Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Amangiri: Days of Heaven

Ultra-modern architecture and the painterly high desert surrounding AmanResorts’ newest luxury hideaway, offer bliss and the shock of the new.

The Solace of Distant Landscapes 
I’ve just returned from an exciting and rare journey—far away, to the dramatic, raw beauty of southern Utah, close to the Arizona and New Mexico borders. 

AmanResorts, the super-luxe company that invented the concept of small, sublime luxury resorts in Asia, recently opened Amangiri, their second ultra-luxury resort in the United States. (The first, Amangani, is in Jackson Hole.) 

Amangiri is a glorious, sublime adventure, totally original and inspiring. 

I arrived in the early afternoon when the sun was at its most intense. Canyons, buttes, caves, rockfalls, and wind-formed rock arches are highlighted in brilliant chiaroscura. I can’t wait to go and explore this dramatic place.

Set on 600 private acres, Amangiri is at the edge of its own mini Grand Canyon, with open views of blue-shadowed mesas and buttes and endless mystic mountains. 

The property is truly private, with Bureau of Land Management expanses on one corner, and Navaho Nation lands all around. The nearest town, Page, Arizona, is half-an-hour’s drive away. 

I love the Aman luxury here, the remoteness, the looming sphinx-like rock outcrops, the silence, the still desert air, and the sense of quiet discovery every moment.

The resort has an enveloping sense of privacy and calm. Some guests use the location as a base for exploring the region, heading to Lake Powell or nearby national parks, or they go on horseback to explore canons, or take guided excursions to nearby slot canyons. 

This privacy (some suites have hidden and secluded entry doors) has attracted Hollywood’s A-list actors and producers, as well as the art world and anyone who seeks momentary anonymity. 

I’ve heard from friends who recently stayed at Amangiri that it has become popular with Hollywood types like Meg Ryan and Rob Reiner, and design/style/publishing talents like Prosper and Martine Assouline. Guests fly in from L.A. or New York on private jets. It’s not unusual for guests to arrive from Paris or London, or New York. (Aman never discusses guests.) 

There are two lavish suites designed so that guests who desire total privacy are never seen, with large terraces, pools, a terrace spa, a roof deck for sunbathing or moon-gazing, and a large dining room. Privacy—the ultimate luxury. 

The Perceptual Field 
Architects Wendell Burnette and Marwan Al-Sayed from Phoenix, and Rick Joy from Tucson designed the resort. They collaborated with Adrian Zecha, the legendary guiding force of Aman, to keep the architecture understated but luxurious, and to integrate it seamlessly within the surrounding landscape. 

The concept was to build a kind of desert fort to provide a sense of peace and a feeling of front-row seats to observe winter snowfalls, spring wild-flowers, sunset light, delicate sunrise. Every window and wall of the resort frames a view. 

But the property sits lightly on the land, almost disappearing at twilight, and seeming rather modest and elegantly discreet. 

Exterior and interior walls are made of integrated-color board-formed concrete mixed with sandstone, pebbles and stones, and clay from the region. The natural variegations, imperfections and color modulations add to the walls’ pale beauty. They look like weatherworn stone. 

My suite is modernist and spare, and chic, setting a new contemporary standard for southwest interiors. Not a kachina doll in sight. 

The walls of the suites are also integral-color panel-formed concrete. They look like sandstone, and feel smooth and silken to the touch. The bed is set high so that, wrapped in Italian cotton sheets, you can see sunrise across the high desert. 

The silence is penetrating. As I walk from my suite to the main pavilion, I pass waterfalls, pools, shaded cave-like lobbies, and narrow hallways inspired by slot canyons of the region.

“Amangiri is like a luxurious monastery—with the feeling of a place for retreat and contemplation. I admire the architecture enormously. It is built with great precision and intelligence. The architecture is all about exactitude and perfection.” —San Francisco architect Andrew Skurman, who recently stayed at Amangiri. Check THE STYLE SALONISTE archive for my recent feature on Andrew Skurman’s architecture. 

Where is this Paleolithic landscape? It’s on the lower edge of southeastern Utah, near the New Mexico and Arizona borders, and not far from southern Colorado. 

It’s near Lake Powell, and Bryce Canyon, two hours’ drive north of the Grand Canyon, and not far from Zion National Park. 

French and German tourists mill about at tiny Page airport, excited to see the John Ford-esque monuments of rock and stone, the legendary western high desert and canyons. I feel their anticipation. 

How to get there? I fly to Denver and take a Great Lakes Airlines Beechcraft (13-seater, prop planes) to Page, via Farmington. Then a half-hour drive to Canyon Point, and Amangiri. 

We pass through acres of wildflowers and sagebrush and flowering yucca and lupines. Buttes tower in the endless sand dunes, and circle the sparse rocky acres, green now in early summer.

