Monday, November 26, 2018

The Art and Craft of Design: Béatrice Amblard and the Fine Art of Luxury Leathergoods

In San Francisco, master leather artisan Béatrice Amblard, former Hermès leather artisan with her own elegant handbag collections, now teaches the fine art of luxury leathergoods in private classes.

Béatrice has launched Amblard Leather Atelier to teach the ways of fine leather working using centuries-old tools and techniques that are used today to fashion elegant handbags and accessories.

The school has a waiting list, and Béatrice is working to get the school accreditation. Once that happens (before the end of the year) ALA will officially become the only fine luxury leathergoods and leather school in the US.

“The demand to learn about fine luxurious leather working is amazing me and me and my team,” said Béatrice. Companies send their designers to Béatrice to learn and refine skills, and to learn traditional fine techniques, tools, leatherwork, finishing, leather evaluation, sourcing, and style and design. Beatrice creates superluxe handbags and small leathergoods, and with her atelier she is keeping alive the fading art of leather craftsmanship.

The art and craft of design is an aspect I’ve emphasized in my writing since I started as a journalist and editor. I admire artisans and the crafts they perfect and advance. Interior design and fashion are both enhanced by skilled and devoted craftspeople—who have successful careers as decorative artists, skilled embroiderers, cabinetmakers, faux finish artists, curtain makers, painters, weavers, sculptors, and many more specialties. Béatrice Amblard works very much in that tradition, crafting by hand and making beautiful things—for an appreciative and enthusiastic group of clients who understand Hermès-level luxury goods.

Béatrice was born in France and enrolled in the prestigious Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Paris when she was 16. Immediately after graduation, she was hired by Hermès in Paris as an apprentice leather artisan.

In 1987, Hermès sent Béatrice to San Francisco as an “Ambassador” to their newly opened San Francisco boutique. After designing and working on custom leather goods for 14 years at Hermès, Béatrice launched her own line, April in Paris in 2000. She is the only Hermès artisan in the United States designing under her own label with her own boutique. 

April in Paris is the boutique and workshop of master leather artisan Béatrice Amblard. The sun-drenched location on colorful Clement Street in the Richmond district is admired by devotees for extraordinary custom accessories. All items are handcrafted using centuries-old traditional methods, and every item is one-of-a-kind.

French-born Amblard has more than 30 years of experience in her uncommon trade. After working on the famous Kelly and Constance bags and designing custom leather goods for fourteen years, Béatrice launched her own line, April in Paris. She quickly built up a loyal following and in 2000, Amblard expanded her business and opened a boutique and workshop on Clement Street.

Custom, Handcrafted Luxury Handbags

Béatrice Amblard is best known for her custom handbags, some finished with the classic saddle stitch, in the same tradition that has been done for over 200 years. All of her bags are marked with her logo, an 18-karat gold or sterling silver bee. The bee represents the shortened version of her name, Béatrice, and it is what everyone calls her.

In addition to handbags, Amblard designs an array of accessories including: briefcases, wallets, watchstraps, belts, coin purses, checkbook holders, and home accessories such as custom-crafted watch cases even responsibly farmed crocodile jewelry boxes. She has also designed larger items such as furniture, car and plane interiors. She can create virtually anything a customer desires.

Clients can personally plan with Amblard to design their creations. Clients select from a large inventory of leathers that are kept on the premises. Amblard works primarily with French tanneries and uses only the finest leathers. Some students learn to work with shagreen, crocodile, and other exotic skins. Their instructor also has many insider French sources for fittings, hardware, embellishments. She uses a variety of leathers including calf, alligator, ostrich, lizard, and stingray. Custom colors may be ordered at the request of the client. Currently, there is a five-month wait for a custom handbag because Amblard’s work has become so coveted. There are plenty of handmade bags and accessories for sale at the boutique. 

Béatrice Amblard

Amélie Amblard

Béatrice and Her Daughter, Amélie

Amélie Amblard joined April in Paris in June 2014 after graduating St. Lawrence University with a BA in Fine Art. Amélie completed Amblard Leather Atelier’s 1-year leathergoods program in 2015, then trained with her mother for one year before working as her design assistant.

Amélie now assists her mother with students at Amblard Leather Atelier and is production manager for April in Paris to attend to all clients and special orders.

Amélie is also now designing her own leathergoods collections—with her own style and distinctive materials.

The Amélie Collection

Amblard Leather Academy

Amblard Leather Atelier is the only studio that teaches in-depth the centuries-old craft of fine luxury leather working. Our program has been developed by a Hermès-trained master artisan and teaches the basic understanding of leather working using traditional hand tools.

