Monday, May 1, 2017

Dutch Master at the San Francisco Decorator Showcase 2017

Exclusive design report this week on THE STYLE SALONISTE:  Sausalito interior designer Martin Kobus has created a brilliant homage to the Dutch Bibioltheek (library) and modern art technology. His dramatic room effortlessly mixes eras and style periods, and dazzles with a superbly controlled dream-like effect of great originality.

Kobus, with his partner, Chris Bergin, transformed a heavy, dark and dull room into a witty homage to Rembrandt and seventeenth-century Dutch interiors. Kobus orchestrated the grand scale with a dash of modern bravado, tech invention, and classical grandeur.

The result is a striking study of eclectic elegance, and an atmosphere that is at once acutely modern and suffused with warmth, originality, daring, and deftly crafted double takes.

“The library tells a story that I dreamt overnight,” said Kobus. “It is a layered tale of dark and light, and a study in contrast. I saw the original room with its oppressive ceiling-height concrete fireplace and heavy timbers—and I imagined a totally re-invention.” (See the ‘before shots’ below.)

His chiaroscuro effects feel both coolly contemporary and the legacy of a golden age. He added new plasterwork, darkened the mundane wood paneling to add a layer of chic. With a pair of shimmering lights whirling overhead, the room feels entirely contemporary, with corners and images and lighting and leather to be enjoyed and discovered. Kobus called it Bibliotheek, the Dutch word for library, but it is so much more. It is now a room for entertaining friends, a quiet place for reading and study, and a setting to frame and display art, books and mysterious objects. Perfection.

Martin Kobus, a Dutch native trained in Italy and with Indonesian connections, has deep reverence for the realms of his heritage. His vision for the bibliotheek reflects distinctively Dutch style and international sensibilities and a close understanding of ideas of 400 years ago. And his love of books, art, and improvisation is evident in every corner. There is even an image of a Rembrandt stolen from the Isabel Stewart Gardener Museum in Boston. It vanished—and the museum was delighted to provide Kobus with an image, in the hope that someone would see it and help trace the missing masterpieces.

San Francisco interior designer Martin Kobus makes his second impressive appearance at the San Francisco Decorator Showcase, now celebrating its fortieth year.

The room before 

The fireplace before

Rembrandt Makes an Appearance

Illuminated portraits by Kobus and Rembrandt are set against a canvas of rich charcoal hues, traditional friezes, and crisp, white plaster. 

Kobus, inspired by Dutch masters, reinvented the concept of portraiture using one-of-a-kind light boxes. The two images he created are printed on silk and lit from within. These glowing, large-format works were the starting point for his inspiration.

“I love the idea of residents and friends and family reclining on the large-scale sculptural modular sofa, “ said Kobus. “It was custom wrapped in folds of cognac-colored hide with a warm glow and a soft but durable finish.”

Materials for pillows, shades, and lighting include a combination of delicate woven sheers with leather edging, along with smoky silk velvet, plush midnight wools, bronze, and timeworn brass. Multiple sources of warm, soft light punctuate the space, suggesting the mythical, romantic mood of Dutch legend.

The one-of-a-kind light boxes feature portraits printed on fabric over an acrylic diffuser, lit from behind with LED bulbs, and finished in a custom steel frame. Printed by CCS Digital in Düsseldorf, Germany, the images are heat-sublimated into the fabric using water-based dyes. This process ensures stable, fade-resistant images that are vibrant, rich, and highly saturated.

Standing 5ft tall, Kobus’ original portraits of a Dutch woman titled Tulipin and Paper Lace, refer in their execution to both the Dutch masters and the portraits of the Italian Renaissance. The lighting in the images recreates the chiaroscuro style of 16th-century oil paintings. Kobus’ subject wears a hat sculpted from fresh tulips, hand-crafted by Flowers Claire Marie of San Francisco, suggesting the traditional Dutch cap from Volendam.

The Missing Rembrandt

The third lightbox features Rembrandt’s painting, A Lady and Gentleman in Black, c.1633. The Rembrandt was also fabricated by CCS Digital, Düsseldorf. Reproduced with permission from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, the painting carries an intriguing story. It was one of 13 works of art stolen from the Gardner museum by two thieves dressed as police officers on a winter morning in March, 1990. Decades after it disappeared, the museum still offers a $5 million reward for its return. None of the pieces have ever been found. Martin brings the theft to light again after nearly thirty years in hopes the visibility may bring forth some piece of information. 

Custom Sofa and Carpet

In the center of the bibliotheek resides a Martin Kobus Collection modular sofa. Relaxed yet refined folds of leather are pleated in asymmetrical lines, blending visual texture with flexibility of form to create truly unique, functional art. The modules can be separated or reconfigured to serve multiple seating arrangements. 

Custom Light Sculptures and More

Blackened steel link pendants float above the central seating. Designed in collaboration with local artisans from Diluzio, Inc. and fabricated by hand, the light sculptures lend visual levity and movement. Illuminated with warm LED diodes beneath a frosted diffuser, their glow is both energy-efficient and inviting. Impressive, invisible engineering makes their simplicity appear effortless.

Diluzio Inc. is a third-generation electrical contractor that specializes in lighting. Their family name translates to "of the light”. Anthony Diluzio, a San Francisco native, leads the company, and has a background in architecture and lighting.

