That's So Bay! Thoughts on the San Francisco Decorator Showcase

This year's Decorator Showcase nails the iconoclastic spirit of the Bay Area, one spectacular room at a time.

Photo by: Jason Kisner Courtyard, designed by Davis Dalbok of Living Green Design

For residents of San Francisco, the San Francisco Decorator Showcase at Herbst Manor in Pacific Heights felt partly like a sumptuous feast for the eyes, and partly like a cruel joke. It's hard to explain how hard it was to go back to a cramped rental after experiencing the beauty and care lavished upon every room of this airy, pretty dwelling, but it was, in the end, worth the emotional trauma. Because oh, what an amazing array of styles, ideas and moments of utter inspiration.

Photo by: Jason Kisner The Atelier, designed by Antonio Martins of Antonio Martins Interior Design

The top floor featured The Atelier, designed by Antonio Martins of Antonio Martins Interior Design. My companion called it "the most elaborate man-cave I've ever seen," but to me it was much more. First of all, the walls were covered with burlap, treated and then applied to the wall as if it were wallpaper, tacked at the corners with furniture tacks over black bias tape, which provided a feeling of both warmth and lightness far more sophisticated and oddly modern than the heavy mahogany paneling one might expect.

Photo by: Jason Kisner Writer's Retreat, designed by Kriste Michelini Interiors

Down the hall was a "writer's room" bathed in light and bright colors, but this soothing chamber was infinitely preferable to this wordsmith. Rustic statues dotted the walls and surfaces, and a simple day-bed adorned with a muted quilt would provide the appropriate moments of repose (okay, procrastination) (fine, naps) that anyone working from home would require.

Photo by: Jason Kisner Teenaged Girl's Room, designed by Vernon Applegate and Gioi Tran of Applegate Tran Interiors

I was also struck by the Teenaged Girl's Room. Together with the Danger Zone, these two rooms indicated a deep and admirable understanding of a kid's requirements. The Teenaged Girl's Room's designer, Vernon Applegate and Gioi Tran of Applegate Tran Interiors, were brimming with excitement and love for the entirely fictional denizen of their room. They had named her, they understood her, and even though the project was done, they still had the instinct to buy for her: this is the kind of engagement with your subject that results in a much-loved living space.

Photo by: Jason Kisner Teenaged Girl's Room, designed by Vernon Applegate and Gioi Tran of Applegate Tran Interiors

The (literal) highlight of her room was the ceiling, a monochrome relief map of London that reflected her desire to travel, into which a light fixture resembling a steampunk octopus was perfectly placed. "She drives her mom crazy," Tran told me. "She's a rebel." The object that told me how well she was understood was a globe that had been painted with chalkboard paint, a metaphor for the process of exploring and expanding her own world. It's a room I'd gladly live in now, when I'm only a teenaged girl in terms of my emotional maturity.

Photo by: Jason Kisner Danger Zone, designed by Martha Angus and Eche Martinez of Martha Angus Inc.

"Danger Zone," by Martha Angus and Eche Martinez of Martha Angus Inc., is for a younger kid, male or female, and reinvents a formal room as a campground and springboard for adventure. Here's a lighted teepee; there's a wall of board games. And wait a second, are those ersatz dynamite sticks, a la Wile E. Coyote, in the fancy-schmantzy fireplace? Full of energy, it's a space that both invites and excites. 

Photo by: Jason Kisner Courtyard, designed by Davis Dalbok of Living Green Design

But my favorite moments came when I stepped out, teeth chattering, to the garden. Dubbed the "Birds of Prey Garden Courtyard" by Davis Dalbok of Living Green Design, it transformed an awkward space into a lush and almost womblike outdoor den. Of course, the living wall is not necessarily new, but it was put together with so much energy and vibrant excitement that it reinvented the whole idea.

Photo by: Jason Kisner Phoenix or rooster? This quirky antique is perched atop the door to the courtyard, designed by Davis Dalbok of Living Green Design.

The leaves and flowers surrounding the courtyard seemed poised to leap into the air like the space's namesake, and a kicky, quirky touch perched atop the door is an antique found object that I called a "rooster" and the designer called a "phoenix." You be the judge. It'll be the perfect thing to ponder during your mid-morning coffee break.

As I said, returning to the cluttered garret I call home was a bit of a letdown. But now I'm dreaming of burlap walls.

Can't get enough of the San Francisco Decorator Showcase? Visit HGTV's Design Happens blog for even more photos.


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