Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Designer to Watch: Martin Kobus — A Private Design Chat with a Chic and Super-Cosmopolitan Interior Designer

This week we take a close look at the fantastic new work Sausalito interior designer Martin Kobus. He works with a dash of modern bravado, with smart tech invention, and classical grandeur. I loved his witty homage to Rembrandt and seventeenth-century Dutch interiors in a recent San Francisco Decorator Showcase. And he’s the darling of tech execs, art collectors, and San Francisco families.

Let’s pay him a visit and see his latest work.

History Enriches Modern

Interior designer Martin Kobus, based in a dramatic bay-view studio in Sausalito, is admired for the intelligence, originality and bold vision of his designs, always with a comfortable human touch.

He launched Martin Kobus Design a dozen years ago.

“I think the sweet spot for me is a modern design, with a relaxed and richly detailed approach,” said Kobus. 

Designer Martin Kobus

“Often modern design can feel cold and uninviting—which is something we avoid entirely. There is definitely a European sensibility in my design that honors material integrity and plays with texture and form. Complementing the selected furnishings with a fresh neutral color palette also helps to add lightness to the space. We create a toned-down backdrop so that furnishings and foreground accents and artwork can pop and have their own spotlight.” Kobus has an encyclopedic knowledge of historical and modern architecture and has the ability to filter new interiors through a classic, historic concept. And it’s always tailored precisely to the site and the region.

The Human Touch

“Creating a simpatico interior and exterior architecture that welcomes the indoor/outdoor connection is high on my agenda,” said Kobus. “The Bay Area is both scenic and tech centric. As such, we are constantly inspired to source new tech and craftsmanship in our design choices, as well as invoke an indoor setting that highlights and complements the natural landscape that we're surrounded by. We love fresh twists on old classics and reinventing pure forms and old techniques into new forms for living.”

Kobus noted that this is a ‘golden age’ of design, as the design world evolves and new clients have enhanced design awareness.

“I’m noticing a wave of young clients very interested and appreciative of good design,” he said. “It seems as though there's a move towards 'the not so big house'-- more manageable, live-able, and less maintenance spaces. They want every inch of that space to be well curated but it's less about opulence and more about experiences. It's been incredibly refreshing for us to design for these clients and be able to mix high and low items in a way that captivates the eye.” 

Multi-Cultural Thinking

Martin Kobus grew up in Holland and studied in the Netherlands and Italy.

“My mother is Dutch and my father was Indonesian so I am lucky to be the product of several cultures,” said the designer. “I was able to pick up five languages during my upbringing. This comes in handy when traveling.”

His roots in Europe and Asian have also informed his design in many ways, he said.

“It can be very drab and rainy in the Netherlands so it has always been my focus to bring brightness to a space in a simple, calm and luxurious way,” said Kobus. “I am constantly inspired to re-invent or re-imagine design choices, furnishings, and art. If my design firm cannot find or engage in what we want or are looking for, we have it made. San Francisco has so many fine artisans.”

Kobus said that Amsterdam is graced with extremely narrow and tall houses. This has heightened the attention for innovative small space design, functionality, and form, he said.

“I’ve always like living hear the water, and the canals and connection with the sea in Sausalito are the reason that I always approach projects with the goal of integrating indoor and outdoor living,” said the designer.

What’s the Latest

A new project Martin Kobus is thrilled about is a landmark residence in Belvedere.

“It is a modern take on a historical Spanish revival,” noted Kobus. “Our friends who bought the house became clients and, we're still friends! It has been a great exercise in collaboration that will spotlight Piet Boon hardware, Waterworks, and many top creators. This is will be a showcase house for us. It is incredibly unique to have such wonderful alignment in design with our clients and to get the green light to execute our vision on a project of this scale. We feel incredibly fortunate for the partnership and know that the complete project will be tremendous.”

Kobus, always designing and dreaming, recently created an amphibious 350 sq ft. house concept.

“We could not be more excited about this new MK Tiny House,” said Kobus. “It’s something that feels fresh, scalable and very now. It will be about 300 sq/ft and is entirely custom-designed by us with high -end design finishes, appliances, and all fixtures. The house is 'portable'. It allows one to be on-the-grid, off-the-grid, or on-the-go. And the houseboats in Sausalito were not our inspiration. The idea actually came from the houseboats that line the canals in Amsterdam. Target launch date will be in 2019.”

Next for Kobus is MK Resort. 

“My spouse, Chris Bergin, and I bought a vineyard in Healdsburg, and we recently conducted the first harvest,” he noted. “This vineyard/ private resort is a bit of a passion project and will be a totally modern oasis with the footprint of the house smack in the middle of the vineyard. So now I’ll be a winemaker and a designer. Always learning, that’s the key.”


Martin Kobus Home
4000 Bridgeway Suite 318
Sausalito,Ca 94965


Douglas Friedman (Dutch Library; Keane Project)
John Merkl
Eric Rorer

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