Haute Hiking 

The terrace of my suite opens directly onto Henry Moore-like sandstone rock formations that surround the resort like a stage set, operatic and awe-inspiring.In the green foreground, chapparal is vivid with native flowers and sagebrush. 

This is how it would have looked millennia ago, with no roads and structures in sight. 

I start the day with breakfast on my terrace, watching the winds ruffle across the sagebrush. 

At 10am, I meet Mike, the expert guide from Adventure Partners who designed private trails on the property. We set out for the Hoodoo trail (a hoodoo is a rock formation), and as we marched up and over sand dunes crowded with blue lupines, he continues a fascinating running commentary on geology, rocks, plants, and millennia of floods and winds and plate tectonics. Great stuff. 

After an hour’s trekking in the bright sun, which included rock-climbing up through a slot canyon and up and down one side of a butte, he said, ‘We could go back, or we could continue up to the top of this butte. There’s a great view.” We continued. It felt unmapped, with no signs of previous hikers.

“You are here on the most beautiful day of the year,” my genial guide Mike said. “The wildflowers are at their peak.” 

The hike stretched to more than 3 hours—with stops at caves with petroglyphs, and rock formations teetering on the edge.. We scope out fresh imprints on the sand left by lizards, snakes, coyote, bugs, skittering rabbits, and other native creatures. 

In the distance you can hear the desert winds riff off the rock canyons and meandering dunes. A dust devil whirls through the sagebrush, pirouetting itself into a cloud and disappearing off-stage. 

I could have kept walking, but we eventually headed back. 

Lunch of fresh tortilla soup and oven-roasted salmon never tasted so wonderful. 

Chefs are preparing fresh ingredients all day in the open kitchen, making varieties of bread (the rosemary bread is especially wonderful), and glorious salads and sandwiches for lunch. The style of cuisine is somewhat southwestern, and the wood-fired oven adds a sensual smoke flavor, but the chefs can create any dish for hungry guests. 

In the afternoon, I set out with Karen, a guide with a special interest in local botany, and as we clambered up rocks and slithered down sand dunes, she identifies desert tobacco, rose mallow, pink sand verbena, white prickly poppy, and desert milkweed, and blazing star, as well as all the yucca varieties. 

She pointed out pale fluorescent mauve sacred datura, with strange trumpet-shaped petals. Pollinated by hawk moths at night, it’s poisonous, she said. Indian shamans ingested the seeds to go into a trance and contact guardian spirits. Hello, Timothy Leary! 

“You are here on the most beautiful day of the year,” she echoed Mike. “The wildflowers are outstanding.” (Note to self: book a visit next spring.) 

We arrived at a cave where early pottery shards and bones have been found. Scratched on the rocks are petroglyphs of watercarriers, stick figures, and a large-headed creature.

We continued on, past sand washes where floods had swept in mid-winter, and across sandstone ledges and shelves to gain new views. I loved the rock-climbing, and learned new techniques. 

After the long hike, I enjoyed dinner on the terrace of my suite. In the black sky, the stars were gazing down brightly. Constellations and favorite stars are clearly visible, with a rare sense of deep space, and our tiny planet like a speck of sand in the infinite void.

‘The Utah deserts and plateaus and canyons are a country for contemplation, meditation, solitude, quiet awe, and peace of mind.’—Wallace Stegner

‘In this glare of brilliant emptiness 
In this arid intensity of pure heat 
In the heart of a weird solitude 
Great silence. 
And all things recede to distances out of reach.’ 
—Edward Abbey 

Amangiri’s thirty-four suites and spa are fanned out around a majestic rock formation, so that the resort seems quite small. Up close, it looks like a large residence, with a grove of aspens shimmering in the arrival courtyard, broad stairs rising to the entrance, and framed views of the mesas and wind-formed buttes beyond. 

Here, the blue veils of light fade and intensify as the sun sweeps overhead. Columns of sandstone seem to shimmer in the bright light.

The hotel, which centers on a grand entry/ reception/ sitting rooms, a central study/game room/ and dining pavilion with an open kitchen, also includes an impressive gym, a yoga studio with windows that open to the view, sun terraces, pools, and outdoor relaxation areas. 

The spa, set in a dramatic Barragan-inspired modern structure, includes a sauna, a steam room, an outdoor pool, and a series of super-quiet treatment rooms. My favorites were a series of shaded pavilions with a large cushy bed, perfect for a Thai massage overlooking a private canyon. Many guests spend much of their time at the spa. Who would ever want to leave when there are mysterious ‘journey’ treatments—along with a glamorous makeup room (with a specialist), and a salon for manicures and pedicures.

