Monday, October 31, 2011

Introducing Matt Murphy: A versatile designer with tailored precision and a fearless focus on bold color

This San Francisco interior designer’s admiration for the elegant retro style of Tommi Parzinger shapes his chic and witty Jackson Square gallery and interiors. His singular style is a shock in a sea of grey and beige.

Come and meet Matt Murphy, get a jolt of color, encounter his inspiring design, and find out his top five favorite design picks in San Francisco.

With its cheerful crush of bright orange Billy Haines upholstered chairs, and a pair of citron silk-covered chairs based on drawings by Tommi Parzinger, Matt Murphy’s shop is a kick in the pants.

Add vivid Venini and Barovier & Toso hand-blown glass lamps in tutti-fruit colors and Matt Murphy’s design gallery is a lively juxtapostion to the stately antique stores and historic buildings in Jackson Square. 

Matt Murphy Studio, San Francisco

Matt Murphy Studio, which opened last year, is a finely curated collection of 20th century furnishings, accessories, and art, a chock-a-block showroom for works by mid-century designers Murphy admires, in particular T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings, Edward Wormley and Parzinger. Matt is such an expert of these designers, he’s now the go-to authority for these classics. 

In his Jackson Square studio, Murphy highlights superb craftsmanship and luxury materials, a rich antidote to factory-made mid-century design. 

“Top-quality, one-of-a-kind twentieth century design is a first love of mine, but I planned the studio to be much more,” said Murphy. “I have so many other interests and an unusual history for a 20th-century design dealer. The space is a creative outlet for everything I love."

Murphy also offers his new collections of wallpaper, along with fabrics and decorative objects, all in his distinctive 20th-century tinged elegance.

"I take everything I've studied, all the designs I’m passionate about, and put it all together,” said Murphy.

Included in the mix are Parzinger chairs and lighting, along with his own designs. Murphy planned his Jackson Street storefront as a design studio, laboratory and think tank.

“It's very exciting to be working for a new brand, and this time it's my own," Murphy said.

Prices range from $1,800 for a pair of sixties Italian Chiavari chairs, to $12,000 for a platinum maple Parzinger sideboard from the late forties. 

Matt Murphy apartment, Russian Hill, San Francisco 

“I first encountered Tommi Parzinger’s style when I unearthed a pair of his lamps at a tag sale,” said Murphy. “They were urn-shaped, neoclassical in style, and so refined. I still have them, now in my apartment in San Francisco.”

Parzinger for four decades ran a New York design studio that custom-made furniture and lighting, and designed elegant classical interiors with a pared-down elegance.

Murphy, instantly obsessed, researched everything he could find on Parzinger, 1903-1981, and eventually introduced himself to Parzinger’s partner of forty years, Donald Cameron, in Manhattan. Cameron has been a mentor to Murphy, who is often consulted on authenticating Parzinger pieces. As a result of Murphy's intense interest in the work of Parzinger, and his relationship with Cameron, Murphy is considered one of the foremost authorities on Parzinger. 

Before opening his gallery Murphy was a vice president in product development and design with Pottery Barn in San Francisco. He worked for Target Corporation in Minneapolis where he headed up design for furniture, lighting, tabletop and home accessories.

A lifelong collector of twentieth-century art and design, Murphy had made a name for himself in Minneapolis as a designer and antique dealer.

Recently Murphy introduced his collection of screen-printed silk textiles inspired by stylized Parzinger graphics. Printed to order, the fabrics can be customized in individual colors and textiles. He is also working on a collection of embroidered silks and linens, as well as woven linens in Parzinger style motifs.

“Parzinger has been a rich and rewarding inspiration for me, and the foundation for my interiors and furniture design,” said Murphy. “Now I’m branching out, working on interiors and working on a new lighting collection.” 

20th-Century Chic 
Matt Murphy recently made his debut last week at the highly prestigious San Francisco Fall Antiques Show. He was invited to present his collections by Lisa Podos, the extremely discerning director of the show, which benefits Enterprise for High School Students (which helps students find jobs, apprenticeships and learning opportunities. I love this group.) 

