Monday, June 9, 2014

Notebook of a Showcase Room: A Brilliant Collaboration and Inspirations

San Francisco interior designer Matthew MacCaul Turner brought together a fantastically accomplished team to create ‘California Palette: A Contemporary Atelier and Artist’s Home Studio’ for the recent San Francisco Decorator Showcase

This week you will go backstage—to see how three months of concepts, ideas, teamwork, art, artists, and a joyful collaboration came together to offer a highly original studio/atelier/sitting room. You’ll see his ideas develop, his artists at work, and the dreaded and dated ‘before’ shots. And a great ‘reveal’. Transformation indeed.

You will go inside the mind of a designer—and discover his ideas, his methods and his final creation.

You will love it.

I’ve shown two great rooms from The San Francisco Decorator Showcase in recent weeks. The great bedroom by Antonio Martins I presented exclusively became an internet hit and a social media sensation.

Last week I presented Geoffrey de Sousa’s handsome and provocative library, which created lots of traffic on Facebook.

This week, it’s Matthew MacCaul Turner’s turn for a close-up. It’s pure inspiration.

We head up to the furthest reaches of the turn-of-the-century San Francisco mansion and get behind the scenes of his newest decor.

This week’s richly illustrated post—devoted to Mattthew’s highly original and inspiring studio—is long, detailed and inspiring. Philip Bewley—whose photography became an important inspiration and element of the room—presents his ‘insider’ report.

I propose—I know you all love this—that you pour a glass of your favorite Napa Valley wine (a Cabernet Sauvignon, perhaps) or turn on the kettle to make a perfect teapot of Assam Superb tea (from Fortnum & Mason), or maybe a tiny cordial glass of chilled Limoncello.

Take a moment to dream of this rare and very special room—a vital and layered dreamscape among talented and accomplished friends.

“I found inspiration in the past. I sought out photographs of famous art studios of the 19th and 20th century occupied by artists like Brancusi, Picasso, and Giacometti. Studying the photographs of these artists’ personal ateliers formed my desire to create a space that captured that essence.” — Matthew MacCaul Turner

This week’s exclusive report taking us through three months of ideas is by antiques and photography specialist, Philip Bewley, a friend of mine, a friend of Matthew’s, and an accomplished photographer and antiques consultant.

Philip Bewley’s report:

The recent San Francisco Decorator Showcase was one of the best in the event’s 37 years. I particularly enjoyed participating this year.

Matthew MacCaul Turner asked me to consult with him on his artist’s studio—and to select photography for his room.

It is in an aerie with transcendent light and pocket views.

Turner evokes French ateliers and artist’s studios of the 19th and 20th century that were workshops for the making of art, and a cultural and intellectual laboratory of ideas about art. Artists and patrons gathered together in rooms like these to display and discuss art and to promote the work of other artists.

Surrounded by an eclectic mix of antiques, contemporary pieces, curiosities and a truly outstanding collection of contemporary art, the rooms were invariably filled with people –designers, gallery owners, members of the public…all conversing with the buzz expected only of a gallery opening. 

The salon wall of paintings and an arrangement of curious objects in the studio of Robert Rauschenberg inspired Turner in his design. Photo credit: Ugo Mulas, gelatin silver print, 1964

Brancusi’s Studio, ca 1920, Edward J. Steichen, courtesy of The Met Museum 

Turner’s vision was not to just recreate the look of those studios of the past, but to actually have an active atelier and working studio within the San Francisco Designer Showcase. To achieve this, Turner engaged top gallerists and sought out local artists to promote.

I was delighted when asked to have photographs from my “Secret Cove” series shot in the Marin Headlands included in this project.

Turner commissioned art for these rooms. Works of art was produced within these rooms. Turner also sold to designers and collectors works of art and antiques that were displayed there. It was a vibrant atmosphere of artistic ferment, playful discovery, and creative vitality.

With the contemporary art market hotter than ever and the global phenomenon of art fairs, Turner’s design addresses pertinent questions with regard to selection and display of art. For collectors to be informed and emerging artists to be promoted, Turner shows that the idea of the atelier and studio is not a nostalgic reminiscence, but relevant, fresh, and always necessary.

PB: How did you begin this process?
This is my fourth Showhouse that I have produced every other year. There is an open house where designers are invited to bid on a room with a presentation. I toured the house and I loved it. I had a concept in mind –the creation of an artist’s atelier and studio. When I saw this room I knew immediately that it would be ideal for this purpose.

Each window had a different orientation: of the San Francisco Bay, the forests of the Presidio, and a cascading cityscape of classical mansions on the hillside. In my conception of the artist’s atelier I wanted to pay homage to the unique atmosphere of artist’s studios of the past, combined with the work of Bay Area artists in the present. I wanted to showcase the various San Francisco galleries that had supported me throughout the years.

