Monday, February 11, 2013

Jay Jeffers: The Individualist

The joy of decorating: San Francisco designer Jay Jeffers brings graphic patterns and chic collections to his vibrant color-infused interiors 

“My intention is always to create interiors that are sophisticated and have a sense of fun,” says Jay Jeffers. “I don’t have a formula and I don’t always follow the old ‘rules’.” 

Designer Jay Jeffers, photo by Michael Waring

Jay Jeffers’ design for his clients throughout the US is a modern, custom-crafted mix of elegant fabrics and stylish furniture that are easy to live with, and sparked with fresh and unexpected color.

He was recently listed on Elle D├ęcor’s A List of the top sixty designers in America.

Jeffers and his staff at Jeffers Design Group pull together rooms that are monochromatic, but over the last decade, his best work has splashes of color with a touch of exuberance.

This virtuoso jolt of color is not surprising. Jeffers, like many top designers, is a lifelong devotee of the late, great English designer, David Hicks. Brightly graphic fabrics on pillows, artful tablescapes, and bold colors were David Hicks signatures, and Jeffers uses these design devices deftly. Like all the best designers he chose his inspiration wisely. 

"This bachelor pad in San Francisco is one of my favorites — I could live here," said Jeffers.  All photos Matthew Millman

“David Hicks’s work, especially his major interior design from the seventies, has become something of a rulebook for luxury, style and instant elegance," said Jeffers, whose library is stocked with all twelve of David Hicks’ highly collectible out-of-print books on design, fabrics, gardens and style.

“He was a pioneer in revolutionizing the way we see and live in traditional interiors and I’ve always admired that “ said Jeffers, who studied art and design at Texas before heading to California and launching Jeffers Design Group in 1999. “At a time when interiors were either traditional or modern, and the two were never mixed, Mr. Hicks always avoided one-note design. We are at a similar cross-roads in design now—where we want familiar, comfortable traditional furnishings, but we also want rooms to look modern, current, and very much of the twenty-first century.” 

Jeffers, like his English counterpart, combines daring colors like chocolate brown and pink or coral, and contrasts modern Scandinavian chairs with Chinese antiques, or boldly sculptural wing chairs with a sleek tufted velvet ottoman. That approach of mixing and creating bold juxtapositions give Jeffers’ rooms energy today.

“I see his work, I’m inspired, and I don’t hold back,” said Jeffers. 

A chic young couple in San Francisco bought a house that needed love. Jeffers Design Group added built-ins, replaced fireplaces and created and new library for him. The ottoman is custom and chairs are vintage. JDG added the elegant bookcases. All photos Matthew Millman

"We built the library as a great spot to hang out with a scotch in hand," noted Jeffers.

The hermes orange lacquered ceiling in the dining room is by Willem Racke.

"I couldn't' resist these groovy vintage leather chairs in this serious master bedroom," said Jeffers.

Combined master bath and dressing room (below)

Few interior designers are as bold and creative with color as Jeffers. For a client’s living room on Telegraph Hill he gathered a collection of vibrant turquoise and orange Blenko glass designs. An ottoman in another client’s sitting room makes a witty statement in orange and taupe cowhide.

“I like vivid colors like lemon, purple, red, orange, or coral on walls or on furniture in classic and formal rooms,” Jeffers said. “I’ve used taupe and cream, but always with a kick of color. Used with discretion a carefully considered color will give a room a sense of life.”

Jeffers noted that Hicks once said, “Style is not merely what you do, but how you do it.” 

A highrise apartment at the Royal Towers in San Francisco.  Jeffers commented, "Formerly decorated by Michael Taylor, the new owner and my client were interested in a clean design that accentuated artwork and views.  We worked with Sutro Architects, gutted the apartment and started over."  The living room is shown above. All photos Matthew Millman

Media Room with upholstered hide-on-hair walls.

"The best views in the house are from these swivel chairs," said Jeffers.

Master bedroom with custom bed designed by Jay Jeffers.

“My approach to design is not exactly traditional,” said Jeffers. “My college degree is in international business and marketing. I planned to work in advertising. By chance, I took an introductory design course at UC Berkeley Extension,” said the designer. “I studied interior architecture, the history of design, materials, color and space planning. By the time I completed the course, I was hooked, and I knew this was where I wanted to go. I never learned traditional ways of decorating so I look at design in a more contemporary manner, without preconceptions.”

Jeffers said that he appreciates traditional style and design but his clients often prefer a new approach.

“I never repeat designs, and I don’t have one look or color I impose on my clients,” he said. 

Jay Jeffers' house in St. Helena in the Napa Valley.  He gutted this 60's ranch down to the studs. Fireplace mantel is dyed oyster shells by Howl Studios (available through Cavalier). All phtotos Matthew Millman

Chandelier is by Apparatus Studio.  The plaster table is Jay Jeffers design by Stephen Antonson (both available at Cavalier).

The master headboard is a rug that Jeffers bought in Morocco.

Jeffers approach is evolving. Each client gets an individual look, and rooms that are perfectly crafted to their life, their requirements, their dreams and hopes.

