Monday, May 6, 2019

San Francisco Decorator Showcase 2019 — An Exclusive Report on the Super-Glamorous Music and Recital Room by Designer Martin Kobus

For sheer elegance and invention, the dark and glamorous recital room by Martin Kobus is a highlight of this year’s San Francisco Decorator Showcase. It’s very night clubby and very chic and Champagne bar-esque. I love the dark and moody and wonderful colors, and especially Martin’s perfectly calibrated banquettes, chic cocktail tables, and his air of total elegance.

The ceiling by de Gournay…very different and so dramatic. Note the chandelier dramatic lighting made in Morocco. Martin has such style and intelligence.

Interior designer Martin Kobus, based in Sausalito, is admired for the refinement and intelligence of his designs, always with a comfortable human touch.

He launched his firm, Martin Kobus Design a decade ago, and recently completed a series of dramatic and highly original rooms in acclaimed San Francisco Decorator Showcase. This year he returns with the most glamorous room of all.

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

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 and the room and its anticipated use.


Martin Kobus worked closely with his partner, Chris Bergin, to shape a powerful and dramatic décor.

“Upon our first view of the room it had a very sad demeanor to it. All of the original wood carvings and columns and architectural details were sort of raw and unpainted or treated. There were a few areas of damage on the ceiling and walls.

Although the room felt it had been sort of disregarded it also had a great deal of opportunity to be reborn.”


“The moment we stepped into the room Martin and I immediately said BLACK! It had to go dark in order to completely transform the feeling of the room. The barrel ceiling was the inspiration and Martin instantly thought of the de Gournay Symphony patternwall covering and that it had to be on that ceiling. A conversation began with Hannah at de Gournay and the room began to unfold.

“We then decided to call the room RECITAL and came up with the idea of the custom settees that would be place on the perimeter of the room and in the center or in the corners of the room.

“The original herringbone European white oak floors were kept and stripped to their raw unfinished state to add a bit of contrast to the walls.”


“The intention was to create a dark moody space for entertaining and for performance. We love to create an atmosphere in which people can have an 
“experience while spending time in a place. Our room offers a very layered experience of visual, aromatic, and sound qualities.

“The music we are playing in the room on our mini gramophone wireless speakers is by "2 Cellos" a duo out of Croatia that actually plays on the same electric cello that we have on display in our room.”

“Everything in the room was designed and custom made for the room, we did not borrow anything from showrooms this year. All of the architecture in the room was restored and kept, just treated. Paint is by C2, color Stout.

“The fabric used on the furniture, pillows and drapes is all the same but in different color ways.

“It is not silk, but a new tech velvet that gives the appearance of silk yet is much more durable.

“We have used it in other projects and it has performed very well.


“The fireplace is original to the house. We imagine that it was carved off site and brought into the house in pieces and assembled in the room.

We did a bit of restoration and of course cleaning, but it is so strong and adds power to the room that we left it alone otherwise, except to add the "charred" wood logs stacked and tumbling out onto the hearth.”

“A shining star of the room is the custom chandelier that Martin designed and had made in Marrakesh facilitated by Tazi. It is a nod to music notes that dance along on sheet music.

“Another star is the bronze cellist chair that Martin also designed and had made with Tazi in Marrakesh.

“Each piece of the chair was carved out of wood then dipped in bronze. After the bronze pieces were assembled the chair was then dipped to give it the brass finish.

Chris Bergin and Martin Kobus


Martin 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.”

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.

“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.”


velvet - Novel Fabrics
paint - C2 Paints, color STOUT
ceiling paper - de Gournay, pattern Symphony
tables - Stone from Da Vinci Marble , fabrication by JB Tile and Stone
trim on curtains - Samuel and Sons
trim on pillows - Samuel and Sons


Christopher Stark christopherstark

San Francisco Decorator Showcase

Now through May 27

3800 Washington Street

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