“This is an ideal retreat from the noise and cares of the world. Between the rocks, the wind-shaped stones, and the sand dunes, I felt I was not on this earth. I was elsewhere.” —San Francisco sculptor Francoise Skurman. She recently stayed at Amangiri

‘I have been to the end of the earth 

I have been to the end of the waters 

I have been to the end of the sky 

I have been to the end of the mountains 

I have found none that are not my friends’ 

—Traditional Navaho poem 

Principal photographs of the architecture and landscape are by San Francisco Joe Fletcher, used here with permission.

Joe Fletcher is a SF based photographer, who specializes in architecture, interiors and significant places

His work has been published in.Wallpaper, AD, AR, San Francisco magazine, Interior Design and Sunset. Plus two books by Rizzoli, ‘Ranch Houses - Living the California Dream’ and ‘Cliff May and the Modern Ranch House’.

He is currently working on photography for a Jonathan Feldman + Jay Jeffers project. He is involved with numerous other projects, including a book on desert houses and a book on India. 

Fletcher spent 3 days at Amangiri photographing the resort “It was probably the most beautiful architecture for a resort I’ve ever seen. I loved the subtle changes in the concrete color over the building achieved by adding localized stone” said Fletcher.

His next assignment: to shoot a Libeskind apartment in Denver for Wallpaper*.

Joe Fletcher Photography
415 216 7948

Additional hotel and scene photography, courtesy AmanResorts

Interior Design: Caterina Spies-Reese, CSR Design, Glen Ellen, California

For more information and reservations at Amangiri: 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Private Realm

The Glamorous, Philanthropic, Fashionable, and Inspiring World of Dodie Rosekrans

Paris, Venice, San Francisco, Patron of the Arts, Couture, and Design, the Divine Dodie Rosekrans has conquered them all

San Francisco museums and arts patron Dodie Rosekrans, a grande dame on the world stage, has spent much of her life bewitching and bewitched by an international coterie of social lions, art lovers, fashion fanatics, principessas, dukes, couturiers and their many and varied courtiers.

On opening nights at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, at diamond-dazzled Paris Opera galas, masked balls in Venice, or the recent big bash to honor Yves Saint Laurent at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, there is one woman who is always the center of attention. The worldly and fascinating Dodie Rosekrans.

 Dodie Rosekrans at the de Young Museum recently for the opening of the YSL retrospective (one of the most successful fashion exhibits ever). Her green fox fur jacket by YSL was lent to the exhibit. Photo by Drew Altizer.

Today, Dodie (more formally Mrs. John. N. Rosekrans Jr.), continues to attract the paparazzi as she alights at parties wearing her Jean-Paul Gaultier Firebird feathered jacket, her Galliano couture gowns, her Junya Watanabe dresses, and her edgy Rick Owens leather jackets, all ornamented with baroque pearls (walnut-sized) and Tony Duquette necklaces, all worn with as unmistakable devil-may-care air and her confident stamp of the avant-garde.

“I’ve always loved fashion, ever since my mother took me to the Paris couture in the thirties,” says Rosekrans, who divides her year, carefully following the art, social and fashion calendars, between her mansion in San Francisco (fall and Christmas), her chic jewel-like apartment in Paris, (spring), and until recently, her theatrical grand palazzo in Venice (summer) when she and gilded friends watched the Venice Regatta from her palazzo’s Grand Canal balcony).

“Top designers like Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo, Christian Lacroix, John Galliano, Junya Watanabe, Rick Owens, Yves Saint Laurent who I adored, Kaisik Wong, Karl Lagerfeld—are all artists and I admire their creativity, originality, and avant-garde sense of style,” says Rosekrans, who was born in San Francisco and went to private girls’ schools in Pacific Heights.

“I don’t set out to be original,” she said, reclining in a gilded 18th century chaise longue in her study in San Francisco.

“Not at all. I wear what appeals to me,” she continued. “It happens that many of the fashion designers, like Galliano and Gaultier, are friends of mine and I like to celebrate their work. I appreciate and admire their creative originality and sense of style.”

Her closets and attic are filled with decades of vibrant and resplendent couture gowns, Courreges dresses, Thea Porter chiffon gowns, resplendent Halston kaftans, Givenchy chiffon evening ensembles, shimmering Galanos embroidered jackets, hand-painted Galliano gowns, fur coats, an array of handmade boots, beaded saris custom made in India, antique Chinese silk robes, Zandra Rhodes cocktail dresses, Issey Miyake jackets, along with all the feathered hats and embroidered gloves that accompany them, any of which could hold pride of place in a museum costume collection.

The ardent fashion aficionado is also a generous, life-long, arts supporter, benefiting the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Save Venice (savevenice.org), as well as the Centre Georges Pompidou and arts organizations and cultural activities around the world.

Rosekrans, whose original name, Georgette, was replaced by her family’s endearing baby name, Dodie, grew up in San Francisco in the glamorous post-earthquake ‘20s and ’30s. She enjoyed a gilded family life in Pacific Heights, just a hop and a skip from her present residence. Her father, Michael A. Naify, and his brother, originally from Lebanon, built a theater chain at a time when cinemas in California were palatial. It was later sold to United Artists.

Dodie’s Francophile mother traveled each season to the Paris couture. Her young daughter was obsessed with art, fashion, style, creativity and fine craftsmanship as a teenager and sought out galleries and artists.

Dodie, like many young California girls of that time, was sent to finishing school in Switzerland. 

“They taught comportment for young ladies, how to hold a knife, and good manners, but I would not call it an education,” recalls Dodie. “In those days, girls didn’t work, so that eliminated a whole world of interesting things I would have loved to explore.”

She soon set out to correct that, studying art, visiting museums and making a point of meeting leading artists of the day.

Rosekrans has had a life-long love affair with art, and she enjoys contemporary paintings and sculpture in her historic residences in San Francisco, and in her Paris apartment. All of the carved stone fireplaces, moldings and architecture are original to the post-earthquake residence.

Rosekrans, a lifelong autodidact, would eventually become a patron of young artists and university art programs, and is an honorary trustee for the prestigious Centre Georges Pompidou Foundation in Paris, among many other posts.

Dodie on the occasion of being honored with the Gold Medal in honor of her gift of several monumental modern sculptures to the French State, in honor of her husband.

At the ceremony, the minister of culture, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres said ‘We honor your gift and your life-long connection with France. Your husband’s grandmother, Alma de Bretteville of course so loved Paris that she recreated the Palace of the Legion of Honor, stone by stone, in San Francisco.’

Today, her collections are scattered in museums and residences in Paris, Runnymede Farm in Woodside and San Francisco. Her taste is for quality and it runs from Parmigianino to Egon Schiele. She recently caused a flutter in the art world by buying Tom Sachs’ provocative Chanel Guillotine/Breakfast Nook, a large counterweighted blade positioned above leather-upholstered swinging tools adorned with interlocking C’s. This is a woman who can admire and appreciate gritty guillotines-as-art.

For many summers, she lived and entertained in the opulence of her gilded and antique-filled 18th century Venetian palazzo, which was decorated by Tony Duquette and Hutton Wilkinson.

Several views of the 18th century Venetian palazzo

In 1960, Dodie married her second husband, the late John N. Rosekrans Jnr, the grandson of Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, the legendary wife of a sugar baron. De Bretteville Spreckels, one of the great San Francisco philanthropists of the 20th century, donated the elegant California Palace of the Legion of Honor overlooking San Francisco Bay to the City.

John Rosekrans made another fortune as a business partner with his boyhood friend, John Bowes, marketing iconic sporting products including the Morey Boogie Board, Frisbee and Hula Hoop.

Rosekrans encouraged his wife to buy couture, and their photo albums from the ‘60s and ‘70s are chock-a-block with party pictures of Dodie in Paris wearing Balenciaga and Givenchy, and in San Francisco in Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent, New York in diamond parures and over-the-top strings of baroque pearls, emeralds and rubies.

Dodie arriving for a ball at the Fairmont Hotel in the sixties.

Rosekrans shows her rebellious streak and fearless style by also wearing African tribal jewelry, chunky antique Tibetan coral and turquoise necklaces, along with dramatically overscale Tony Duquette necklaces, strands of baroque Tahitian pearls, or even emeralds the size of golf balls, along with Indian and Burmese rubies similar to those found in the treasure troves of the great Nawabs and Maharajahs of India. Sometimes she appears to be wearing them all at once—a thrilling sight.

“I never set out to be dramatic,” says Rosekrans. “I look through my closets and jewelry cases and wear what appeals to me that day.’ 

 Dodie at the Legion of Honor in one of her Chinese robes. Photo by Jeanne Lawrence.

In 1979, the Rosekranses acquired one of the most beautiful residences in San Francisco. Built in 1916 by architect Willis Polk, its atrium, with ornate stonework and columns, was copied from a Spanish Renaissance palace, the Casa de Zaporta in Saragossa. The couple hired San Francisco designer Michael Taylor to design the interiors. “Michael, my husband, and I had a wonderful creative relationship, and there was no question that he loved this house,” recalls Rosekrans.

Michael Taylor included the complexity and richness of a 17th-century twelve-panel Coromandel screen, a perfect counterpoint to the elaborate pilasters and architectural details.

Michael Taylor created one of his most elegant and enduring interiors in California, with elaborate pilasters painted a soft gray, and parquet floors stained dark walnut. Taylor brought in eight bold and gutsy gilded Georgian chairs, a towering 12-panel Chinese Coromandel screen, and a pair of curvy sofas in a style favored by Gwendoline Maud Syrie Maugham, herself.