Walls/Ceilings:  The paint color throughout the space is Benjamin Moore Super White OC-152. It was selected to give just the right amount of crispness, emphasizing the plaster’s beautiful acanthus leaf design. Conservation of the library’s architecture and original details was of utmost importance. The hearth was carefully repaired and restored by hand, and the firebox’s original bronze façade was cleaned and kept intact.

Plaster Frieze Panels:  The three-dimensional plaster frieze, between the beams and around the upper portion of the walls, features lightweight plaster panels with an acanthus leaf relief.

Custom Finished Oak Paneling:  San Francisco native Steve Anderson, an expert in wood finishes and restoration, carefully darkened and restored the luster to the irreplaceable old-growth oak panels, original to the room.

Window Treatments:  Custom shades soften the natural light and quietly blend with the bibliotheek’s decor. Handsome and tailored with 3/4” leather binding on the edges, the window coverings were fabricated in the Martin Kobus Home workroom.

LED Cove Lighting:  Uplighting around the perimeter of the room was installed by Diluzio Inc.

The Chaillot wall sconces and Mince Torchiere are by Jonathan Browning. The solid bass fixtures are machined by hand, and the sconces feature lead crystal shades. The torchiere features an antique bronze finish and borosillicate glass shade. 

Furniture/Product List

Vintage Augusto Bozzi écru wool boucle chairs, Artistic Designs for Living

Viridine Round accent tables in ebony with bronze and antique silver trim, Baker

Caffier Lens table lamp in black marble, Baker

Hana Vases in dark bronze by Elan Atelier, Coup d’État

Coup Studiolo Demilune Settee, Coup d’État

John Liston Polyganol brass tray, Coup d’État

Pair of brass Swirl Lamps by Gianni Vallino, Coup d’Etat

Jocelyn Marsh Black Honeycomb sculpture with copper hummingbirds, Coup d’eEtat

Trio of meteorite slab tables with copper legs, Coup 

Jonathan Browning Chaillot wall sconces, solid brass with lead crystal shades, 
De Sousa Hughes 

Jonathan Browning Mince Torchiere, solid brass with antique bronze finish, De Sousa Hughes

Ousel side table, solid bronze, De Sousa Hughes

Opheim Tray and Iverness Tray in bronze, De Sousa Hughes

Cubist Églomisé tables, hand-painted 14k white gold leaf on glass, Villafranca Studio

The Clifton Library Shelf Lamp in bronze, Soane Britain

The custom designed rug was hand made in Grand Rapids Michigan by PWV, (Paul V'Soske) for Scott Group Studio.

The Art

The one-of-a-kind light boxes feature witty illusionist portraits of a young San Francisco woman—with artful costumes in homage to Rembrandt and Vermeer and traditional Dutch fashions of the seventeenth century.

Technique: the images are printed on fabric over an acrylic diffuser, lit from behind with LED bulbs, and finished in a custom steel frame. The edge of the fabric is finished with a silicone gasket that fits into the frame, making the images easily removable, washable, and interchangeable.

Standing 5ft tall, Kobus’ original portraits of a Dutch girl, titled Tulpin and Paper Lace, refer in their execution to both the Dutch masters and the portraits of the Italian Renaissance. The lighting in the images recreates the chiaroscuro style of 16th-century oil-paintings. Kobus’ subject wears a hat sculpted from fresh tulips, hand-crafted by Flowers Claire Marie in San Francisco, suggesting the traditional Dutch cap from Volendam. 

Art, furniture, décor and MK Collection pieces and antiques and accessories in the Martin Kobus Dutch library are available for purchase.

Among the pieces that can be acquired are:

• MK Collection “Ellipse of Light” blackened steel pendant, Martin Kobus Home

• MK Collection “Unity of Light” blackened steel pendants

• Martin Kobus Home MK Collection Pleated leather modular sofa/seating

Also available for acquisition are:

• Dutch Girl, Paper Lace light box (series of 10)

• Dutch Girl, Tulipin, light box (series of 10)

• Rembrandt, A Lady and Gentleman in Black light box

• Trio of Meteorite slab tables with copper legs

• Porto Romano Willow table lamp in bronze/rust velvet

• Jonathan Browning Torchiere, solid brass with antique bronze finish

• Jonathan Browning Chaillot wall sconces, solid brass with lead crystal shades 


Martin Kobus Home
4000 Bridgeway Suite 318
Sausalito,Ca 94965
tel 415-331-3755
fax 415-331-4541


David Duncan Livingston

Follow David on Instagram:  @daviddlivingston


San Francisco Decorator Showcase
2698 Pacific Avenue
San Francisco, California 94115

April 29, 2017 – May 29, 2017


Nicola Chipps said...

This room truly deserves a wildly good bravo - Martin & Chris resonate with great design authenticity and a truly modern European flair that's time has come here in San Francisco. This is an interior design concept that transcends to that of art installation one may sit in. Not to be missed, as I foresee Kobus Design's rise will be meteoric.

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...


Yes, thank you. I agree.

It's a rare and unusual room.

I had seen the room when we first selected the house for showcase...and it was he gloomiest, heaviest and most uncharging room. The fireplace was dark and heavy and unrefined...concrete looking.

Martin's great style and imagination reinvented every detail of the room.The tech panels of images...Rembrandt and Dutch master inspired...and so modern and fresh and chic and a bit/ quite witty.

thank you--lovely to see you last night--DIANE