clock by Sonoma, CA, metal artist Paul Benson.

Paul Benson's one-of-a-kind skeleton clock

Four antique pocket watches are displayed in custom shadowboxes, expertly crafted by San Francisco's Underglass Framing. Displayed on a decorative skirted radiator cover, a collection of hourglasses (plus an antique armillary) demonstrate alternate ways in which to measure time.

The centerpiece of this room is a tone-on-tone custom designed rug (through Mark Nelson Designs in New York City), woven with the Auguste Rodin quote “Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely” in handwritten script lettering. Given the large scale of the words, they first appear as an abstract, contemporary pattern — but upon further inspection, the words will become clear.

Reflecting the light coming in through the dormer windows — and the view to the north of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands — is a custom, standing framed mirror (fabricated by Paige Glass Co.) with the etched letters of a poem about time as it relates to the Earth by John Muir. 

The two interior walls are covered in a rich, subtly textured wallpaper from Threads at Lee Jofa. with random length metallic stripes that appear as a contemporary interpretation of tree bark. The two other walls and ceiling are painted in Benjamin Moore’s ‘Bleecker Beige’ with the trim in a slightly darker warm grey color.
Illustrating a love of architecture and history, an eclectic mix of furnishings includes a handsome French Neo-classical low cabinet made of steel (purchased from Coup d’Etat) sitting below the ‘hoop clock’ and playing off the metallic wallpaper behind. 

A perfectly sized rectangular Art Deco style work table — a flea market find — is refinished in a deep chocolate brown lacquer adding another reflective element and contrasting with the patina of some of the other pieces.
"The minute I walked into this space I instantly felt comfortable and at home. I loved the dormer windows and the way the sloped ceilings wrap around the space. It has an almost up-close view of the Golden Gate Bridge. In this 10,000 sq. ft. Albert Farr-designed mansion, this room (formerly a servants quarters) felt manageable, quaint and human-scaled." – Brian Dittmar

Seating includes a pair of 1940s bleached mahogany Klismos chairs—their seats upholstered in a Barbara Barry smoky amethyst cut velvet—flanking the steel cabinet. A contemporary issue of the 1970s classic Karl Springer goat skin chair (on loan from McRae & Co.) serves as the work table seat. Brian Dittmar designed the wing chair to pay homage to the broken pediment top of a grandfather clock. It is upholstered in an oatmeal Kravet Calvin Klein fabric reminiscent of tree rings and sits next to the organically shaped bronze ‘Pool’ side table from Gary Hutton Design (through Therien & Co.).

Two exceptional lamps from Blackman Cruz (through Therien & Co.), a custom hand-turned aluminum floor lamp from Paul Benson (his new lighting collection will debut at DeSousa Hughes at the San Francisco Design Center later this year) and Eric Cohler’s antique silver ceiling-mounted “star light” from Circa Lighting cast a soft glow over the entire room.

Ruth Laskey, Moss Green, 2008

Ruth Laskey, Bronze, 2008

Jorge Robelo, Untitled, 2007

A unique artwork collection was curated by Baxter & Cook Art Advisors and includes two pieces from rising San Francisco artist Ruth Laskey's hand-stitched linen series as well as Mexican artist Jorge Robelo's intricate and mechanical acrylic on paper composition.
Inspiration:  “I became fascinated by grandfather (or tall case) clocks as a young child. I grew up in Delaware near Winterthur Museum and often went with my family to see the collection of clocks (among the great furniture collections) and would run home and start drawing them. Winterthur’s tall case clock collections are very architectural—like Greek temples with columns, pediments and architectural embellishments. This room brings together my childhood interest in clocks, but also my past career in graphic design."

Brian Dittmar kept a diary of his first showcase room
Summer 2009:  Began fashioning a concept for the upcoming 2010 Showcase.

October 2009:  Met with Mark Nelson, a custom carpet manufacturer from New York City and discussed a custom carpet for my room concept—based on typography and the idea of “time.” I designed several options and they were sent to the mill to create 2-foot-square samples. I selected the most elegant sample (which will accompany my design board proposal).

December 2009:  Honed my concept for the room into the “Clock Collector.”

January 25, 2010:  The Designer Preview Day for the 2010 Showcase. Many top California designers toured the house at 3450 Washington Street. I quickly passed by all the larger rooms and went in search of a smaller-scale room in which I could easily apply my concept. I found several rooms of various sizes, all on the third floor, that could work — Room 30 was ideal and became my first choice. It’s on a top-floor corner, faces west and north, has beautiful light, and the dormer windows offer spectacular views of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.

The room as I first saw it on January 25.

The view of the Bay from the room.

January 25 – 29:  Intense, exuberant, focused, non-stop, design-filled days preparing my submission for the Design Review Board review. Deadline at noon!

 My design board as submitted to the Review Board.

Rendering of the room, by Paul O'Brien.

February 3:  I got the call. Yes, accepted. I was fortunate to have been selected and was given the room I wanted the most! A dream come true.