Included in Matt Murphy’s beautifully presented stand were pure Tommi Parzinger selections and bold paintings by Paul Burlin (who in a fascinating twist of fate, was the grandfather of Marta Benson, a top executive with Williams Sonoma, which owns Pottery Barn, the company for which Murphy used to create furniture and accessories designs.) 

"Discovering the work of Tommi Parzinger changed my life, and it lead me to Donald Cameron and a new direction in design,” said Murphy.

“In my own work, I can't help but be influenced by Parzinger," says Murphy. Some of Murphy's newest fabrics are already on display in his studio.

"I have more ideas and designs than I'll probably ever be able to produce in a lifetime,” he said. 

Matt Murphy’s 5 Design Favorites:

“Their ‘Made in California’ sale, held twice a year, is a particular favorite. The sale features historical works by some of the state's top designers and artists.”

Coup d'Etat
“An eclectic mix of antiques and furnishings, with fearlessly theatrical merchandising and styling. It’s witty and bold and always ahead of everyone else. A fantastic source.”

Andrew Woodside Carter
“My favorite source for woodworking and restoration. As modest as he is talented, he studied at Ecole Boulle in Paris. Nice young guy, beautiful old world craftsmanship.”

William Stout Architectural Books
“Chock-a-block with titles on subjects ranging from architecture, to graphic design, landscape, and urban planning. And don't forget the basement if you're into furniture and interior design. Considered by many designers and architects as the top source for books, in the world.”

Kathleen Taylor - The Lotus Collection
“A San Francisco institution, Kathleen's dazzling gallery is a must-visit for designers, collectors or for any one who appreciates fine textiles. Kathleen is a world authority on antique tapestry to 18th-century embroidered silks, Japanese indigo-dyed cottons, African Kuba cloth, and the finest French silk brocades. Visit, learn, and be inspired.” 

A view of Matt Murphy's room at the 2011 San Francisco Decorator Showcase.

Matt Murphy Studio
550 Jackson Street
San Francisco
phone 415.277.7224

All photographs by John Bedell, San Francisco, used with permission.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fabulous Asta Barocca Flatware by Alessi Debuts This Fall

New Flatware I Love:  Chic, Witty and Affordable 

I’ve always loved and admired Alessi tableware, and cooking and dining accessories, cutlery, and everything designed for the studio by Philippe Starck.

Alessi’s designs are sexy and Italian. They remind me of happy sunny days in Rome with endless lunches always involving lots of gesturing and wine.

Now Alessi has gone romantic. I’m completely won over by Alessi’s poetic new Asta Barocca cutlery and serveware. Come and see the whole collection.

Just delicious.

Asta Barocca is a refined interpretation of modern design, with a twist. It revolves around classic models of this genre, with swirls and twirls inspired by classic silverware ornamentation and poking a little fun at flatware’s archetypal themes. 

Asta Barocca Flatware in 18/10 stainless steel with relief decoration Design is by the great Alessandro Mendini, with Young Hee Cha. Five-piece set, $82. 

Asta Barocca cutlery is a fine combination of the simplicity of form and the exuberant decorative effect of the relief detailing.

Mendini created a fine juxtaposition between floral decoration that recalls some of the stylistic motifs of the Baroque period, and the severity of form.

It’s an Alessi project that combines a strong decorative element with a light and elegant character.

Alessi’s New Directions
At last year’s major Oggetti e Progetti exhibition in Munich, Alessi presented its newest trends. Two projects were designed by Alessandro Mendini, a long-time Alessi collaborator. First is the Anna Gong cake stand. His second project, Asta Barocca flatware, is an updated and slightly exaggerated version of refined Baroque flatware designs with their characteristic elaboration. The silvery embroidery is a marked departure for Alessi.