Lavish silk burlap upholstery (custom-woven), rich chartreuse cut silk velvet on the gilt chairs, and a series of majestic Chinese lacquered tables inset with mother-of-pearl, contrast with 4-foot tall Brazilian mine-cut quartz crystals, massive geodes, tall African carved birds, and chunky Chinese jade collections.

“I have not changed a thing since Michael completed it,” recalls Rosekrans, dressed in Yamamoto, now seated in the living room sipping iced tea. “He was a genius. I would not dream of altering his design. I’m very happy here.”

The decor of the living room is exactly as Michael Taylor designed it in the ’70s. Taylor selected large-scale 18th century William Kent chairs, which are upholstered in chartreuse silk-velvet.

From the terrace, an expansive view of San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito, as well as, at left, the dome of Bernard Maybeck’s baroque Palace of Fine Arts, 1915. The gilded chairs are Russian.

The smoking room is the purest expression of Michael Taylor’s design, with its walls arrayed in grass cloth, a stash of immense Brazilian amethyst crystals, and a pair of carved Senufo birds. The twig wall sculpture is by Charles Arnoldi, a Taylor favorite.

 The 90-inch, round, travertine-topped dining table is a Taylor design. Antique chairs are from an English country house. The crystal-drop chandelier originally graced Maria Callas’ Paris apartment.

Among Rosekrans’s collections are rare second-century BC Roman glass on the dining room mantel, and Greek antiquities.

It is said that the original Spanish Renaissance palace that originally inspired this residence was damaged in the Spanish Civil War. Envoys came to San Francisco to study it and restore the palace precisely. Fantail palms were a Michael Taylor favorite.

Dodie Rosekrans’ San Francisco residence is a replica of a Renaissance palace in Saragossa, Spain. Sculptor Leo Lentelli executed the ornate, carved stonework in the atrium, depicting frolicking cherubim, Bacchus, knights and monks.

Photo Credits:
Images of Dodie Rosekrans residence in San Francisco photographed by Lisa Romerein.
Seattle-born photographer Lisa Romerein lives in Santa Monica, California, where she specializes in food, travel, architecture, interiors, gardens, portraits and lifestyle features for a client list that includes: C magazine (where these Rosekrans images first appeared), Casa del Mar, Chateau Sureau, Clarkson Potter, House Beautiful, Los Angeles, Kallista/Kohler, Martha Stewart Living, Meadowood, More, Santa Barbara Magazine, Shutters on the Beach, Sunset, Town and Country and Vanity Fair. Her photographs have appeared in numerous books, among them, the cookbook Small Bites, Big Nights, collaboration with Chef Govind Armstrong, and Santa Barbara Living, published by Rizzoli.
Lisa Romerein was the principal photographer for ‘Michael S. Smith, Elements of Style’ (co-written with Diane Dorrans Saeks), one of the most successful recent design books. It has recently gone into an eighth printing.
Images of the Palazzo Brandolini, courtesy W magazine.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Heading to Amangiri

Aman’s new Amangiri:  It has been called ‘the most beautiful new hotel in America’. I will be filing a complete report soon on Aman’s superb new resort in southern Utah, a remote, haunting and marvelous corner of the universe. I am in the midst of a dreamscape. I am hurtling onward into the constant now.

View across the landscape.

This week I am rock-climbing, hiking, mountain biking, reading, dreaming, as well as exploring the chic new Amangiri Resort in Utah.

I’ll take you on the trip in a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, here are images that capture the sense of wonder and marvels of this stunning place.

To get there: Fly (departing at 5.52am) from San Francisco to Denver. Then Denver to Page, Arizona. Then a half-hour drive to Amangiri.

Back soon.

Night view of the entrance to the spa.

Interior designer: Caterina Spies-Reece, CSR Design

Photographs courtesy of Amanresorts.com, used with permission.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Designer I Love: Steven Volpe

San Francisco interior designer Steven Volpe conquers the design world with style, grace, and cosmopolitan elegance. He’s often working in London, Paris, New York or Antwerp—but when he’s in San Francisco you would be fortunate to find him at home in his remarkable 1916 loft. Please join me for a visit.

San Francisco interior designer Steven Volpe and his Norwich terrier, Harvey.

Lofty Ambitions
In San Francisco’s hip South of Market, interior designer Steven Volpe transformed his loft with an elegant splash of tradition with a dash of twentieth-century daringFifteen years ago, San Francisco’s South of Market district was the object of desire for edgy artists, trend-sleuthing architects, and budding tech wizards but its gritty charms had not yet attracted chic young interior designers. 

Turn-of-the-century brick warehouses created a dramatic industrial landscape—with no fashion boutiques or style-conscious cafes in sight. 

No wonder friends and clients were shocked when super-stylish designer Steven Volpe acquired a redwood-columned loft with soaring ceilings in a converted 1916 printing factory in the heart of South of Market. 

“My building was only the second loft conversion in the area, so even my avant-garde colleagues thought this move was crazy,” recalled Volpe, who had been living on Russian Hill. “Now South of Market is super-hot, and new buildings even have Christian Liaigre-designed apartments. It was the best move!”

Volpe’s perfectly pitched sense of balance is evident in the dining area, where he has placed a walnut and steel Hedge Editions dining table surrounded by a set of eight 1930s Russian constructivist chairs, also from Hedge Editions. A 1950s pendant lamp in glass and brass is by Danish designer Alf Johannsen. Steven Volpe designed the bookcase after a Georgian model. The clay vessels are by English artist Paul Philp.

The moment he walked through the entrance and into his airy loft, Volpe knew he had to acquire it, said Volpe, the go-to designer for high-tech moguls, chic Londoners, under-the-radar A-listers, as well as the hip sons and daughters of San Francisco’s Old Guard families.

Volpe is a classicist who is passionate about Paris forties and thirties furniture designs. He studied classical design as an apprentice in Paris for two years and travels to the ends of the earth to his studies of classical architecture. 

He trained in design as an assistant to legendary San Francisco decorator, Anthony Hail. He founded his own design firm, Steven Volpe Design, Inc, in 1987. He now has a staff of eight in his Jackson Square studio, just around the corner from Hedge, the 20th-century furniture gallery, which Volpe and Roth Martin founded eight years ago.

In a 1916 former printing factory, Steven Volpe has created a luxe refuge with a sofa and club chairs he designed for Hedge Editions, along with a quirky 1950s French concrete and steel cocktail table he found in Paris. The painting, ‘Landscape-Les Talons’, by Jef Verheyen, is from Axel Vervoordt, Antwerp. A 1950s rolling gueridon in brass and mahogany was from antiques dealer Louis Bofferding, New York.

One of the trophies of Steven Volpe’s 20th-century furniture collection is a rare brass-trimmed galvanized metal skirted table designed in 1975 by John Dickinson. It was crafted by Metalcraft in San Francisco. The table is juxtaposed with an 18th-century French gilded mirror, and a trio of contemporary masks by Robert Courtwright from Jean-Jacques Dutko Gallery in Paris. The pair of forties side chairs in gilded iron were designed by Gilbert Poillerat.

The loft ceilings are eighteen-feet high, with eight heart-redwood support columns reaching from floor to ceiling. The timber had been milled at the turn of the century from massive centuries-old redwood trees. Heart redwood is the ancient central core of a tree trunk. 

“You simply would never see noble timber like that today,” said the designer. It’s illegal to log old-grown redwood.

Volpe’s fine-tuned sense of contrast is played out in the foyer, with a wood side chair by Robert Mallet-Stevens, left, and a quirky nineteenth-century American giltwood and leather side chair, from the collection of designer Anthony Hail. The heart redwood column, which soars eighteen feet, is original to the loft. The wall paint is Farrow & Ball’s ‘Pigeon’.

There is grandeur to the space, an elegance in the proportions, that belie the industrial origins of the building. 

“The walls were bare brick and the floor was concrete,” Volpe said. “ It was a blank canvas, so it gave me the opportunity to experiment. I wanted to juxtapose sandblasted redwood and rough brick with highly detailed, handcrafted, refined antiques. This would be an unexpected loft, the antithesis of industrial decor.”

A large-scale photographic print by Richard Misrach, ‘Untitled 2003’, hangs above a modernist oak bench designed by Steven Volpe. The pair of Baktrian stone idols, dating from circa 2,000 BC, was acquired from Axel Vervoordt, Antwerp. The Regence chair in the foreground, which is upholstered in leather, has been a favorite of Volpe’s for more than twenty years. The white oak floor, which has 5-inch planks, was given a custom-designed dark stain by Tree Lovers Floors.

Volpe recently completed a re-design of his loft, up-dating the décor, repainting the walls, refinishing the oak floors, and displaying his latest passion, important twentieth- and twenty-first-century furniture, art, and decorative objects by leading artists and designers. 

Among his latest treasures are a rare 1975 galvanized tin skirted table by John Dickinson, paper masks by Robert Courtwright, a sixties minimalist white plaster wall sculpture by Dutch artist Jan Schoonhoven, and a limited edition carbon-fiber chair by Ron Arad. 

Volpe’s aim is to collect definitive 20th and 21st-century furniture and sculpture, and to let the play of contrasts highlight the artistry of each. John Dickinson’s seventies draped table was crafted from sheets of industrial metal finely perfected to simulate draped fabric. It’s finished with a brass trim. The chair is by Poillerat.