PB: Did you have any particular inspirations?
MMT: I have always loved visiting artist’s studios. There is something raw there, a vibrant energy. Artists have an irreverent attitude when it comes to their working environment, where all the focus goes into the work of art they are creating. The artist may draw upon the walls and spill paint and leave it. The process of creation results in a place that is eclectic and individual.

“A visitor to my room asked me if an object that I had placed there was by the sculptor, Constantin Brancusi. That great 20th century sculptor did not, of course, make this particular piece, but the form is reminiscent of his work. It was my nod to Brancusi, and whose Paris studio is now open to the public. In another inspiration the American modernist painter Robert Rauschenberg’s studio featured a salon wall of paintings and a grouping of curious objects. That arrangement inspired me. You can see similarities in that approach in my own atelier.” — Matthew MacCaul Turner

The room before  
The room before 

The view

PB: What was the room like before you began? How did you go about transforming it?
I made a point of having some photographs with me in the room that had been provided by the owner showing what the room used to look like. Every time I mentioned I had these “before shots” people would immediately come over to take a look. They would try to place themselves in the room, comparing that to the photographs, because the room was so different now. When we removed the carpeting and the old floral wallpaper it not only changed the surfaces, but it also changed the quality of the light. The light improved dramatically.. The light was beautiful all day long. I found that the views of the bay and the banks of Eucalyptus trees reflected these colors into these rooms –the blues of San Francisco Bay and the greens of the Presidio forest. 

Artist Gina Jacupke in the process of painting the floor  

The painted floor, an abstract representation of sea and sky, painted by Gina Jacupke with the artist’s signature. 

PB: The painted floor seems imbued with the light you describe. How did the creation of the floor come about? 
MMT: In my original scheme that I presented for the room I incorporated a painted floor. I also thought it would be fun to have a work of art commissioned for this room. I have commissioned original fine art from artist Gina Jacupke in the past for design projects for my clients. 

When we removed the carpeting we revealed the old rustic wood floor beneath. We realized that here was our canvas. I was Gina’s assistant in creating this work – which turned out to be the largest work of art in the room. My inspirations for the painted floor were California painters such as Richard Diebenkorn and Raimonds Staprans. In these works the natural beauty of the region is found in the quality of light, and in abstract representations of the ocean and the landscape. The colors we chose in large paint cans were various shades that suggested the ocean, sky, surf and sand. Gina brought squeegees and mops. Armed with an idea but without a completely predetermined plan we used intuition and inspiration to achieve the effects. The floors are not perfectly level –in this old house the floors of this room actually slope four inches. We used this to our advantage. We poured the paint from the cans directly on the floor where it would drip and slide across the surface. In this way our process reminded us of the techniques employed by abstract expressionist artists such as Helen Frankenthaler. The result is the largest artwork in the space, an abstract vision of sea and sky, complete with the artist’s signature.

The day the floral wallpaper came down, revealing deconstructed walls of creamy plaster, glue and backing paper.

PB: What a difference the room looks like now without the old wallpaper. The walls now have a fascinating texture. How did you achieve that?
The owners of the house wanted to keep the floral wallpaper that was there, but I knew I had to get rid of it. Originally I considered just painting the walls. I was persistent in my request to remove it and finally they acquiesced.

One day I spotted the narrowest strip of wallpaper on the wall and I just reached out and pulled it down to see what was behind it. What was revealed was a fascinating textural assemblage of creamy original plaster with soft and warm glazed areas that was probably the old glue, and retaining some of the backing paper.

In minutes all of the wallpaper in the room was removed and what was left had the feeling of something ancient, something that evoked old European rooms with crumbling plasterwork. I knew then that this was the perfect backdrop for art I intended to display in my creation of an atelier. In particular the paintings by artist Ann Gale loaned by Dolby Chadwick Gallery echoed these painterly effects. These textured walls, along with the floor, proved to be very popular with visitors to the room.

PB: How did you go about gathering the collection of art and arranging it?
MMT: Art is important in my design practice. I believe that artwork can dramatically affect the finished interior, and is integral to its success. This was my opportunity to create a dream collection of art for the month of the designer showcase. I reached out to two of the top galleries in San Francisco, Hackett Mill and Dolby Chadwick, to lend artwork for the room.

Gallerist Lisa Chadwick was especially helpful in curating pieces to form a cohesive collection.

When you place art together in a grouping as we did in the salon wall above the daybed, it forces you to really look at the art –the gesture in a figure study, the brushstrokes of color in an oil painting. Pieces can be quite different from each other, but classic principles of form and composition come into play to achieve a harmonious arrangement. We first held up each painting on the wall next to the other paintings and considered it carefully and used our instinct before it was finally placed.