February 4 – 19:  Time to finalize all the designs, place the all orders and get this show on the road. Many phone calls, visits to vendors, many dollars spent in a very short time. It’s all a ‘go’ and is full steam ahead to transform the concepts into reality.

Early March:  The calm before the storm. Time to focus on wrapping up other design projects in-progress.

Mid-March:  The walls in my room are not in the best of shape, with cracks in the plaster and uneven corners. We resurface the entire room to ensure the best end product. Skimcoats go up and the walls go from looking haggard and old to fresh and smooth — certainly a big improvement.

April 7:  I’ve been given the go ahead to begin the transformations — all the time working around hoards of construction workers feverish to meet the incredibly tight deadlines. Painting begins.


April 14:  New wool and mohair wall-to-wall carpeting is installed to cover over the less than ideal soft-wood floors in the space. It will offer a clean-lined, contemporary base for the room and for the custom rug.

April 16: Wallpaper begins to go up — installed by the expert Susan Williams of Aesthete Painting & Wallcovering — and later this week custom sheer Roman shades by Ewing & Ball Custom Fine Sewing go in. I take time to view other rooms, almost complete. I love the room of Benjamin Dhong, my neighbor up on the third floor. Will Wick’s room is ethereal and so original. I can’t wait to see Darin Geise’s room, still under wraps.

The entire façade received a much needed overhaul during the process as well.

April 22:  Move-in day. I have one hour from 9:30–10:30am to move all large pieces of furniture into the room. The pressure is on.

April 21 – 26:  Details, details, details.  The devil is in the details and I have spent many hours reviewing the design, editing down and getting everything just right. 

April 27:  Studied the photos taken for this Blog post last night and I feel the room is still off balance...too much on the left, not enough on the right of the far window.  Dash over to the Showcase house early this morning, make a few changes, and yes, now it feels better to me....so much more balanced and elegant.  And just in time! 

April 28:  Press day. Top design editors and design bloggers will arrive from all over the U.S.... I can’t wait to meet them all. 

April 29:  The first of a series of parties for patrons. I’ll attend them all—and will be at showcase most days until it closes. The camaraderie with designers has been a joy, and I’m full of admiration for everyone involved. What a transformation. Extraordinary.

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—specifically grandfather clocks—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 graphic designer, he has worked for clients including Stanford University, Chronicle Books and Lincoln Center. He designed the logo for THE STYLE SALONISTE.  

He lives in San Francisco with his physician partner and their pug.

355 Buena Vista Ave East, No. 112
San Francisco, California 94117
Phone: 415.235.0529
Fax: 415.558.9693

May 1 through May 31
3450 Washington Street, San Francisco CA 94118


Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday: 10am–3pm (last entry)  
Thursday and Friday: 10am–7pm (last entry)
Sunday and Memorial Day: 11am–4pm (last entry)
Monday: Closed (except Memorial Day) 

Tickets available at the door. General Admission $30, Seniors $25 (62 and older). All proceeds benefit the financial aid program at San Francisco University High School.
Photography: Finished showcase room images by Emily Payne

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

San Francisco/Los Angeles Interior Designer Melissa Warner’s Apartment Graces the Cover of the May House Beautiful

Bravo, Melissa!

House Beautiful cover—plus a twelve-page feature. A great achievement for this thirty-year-old designer.

Congratulations to the incredibly talented and beautiful San Francisco/Los Angeles interior designer Melissa Warner for her first major national feature and her first big-time cover story.

In the just-out May issue, House Beautiful presents her new West Hollywood pied-a-terre/ office in minute detail, illuminating and illustrating her design secrets and tips, her fabrics and art, even shooting the interior of her glamorous clothes closet.

This is wonderful news for the hard-working, charming, and highly efficient Melissa, who is a partner in the young firm, Massucco Warner Miller Interior Design.

It is also very encouraging for all new designers looking for exposure for their new work. Create it…and editors will be knocking on your door.

Melissa’s apartment décor is fresh, youthful, easy-breezy, and engagingly chic.

Read on—and you’ll learn more about Melissa and her work—and find out how this fabulous photo shoot of her apartment actually happened. This behind-the-scenes story involves talent, boldness, energy, great style—and the kind of good luck that arrives when you’ve done all the hard work. 

Come with me and meet the great Melissa.

Melissa Warner Biography:
Melissa, a Los Angeles native, studied business at the University of Colorado at Boulder and earned a second degree in Interior Design from FIDM in San Francisco.While working for two top San Francisco design firms, Melissa produced numerous high profile residential projects in New York, Miami and San Francisco before joining forces with Julie Massucco and Carrie Miller as Massucco Warner Miller Interior Design.

After 8 years in San Francisco, Melissa now splits her time between San Francisco and Los Angeles, where MWM recently opened an office.

Diane Dorrans Saeks and Melissa Warner sat down in San Francisco recently for a chat:

DDS: Congratulations. Your Los Angeles apartment looks so wonderful on the cover of the May issue of House Beautiful—along with the vivid and inviting and fabulous 12-page feature. Wow!