Jeffers travels often in search of antiques, art, rugs and accessories for his clients. A recent trip to Marrakech produced antique Berber rugs and atmospheric pierced brass lanterns.

“I place an emphasis on artist-made decorative objects, hand-woven textiles, and lighting that is thoughtfully produced in limited editions,” said Jeffers. “I want my clients to live with fine paintings and one-of-a-kind lighting and custom-designed furniture that will give them a lifetime of use and pleasure.”

For this designer, the joy of decorating continues. 

Jay Jeffers latest news — you are the first to know: Jays first book will be published by Rizzoli, Spring 2014. The title has not yet been finalized. I asked Jay to tell us about it. 

The book is the work of Jeffers Design Group over the last 10 years — broken into styles — there are 4 chapters, Casual Chic, Bold Bespoke, Unabashed Glamour and Collected Cool. It is 10x12, 252 pages. I think what sets Jeffers Design Group apart is that we work in many different styles (I get bored), we don't really have one signature look, so the book will showcase that. — Jay Jeffers

Jay Jeffers' Chic Design Advice

Color: Edit
Don't be afraid of color, but don't go crazy either. Deep tones can make a small room feel cozy and large rooms feel dramatic. And don't forget the ceiling, an often-overlooked design opportunity. If you go dark, try painting the ceiling softer, at 50% strength of the wall color.

Lighting: Keep it flexible
Give every room several light sources and opportunities, such as a chandelier where appropriate, sconces on the walls, lamps for reading instead of recessed cans and I always say that candles count as a light source. Every light switch should have a dimmer. Everyone looks better in dimmed light.

Art: Save for the best
No matter what your budget, buy good art. Really good art. One great piece is so much better than 5 not so great pieces in my opinion. Flea market finds and well priced galleries like Lost Art Salon in San Francisco are an excellent compliment, but build your collection with a piece that you love by an established artist. Keep your eye out for a new website, an online art rental gallery so you can try things for a few months. If you like it, buy it. If you don't, try something else.

Accessories: High/Low
My favorite part of an installation is finishing a home with art and accessories, but I know they can really put a dent in the budget. One of my philosophies (and one of our core beliefs at Cavalier) is that you should have a mix of high and low. Buy some really wonderful pieces for your bookshelves, coffee table, and compliment it with less expensive pieces. The mix really elevates everything and gives your home a cool, collected look and feel. At Cavalier, you can buy a beautiful vintage box for $95 and pair with a cashmere throw for $950.

Headboard: Get the scale right
A headboard not only anchors the bed, it anchors the room. When choosing one, consider your surroundings. Do you want art to hang above your headboard? Then keep it low. With tall nightstands choose higher headboard. Be bold. Are you traditional? Tuft it. Prefer modern? Upholster it in soft smooth leather.

Designer Jay Jeffers and creative director, Michael Purdy, recently launched Cavalier, San Francisco’s favorite new style shop and curated design haven

Jay Jeffers and Michael Purdy photographed in their new gallery, Cavalier.

“My goal with Cavalier was to gather rare and unusual pieces, so that designers and everyone who loves design can find rare and beautiful things,” said Jeffers.

The shop was named for Jeffers’ Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Kingsley. 

Kingsley, Cavalier's namesake.

In one corner of the 1,000 square-foot Post Street gallery are collections of American-made tailored sofas and armchairs, jostling a Jeffers designed hexagonal oak table with a base inspired by cogwheels. Clients can linger over a white plaster dining table, a steel cabinet deployed with shelves displaying Alex & Lee braided necklaces, and limited edition jewel-colored Lucite boxes in vivid chartreuse by Alexandra von Furstenberg. 

The interior of Cavalier in San Francisco. All phtotos Matthew Millman

The air is scented with candles Jeffers has collected from his favorite hotels—Hotel Costes in Paris (sexy, amber), New York’s Crosby Street Hotel (lavender) and the spicy candle from Hotel Meurice on the rue de Rivoli in Paris. Mood enhancing! 

And for gifts, Cavalier is chock-a-block with monogrammed pillows, unglazed Nordic pottery, framed photography, and hard-to-find vintage design books. 

Jay Jeffers, photo by Traver Rains

1035 Post Street
San Francisco

Jeffers Design Group
1035 Post Street
San Francisco 


  1. Everything in his work is different to anything else I've seen, but I can detect the David Hicks background in an modern update, (so to speak). One photo stands out - the white china in the glass cabinet with pieces piled high on top of each other; brilliant!

  2. Diane,
    What an inspiration and artist Jay Jeffers is.

    Thank you for this story.

  3. Hello, dear Columnist, and hello, Leslie-

    Thank you for your kind comments.

    I also heard from San Francisco decorator, Am,y Weaver-

    "What a fabulous article! You are such a talented writer and Jay Jeffers is an amazing Designer!"

    thank you, Amy...

    and Jay has been incredibly popular on the FACEBOOK posts...lots of friends and admirers. best, DIANE

  4. Wonderful post! I've always love his work. Nice to see so many images in one place. I love each room. And, great to see the gallery. That was new to me. Thanks.