Alberto Alessi explains: “On one hand, as we understand it here at Alessi, we are searching for a new simplicity, modesty, and sometimes even austerity, in design. On the other hand, we plan designs that are a continuation, perhaps even an acceleration, of the search for highly expressive forms and decorative elements that, at least from a certain point of view, might be considered over the top.”

Thus Asta Barocca. 

In the US, Asta Barocca will be in stores and online at by November. To locate international retailers, readers can go to

Prices start at $8.50US for the mocha coffee spoon through $67 for the ladle.

The material is 18/10 stainless steel mirror polished with relief decoration.

The collection includes: Table spoon, fork, knife, dessert fork, dessert knife, teaspoon, coffee spoon, mocha coffee, ladle, serving spoon, serving fork, cake server, and pastry fork.

Designer/Architect Alessandro Mendini Born in Milan in 1931, former director of Casabella, Modo and Domus, winner of a Compasso d'Oro and designer of the Groninger Museum in Groningen, the Casino in Arosa, the Forum in Omegna, he is a designer, architect and image consultant for Philips, Swarovski, Swatch, and Bisazza.

Our projects are the linguistic components of an ongoing puzzle that is never completed. The sense lies in the progressive utopian hypothesis of reaching an impossible synthesis; sense lies in this expanded, centrifugal movement that has no end. The message of our work lies in this atmospheric dust, this polyphonic rhythm. A throng of figures full of contrasts.” – Alessandro and Francesco Mendini

About Alessi: 
Alessi works closely with top designers around the world including Zaha Hadid, Karin Santorso, Patricia Urquiola, Pierre Charpin, and Alesssandro Mendini (an Alessi maestro).

The latest collection from the Italian design factory features new designs by legends Terence Conran, Marcel Wanders and Eero Aarnio, as well as up-and-comers LUCY.D and Pauline Deltour, among others.

With a vast product line that includes pasta strainers, restaurant fruit baskets, even a designer flyswatter, the Alessi company, founded in 1921 by Giovanni Alessi, has long been at the forefront of inspired product design. Among the best known of the company's product range are Richard Sapper's kettle with a two-tone whistle, Michael Graves' kettle with the bird shaped whistle, Massimo Giacon's Mr Suicide, and Philippe Starck's playful three-legged Juicy Salif citrus squeezer.

The company has created a dynasty by offering practical products for restaurants (serving trays and everyday cutlery) and by elevating everyday design. Officina Alessi hires top designers, innovators, and dreamers to creating some of the most celebrated cult objects of our time.

Images of Asta Barocca tableware courtesy of Alessi. Published with express permission.

Monday, October 17, 2011

My Totally Delicious New Taste Discovery: Bellocq

The Best Teas in the World
I love fine tea. It restores, inspires, encourages, and uplifts.

You can imagine how delighted I am to discover the most elegant new tea company, Bellocq.

I’ve traveled the world—Paris, Tokyo, London, remote high-elevation corners of India, St. Petersburg, Colombo and Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka and beyond—in search of the most delicious and fragrant teas. I’m always looking for rare Broken Orange Pekoes, First Flush teas, single estate teas (Margaret’s Hope), velvety Assams, refreshing Moroccan mints, the best-quality tea leaves, the loveliest and most delicate blends, and for breakfast always a fortifying brewed tea.

And now I’ve found the very best tea, in Brooklyn.

It’s the chic new tea company, Bellocq. Such a divine name, and dozens of extraordinary blends and teas. I’ve added a complete listing of Bellocq teas below. One or two will tickle your fancy.

Come and meet the three fabulous and poetic talents who created Bellocq, discover their glorious teas, and then you must taste them yourself. Order a canister. Brew. Instant bliss.

Bellocq founders Michael Shannon and Heidi Johannsen Stewart and their elegant wares.

“We wanted to create something that we couldn't find that represented the kind of integrity that we feel is lacking in the tea market. This was a chance for all of us to use the multitudes of skills we’ve been honing for so long but that might not be needed or appreciated in the corporate/mass-market world.” – Michael Shannon, co-founder of Bellocq

Above, the new Bellocq tea atelier nestled among the extraordinary wares at the Restoration Hardware Gallery in Los Angeles, where I first encountered Heidi Johanssen Stewart and Michael Shannon, and the extravagantly perfumed teas of Bellocq.

