Monday, June 11, 2012

Modernist Masterpiece: At Home with Designer David Oldroyd

In the hills of San Francisco, above the Castro district, designer David Oldroyd recently completed his sleek and brilliant reinvention of a thirties townhouse. Light-filled purist interiors are the perfect canvas for sensual sculptures, vintage furniture, and rare collections. 

Designer David Oldroyd’s impeccable light-filled monochromatic interiors are the perfect canvas for his life away from his fast-paced design practice. 

Modern Mix: The dining table is a vintage 1970s Michael Taylor cypress trunk base with new glass top. Dining chairs are vintage 1970s attributed to Milo Baughman. On the wall, the plaster sculpture, P-Wall (2006) is by Andrew Kudless/MATSYS, 

San Francisco interior designer David Oldroyd has been a modernist since he started his design and architecture career over twenty-eight years ago. He’s a partner with Orlando Diaz-Azcuy and Greg Stewart at Orlando Diaz-Azcuy Design Associates, an interior design and architecture studio noted for perfectly planned and rigorously modern interiors. 

Contrast Concept: Side chairs, a pair of vintage Frank Gehry “Wiggle Chairs” purchased at Lou Marotta in New York, appear to jostle a sedate pair of chaises longues, nineteenth-century English, upholstered in Rogers & Goffigon sage glazed linen. Glazed strie wood finish by Claudio Mariani. Chaises longues acquired from March, 

Mid-Century Modern: Molded chairs are vintage French 1970s molded resin purchased at March San Francisco, Artwork above resin chairs: Ice Painting Study 2010, artist Ronnie Genotti. 

But as a minimalist, Oldroyd is also a secret romantic, decorating his newly completed house with sensual handcrafted objects, rare and beautiful furniture, poetic art, sexy hand-beaten silver collections, and handcrafted Scandinavian glass designs.

“I believe in simply detailed interiors and rigorously planned rooms, but for myself I love the addition beautiful and eccentric and arresting pieces to captivate my eye,” said the designer. “I’m not a fan of hard-edge. I’ve selected them so that the effect is captivating and welcoming, not at all museum-like.” 

Sleek and Pure: David Oldroyd designed the elongated white lacquer credenza in white lacquer with bronze blade supports, fabricated by Jason Gaidmore Furniture, Glass collection on credenza includes large apple and melon vases by Ingeborg Lundin c 1958; Venini “Veronese” Nero vase; frosted double-lobbed vase is by Ritsue Mishima “Petali” no. 11, 2007, from Hedge Gallery. 

As a minimalist he painted all walls of his house an ultra pale grey mist tone that’s ethereal. At high noon, it reads almost white, and at dusk it fades to a pale mysterious taupe. The hardwood floors in his living room are covered with chunky rush matting. The tonalities of fabrics, art, textiles and upholstery range from palest ivory to pale sage, soft charcoal, and a dash of blue. It’s all very controlled and coherent in approach. 

But Oldroyd has a maximalist side that he celebrates, choosing great flourishes of branches that he stands in tall zinc or handblown glass vases. When he loves an objects—Alan Alder silver, ancient Chinese terra cotta pots, or sixties Danish or Italian glass-- he acquires it en masse and displays it boldly.

He’s artful at creating counterpoints of old and new, rustic and modern, and luxurious and humble. In a corner of the living room, in full sun, a rare Michael Taylor-designed raw cypress trunk table base has a new clear glass top.

A frothy white wall sculpture hangs on the living room wall above the undulating glossy black lacquer grand piano. Freeform vintage Frank Gehry ‘Wiggle’ chairs are juxtaposed with an austere elongated pure white cabinet that’s suspended on three ultra-slim ‘blade’ supports, cast in oxidized bronze. It’s an artful counterpoint of custom-made cabinetry and flea-market finds, ancient ceramics and modern cast plastic all in the same room. All perfectly posed. 

Calm and Composed: In the study, a table, nineteenth-century English, with a painted metal base with original white Carrara stone inlaid top. Sculpture above fireplace: “Quiet Bark” 2006 cast bronze, Yoshitomo Saito, purchased at Haines Gallery San Francisco, Oldroyd installed the leaded glass windows to add texture and pattern, and to offer privacy. 
With his perfectionism comes patience.

Oldroyd acquired his house, perched in Corona Heights, in 2004. He spent one year planning and getting permits. The following five years were spent in an extensive remake and re-invention of his property.

‘I was drawn to the south-facing location, the rather hidden street, and views of hills,” said the designer.

From his front deck, Sutro Tower, with sails of white fog, appears as ethereal and grand as a galleon. Ships hover in the shimmering bay to the south. 

Oldroyd, with his extensive list of requirements, spent more that two years searching for the house. He wanted fireplaces, high ceilings, and a house with some architectural heritage.

The 2,000 square foot, multi-level house, which had been built in 1928, has a Spanish-style exterior, and had not been touched since 1960. For Oldroyd it was full of potential. It had a garage and direct access to a flat garden with Meyer lemon trees.

“I was bidding against contractors who would have done a quick fix-up and flip,” said Oldroyd. “But after everything was signed up, I discovered that the house had serious leaks and cracks, the windows let in the draughts, and the electricity was so haphazard and primitive that the previous owners improvised lighting in the living room with Christmas lights.” 

Oldroyd further learned that the house was listing to the east, that the floors sloped, and the roof would have to be replaced.

“The blessing was that as my own client I could do whatever I wanted,” noted the designer. “The reality was that I had a budget, and so I had to be extremely inventive with every move and material.” 

Meet the Designer:

David Oldroyd has been created polished and inspiring interiors for the last two decades. He’s based in San Francisco and far from the New York design circles and publications, but he is known to design insiders who admire the rigor and perfectionism of his projects. It’s time to get to know David and his design insights!

