Friday, August 21, 2020

Exciting California Design News: The Dramatic New RH Marin Opens in Corte Madera

I recently attended the opening of the dazzling new three-level RH Marin gallery that presents furniture, art, and accessories in a handsome light-filled setting overlooking San Francisco Bay. It’s an exciting new destination

The gallery building is superbly sited with the dramatic silhouette of Mt. Tamalpais framing views to the west, and a surprising and serene unobstructed view across the bay to Mt. Diablo to the east.

Gary Friedman is to be congratulated for his clearly expressed vision, and his bold clarity. The RH team has created a masterpiece.

The handsome new gallery features a rooftop restaurant and coffee bar, a wine bar, an art gallery and a garden courtyard atrium.

There are also the beautifully airy and well-lit design studio and consultation rooms where clients can view swatches, samples, hardware, fabrics, and leathers with an RH designer.

It’s a compelling new destination that feels very residential and welcoming, and showcases the new Outdoor collections with great panache.

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RH Marin is the newest expression of the RH brand and the first design gallery in California with integrated hospitality including a glass-encased Rooftop Restaurant and Wine Bar that open onto an expansive landscaped terrace.

The experience at RH Marin is at once luxurious, inspiring, and understated. Clients can study and test-drive the upholstery, step into fully-designed bedrooms, and get a close-up look at the excellent General Public art collections.

Galleries feature installations of home furnishings devoted to exclusive new RH Interiors, Modern and Outdoor collections. I admired the bed linens, accessories, rugs, lighting and bathroom decor.

RH Marin also features an interactive Interior Design Atelier, providing professional design services.

Conceptualized as a transparent, multi-level contemporary structure filled with fresh air and natural light, the Gallery features a charcoal grey Venetian plaster exterior with an expanse of glass-and-steel French doors that open onto lush garden courtyards and terraces.

A walking path marks the Gallery’s exterior with decomposed granite and bluestone pavers, surrounded by handsome 100-year-old heritage olive trees.

At the top of a grand double floating staircase, visitors arrive into the Rooftop Restaurant with skylights and the sparkle of chandeliers. I admired the ingredient-driven menu and the year-round open terrace/ garden escape beneath a dramatic atrium with retractable glass walls, sparkling crystal chandeliers and heritage olive trees. 

Seamlessly extending from indoors to out, the restaurant opens onto unobstructed views of Mount Tamalpais to the west and San Francisco Bay and its wetlands to the east. The concept of classical trees and seating areas was influenced by the great classical gardens of Europe.

Situated just off the grand stair on level three, a climate-controlled Wine Bar houses wine and champagne selections from around the world, as well as limited production offerings from some of Napa Valley’s most renowned small vintners.

On level two, visitors discover RH Modern – the largest integrated assortment of modern furnishings, lighting, textiles and décor under one brand – as well as the RH Interior Design Atelier. This interactive studio features private client presentation rooms with state-of-the-art technology, and an RH Rugs showroom presenting an exclusive collection.

On the main level, guests will pass through a 25-foot threshold of retractable glass and steel doors, and continue into the central hall with its soaring 13-foot ceilings. Along the periphery, barrel-vaulted passageways lead to a classical arrangement of rooms featuring RH Interiors collections from international designers, as well as one-of-a-kind antiques and artifacts from Gary Friedman’s world travels.

NEWS:  Since Northern California is one of RH’s largest and most loyal markets, the company is busy planning more galleries in the region.

Next year the company will open RH San Francisco in the newly chic Dogpatch area at San Francisco’s Pier 70. There are plans afoot to re-design the RH gallery in the Design District.

And in the next few years, expect new gallery locations in Palo Alto, Walnut Creek, and Sacramento.

RH Marin is located at 1750 Redwood Highway in Corte Madera. 

Photo by Diane Dorrans Saeks

Photo by Diane Dorrans Saeks

My Favorite Bedding

I’ve always admired the RH Italian bed linens and cashmere blankets and throws. They’re classics and very elegant.

One throw this season I highly recommend is the new cashmere double-face blanket / throw with ivory on one side and pale grey on the reverse. It’s sumptuous and light and looks beautiful on the bed.

Look also for new embroidered bed décor and throws, along with blankets.

Photo by Diane Dorrans Saeks


“RH Marin is a deeply personal project given its proximity to our Center of Innovation and Headquarters in Corte Madera. It’s a reflection of our very best work to date – an architecturally inspiring and immersive experience that blurs the lines between residential and retail, indoors and outdoors, home and hospitality. Our entire team is proud and honored to bring this innovative concept to the town we call home.” — RH Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Gary Friedman 

RH Chairman & Chief Executive Officer Gary Friedman made the following comments:


“The Bay Area is our home. It’s where we live, where we work, where our Center of Innovation & Product Leadership is located, and therefore where the vast majority of our strategy is conceptualized and brought to life.”


“Everything you see at RH Marin is a reflection of a hierarchy that leads to harmony. We believe the most pleasing environments are a reflection of human design. They are a study of refinement, balance, symmetry and perfect proportions. We respect the hierarchy between the environment, landscaping, architecture, furniture, and decor that create harmony. Ours is a discipline of addition by subtraction where less becomes more and calm is created through continuity. We subscribe to the principles of Vitruvius - that perfect proportions exist in human design, and beauty is produced by the pleasing appearance and good taste of the whole. Our hope is to both integrate into and elevate the local environments we inhabit.”


“Our RH Burger was called the best burger in New York by the Financial Times, and our Shaved Ribeye on Charred Garlic Bread just might be the best sandwich on the planet, so I generally flip and coin. For breakfast or brunch, the RH Scramble with shaved truffles should also be in the conversation, and on occasion rises to the top of my list, along with the truffled grilled cheese.”


RH Marin's Executive Chef is Paul Arenstam and the Hospitality Leader (GM) is Brandon Wilson

One of the highlights of a visit to the RH Marin gallery is the rooftop restaurant, which has wide-open terraces facing west toward Mt. Tamalpais.

The all-day menu is highly focused on fresh produce and simple, elegant flavorful preparations.


I was very impressed with the brilliantly flavorful coffee when I visited the RH Marin restaurant recently. The beans are intensely fragrant and I asked for more information.

For enthusiastic coffee lovers I pass on the following details about the exclusive RH coffee:

The coffee offered at RH Hospitality was inspired by Hiroshi Sawada, world-renowned barista, latte art expert and founder of Streamer Coffee in Tokyo.

The highly trained baristas at Streamer produced lattes showcasing perfect art and balance, only achievable through Sawada’s practice-makes-perfect philosophy emphasizing simplicity, teaching and community building around coffee.

RH uses Metropolis 'Project X' coffee beans (exclusive blend for RH).

This proprietary blend of beans is from Mogiana, Brazil. They are given a darker roast, creating a rich, chocolaty, nutty, flavor profile.

These beans are used for the espresso, drip coffee and cold brew and the flavor characteristics remain consistent through all of these extraction methods. Metropolis, the RH Hospitality coffee supplier, purchases only Arabica coffee beans. 

Photo by Diane Dorrans Saeks


Photos of the galleries and exteriors of RH Marin courtesy of RH.

Photos of vignettes of bedroom settings and new RH Modern designs by Diane Dorrans Saeks.

Find RH galleries in New York (Meatpacking District), West Palm, Chicago, West Hollywood, Boston, Houston, and Yountville. Each of these galleries has a restaurant or café.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

The Super Shooter: Fred Lyon — California's Legendary Photographer at 96

For more than eight decades, San Francisco photographer Fred Lyon, 96, has photographed (and made famous) our greatest designers, from Michael Taylor and John Dickinson to Anthony Hail, Frances Elkins and Suzanne Tucker.

He photographed for all the top magazines, such as LIFE and House & Garden and Vogue, and has published multiple books, including a monograph on wineries. Today, a biography/monograph on Fred Lyon, written by the brilliant San Francisco writer/author Philip Meza is under consideration by the prestigious publisher Rizzoli. 

This week I’m celebrating the great San Francisco photographer, Fred Lyon, as he approaches his hundredth year.

In recent decades Lyon’s fine art photography has been featured at prestigious international art fairs, including Masterpiece London, AIPAD’s The Photography Show and Paris Photo. His work also is held in museums and important private collections.

Fred has photographed the most famous decorators on the West Coast. A photography perfectionist and an affable and vivid raconteur, he has been the expert to call for superb and classic photos and a fun day of shooting.

Come with me to explore Fred Lyon’s impressive portfolio.

“I like to work fast and take lots of pictures in natural light. I shoot a great opener and a lot of strong and memorable and well-composted shots that tell the story with no fluff, and no weak shots.” — Fred Lyon

Fred Lyon is known to design insiders as California’s finest photographer of interiors and decor. Since 1947, he has focused his lenses on the most beautiful rooms throughout California, captured the poetry and originality of designs by Michael Taylor and the quirkiness and glamour of rooms limned by John Dickinson. In the process, Lyon has influenced all subsequent generations of interiors photographers and decorators, and given the greatest designers their well-deserved immortality.

“Fred Lyon simply has the best eye in the business,” said San Francisco decorator, Suzanne Tucker, who recently commissioned Lyon to shoot her own house. “I first saw the masterful way he photographed Michael Taylor’s interiors. His images simply don’t date.”

Since he arrived in San Francisco from Washington DC in 1947, armed with just one camera, Lyon has recorded thousands of glamorous interiors and hundreds of accomplished people, including five US presidents. Lyon has also shot food, galas, luscious landscapes, grand hotels, and international wineries--the good life--for every style-conscious magazine, from Vogue, House & Garden, Glamour, House Beautiful and Flair


“John Dickinson: He was the best, and he was heaven to work with. A total gentleman. I first met him when he was working for the E. Coleman Dick design studio on Sutter Street in the fifties. Soon after, he went out on his own, and has me shoot six of his interiors in one day. His firehouse interior was dramatic and so chic. Who else would have combined carnival heads from the Old Spaghetti Factory with a grand Art Nouveau dining table, and plaster tables. Like Jean-Michel Frank, who he admired, he could take humble materials like straw, leather, plaster, pine plants, or galvanized metal, and have them crafted in the most luxurious manner so that the seemed precious. He was a true original, and the greatest of them all.”

Lyon is famous for creating authoritative and elegant photographs of classic beauty. Images he shot in the forties, fifties and sixties are perfectly composed and superbly lit and even today they retain their allure.

“The architects and designs put all their talent and style and taste into the rooms I’m shooting, so I never want to impose a “look”, Fred told me. “That’s too gimmicky for me. I want a harmonious composition. Working with designers like Michael Taylor, Frances Elkins, or John Dickinson, I did not have to go into a trance or torture it. My job was and is to show the design and tell the story — not to make a design statement of my own.”

“Fred’s fine art photography today is featured at prestigious international art fairs and held in museums and important private collections. They are arresting images. Many were taken in San Francisco. They show high society, low society and many worlds in between. Fred has always been a flâneur and his ambit is vast and includes the midcentury art and jazz scenes, when Fred befriended artists like abstract expressionist Richard Diebenkorn, and captured jazz greats Billie Holiday, Sonny Rollins, Bobby Troup, Percy Heath and others. Fred captured beat poetry happenings and haunted the best nightspots with the city’s “poet laureate” newspaper columnist Herb Caen in the days when San Francisco was the “cool, gray city of love.” — Philip E. Meza, from ‘A Wonderful Life: Fred Lyon’s 75 Years of Photography’

Fred Lyon shot almost everything Michael Taylor created, for House & Garden and Vogue and Lyon recalls him with great affection.

“Those were the days of the decorator-as-despot,” said Lyon. “ Michael was bold and outspoken and his clients were completely in awe of everything he said and did. But his rooms for each client were elegant, sometimes eccentric, and always highly individual.”

For the brilliant and egotistical Michael Taylor, however, the rooms he designed for his clients were merely full of possibility, waiting for the flourish he would add for the camera.

“We were once faced with a “nothing” corner at a beach house in Pebble Beach that we were shooting for House & Garden,” recalled Lyon. “I told Michael it was lacking pizzazz and had no focal point. He immediately got on the phone to John Berggruen. He’d been to an opening at his gallery the night before. He asked John to send down the centrepiece of the entire show right away. Three hours later, a truck arrived and the large abstract canvas was hung on the wall. The photo made the cover of the magazine, and the client bought the painting.”

Taylor worked on the fly, improvising as the photo shoot went from room to room, said Lyon.

“In the early sixties, we were debating shooting a small room in the attic of a Pacific Heights mansion,” said the photographer. “Michael draped it in white linen, arranged a pair of French painted chairs and an antique desk, and brought in masses of terra cotta pots of white hydrangeas. It was great instant decor for the camera.”

To the chagrin of the grande dame who lived in the mansion, her maid’s room soon appeared in full glory on the cover of House & Garden.

Taylor was not the only dictatorial decorator Lyon photographed. Frances Elkins cut a swathe through San Francisco society, and designed extraordinarily chic interiors for the likes of Nan Kempner’s parents, and young Nan, and for a bevy of demanding clients.

“Frances Elkins made charts for all their maids, showing precisely where to place ashtrays and where flowers were to be arranged on tables,’ Lyon commented. “She had keys to every client’s house, and would sweep in unannounced, saying imperiously, and “Those cushions look tired They must be replaced” or “That wall needs repainting” and it would be done without a whimper. People were so pleased and impressed to be working with her that they would turn over their lives to her.”

Lyon later worked with other towering talents, including Anthony Hail, Margot Grant of Gensler, and Charles Pfister. Lyon, genial, modest and droll, relished shooting their designs.

“I like to work fast and take lots of pictures in natural light,” explained the photographer. “You take a great opener and a lot of great shots that tell the story, with no fluff, no weak shots with nothing in them. You put in a good day’s work. That’s what professionals do.”

Fred Lyon and his elegant blonde wife, Anne Murray Lyon were fixtures on the social scene and regulars on Herb Caen’s column for decades. Anne, who died ten years ago, had been one of Richard Avedon’s favorite models.

Fred Lyon is still in demand today to shoot interiors for discerning designers, and to capture wineries around the world for leading magazines. He has, reportedly, the largest archive of wine-related photography in the world.

“My friends still call me a Young Turk,” said the indefatigable Lyon who now also shoots with digital cameras. “I spent all those years learning now to be a photographer. It has been exciting, unexpected and tremendously rewarding.”


Fred Lyon (b. 1924) made a career as a versatile perfectionist, a master of many topics.

And today he is also known as a fine art photographer whose best work is “the equivalent of Brassaï or Cartier-Bresson” (gallerist Peter Fetterman).

Lyon began his career photographing fashion with the first American supermodels, including the iconic Dorian Leigh. He then became a contract photographer for the best titles of the magazine age, including Life, Holiday, Fortune, Vogue and Sports Illustrated and earned esteem for his photographs, in black and white and color, of interior décor for influential shelter magazines.

Join me to encounter some of Fred Lyon’s most celebration black and white photography.

San Francisco has never looked so alluring.

“There is an incredible empathy and sensitivity in Fred’s work,” Fetterman says, “Once you meet Fred, you understand where it comes from. Fred is in the tradition of many of the great French humanist photographers we have worked with like Willy Ronis, Edouard Boubat, Robert Doisneau mixed in with a touch of Brassaï and Cartier-Bresson.”  Fetterman continued, “Wistful, dreamlike nostalgia envelopes Fred’s work, and envelopes the clients when they see it. We all need relief from contemporary life. And sometimes when we look at Fred’s images, they give us that.” — Los Angeles gallerist Peter Fetterman, as quoted in ‘A Wonderful Life: Fred Lyon’s 75 Years of Photography’ by Philip E. Meza

Photographer Fred Lyon

Fred’s first wife, Anne Murray Lyon, died 30 years ago, in 1989. Fred has been married to interior decorator Penny Rozis since 2003.

Penny, a noted interior designer, worked with Margo Grant at SOM (before Grant went to Gensler).   Penny and Fred first met when Fred was photographing Penny's work for SOM at the yet-to-open Bank of America Building in 1969. Fred and Penny dated and married a few years after Anne's death. The couple travels the world and have found Fred’s new fame and adulation by his many fans to be exciting and surprising.

Fred Lyon’s photography is available through the Peter Fetterman gallery:


Fred Lyon

Author Philip E. Meza