The program teaches the skill of fine leather working and each project teaches a new progressive skill. For a list of all projects and concepts learned please visit our website at

There is no experience necessary and we provide everything (tools & leathers) needed to complete all projects.

Amblard Leather Atelier offers half-day and full-day workshops, evening classes, and 12-week sessions. All classes are limited to 10 students to ensure a quality work environment.

Half-day and full-day workshops are designed to learn the basics of leather working and students leave the workshop with a completed piece by the end of the day.

Tuesday evening classes teach beginner level skills with 6 different progressive projects.

12-week sessions teach beginner to master level fine leather working projects. 

Class Dates:

Half-Day and Full-Day workshops are scheduled upon availability in our session class. Please email us with dates desired to check availability.

Evening classes are every Tuesday Evening from 6–8pm.

2019 Session Dates:
Winter: January 8 – March 30
Spring: April 2 – June 22
Summer: July 9 – September 28
Fall: October 1 – December 21

All photography by Amélie Amblard

April in Paris
15 Clement St
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 750-9910

Amblard Leather Atelier
15 Clement St
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 750-9910

Monday, November 5, 2018

Travels with THE STYLE SALONISTE: Design spotting in Buenos Aires, Argentina

A very special recent discovery — Casa Cavia is a modern privately owned cultural center with historic elegance, thanks to its chic remodel by KallosTurin Architects. Casa Cavia showcases the style and spirit of classic Buenos Aires while celebrating modern architecture, gastronomy, design, literature and art. I loved the daring originality, the vision, and especially the creativity of this fantastic design and architecture find.

Lupe Garcia and Ana Mosqueda

On my recent assignment to Buenos Aires, I was extremely fortunate to visit the new Casa Cavia, a publisher’s headquarters with a fine restaurant , bookshop, garden and bar. It was designed by London-based architect Stephania Kallos and her partner Abigail Turin, who is based in San Francisco. I love the purity and intelligence of their architecture.

I enjoyed chatting with Ana in the tranquil garden, watching clients coming and going with lavish armfuls of lilies and exotic orchids from Blumm shop. 

I stayed for a light lunch, a lovely salad with grilled shrimp, and a delicious ‘vegetarian cannoli’ (rolled up using spinach instead of pasta) stuffed with mixed squash and other vegetables. It was actually the staff meal that day.

Ana, the publisher, gave me a tour of her bookshop (lots of art books) and then her upstairs office, with brass bookshelves and a beautiful 1920s chandelier.

Then I stayed for coffee in the garden, as attractive young BA families and couples with little dogs arrived for afternoon tea.

I departed and headed to the Museum of Fine Arts to see an indepth Tate loan of Turner watercolors.

I was looking forward to visiting Casa Cavia and meeting the owners. I know and admire the architects, and Casa Cavia had been praised by Christina Ohly Evans in the Financial Times ‘How to Spend It’ magazine. She called Casa Cavia “The Buenos Aires one-top shop for delighting all the senses.”

Publisher Ana Mosqueda publishes in Spanish all the great Argentine writers with her imprint, Ampersand. She offers personal inspiration and delight with some of her favorite international books in the Casa Cavia bookshop.

It’s all very private, very insider, and a jewel in the lively arts and culinary scene of gorgeous Buenos Aires.

Casa Cavia, is located in the lovely Palermo Chico area of Buenos Aires. It is a historic house facing Alemania Square.

The original building, designed in 1929 by the distinguished architect Alejandro Christophersen, is situated between towering residential buildings and remains a single poetic reminder of the elegant residences that once populated this square.

Kallos Turin, an award winning architecture and design firm were commissioned to renovate the historic building to include a café, bar, flower shop, courtyard garden and publishing offices.

The 1920’s building was carefully reworked using sympathetic materials. This lively cultural center showcases the best of Buenos Aires while promoting architecture, gastronomy, design, literature and art. 

Stephania Kallos

Abigail Turin

Stephania Kallos and Abigail Turin have cleverly rethought the building to artfully accommodate the different spaces

“We always wanted it to feel like a residence that happens to contain a restaurant, publishing firm and bookshop within it, rather than a house that has been reworked to be a restaurant and publishing firm” said Kallos.

“Achieving an almost familial connection between the architecture, the books and the gastronomy became critical,’ adds Turin. “We wanted to blur the lines between the programs, so that the florists, publishers and chefs felt at home throughout the spaces.” 

Kallos Turin and Their Exquisite Plan

Kallos Turin’s design approach for Casa Cavia was to restore the historic house, retain the original details and then carefully insert modern design elements as a counterpoint to the historic space. While the insertions are crisp and modern in form, the materials palette – white and green marble, brass, antiqued mirror, leather and terrazzo flooring – pays homage to the villas and restaurants of the 1920's and 30's typically seen in both Paris and Buenos Aires. 