Join me for a chat with David Oldroyd.

DDS: Most exciting new design trends?
I tend not to trend. I believe that good design stays good. However, open eyes and a teachable mind are essential to good design, to assure we learn from the past and influence what we design in the future.

It is no longer necessary to have a room full of traditional furniture, art and accessories to create a feeling of warmth, comfort and luxury. We are now using line, shape and volume; contrast, color and texture; simplicity, openness and space to accomplish the same thing. New and innovative materials are complimenting age and patina in a way that is more interesting and stimulating than ever before.

DDS: Please describe a recent room design you completed.
I am continually fascinated with the absence of obvious color and am drawn to interiors that are inviting, even intoxicating without the use of strong color combinations. Colorful rooms can be extraordinary. And, color is a good tool for problem-solving, and can make a room fashionable and current. But color will not hide a fundamentally poor room and when not deftly employed will become dated.

I recently created a room using only the subtle shades visible in a thick piece of glass…pale gray/green/silver/blue/gold. The lack of obvious color feels fresh and interesting and lets you feel the room rather than just see it. I used contrast and texture and subtle shades of almost non-color to keep the eye interested and moving. The walls are painted flat in a chameleon shade of pale gray mist that is both warm and cool. The ceiling is a gently contrasting off-white to lift the eye. The wood floors are clear and stained a light walnut with a hint of green to anchor the room.

DDS: Do you think design has changed in San Francisco over the last twenty years?
San Francisco design has become much more urban. People are living downtown, in lofts, in high-rises. The influence of the relaxed, boldly scaled elegant style that Michael Taylor championed is still felt, and has a timeless quality. The contrasts that he became famous for still feel current today. But this is a much more vertical city than it was, and we are responding to that. Floor-to-ceiling glass has become normal and even expected. The influence of the sky and the view from condo towers has changed the way we bring the natural world into our rooms. Colors are lighter and fresher, and not as heavy and earthy. Antiques are used, but more sparingly. Modern art and accessories play a much more important role in design, and are now more than ever necessary to make a room feel contemporary. And the pace of technology has and will bring change and challenge us to keep up!

DDS: New design idea?
I love the idea of no tile in a bathroom. I’m constantly looking for new materials to use on the wet walls of a shower that will provide the necessary function…my current favorite is exterior plaster, smooth-troweled.

I also think that the cluttered garage as entry hall should be banished! Most people in California drive home, and enter through the garage. Instead it should be one of the best rooms in the house. I have artwork on the walls in mine and I’d have a window with a view if I could afford it. 

A Sense of Classicism: Oldroyd’s sense of minimalist perfection is evident in the all-white bathroom, with its panel of glass neatly balanced on the mosaic floor, and sliding glass doors opening to the terrace. Painting over tub: vintage 1960’s unsigned, a flea-market find. The bathroom faces south and has no nearby neighbors. 

All photography by Philip Harvey, used with express permission.

Meet the photographer:
Philip Harvey is a commercial photographer with 18 years of experience creating evocative images for clients. Philip helps guide his clients through the creative process from the early concepting of the shoot--helping to creative the “look”, select locations, and find models-- through final printing. After completing his degree in literature and psychology at the University of Oregon, Philip graduated Brooks Institute of Photography with honors then moved to the Bay Area and began shooting for editorial, advertising, architecture, and catalog companies. Philip’s clients include L.L. Bean, Restoration Hardware, and Target. When not photographing Philip can be found canyoneering in Utah, Whitewater rafting in Montana, or canoeing in Idaho. But most of the time he has a camera nearby. 

Designer David Oldroyd, originally from Utah, is a long-time partner with Orlando Diaz-Azcuy Design Associates in San Francisco. 

Architectural design, renovation, and interior decoration:
David Todd Oldroyd, Principal, Orlando Diaz-Azcuy Design Associates, 201 Post Street, 9th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94108 (415) 362-4500,

General Construction by: Saturn Construction,

Plaster Wall Sculpture: P-Wall (2006) by Andrew Kudless/MATSYS,

Paint color on walls throughout: 
Benjamin Moore OC-131 White Down,


quintessence said...

What an exquisite home - a modern masterpiece indeed!! And so eloquently said - "Good design stays good" - don't want to requote that entire paragraph but it is perfect!

Anonymous said...

Everything he has created in his home speaks to me through his use of translucent color and texture and elegant, quiet lines. I'm at peace just looking at the photos - especially the first one.

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Dear Friends-

Have received many comments from subscribers regarding this David Oldroyd story.

SAN FRANCISCO DESIGNER MARTHA ANGUS: sent the following message:

Bravo Diane, Davids home is staggeringly beautiful!!!! Miss Martha

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Dear Friends-

Perhaps it could be said that DAVID OLDROYD is a 'designer's designer' meaning that designers see all the details and the 'what David did not do' and admire the precision of his work.

SAN FRANCISCO DESIGNER HEATHER HILLIARD send the following note today:

Absolutely stunning! Thanks for sharing, Diane.


Heather Hilliard Design

Beauty Follower said...

Great interior!

Brad said...

Andrew Kudless' sculpture aside, this house is exceptionally well done, and is a good example of how minimalism and livability can be in balance. I especially like the bathroom and kitchen: such beautiful lines.


*Chic Provence* said...

Dear Diane,

Thanks for this post, David Oldroyd's home is incredibly welcoming albeit spare and modern.. quite meticulously and carefully designed & orchestrated. I like that he too is tired of tiled bathrooms.. I love the look of tadelakdt on bathroom walls now..

We are overdue.. coffee/yogurt this lovely June?

xoxo Kit

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