A pair of turn-of-the-century Klismos chairs de-accessioned from the legendary French Villa Kerylos stands beside a 19th-century Chinese wood block table from March. 

One corner of the 2,100 square foot loft has been opened up with a conservatory window There is a grandeur to the space, an elegance to the proportions, that belie the industrial origins of the building.

On his terrace, Steven Volpe has created a city garden with boxwood topiaries in tall tole planters, an antique limestone column fragment from Macee, rue du Faubourg-St.- Honore, Paris. Indoors is the Oh Void chair in carbon fiber, in a signed and numbered edition, by British designer Ron Arad.

Volpe travels to London and Paris several times a year to find significant antiques for clients and for Hedge. 

“At antiques dealers in London, Antwerp and Paris, I am drawn to mid-century European designers like Marc du Plantier, Bruno Romeda, Gilbert Poillerat, Andre Arbus, and the design firm Maison Jansen,” noted Volpe. “Their chairs and tables and desks have vestiges of classic proportions and shapes, but they’re brisk and modern and energetic. Parisian dealers offer sixties and even seventies designers as the hottest thing. But my eye and my taste is always moving forward, open to new ideas. I love the newness of 21st-century design and art with rare antiques. It’s a refreshing juxtaposition. Design can’t stand still. 

To cast an elegant background for his new collection, Volpe had the oak plank floor stained a rich, deep espresso tone, and painted the plaster walls in pale grey shades by Farrow & Ball.

Ron Arad’s Oh Void chair, signed and numbered 6 from an edition of only 20, was crafted in carbon fiber.

A French carved limestone statue fragment on the terrace.

A white plaster sculpture by Dutch artist Jan Schoonhoven (1914-1994) hovers above a 19th-century wood block table, both from March. Schoonhoven was a member of the Nul Group of artists, who sought to create clarity and purity of expression, without sentimentality.
The South of Market loft, today’s version, is all about the delicacy of his swirling Ron Arad chair, and its counterpoint of modernist oak benches. Volpe has the daring to poise a chunky Robert Mallet Stevens chair near a carved and gilded 19th-century American chair and a Futurist wall plaque by Lucio Fontana. 

Volpe’s new mix includes cross-century collections of carved Regence chairs, Baktrian stone idols from 2,000 BC, a pair of forties table lamps by T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings, and a fifties rolling gueridon. 

“I want to discover design with fine craftsmanship before everyone else jumps on it,” said Volpe, who recently opened a Paris office with a close-up view of the Eiffel Tower. 

“At Paris galleries, I was very intrigued by the young French designers Roman and Erwan Bouroullec, when they first came on the scene. They show at Kreo gallery, and their works are now in the private collection of Karl Lagerfeld,” he said. “As a designer, I plan to keep evolving.” 

Working in San Francisco and in Paris, and buying from antiques dealers and art galleries in New York, France, and Belgium, informs his design perspective. 

“I’m still passionate about fine antiques but rooms filled with gilded furniture are not my taste,” he said. “In Paris and London, I like to stay ahead, find resources before design editors and trend-spotters latch on to them. I never want to know it all. I want to keep learning and exploring.” 

Volpe lives with forties Poillerat chairs, thirties Russian Constructivist chairs, and a 2003 chromogenic photograph by Richard Misrach. 

“This mix energizes me and has given the loft a new attitude,” he said. “I’ll keep changing it. Twenty-first century pieces like a Ron Arad chair enter the mix. Fifteen years on, the loft is still the greatest thrill.”

A bunch of persimmons from the flower market on a concrete and sculpted metal table, which Volpe found in Paris.

 A small Finnish ceramic from the sixties stands on a pedestal of books.

In a corner of the living room, Volpe collected an opaline glass and gilt bronze console table by Marc du Plantier. The brass table lamp is by Maison Jansen.

San Francisco Style Shopping with Steven Volpe

San Francisco interior designer Steven Volpe, wearing his signature Thom Browne jacket, and classic John Lobb loafers, takes us on a whirlwind tour of his favorite San Francisco design shops and galleries.

“San Francisco has some of the most inspiring and original style stores and art galleries in the world,” said Steven Volpe, just back from fast-paced buying trips to Antwerp, Paris, London, Los Angeles and New York in search of antiques, paintings, fabrics and furniture for his clients. “I especially admire shops such as Bell’occhio and March, whose owners have a defined aesthetic with a dash of eccentricity. I appreciate their knowledge and focus.” Since Volpe founded his company, Steven Volpe Design, more than 20 years ago he has attracted San Francisco’s ultra-private old guard, as well as tech entrepreneurs and chic young social-set couples. In Paris and in San Francisco, the designer’s eye alights on the most rarified antiques, as well as dramatic paintings and fine photography. “The best rooms balance great art with carefully selected, singular furniture,” Volpe said. 

