The San Francisco Decorator Showcase is an event not to be missed. This year’s event (the first was in 1977!) is located in a classic revival mansion in the heart of Pacific Heights and features the region’s top interior and landscape designers who have designed the whole house, everything from a teenage bedroom, to a library, as well as Catherine Kwong’s transformation of the penthouse. We sat down with her to talk about this beautifully executed minimal space, to find out what inspired her and what details she put into it.
Is there anything specific that inspired this space?
Inspired by a recent trip down Highway 1, the rooms celebrate the raw, wild beauty of the coastline and laid-back California vibe.
What do you imagine the owner of the penthouse to be like?
It’s a big family that lives in this house, with many kids running around, and lots of fun and creative energy.
How did you design the space with that family in mind?
We wanted to create a space that would act as a sort of sanctuary from the noise – a place for grownups to escape to and enjoy a quiet moment together. This room is the perfect place to relax and connect at the end of the day.
Is this a departure from other spaces you’ve designed, anything that was exciting to explore?
These rooms are an exercise in restraint. The penthouse level of the house has an incredible view of the bay, which sweeps from Alcatraz to the Golden Gate Bridge. So we wanted our interiors to be quieter, softer, a retreat where you could take that all in. Editing can often be the most difficult aspect of the creative process – resisting the urge to add when you have the power to do so creates a very specific refinement.
Tell us about some of the design details such as the fabrics, wallpaper, furniture and art.
At the heart of the living room is a Nakashima cocktail table, made by hand at the iconic workshop of George Nakashima. I flew to Pennsylvania to meet with George’s daughter, Mira, who walked me through their incredible library and helped me to select the exact slab of walnut that would become the centerpiece of the room. The table was the key that unlocked the design, and everything else quickly followed.
The Donald Judd-inspired sofa has an oak frame, and the cushions are made of velvet and embroidered linen. Our genius embroider, Michael Savoia, took a quick sketch that we did and created a gorgeous pattern that wraps around the back cushions, so that each one has a unique layout. It’s very tonal and subtle, but it’s one of my favorite things we’ve ever done.
The entry-way features a custom wallpaper by artist and textile designer Stevie Howell. Once the paper was installed, Stevie applied washes of paint, allowing drips to work their way down the wall, topped by hand-applied charcoal drawings.
The framed black and white photos were taken on a vintage Polaroid camera by Josh Gruetzmacher.
The bar features Italian marble counter and ledge, with vintage circa 1950 black and brass sconces, designed by Parscot.
It seems pretty minimal — do you feel like this is a new direction for design?
I think that people are really redefining what luxury is today. There’s a sense of luxury that can come with simplicity. I think that’s what draws me to more modern interiors; there’s room to breathe, and to take in your surroundings and to be present.
Anyone can come visit the SF Decorator Showcase from the 29th of April to the 29th of May. Admission is $40 for the general public, $35 for seniors and students. All proceeds go to the San Francisco University High School Financial Aid Program, where up until today they have raised over $15 million to support deserving students with a world-class college preparatory education.