The garden is conceived as a lushly planted field of dark green plantings. Planes of green terrazzo are inserted within the field of green planting to create zones for dining and gathering.

“Working on an urban garden surrounded by such tall buildings allowed us to think about the garden as a room. It also forced us to carefully consider the vertical and reflective elements. ” said Abigail Turin.

A raised pool at the center of the garden is positioned to reflect the sky and surrounding landscaping. A series of floating pavers and platforms connects the original house.

This was originally a private residence, so there was already an intimate flow of spaces. The goal was to retain the existing flow and preserve the sense of separate rooms that you find within a house from this period.

The interior Café is composed of four separate rooms.

The entry passage, which was originally just for circulation, has been transformed into a dynamic space for gathering and exhibition.

And the reception space, which is airy and light and has views to the garden.

There’s a salon, which is darker and slightly more formal; and the library, which references both the classic library spaces found in homes from this period and the publishing house on the floor above. 

Blumm Flower Boutique

A flower shop in a shaded corner at the end of the garden is housed in a more modern structure, but detailed with the same materials. The walls of the space are intentionally dark, with the flowers illuminated to create contrast and the draw the viewer's eye from across the courtyard. The flower shop is lined with wood shelves to highlight the colorful blooms and has a glass front orientated toward the historic house across the garden.


Julieta Caruso is head chef of restaurant La Cocina de Casa Cavia.
“Each dish contains a story,” said proprietor Lupe GarcíaMosqueda. “At Casa Cavia we ask ourselves how are arts and food linked, what stories inspire dishes and what dishes inspire stories?” 

Embracing this philosophy, diners are encouraged toexperience eating foods in new and inventive ways, all of which relate to quotes and excerpts from famous literature, comics or even music. Meanwhile, drinks are based on the preferred wines, spirits and cocktails of famous authors. 

The Architecture

“Christophersen’s original proportions, plan and detailing were intelligent and elegant,” said Kallos. “When you work on a building of this caliber, you learn from its original architect. We were very inspired by the idea of this small, graceful building having held its place on a block that has otherwise been completely developed. In its small elegant way, it is a very powerful force on the street. We think this is a lovely metaphor.”

New outdoor seating lines the vertical garden. The bar is positioned behind the pool and is fully covered so it can be used throughout the year. A key component of the original concept was to have the garden feel like a partially interior and partially exterior room and this expansion capitalizes on that idea. 

And a Quick Personal Tip
When you visit Casa Cavia — to buy flowers, sip a cocktail, enjoy a late breakfast or buy books…please ask for a free map and guide to Palermo Chico that lists museums, bike stations, architecture, galleries and historic embassies. You’ll want to visit all of their recommendations.

Stephania Kallos

Abigail Turin

About Kallos Turin

Established in 2003 by Stephania Kallos and Abigail Turin, Kallos Turin is an international design firm based in London and San Francisco. The firm provides architecture, interior and furniture design services. Past and current projects include high-end single family homes and residential developments as well as office, restaurant and retail projects. In 2010 Kallos Turin was awarded the prestigious International Award from the Royal Institute of British Architects for its design of the Villalagos Residences in Uruguay.

Abigail Turin runs the San Francisco office of Kallos Turin. Prior to founding Kallos Turin, Abigail worked at David Chipperfield Architects in London, where she and the firm’s co-founder, Stephania Kallos, first met. In her undergraduate years, Abigail studied architecture at Wellesley and MIT and subsequently received her Master's degree in Architecture, with Distinction, from Harvard University. Abigail is an Associate member of the AIA. She currently serves as the vice-chair of SFMOMA’s Architecture and Design Accessions Committee and sits on the National Committee of the Whitney Museum.

Stephania Kallos runs the London office of Kallos Turin. Prior to co-founding Kallos Turin, Stephania worked at David Chipperfield Architects in London and New York, focusing on hotel projects and on the stores and concessions for Dolce and Gabbana worldwide. She was a designer in the office of Claudio Silvestrin and ran the restaurants division of Conran and Partners. Stephania is a registered architect and member of the RIBA.


Client/Owner: Lupe Mosqueda Garcia

Design Architect: Kallos Turin

Local Architect: Mercer Seward Arquitectos

Lighting Consultant: George Sexton Associates

Landscape Designer: Bulla Paisajismo

Contractor: Progorod S.A.

Interior fit-out Contractor: Gorza y Cia

Photography: Juan Hitters


Stephania Kallos
London + San Francisco
37 Pottery Lane
London W11 4LY
+44 207 229 5840

Casa Cavia/Ampersand Publishing
Cavia 2985,
Palermo Chico, Argentina
+5411 4809 8600
+54 11 3640 7805 Whatsapp

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