Bellocq’s founders, Heidi Johannsen Stewart, Michael Shannon and Scott Stewart joined creative forces a few years ago. They wanted to collaborate on a shared aesthetic vision—an appreciation of traditional artisan work and a passion for tea.

“Tea is an affordable, everyday luxury,” said Heidi, a former Martha Stewart Living editor, stylist and columnist, whose work is featured on the pages of publications including Food and Wine magazine, and the New York Times.

“Bellocq’s approach to flavor and fragrance is tailored to a stylish, well-traveled, and knowledgeable client,” said Heidi. “We are re-imagining the tea business to suit the needs and desires of the modern discerning tea drinker. We want to cultivate a genuine relationship with our clients and provide the highest level of service which is, to some extent, intuitive.”

These are the chicest, most elegant teas on the planet. The Bellocq Breakfast tea (I'm working my way through a canister) is complex, deep, rich. Majorelle Mint (lovely iced) has the most delicate, fresh fragrance.


A toasty full-bodied blend of organic Indian, Chinese and Ceylon black teas. Smooth with a rich honey finish.

A modern blend of China’s finest organic white silver needle tea scented with the essence of Sicilian bergamot. Smooth and seductive.

A fresh organic herbal blend evocative of a summer meadow. ‘Manon of the Spring’ meets Marie Antoinette. Perfect for sipping all day.

A dreamy blend of full-bodied organic Indian black tea, spices, red poppy flowers and marigold petals.

A beguiling blend of organic Japanese sencha with essence of Bulgarian rose and strewn with rose petals.

A blend of full-bodied organic Indian and Chinese teas, juniper berries, Douglas fir tips and wild flowers.

A refined and distinctive blend of organic white peony and lavender with refreshing notes of grapefruit. Also delicious iced.

An exotic caffeine-free blend of bright organic lemongrass and feverish ginger with notes of fresh basil, delicate orange blossom and red mandarin.

The finest organic full leaf black tea delicately scented with the vibrant essence of pure Sicilian bergamot.

A paradise of organic Chinese gunpowder green tea and mint with a refreshing citrus twist. Perfect served hot in the traditional manner, or over ice. Kaftan, optional.

Simply the most gorgeous caffeine-free chai. Rich and smooth organic / fair trade South African rooibos, cardamon, fragrant cassia, and spicy ginger adorned with garlands of rose, jasmine and marigold petals.

Michael Shannon at the new Bellocq tea atelier on the Kings Road, Chelsea, London. (Image via The Accessorator).

Michael Shannon worked in the world of product design for notable companies such as Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, where he contributed to the beloved catalogue Martha-by-Mail. He also contributed his style and savoir-faire to cult favorite clothing and housewares company, Anthropologie.

“I’m fascinated with early techniques so I continue my education in many forms of artistry including blacksmithing, tailoring, glassblowing and carpentry,” said Shannon.

“The craftsmanship of tea is an art-form in itself,” he noted. “Growing and processing leaves requires great skill and sensitivity, I continue to be amazed and humbled.”

Scott Stewart, partner in Bellocq, is co-owner and founder of fabrication firm, SAAW, inc. the firm behind high-end commercial interiors such as Anthropologie and Barney’s New York.

As a sitting member on the board of directors for the pioneering eco-clothing label Stewart+Brown, Scott notes, “There is a choice to be made and we have committed ourselves to working with responsible gardens and merchants to select the finest and freshest organic teas. Teas are a seasonal commodity, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at most of the product available, it’s been on the shelves for a long time. For us, it’s quality over quantity. Furthermore, as a company committed to preserving traditional craft techniques and the communities in which they thrive, it’s not just about the product, but also the process, which includes the health and well-being for all involved. For Bellocq, it’s about providing an incredible product and honoring relationships along the way.”