MW: Thank you! We would have been thrilled to have any mention in House Beautiful (one of our favorite magazines!), but we were beyond excited to have such a thorough spread AND cover! My apartment is small, and it is a rental, so I did not expect such major coverage of every square inch. It is the most beautiful photography. I love Victoria Pearson’s work.

DDS: You are just 30 years old. It is highly unusual for a 30-year-old designer to get a cover story and twelve pages in a leading design publication. Your career is rocketing forward. What reaction have you had so far?

MW: I was just blown away by all the support and feedback! Everyone has been calling. It’s a total honor to be a part of the May issue…a great opportunity for us and we’re so grateful! I’m still pinching myself! We’ve had dozens and dozens of phone calls…from colleagues, from old friends, from potential clients, and resources and showrooms. All of the stores I frequent, my fabrics and furniture, the galleries and craftspeople who worked with me bringing together the apartment are also credited, so that makes me happy, too.

DDS: Let’s look back at how this great story evolved and how the May feature happened! You sent me scouting shots of your not-quite-complete West Hollywood apartment in February 2010. I had asked you for a progress report. I immediately forwarded these in-progress scouting images to House Beautiful Editor-in-Chief Newell Turner and editor Doretta Sperduto. They loved the apartment and decided it would be perfect for the May issue—and said ‘If Melissa can get this ready by next week we will shoot it.”

MW: Yes. Absolutely.It all happened in the blink of an eye! It is vivid in my memory. I sent you the photos on Wednesday, the shoot was confirmed on Friday and House Beautiful’s Scot Schy flew out to L.A. the following Wednesday. So, the whole process from scouting shots to shoot happened in a week flat and I was in both LA and San Francisco working during that week! It was lucky for me that I didn’t have much time because I might have started frantically reupholstering and freshening everything up! In the end, the apartment was photographed just as it was …. it was a good exercise for me in letting go!

DDS: The photos are so fresh and light-filled and joyful. This was a fantastic collaboration, a two-day shoot with the photographer Victoria Pearson, and Scot Schy, House Beautiful’s Design Director, and you. I recall you said it was one of the best experiences in your life.

MW: It was an amazing two days! My business partner Julie and I had so much fun with the House Beautiful team! The moment I met Scot (and his carload of flowers for the shoot!) I was at ease. He literally pulled up to my apartment the day before the shoot with practically a whole garden in his rental car. Not only did he do such a beautiful job with the flowers and styling, but he brought the most tasty snacks to the shoot, which I should add barely made it through the shoot since we all wanted to get our hands on those cupcakes! And, working with Victoria was a dream…the way she captured the light and the whole essence of the space was amazing! She and her team were so talented and professional. I felt incredibly lucky to work with them and the whole House Beautiful staff!

DDS: Were you surprised when they shot every inch of your apartment—and it became a 12-page story?

MW: Completely surprised! In my last minute prep for the shoot, I put everything that I saw as “clutter” away. But, in the rush of it all, I did forget to put away the clothes that are forever hanging on my closet door. In my walk-through with Scot before the shot, I told him not to worry, that I’d have the clothes on the door put away in case they were shooting the room in that direction. He responded with “don’t move a thing…I like it exactly how it is!” That attitude really set the tone of the shoot, and Scot wanted to capture my apartment as it was...lived in. I think that direction really allowed the details to shine and it showcased the personality and energy of the space.

DDS: The décor of the apartment is lovely. There are great custom-detailed pieces like the headboard, along with the tufted sofa—and there are some off-the-rack pieces (Ghost chair) that signify quick purchases, and a modern way of decorating. Precious pieces and some more mass-market, judiciously combined.

MW: Trust me, if I owned a house and had the budget for it, I’d do everything custom because I love all the details so much! But, since this is a rental, I really wanted to do a mix of some special custom pieces and more off-the-rack instant gratification pieces. To me, the mix makes it practical, livable and approachable budget-wise.

DDS: What do you love most about your apartment, now that it’s finished?

MW: The dining room! I was smitten with the canopy chair the moment I saw it (faded damask fabric and all) and I still can’t get enough of it! And the Massimo Vitali print above the buffet makes me feel like I’m on vacation. I just love the cheery vibe in general. I can’t help but be happy when I’m here!

DDS: What is next?

MW: I’m looking forward to some sun this summer and the new batch of projects Julie, Carrie and I are working on! We started Massucco Warner Miller in San Francisco in 2008 and expanded last year with offices in LA and Seattle. I love to travel and can’t wait to shop my heart out finding some great vintage pieces for our new clients in all three great cities!

DDS: Thank you, Melissa. I wish you every happiness with your fabulous career. I know you will be fantastically successful.

All photographs by Victoria Pearson for House Beautiful, used with permission. Styling and photo direction: Scot Schy. Editors: Newell Turner (Editor-in-Chief), Doretta Sperduto, Barbara King.

Massucco Warner Miller Interior Design and Decoration
Principal Designers: Julie Massucco, Melissa Warner, and Carrie Miller

Phone 415-409-1997 to reach all offices
Fax 415-409-6221 to reach all offices

Office Locations: San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle