Monday, October 13, 2014

Introducing San Francisco Designer Jen Kelly Wick: A Family Telegraph Hill Penthouse, Light As Air

Perched at the top of Telegraph Hill, Jen Kelly and Will Wick’s San Francisco penthouse offers escapist pleasures and a stylish setting for family life.

Telegraph Hill is one of the most fascinating neighborhoods of San Francisco. Strategically, it surrounds columnar Coit Tower and it crowds across a rocky cliff overlooking the vast expanse of the cool grey Bay.

At night it’s a noir-ish scene from Dashiell Hammett, all lurking shadows and whispers. On California-bright mornings, the vertiginous neighborhood wakes up to fragrant wafts of Chinatown cafés and shouts and murmurs from the Embarcadero far below. Bohemian North Beach is a strenuous up-and-downhill workout away, past nasturtium-bright stairways and plum trees full of hyperactive lime-green Telegraph Hill wild parrots shrieking and gossiping before they fly off to terrorize the tourists.

It was here that an enticing morsel of real estate on one of the highest points of Telegraph Hill was offered to designer Jen Kelly, VP of Creative Development at RH, and her husband, interior designer Will Wick.

It took the glamorous couple less than a minute to decide on the light-filled penthouse with its expansive terrace, alluring bay views, and airy rooms.

Private and quintessentially San Francisco, the penthouse on two levels, would be perfect, they agreed, for the couple and their four children, Miles, 19, Sabine, 17, Luisa, 12, and Isabela, 7. 

Jen Kelly and Will Wick and their children, Miles, Luisa, Isabela (on piano), and Sabine. 

“It’s like being on vacation, every day of the year,” said Kelly. ”It’s heavenly. We’re up so high, and we see the sun rise over the Berkeley Hills, and watch aircraft carriers and cargo ships gliding past in the afternoon.”

The flickering Bay Lights artwork on the Bay Bridge is so close it feels like their private entertainment. Alcatraz, with its looming presence and heavy history and now the dramatic Ai Wewei art exhibit, is just a short swim across the water. Bohemian North Beach is a strenuous ten-minute hike over vertiginous pathways, and past nasturtium-bright gardens and plum trees alive with the squawking and gossiping bright acid green Telegraph Hill wild parrots. The penthouse is indeed a magical place.

In the living room, Gio Ponti chairs covered in off-white wool sateen were acquired in Florence. The classic Donghia wool mohair sofa was purchased in 1998 and has original upholstery. Photography (car and landscape) by Grant Ernhart from Battersea (Will Wick's chic San Francisco design gallery). The large-scale oil portrait of Sabine is by Berlin artist Nick Flatt.

Love at first sight can seem such a cliché, but their instant attraction was underpinned with practical matters like five large bedrooms, an open kitchen, a large family room, space for a twenties Steinway grand piano, and acres of private terrace for ping-pong, sun-bathing, birthday parties, and family dinners.

Each room, highly biographical, includes collections of paintings and furniture gathered around the world over two design-mad decades. The crisp and superbly delineated architecture offered Kelly a perfect canvas for her collections of sculpture, exuberant vintage classics, and carpets by Ben Soleimani for RH.

Their modernist building was designed in the forties by noted San Francisco architects Hertzka and Knowles. The penthouse was updated and remodeled twenty years ago by Walker/Warner and most recently renovated and refined by Kuth Ranieri Architects. With each fine-tuning, the penthouse took on a more glamorous, svelte and timeless look.

Two highly opinionated interior designers under the same roof might suggest a clash of styles, but under Kelly’s direction, the décor is dramatic, frisky, and cohesive.

"Yes, we are two married designers living together, but the penthouse was my responsibility and the current look is very much my design, my styling, my approach,” said Jen. “Will was generous enough to let me take it on. We have plenty of heated debates but generally agree with each other.”

Jen’s design approach is to create contrast, with refined and rough hewn or glamorous and folkloric creating tension and harmony.

She deftly juxtaposes textures and finishes, including the contrast of African tribal carvings with seductive sixties Carlo Ponti curves.

”I typically go with my gut instinct, putting the unexpected together, throwing in warmth, color, lots of art,” she said. But it’s also about the kids, with family portraits in every room—and more portraits commissioned, one in glitter. 

On weekends, there is always someone practicing guitar or playing the piano, a Steinway Will inherited from his grandfather. It was craned up over the roof.

“Musical instruments are a big part of our family and they incorporate well in our home design,” said Jen.

“I travel a lot for my work for RH and I’ve collected pieces from around the world—Florence, Brussels, London, Los Angeles, Morocco—and I love to start with one amazing piece, like the canopy bed in Isabela’s bedroom,” said Kelly. “Then I found the dramatic brass chair, an homage to J.B. Blunk. It’s like a child’s drawing, comical almost. I saw it at Organic Modernism in Los Angeles and I had to have it. I have always had a mad love of brass. Isabela loves it.”

Bedroom with Turkish bedcovers from Sue Fisher King has a dramatic bronze chair by Organic Modernism in homage to J.B. Blunk. The pink and navy rug is by Ben Soleimani for RH Baby & Child. 

Clearly, the push and pull of two avid designers creates great energy.

“Will's and my styles are quite different but we influence each other and appreciate each other,” said Jen. “I notice that under Will's subliminal influence I've calmed down, gained more restraint and edited with more polish and authority. I learn endlessly from Will's breadth of knowledge about architecture and furniture designers”

Jen’s touch is evident in her family-friendly approach, with rooms that are at once stylish and relaxed and always welcoming to their children’s friends. Sunday mornings the couple often awake to a troop of teenagers asleep on the floor and sofas in the living room.

Sixties dining room chairs by Gio Ponti are covered with silk/linen tiger pattern by Scalamandre. Rug, Abbey Carpet. 

“I love rooms with black and brass and color and print, as well as a tribal pieces and organic elements, and we’ve mixed them with more classic and sleek pieces,” said Jen. “Will's design energy has never been greater. That’s inspiring for me.”

In addition to offering pure escape, the penthouse was their perfect canvas.

“Will and I challenge each other to see beauty in a different lens,” noted Jen. “We share a constant curiosity about design and art which our kids would call an obsession. They’re right. It’s our absolute passion. ”

In the family room the Milo Baughman sofa is covered in longhaired sheepskin.

On the terrace, sofas and tables are from RH, with Perennials fabric.

The bedroom offers views over the bay, mysterious and sparkling by night. The understated simplicity of RH vintage washed Italian linen sheeting, a Turkish cotton bedcover, and the custom-designed linen canopy give the bedroom a soothing mood. Jen raided Will’s vintage gallery Battersea in San Francisco’s Design District for the forties white glass lamp, the pair of beaded white linen chairs from Africa, and two glamorous Karl Springer ‘Onassis’ parchment desk/dining chairs. 


All photography here by Douglas Friedman, published with express permission.

Douglas Friedman, one of today’s great portraitists, is well-known and admired by editors and photo editors (and readers) of magazines like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, C, Architectural Digest and many other international magazines.

Douglas recently created exquisite and glamorous portraits of designer Ann Getty, and ranch owner Denise Hale, for profiles I wrote that were published in Harper’s Bazaar. Douglas also has an avid and devoted following on Instagram (#thefascinator) and on Facebook, where he publishes glamorous and witty images of his professional life. Lunch break images reveal him to be an enthusiastic carnivore. And hedonist. Typically he will start the week shooting a house in Los Angeles (cue the glamour shots), and then it is on to Marfa, Texas, where he is building a glass house in a remote property at the end of a dirt road. Then it’s onward to Mustique where he photographed a residence (and experimented shooting with a camera on a zip wire). Then he’s shooting Ken Fulk’s house in Provincetown, and taking a detour to Cornelia Guests’ residence. Back in California, he’s attending the opening of the new Burberry store (hello, hello, Denise Hale), and after a quick meeting to plan the upcoming FOG Design + Art fair, he’s on a plane heading east.

Thank you, Douglas.


Windlost said...

Hi dear Diane, I have some catching up on your two recent posts and both look so interesting! Congrats on the new book on Monsieur Deniot! Please drop by my blog for a tiny visit as I've posted some my second installment of wedding photos (and a link to the first post of wedding photos) from our June nuptials.
Hope you are well and I will be back to comment once I've thoroughly read these two posts. Admiringly, as ever, xo's Terri

peggybraswell said...

who knew RH had such a designer as Jen Kelly + loved the article.

Jo Breen Vering said...

Flawless and Divine = Design.

Karena Albert said...

Diane thank you for sharing this amazing families art collection and their gorgeous San Francisco town-home. Each image thrilled me more than the last!

The Arts by Karena

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Dear Karena and Peggy and Jo and Terri-

Loved hearing from you.
I've been out and about--on a wild book signing tour. Included: LA, SF, Houston and Chicago and New York--major fun with Jean-Louis Deniot, who I know you love.
JEN KELLY: I'm so happy you love this penthouse. It's a surprising family residence, and you can see from my text and the images that the children, of all ages, love it.
I loved the location. Jen is very talented--you will read more about her ongoing. Be sure to stay in touch--DIANE


Holy crap...that place is fabulous! Ah.....mazing.