The trio find themselves traveling, often with children in tow, to far-flung locations in search of traditional techniques to integrate into Bellocq’s modern expression.

The fabulous Bellocq teas

What sets them apart: the leaves are fresh, the leaves and flowers and pods and natural ingredients are of the best quality.

These are incredibly refined and complex flavors, the best of the best. They are sold as loose-leaf teas, though you can make bags from provided sachets.

I love the Bellocq Breakfast tea—and a tea-lover only has to look at the tealeaves, which are twiggy and long, with a bracing bouquet.

Selections from the catalog of Bellocq teas:
{Yunnan Province, China} An elegant and fragrant blossom-strewn compressed four-year old organic tea cake lends itself to multiple cuppings while retaining a smooth mellow brew.

{Yunnan Province, China} Revered in China for it’s medicinal purposes, this organic shou pu-erh cake infuses classic pu-erh flavor with intriguing notes of sarsaparilla.

{Yunnan Province, China} This organic pu-erh produces a strong yet smooth brew. Earthen musky notes predominate rich, coffee-hued liquor.

{Yunnan Province, China} Vintage brick-style five-year old compressed organic pu-erh. Gentle and aromatic, excellent drinking now, or reserve for a few more years.


{Organic Fair Trade, South Africa} Caffeine-free smooth, full bodied African red tisane. Rich with floral honey notes, a sweet lingering finish and rich ochre-hued liquor, rooibos does not become bitter or astringent with prolonged steeping. High in antioxidants.

{Korea} Entirely caffeine free, rich in antioxidants and calcium, Mulberry leaf tea produces a rich, fruity and sweet brew. Unusual and delightful.

{Organic} Indigenous to South America and introduced to Europe in the 17th century. Verveine, as it is also known, possesses a bright, sharp lemon flavor that makes a delicious tea served either hot or over ice. Calming and soothing.

No. 45 MINT
{Organic} Uplifting and bright, mint is a natural digestive aid, contains anti-inflammatory properties and stimulates brain activity.

{Organic} Flor de Jamica, as it is known in Central America, is refreshing, tart, and high in vitamin C. Allegedly, Cleopatra adored hibiscus tea and believed it helped to maintain her legendary beauty.

{Organic} Naturally soothing and relaxing, chamomile is a perfect bedtime (or anytime) elixir. Delicious sweetened with honey.

{Organic Fair Trade, Argentina} Energizing, refreshing mate is an excellent alternative
to “traditional” tea. Indulge your romantic boho side and sip from a traditional gourd and bombilla.

Bellocq teas were introduced in the first tea atelier in London last year. Now the Bellocq teas are selling like…er, hot cakes…at Bergdorf Goodman in New York.
Restoration Hardware in Los Angeles, where I first discovered Bellocq, can’t keep some blends in stock. And the Bellocq team is constantly traveling to find more tea.

“Picture us, traveling through deepest Central Mexico, packed to the rafters in our little rental car—indigenous textiles tucked into every available nook and cranny—our bumper nearly dragging along the highway while the rear window is obscured of vision because of the 20 pounds of tuberoses we didn’t have the heart to leave behind. But we’re loving every minute of it and are so inspired by the wonderful people we’ve met along the way. We’ve been fortunate to be part of an exceptional creative community and wish to share our knowledge and inspiration with each and every customer.” – Michael Shannon

“It is in Brooklyn where it all happens. Our showroom has been a labor of love which makes it all the more enjoyable when we get to entertain others. We are now working on a series of events that will include everything from lectures to intimate musical performances.”

The showroom/tea atelier will also act as a retail store several days a week. It's an opportunity to interact with customers in a way that we feel closest. Customers are able to try any tea they find curious. "We are also beginning to carry teas that are too rare to wholesale. It is important to us that any environment we create touch upon the senses in more than just taste. We create everything here by ourselves right down to the plaster of the walls, building and upholstering of furniture... not to mention the work that goes into creating and producing the teas,”  said Michael Shannon of Bellocq.

Bellocq inside the chic Restoration Hardware Gallery in Los Angeles.

Small-batch tea blends will continue to evolve, reflecting the seasons and Bellocq will be offering bespoke blending opportunities as well.

Heidi said, “Scent and flavor not only bring back forgotten emotions and memories, but envelope us in the present and influences mood. It’s a powerful conduit. I read, somewhere, that tea is, essentially, a journey of water.” That’s a wonderfully poetic sentiment.

Bellocq Teas:
Prices from $15.95 for the vivid yellow Bellocq box of Ceylon OP, to $104 for a large, luxurious silver tea caddy full of Darjeeling Second Flush.

Tea Atelier:
37 Greenpoint Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11222
{entrance at 104 West St.}
open to the public Fridays and Saturdays
T: 1.800.495.5416 
“The Brooklyn Atelier is only open on Friday and Saturdays 12-7 and it is our main focus now. We are hosting events all all kinds and the experience here is the true experience that one would have gotten in London. Customers are able to taste and smell anything they like. We also are carrying teas that are too rare for our wholesale line as well as short run blends that we can't help our selves from creating!” said Michael Shannon.

Where to find Bellocq teas:
The Restoration Hardware Gallery in Los Angeles, as well as Bergdorf Goodman in New York City. Also at Lane Crawford in Hong Kong and Biotop in Tokyo, who have lovely presentations of Bellocq.

All Bellocq teas images and portraits courtesy of Bellocq. Photography of Bellocq products by Anna Williams,

Interiors of Restoration Hardware Los Angeles gallery, courtesy Restoration Hardware.
All photos used with permission.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Style Saloniste Special Report: Collecting Today

Top collectors, what to collect, where to find treasures, and how to design with collections, plus tips from top dealers, specialists and a leading architect. A revolution has hit the world of antique, art and design and interiors will never look the same.

Collectors I Love: 
Andrew and Françoise Skurman

The shock of the new. Avant-garde art, baroque sculptures, exquisite busts, vivid paintings,and provocative collections reverberate in an all-white apartment high in the sky above San Francisco’s Nob Hill. 
Art and design collectors, Andrew and Françoise Skurman set new standards for inventiveness, connoisseurship, daring, and the best of world-class twentieth-century and contemporary furniture and paintings. Come and meet this chic couple and discover and explore dazzling fields of design to conquer.

Once there were only two settings for the design dial—traditional or modern. Designers and architects were either in love with elaborate Georgian curves or opulent gilded Louis XV chairs—or it was chrome and Miles and modernism all the way.
Today, true connoisseurs are staking out their own territories, exploring and Mapquesting the wilder shores of design history with grit and wit.
San Francisco architect Andrew Skurman and his wife, Françoise, schooled and anchored in the classical history of design, are putting a new spin on interiors, blurring the lines between furniture and art, and embracing bold new furniture materials like carbon fiber and plastic.

Françoise Skurman decorates her table in homage to the Alessandro Twombly painting that hovers above diners. Among her favorites: handblown Biot glassware, Venetian goblets, family heirloom silker and French and Danish porcelain. Flowers in the apartment are by Claire Marie Johnston, Flowers Claire Marie, San Francisco.

The Skurmans are also constantly editing and energizing their collections, adding depth with dramatic new pieces and weeding out a gilded mirror here, an over-wrought chair there. They live with their collections, savoring and appraising them and studying them every day.

Andrew and Françoise Skurman
Clarity and Light

Françoise and Andrew Skurman live in a pure white aerie on Nob Hill. They’re dedicated collectors, constantly on the hunt for provocative contemporary art, experimental furniture, and artist-designed conceptual furniture. A pure white background shows their large abstract paintings, modern furniture and antiques in full force.

As it happened, Andrew Skurman, founder of the nineteen-year-old San Francisco firm, Andrew Skurman Architects, originally worked on the all-white interior architecture for a client. Orlando Diaz-Azcuy had designed the original interior architecture of the apartment.

Now, through a turn of fate, it is the Skurmans’ art house, prominently featuring  ‘The Fall of Icarus’, 2003, oil painting by Alessandro Twombly above the complex truss dining table custom-designed by Tom Dixon for the Skurmans.

Surrounding the table are a chunky grouping of white leather ‘Mars’ chairs are by Konstantin Grcic, 2003, and a pair of Meccano-esque truss chairs by Dixon.

“I don’t buy for ‘investment’, I buy for the love of the object,” said Andrew Skurman, a lifelong collector. As a graduate working for I. M. Pei in the seventies, he collected Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe furniture. Living with the work of avant-garde and accomplished designers and artists is very satisfying and fulfilling, he said.

Françoise sets her table for a celebratory dinner with her Parisian family’s heirloom silver, peonies in gold-embossed porcelain Limoges vases, and virtuoso glass goblets hand-blown in Provence. Above it is the dramatic painting, vivid and joyful, by Alessandro Twombly, son of Cy Twombly.

‘Bromphenol Blue–Cylene Cyanol Dye Solution’ 2005, by Damien Hirst hovers near a pair of ornate Louis XV fauteuils refinished in silver leaf.

“Andy is constantly researching art and design, and when we travel, it’s usually to art shows or architecture exhibits and art galleries,” said Françoise. “We collect together. Andy often instigates and does the research. We each have veto power, but generally we agree.”

In their sunny bedroom, with views of the Golden Gate Bridge in the blurred distance, a tall white-painted rope-wrapped chest is a custom design by Christian Astuguevieille, Paris.

In a corner of their bedroom, the couple have created an international incident with silver-gilt Venetian mirrors, ‘Fresh Fat’, a abstract extruded plastic table by London designer Tom Dixon a white leather ‘Odin’ settee by Konstantin Grcic, 2005.

“I’ve always thought that all quality pieces will work together and create a lively dialogue,” said Andrew Skurman. “Refined classical will always work with the best of modern. Then throw in an art piece. Your room will vibrate.”         

And so collecting is a constant search for the new, the provocative, the daring and the familiar.

“Modernism is the expression of design for our day, but it is important to recognize and appreciate all the epochs that have gone before,”said Andrew Skurman.

Now is a great time to discover a new approach to interiors, and search the world for treasures.

“The best interiors will be a personal and ever-changing mix, a timeless and un-trendy approach,” said Andrew Skurman.

Collectors note: Seek out the treasures that turn you on. As long as it’s not bland, boring or static.

Secret Sources:

An international roster of design stars, including trend-setters like Konstantin Grcic, the Bourellec brothers, Marcel Wanders, Marc Newson, Tom Dixon, Garouste & Bonetti, are among the iconic talents that design collectors are seeking out today as their experimental shapes and space-age materials give them an edge on tip sheets for design immortality.

Avid collectors, designers and architects haunt auction catalogs, travel to antique fairs around the world, and are constantly researching in museums, galleries and transitional neighborhoods, not to mention flea markets, online, estate sales, antique fairs and collectives.

In a constant round of education and research, top collectors attend design lectures at the annual San Francisco Fall Antiques Show, for example, and the Biennale in Paris, the Armoury show in New York. They build a reference library, and grab every book (old or new) on their favorite periods and craftsmen, artists and designers. They become experts, constantly on the hunt.

Sites to watch:

Bonham’s The international auction house often presents special sales of California art collectors, and memorabilia. Recent twentieth-century furniture sales have featured pieces by John Dickinson.  Antiques have migrated to The leading access site to hundreds of antique and art dealers around the country, and in London and Paris. Most leading galleries, antique shops, and vintage specialists in the US and internationally display and sell their wares on 1stdibs. An excellent site for researching and studying the market, watching trends, and comparing goods and prices.

Phillips de Pury & Company Focuses on art and significant design from the twentieth century. A recent sale offered Wiener Werkstatte designs. Phillips de Pure also builds art collections for well-heeled private and corporate clients.