Hedge  Steven Volpe and Roth Martin founded Hedge Gallery (48 Gold Street, 415-433-2233, www.hedgegallery.com) specializing in 20th-century furniture and decorative pieces by European and American designers and architects such as Jean Prouve, Poul Kjaerholm, Andre Arbus, Maison Jansen, T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings, and Jean Royere. A recent exhibit focused on luxe jewelery designs by French artist Line Vautrin. “We’re always traveling to fine unusual and rare thirties-to-seventies furniture in a range of styles, that work in both modern and classic interiors,” said Volpe.

 Hedge Gallery in San Francisco's Jackson Square

Kathleen Taylor–The Lotus Collection  “Unique antique textiles and tapestries with elegance and charm give individuality to interiors,” said Steven Volpe, who often visits Kathleen Taylor-The Lotus Collection (445 Jackson Street, 415-3989-8115, www.ktaylor-lotus.com) is search of nineteenth-century embroidered French silks and refined Asian textiles. “I recently found a length of rare twenties Fortuny fabric,” said Volpe, who had the treasure made into pillows. Also among Kathleen Taylor’s impeccable tissue-wrapped trophies: Chinese embroideries, English needlepoint, African textiles, and lavish silver-thread embellished Italian wall hangings.

Bell’Occhio  Hidden away in a secret corner of the city near the fabled Zuni Café, Bell’occhio (8 Brady Street, 415-864-4048, www.bellocchio.com) displays a captivating collection of witty French and Italian delights, including Parisian toiletries and stationery, elegant French chocolates, and a perfume by Marie-Antoinette’s perfumer. Wafts of heady Santa Maria Novella pot pourri fill the air. “I’ve used Bell’occhio antique silk velvet ribbons as custom passementerie trim for curtains,” said Volpe, who loves the quirky colors of the shop’s irresistible ribbons. Chartreuse, anyone?

March  Since March gallery opened, it has become an essential stop for interior designers from around the country in search of their rather austere antique furniture, and ever-changing displays of large-scale ceramics and eccentric decorative objects. “March has such a stylish, focused aesthetic,” noted Volpe. It’s all quite monochromatic, and colors seldom veer from taupe, ivory or moss green. Volpe’s recent virtuoso find: a pair of fifties neoclassical French steel bibliotheques with glass doors. So chic. Sacramento Street, near Broderick and Pierce Sts, San Francisco.

John Berggruen Gallery  Volpe encourages his clients to acquire notable art. “I’d rather have one great painting and just a few wonderful antiques than lots of so-so furniture,” said Volpe. He heads for the John Berggruen Gallery (228 Grant Avenue, 415-781-4629, www.johnberggruengallery.com) to encounter works by artists such as Agnes Martin, Brice Marden, Jim Dine, Henri Matisse, Squeak Carnwath, and Lucian Freud. “John is a long-time art world insider, and he has a great eye” said Volpe. “He and his wife, Gretchen, guide both experienced and beginning art collectors in their acquisitions."

Jeffrey Fraenkel Gallery  Jeffrey Fraenkel was a visionary and a pioneer when he opened his fine photography gallery almost two decades ago. “Jeffrey’s superb taste and his discernment have made him a highly influential taste-maker for photography collectors, museums, and auction houses.” Fraenkel Gallery (49 Geary Blvd, 415-981-2661, www.fraenkelgallery.com) presents the most admired works by twentieth-century masters, as well as quirky anonymous photography from the nineteenth century. Artists include Diane Arbus, Adam Fuss, Richard Avedon, Nan Goldin, Irving Penn, R.E. Meatyard, and Man Ray.

Hedge at the 2009 San Francisco Fall Antiques Show at Fort Mason.

The photographer of Steven Volpe’s loft is Lisa Romerien, who often photographs for C magazine, and is a favorite photographer of Michael S. Smith. Lisa was the principal photographer of ‘Michael S. Smith Elements of Style’ (Rizzoli), which I wrote with Michael.


Seattle-born photographer Lisa Romerein lives in Santa Monica, California, where she specializes in food, travel, architecture, interiors, gardens, portraits and lifestyle features for a client list that includes: C magazine, Rizzoli, Casa del Mar, Chateau Sureau, Clarkson Potter, House Beautiful, Los Angeles, Kallista/Kohler, Martha Stewart Living, Meadowood, More, Coastal Living, Santa Barbara Magazine, Shutters on the Beach, Sunset, Town and Country and Vanity Fair. Her photographs have appeared in numerous books, among them, the cookbook Small Bites, Big Nights, a collaboration with Chef Govind Armstrong, and Santa Barbara Living, and Michael S. Smith Elements of Style. She recently traveled to Japan to photograph historic gardens and interiors.