The painting by Ann Gale with its painterly approach complemented the newley incovered plaster walls. Ann Gale, Babs, 2005, oil on Masonite, Dolby Chadwick Gallery.

Matthew MacCaul Turner selects Philip Bewley’s photographs for display in the room. 
Edwige Fouvry, Julie 01, 2013, oil pastel on paper, Dolby Chadwick Gallery  
Alex Kanevsky, “JFH with Fur Coat”, 2009, oil on board, Dolby Chadwick Gallery

PB: Tell me about the two large paintings in the room –the one on the wall that you see as you enter and the other work on the brass easel.

MMT: There are two paintings placed prominently that are by the artist Raimonds Staprans. Members of the public responded to the quality of light in these paintings. Some people commented that the technique reminded them of other California artists such as Diebenkorn and Thiebaud. I was able to describe to the visitors who Staprans was and his place in California postwar art. There were also a few visitors who very well educated in art who were thrilled to see two works by Raimonds Staprans in the room.

PB: As you are describing the atelier and your passion for the art that you included in it, I am reminded of Paul Durand-Ruel, the late 19th, early 20th century French art dealer who was one of the first to promote, and exhibit the work of the French impressionists. Did you intend the atelier as a way to promote artists?
Yes, I did! I sold a number of pieces from the room, both works of art and antiques.

An English brass and mahogany surveyor’s instrument, ca 1910 is juxtaposed with a painting by Raimonds Staprans, “Storm Departing” oil on canvas, 2012  
A detail of the room with one of a pair of Spanish walnut chairs, late 19th century, Epoca Antiques 

PB: I noticed that the room has pieces from various periods and different materials placed together. There were also many things in the room, and yet nothing appeared to be crowded together. How did you go about selecting and arranging the furnishings?
I wanted both the collection of art and the furnishings to appear as though they had been collected over time. I wanted the feeling to be loose and airy, and not appearing “designed’. Of course, to achieve that successfully takes a lot of design. There is a deliberate eclecticism in the juxtaposition of the various pieces –antique carved walnut chairs from Epoca Antiques are combined with modern pieces; materials in the various objects range from wood to brass and chrome. The juxtaposition is both considered and intuitive, much like creating an arrangement that you would compose for a still life painting. There is the logic of the eye –you have to rely on the eyes own logic.

The Observatory, or Studio with a View, with photographs by Philip Bewley from his series. “Secret Cove” and paintings by Gina Jacupke

Photographer Philip Bewley, “Secret Cove, Night” 2014

PB: Tell me about the smaller of the two rooms.

MMT: The atelier has two parts: a main room for people to gather and converse and for the display of art, and another, smaller space for the creation of art. The smaller of the two rooms I named The Observatory, or The Studio with a View. This was formally a bathroom, and it was the ideal spot for the artist to sit with an easel set up. This room has a view of the San Francisco Bay with the verdant hills of Angel Island beyond. I removed all the fixtures in this room except the sink because was a practical and necessary thing for the cleaning of brushes in a working studio. Displayed in this room is the work of photographer Philip Bewley –thank you, Philip - and painter Gina Jacupke who also painted the floor of the atelier. The photographs and the paintings are both inspired by the water –abstractions of the sea and the forces of nature: tempests, torrents, and storms that subside to gentle swells and fogs.

PB: I was at the designer showcase a number of times and I noticed your room was always packed with people. It was like a party in there! Was it always like that? What do you attribute for the success of that?
Yes, it really was an atelier! That dream came true. Besides the days the designer showcase was open to the public, we also had many parties at night. People came in and talked about the art and with each other, and discussed everything under the sun! I think it worked because there was another room beyond at the opposite end, so there was a destination with a view. Also, there were many things to captivate, and really good art helps! I kept the central area open to display the floor and for people to gather. It was also deliberately not so polished so people felt relaxed; it was like being off stage. We also used all the furniture. We sat on the daybed and we sat on the chairs. We enjoyed being in the room. We had it for one month and we used it. It was playful and we had fun.

PB: Thank you very much, Matthew, for this behind-the scenes tour. Your space was audacious and dynamic -the rooms came to life. Everyone involved in the production must have felt uplifted and inspired, as must have the many visitors who enjoyed these spaces. “California Palette” shows how works of art, furnishings and even elements of the room itself can form a collection. As many contemporary collectors look to acquire art, you show that spaces inhabited by both art and people is a necessary ingredient for its full appreciation –and that idea is as relevant today as it was in the legendary ateliers of the past.

Matthew MacCaul Turner

About Matthew MacCaul Turner

Growing up in Morris County in New Jersey, Matthew MacCaul Turner dreamed of becoming an architect from a young age. He pored over drawings, requesting Palladio's Four Books of Architecture for his ninth birthday. Schooled at Georgia Tech's College of Architecture, he spent a year abroad in Paris. The experience changed him as he reveled in the culture and architecture of Europe, traveling by rail to Barcelona, Rome, and Florence.

Turner’s first job out of college changed his path. He was hired by Dilger Gibson, the Atlanta interior designers to Sir Elton John. Celebrity, fashion, and big budgets converged in their practice, but it was the great care devoted to crafting beautiful and unique spaces that attracted Turner. He forged a philosophy of comprehensive design, uniting the two professions of architecture and interiors. 

An opportunity to work at Tucker & Marks in San Francisco as the in-house architectural designer and furniture designer was the perfect position to realize his developing interest in comprehensive design. He was involved in every project, and found the firm an extraordinary place to learn. He further honed his knowledge and appreciation for craftsmanship, artistry, and the Baroque working at Fisher Weisman, until he founded his eponymous firm in 2007.

"Each project, and each client, is a new creative challenge,” says Turner. “I don't have a signature look. It is my design principles that stay constant. I take many cues from the client, learning about their aspirations, and forging a vision that feels like it's their own. It is creative, never boring, and every job is an individual work of art."



MacCaul Turner Design
Matthew MacCaul Turner


Jacob Elliott

Philip Bewley

David Duncan Livingston

Painted Floor and Art

Gina Jacupke

“The atelier, featuring the painted floor that I created as a tribute to my deep love for the water. Fueled by the concept created by Matthew, I physically, mentally and spiritually immersed myself in painting for the love of art, nature and the California palette. Water has always been my first love, as well as surrounding myself with the beauty of the California natural landscape.” — Gina Jacupke


Secret Cove
Philip Bewley
“The photographs that compose the series that I named “Secret Cove” were taken nearly every week for over a year. The setting is a rugged sea cove facing the Pacific Ocean at the Marin Headlands, north of the city of San Francisco, beyond the Golden Gate Bridge. I photographed the cove at every time of day (and night), in every kind of weather, and at low and high tide. The process of taking these photos became a kind of meditation, and a lesson in observation. As the series progressed and the cove revealed itself to me, the depictions became increasingly abstract. The project attempts to convey in a photographic image the sensory and emotional quality of the experience of being in this rare and special place.” — 
Philip Bewley


Dolby Chadwick Gallery

“Dolby Chadwick Gallery has been collaborating with designers for the SF showcase house now for about 15+ years. I loved this process with Matthew Turner as it was to reflect a very personal collection of art that "the artist" who's studio this may have been - would have collected or traded with other artists over the years. It was completely out of the box, which made it very a very playful and fun process. Curating a salon style wall is a very personal and particular undertaking. Curating such a wall in an artist’s studio takes the process to an entirely new and inevitably reflexive level. The works selected capture the spirit of art-making by emphasizing form, line, color, tone, medium, texture, and technique—collectively, they embody what we mean by ‘artists’ art.”  — Lisa Chadwick

Hackett Mill

“Having painted in San Francisco for over 50 years, we see Raimonds's embrace of the California light and palette along with his deep roots as a highly recognized playwright of the human condition from his home country of Latvia. Arriving in the 1960s in the Bay Area, Raimonds was a contemporary of many of the active artists at the time such as Richard Diebenkorn and David Park.” — Francis Mill



Jovinas Upholstery
1345 17th St
San Francisco, CA 94107

H D Buttercup

Dawson Custom Workroom


Abbey Carpet

Faux Bois Painting

Linda Horning

Color & Art Consultation

Katherine Jacobus

All images selected for this story are exclusive to THE STYLE SALONISTE

Special thanks to Philip Bewley


Karena said...

Dear Diane,
How could I not love this room, the artist's atelier. Done with the artful eye's of Philip Bewley and Matthew MacCaul Turner. The art, antiques and accessories bring the room to life perfectly. It is a dream space for any artist!

The Arts by Karena

P.Gaye Tapp at Little Augury said...

There is no denying this space would draw attention. It is truly a spectacular vision by Turner-and as always brought to life by Philip Bewley's eye for what is important in the telling. Thanks for bringing us three exceptional rooms from the this Showhouse-and I might add all with such a fine handling of materials-not so the recent Kips Bay Showhouse-with just a few exceptions. These rooms are design at its best and designers at the top of their craft. pgt

shiree segerstrom said...

Phenomenal concept. Brilliant floors. I adore complex rooms and see so few of them. Bravo Matthew. Shiree, Joy of Nesting.