Christie’s  Leading auction house offering museum-quality art, jewelry of historic provenance, and seasonal furniture collections. Excellent catalogs for reference.

Sotheby’s Top auction house, with twentieth-century sales, as well as highly-collected and rare art. Outstanding catalogs are essential for current reference.

Wright  Chicago-based pioneer of modern furniture, books and decorative arts, and a broad range of offerings from diverse and recherché twentieth-century designers. Excellent catalogs.

How to be a Smart Collector:
Andrew Skurman’s Top Tips
• Focus your collection into ideas and concepts. For example, Skurman collects only abstract modern art, very expressionistic, never figurative. Emerging artists. White.

 Consider art works on paper, prints, monotypes, and smaller pieces. They are well-priced.

 Attend graduate shows at local art colleges and schools. This can be a fine way of identifying emerging new talents and following their career.

 Haunt artists’ sites, as well as designer websites and antique and art sites on the Internet. Search sites such as www.architonic.comwww.1stdibs,com, and  Search by designer, products, vintage, country, materials, style.

 Attend openings at antique galleries and get to know the dealers and artists. Learn from them. Let them know what you’re interested in collecting.

 Check on for news of galleries, artists, and up-to-date information.

 Find antique dealers and artists on Facebook. Therien was among the pioneers. Friend Therien and you'll receive daily updates on 'ten most beautiful rooms in the world' or 'why Palladio matters' written by Philip Bewley and Bob Garcia. Friend them, follow them, and get on their email lists.

“Don’t Over-restore!”
Quick tips for aspiring collectors
Snap up rare and quirky industrial parts that can be repurposed. For example, intricate rusted machinery can become lamp-bases or decorative objects. A dented metal rack can be used as a stationery holder or for cutlery storage on a buffet table. A rusted cog can make a graphic lampbase. Or display it as sculpture. — Darin Geise, founder of Coup d’Etat, San Francisco

The turmoil in the decorative arts field in the last five years has been a true game changer,” Therien’s Bob Garcia noted.  “Respected and noteworthy dealers throughout Europe and the United States have been challenged to either change directions in marketing or throw in the towel.  The excitement and challenge for designers, collectors and dealers is that there is no prevailing "style" or "taste" that we can determine, whether modern gothic, traditional European, early twentieth international or modern artist-designer furnishings. All are current and have their place—often in the same interior.”

Don’t over-restore or over-polish old silver or decades-old copper unless you plan to use them. To retain value, leave them in their original condition so that their age and signs of use can be part of their inherent beauty. Old and rare pieces have to have some kind of surprise, oddity, and the unexpected. I consider any period or era or provenance of interest. — Darin Geise, founder of Coup d’Etat, San Francisco

“We now expect to see unique and unusual combinations of designs seemingly casually thrown together but in reality they’re highly studied for counterpoint and edge,” said Bob Garcia, partner in Therien & Co, a top dealer in San Francisco and Los Angeles for four decades.   “In the world of antiques and 20th century furniture, interiors are energized by contrasting experimental one-off twenty-first-century pieces in a room with classically-inspired Italian or French thirties seating or tables. Highly original pieces rule the market.”

Buy only pieces that have inherent quality and character regardless of age or provenance. Always seek out solid wood, for example, not veneers, and inspect items for fine craftsmanship and lasting style. (Veneers of rare woods are OK.)” — Andrew Skurman, Andrew Skurman Architects

Skurman apartment
Interior architecture: Orlando Diaz-Azcuy, ODADA, San Francisco, CA.
Interior design: Andrew Skurman, Andrew Skurman Architects, San Francisco., and Françoise Skurman.

All photography of the Skurman apartment is by Lisa Romerein,
All photography used with express permission of the photographer.
Lisa Romerein, whose studio is in Santa Monica, is a leading California photographer who specializes in interiors, travel, food, lifestyle, portraits and decoration. Among her longtime clients are C magazine and Santa Barbara magazine, and House Beautiful.