Monday, February 25, 2013

A Spirited New Voice in Design: Catherine Kwong's Dash and Daring

In her newly renovated townhouse, San Francisco interior designer Catherine Kwong delineates an intricate understanding of elegant tailoring and modern romance. 

For designer Catherine Kwong, last year was a game-changer.

In January she launched her own design firm, Catherine Kwong Design, after apprenticing with New York designer Bill Sofield and San Francisco designer Paul Vincent Wiseman. 

In April, Kwong’s dazzlingly stylish ‘Fashion Blogger Studio’ was the talked-about room of the prestigious 2012 San Francisco Decorator Showcase. With its smart juxtaposition of classic charcoal-walled dressing room/atelier and a contemporary jolt of tech, the suave decor was a quick hit on-line. New clients quickly commissioned Kwong to design their homes.

In the summer, Kwong married her longtime fiancé, Brian Kwong, a noted emergency-room physician, and they headed off to Iceland and then Paris to museum hop, check out the art scene, and visit top design sites. Swooping through the Marais and the Left Bank, Catherine gleaned inspiration from fabric showrooms, antique galleries, and the new style boutiques.

In the meantime, she completed the six-month renovation and decoration of the couple’s new San Francisco townhouse. The light-filled 1,300 square-foot loft-like residence overlooks a private park and is within salt-air scent of the Bay. 

In the living room, the dramatic cold-rolled steel log-holder, handcrafted in San Francisco by Ferrous Studios, makes a bold modernist contrast to the custom-designed hand-carved limestone fireplace and a romantic antique silver-leave over-mantel mirror. 

“This year has been a swift design learning curve, definitely,” said Kwong. “I’ve applied everything I learned working in top design firms and on my travels to these rooms. And I’ve worked closely with top craftsmen to add bespoke pieces.”

Kwong’s plan was to emphasize and reflect the light streaming into their rooms. The central axis includes a sunny double-height living room with 18-foot ceilings. Proportions of the rooms were harmonious as well as practical and she did not change them.

“I used all new finishes and fixtures, designed new lighting and window treatments, but the basic flow of the space remains the same,” said Kwong.

Because the space is rather small, she wanted it to feel open and airy, but still intimate. She warmed it up by layering in different textures, like the weathered wood of vintage French wine racks, and the peeling silver leaf of an oversized mirror. 

For the central double-height living room, Kwong selected Christian Liaigre striped navy and silver silk for curtains to add a luxurious background for a barn-wood coffee table, and a funky pair of custom S.H. Frank leather sling chairs for Paulistano. The English-style roll-arm sofa from Restoration Hardware is upholstered with Belgian linen and dressed up with velvet throw pillows. 

Vintage brass chairs upholstered with brown suede, from Coup d’Etat, surround the Blu Dot dining table, customized with ‘gold-dipped’ legs by Evans & Brown. Vintage French wooden wine racks for the back wall were a flea-market find. The vintage rug was from Tony Kitz, San Francisco. 

“Each room is appointed with little personal treasures, so the mood is peaceful, and each corner has its own personality,” said the designer. “It’s our home, not a showroom, and I want people to feel comfortable here.”

Kwong redesigned the kitchen with new shelving, and put in new millwork and countertops. She replaced the existing white carpet with ebonized oak floors, and installed recessed lighting, along with new chandeliers and sconces. 

Walls were painted a crisp “China White’ by Benjamin Moore.

“I tested at least twenty different shades of white and checked them at different times of the day and night,” reported Kwong. ‘China White is softened with a touch of grey, so it’s the perfect background.”

Kwong installed a custom-crafted honed limestone fireplace with handcarved baroque curves, the perfect romantic counterpoint to the room’s modern architecture.

Adjacent is an oversized, floor-to-ceiling rolled steel log holder custom-crafted piece by Ferrous Studios.

“Kyle Reicher, the owner of the company, who made it, is a genius,” said Kwong. ‘He had the piece made for me in two days. Because of the material and scale, it took eight strong men to lift it and set it into place. If we ever move, I think we’ll have to leave it in the house.” 

In the bedroom, windows are curtained with a graceful Holly Hunt cotton fabric. The gilded neoclassical stool from Coup d’Etat is upholstered with a shocking pink Schumacher cotton. “I bought the vintage astronomy maps several years ago. I love the way they sit above our heads as we sleep every night,” said Kwong. 

The bathroom/powder room is compact so Kwong lavished it with silver-patterned wallpaper by Osborne & Little, grey honed limestone tile floors by Ann Sacks, and a glamorous polished Carrara marble countertops. 
To add a personal flourish to the BluDot oak-topped dining table, Kwong had the Greek-key steel legs gold-leafed.

“I loved the simplicity of the original table, but it was too ‘off-the-rack’ for me,” said Kwong.

Now with the gold-dipped look, by Evans & Brown, the table looks ethereal and rather mysterious. The gold finish elevates the whole apartment. In candlelight, the metal shimmers. In contrast, the coffee table was crafted from rough-hewn old New England barnwood.

“This is a great starter home for us,” observed Kwong. “It’s the perfect city retreat. It reminds me of traditional Chinese wisdom my mother quoted to me when I was young: ‘It’s good luck to be one room short of what you need’. Brian and I certainly feel that it’s a lucky house. We love it.”

Catherine Kwong's stylish ‘Fashion Blogger Studio’ at the 2012 San Francisco Decorator Showcase

Catherine Kwong Design

295 Kansas Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

tel: 415-735-5190

Bess Friday Photography

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Exciting Evolution of Paloma Picasso

We were mesmerized by her fantastic gold squiggle pins. And we all loved and were addicted to her dazzling chunky rings and pendants. Now, as all the best designers must, Paloma Picasso is taking an enchanting new approach—capturing a vivid new world of inspiration.

Come and see her new styles, and read about her inspirations, her childhood, the Picasso legacy, and her elegant new jewelry designs for Tiffany.

These arabesques of gold, and shimmer of stones, are delicious and lovely.

This week I’m celebrating Paloma Picasso’s many creative years with Tiffany & Co—and showing you her newest designs inspired by her life in Morocco.

Like many artists and designers before her, Paloma Picasso who lives in Lausanne, acquired a house in Marrakech, and was soon captivated and enthralled by the architecture, history, sculptural traditions, colors and motifs of Morocco.

To learn more about this fascinating designer, I have transcribed a recent interview with Paloma including her insights into her creative process, and how her designs have evolved and developed over the years.

But first I’m going to let you in on a guilty secret about Paloma Picasso.

Some years ago, Paloma Picasso was visiting San Francisco to introduce a new jewelry collection at Tiffany. It was an incredibly beautiful collection—introducing vivid large semi-precious stones in bold silhouettes. There were parties and celebrations, and the designs were a huge success.

I was writing a big profile on Paloma’s launch for a major fashion publication.

We met at the glamorous Nob Hill hotel where she was staying, Earl Grey tea was poured, little tea sandwiches and macaroons were served, and we chatted.

Paloma Picasso is a vibrant, engaging and highly articulate women, talking a mile a minute in her throaty voice.

She’s petite and intense, and laughs with gusto. An engaging conversationalist, she’s at ease.

Finally it was time to focus on my interview, a discussion about her new design directions, her inspirations, her memories of her father, and insider secrets of growing up Picasso.

I placed my new recorder on the table in front of us, and sketched a few brief notes as we discussed the bold designs she prefers, the evolution of her collectiona, her decades’ of collaboration with Tiffany, and at the end some chat about Pablo , traveling the world to promote her jewelry, fashion, partying with her friend Yves Saint Laurent, and growing up in the South of France, her lovely mother, Francoise Gilot, living in Switzerland and Morocco.

Suddenly the time was up, and I thanked her and soon departed.

But, no. My recorder did not operate. There was nothing on the tape. Just a silent hiss. This coveted and vibrant interview did not exist. I wrote the story and gathered the text from scribbled notes and from memory—to this day chagrined.

So now I have another opportunity—I’ve transcribed some recent video interviews Paloma made to explain her new work and designs. Come with me to meet Paloma Picasso today.

Paloma Picasso Childhood

“I spent my first years In the South of France. I grew up in a very special environment because both my father and my mother were painters and artists and they were very much in the forefront of artistic life--so it was a great, fun environment to grow up in .”

“I always thought that in life, you breathe, you eat, you go to sleep at night and you draw.”

“I was spending a lot of time drawing myself, but as I grew up I started feeling the weight of my heritage. By the time I was 14, I completely froze. I couldn’t draw any longer. Because of course, people were always saying to me and my brother, “so you’re going to become painters like your parents!” And I thought “oh, no--not that!”

“But it happened anyway. I didn’t become a painter, but I certainly kept on drawing.”

“But as a child I was always interested in jewelry. If you see pictures of me as a child you will often see me wearing a piece of jewelry which was quite, not typical of most little girls, but it was always a focus of mine.”

“When I got a little bit older, I started buying pieces myself, going to the flea market buying beads, stringing them in a special way for myself.”

“One day a friend of mine told me that she was going to join a school to learn to make jewelry. I thought, well that’s always been my interest. And by then I’d even made a special piece of jewelry for a play—the equivalent of Broadway in France. I thought, well if people are already talking about my jewelry, I’d better learn how to make it.”

My lovely readers who’ve followed THE STYLE SALONISTE from the start will recall a story I wrote about ‘CHASING PICASSO IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE’…about my visit to the Chateau de Vauvenargues near Aix, where Paloma grew up. (You can look up the story in the blog archive—over on the right hand column. You’ll like it. It’s one of my favorites.)

As it happened, during the chateau visit I watch some old Picasso family films, taken when Paloma was a teenager, and there she was with her father, her brother, and the family’s menagerie. Most charming.

After her father’s death in 1973, she took a hiatus from designing jewelry to catalogue the artist’s estate and help establish the Musée Picasso in Paris. In 1979, then-Tiffany Design Director John Loring invited Paloma to present a table setting for one of Tiffany’s exhibitions. A year later, Tiffany introduced Paloma Picasso’s first exclusive collection of jewelry, which was instantly embraced for its innovative “graffiti” shapes, bold scale and brilliant color contrasts.

Her choice of whimsical shapes, links and weaves, together with her unique color combinations, have earned Paloma an international reputation. Throughout her long collaboration with Tiffany, she has created many one-of-a-kind accessories and important necklaces, mounting large and fine specimens of colored gemstones.

Paloma Picasso On Design

“The first step to creation is actually what you take in.”

“When you look around, there are things that attract you and make your heart sing, and others that don’t.”

“The first act of creation is actually choosing. “

“You choose the things around you that appeal to you and come back to you in your design. Usually they don’t come back in a very literal way. It could be something I’ve seen in a building, a special curve or angle that I thought was interesting which at some point will come back into my design.”

“I always had a keen interest in architecture, even I thought I wasn’t going to go out and study architecture or Beaux Arts, so Id better find another way to approach art. Actually I thought I might be able to get away without doing something that was not artistic, but somehow, I had to express myself this way, and jewelry was a way that I found to express myself.”

Paloma Picasso on European Influences

“I grew up in France with always with the idea that a part of me was Spanish.

For many years I didn’t know what that meant except maybe, that my father was very Spanish. We would go to bullfights when I was a little girl. We would have flamenco people coming to see my father.”

“I think it is always nice to have a fantasy background—because I didn’t get to Spain until I was 17 years old. So that added a dimension to my background. “

“The fact that I have a very special name—Paloma—because, of course, my father gave me this name because of the peace sove he had designed. At the same time I was growing up in a world where culture was very prevalent.”

“The fact that I could speak another language gave me a certain freedom. I felt that if I spoke English and I made a mistake everyone would think that I just didn’t speak English properly. It gave me a lot of freedom speaking English and it opened up a lot of new doors, and new experiences.”

Paloma Picasso's Life Today

Paloma Picasso marked her 30th anniversary at Tiffany & Co. recently with the introduction of three new jewelry collections—Paloma’s Marrakesh, Hammered Circles, and Paloma’s Dove— elegant statements of her timeless sophistication.

Paloma Picasso is married to Dr. Eric Thévenet, a doctor of osteopathic medicine, whose interest in art and design has provided insights toward the creation of her jewelry collections. Dr. Thévenet is credited with contributing to the overall success of Ms. Picasso’s jewelry business. “Eric’s keen sense of business and aesthetics has been extremely beneficial to me,” said Paloma. They have residences in Lausanne and Marrakesh.

Images of Paloma Picasso collection inspired by living in Morocco, courtesy of Tiffany & Co,

Images used here with express permission.

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 Décor’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