Editor in Chief Zahid Sardar uncovers design in unlikely places.
LAS ALCOBAS, a new luxury hotel just outside the center of St. Helena, feels like a fashionable yet remote retreat overlooking the Beringer vineyards and a wooded creek. Its several buildings include a 1907 neoclassical six-bedroom manor house on a hill within what used to be a working farm, as well as three modern up-to-the-minute structures that contain another 62 rooms with terraces and sophisticated interiors by Italian craftsmen. Its Atrio spa, flanking a saltwater pool and housed in one of the new buildings opposite the event barn, is a design destination unto itself: it contains an intriguing apothecary where you get to blend fragrances and oils for yourself. The lower floor of the mansion serves as a lobby lounge. In back, a gorgeous wood-accented restaurant called Acacia House, named after the manor, is run by star chef Chris Cosentino and partner Oliver Wharton, with an ambitious menu perhaps inspired by the chef’s experiences on Top Chef Masters and Iron Chef America.
Faraday Electric Bike
A NEW ELECTRIC BIKE called Faraday — named after the 19th-century English scientist who inspired electric motor technology — was conceived for Oregon Manifest, a Portland-based bike design competition, by a team at design firm IDEO led by Adam Vollmer. He later launched Faraday Bicycles in San Francisco and his “ultimate utility vehicle” won awards. Relatively lightweight, it also has a step-through version, and looks and rides like a regular Dutch bike. The rod-like battery — the heart of the concept, concealed in the down tube — allows a 20-mile commute. Acquired recently by the European PON Bike Group that also owns the Dutch Gazelle brand, Faraday Bicyles now has a universal forum. Exclusive bentwood fenders, bike racks and saddles add distinction. Prices online start at about $2,500.
Made in Marin
MADE IN MARIN, an organization that showcases unusual decorative arts by Marin County denizens, will have its debut exhibition from October 1 to 25 at the Fine Arts Gallery of the College of Marin in Kentfield. It includes Ido Yoshimoto’s “Forest Floor Blocks No. 1, 2, 3” (shown) made of second-growth redwood, stained black. Yoshimoto, an Inverness arborist and artist fashions sculptural yet functional wood stools with hand tools and a chainsaw, a la Bay Area artist J.B. Blunk, whose work is at the Oakland Art Museum.
Spot, Stone, Plane, Cut, and Melt Lighting
BRITISH DESIGNER Tom Dixon’s stylish new lighting fixtures called Spot, Stone, Plane, Cut and Melt are made of metal, glass and marble and are all variously rated for hot, wet, steamy conditions — perfect for bathrooms and kitchens. Unveiled recently in Milan, the collection has dark black plated steel, gleaming copper and brass finishes as well as natural stone and can be grouped or used individually. Prices range from about $320 to $800. Shown, Plane, of brass plated steel and glass, $485.
di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art
ONE OF THE MOST unusual Bay Area art collections resides at the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art in the wine country, and part two of its inaugural 2018 exhibition Be Not Still: Living in Uncertain Times, through 2018, includes works from other collections as well. Shown, Ranu Mukherjee’s Home and the World (still), from a 2015 film, courtesy of the artist and Gallery Wendi Norris, fits into the experimental blend of new works paired with the museum’s collection, all highlighting aspects of the current social and political landscape such as protest movements and issues of immigration and societal health.
Cult of the Machine: Precisionism and American Art
IF YOU THINK these are disruptive times because of digital technology, you get a sense of what it was like 100 years ago with the onslaught of the Machine Age, when established norms, especially during the 1930s, were rapidly altered. The attendant angst, euphoria and excitement were reflected in art and objects, many of which now comprise the exhibition Cult of the Machine: Precisionism and American Art, at the de Young Museum until August 12. This American phenomenon, encompassing decorative objects, industrial design, paintings, photographs and even films and cars, reflected the country’s mechanical prowess. Smooth surfaces, curved forms and machine-like geometric compositions, by artists such as Charles Sheeler, Georgia O’Keeffe and Charles Demuth, characterize the era’s streamlined aesthetic. Shown, Gerald Murphy’s 1925 oil on canvas “Watch”; Auburn Automobile Company’s 1937 Cord 812 Phaeton; and Charles Sheeler’s 1955 oil on canvas “Golden Gate.”
Westin St. Francis in San Francisco’s Union Square
FOGGY BLUES and the gold of California hills are the basis of the palette used to update the historic 618-room 1904 Westin St. Francis in San Francisco’s Union Square. The hotel now feels fresher than the opulent gildedand-tan edifice of the past, perhaps even Parisian — fittingly for this city sometimes nicknamed the “Paris of the West.” The Dallas firm Forrest Perkins, which technically has a foot in the Bay Area (one of its principals lives in San Francisco), completed the $45 million renovation, unveiled in April. The changes are dramatic, but history buffs who recall the hotel as a favorite of potentates and royalty like the Queen of England can rest assured: original crown molding, crystal chandeliers and high ceilings remain. However, modern showers, peony pink accents, blue and silver wall coverings, silver-upholstered headboards and fabrics with cloudlike patterns will appeal to clientele more in step with newer nobles like Meghan Markle.
Barbara Barry Custom Furniture
LOVERS OF interior designer Barbara Barry’s work and custom furniture might lament the fact that the star Los Angeles designer, originally from the Bay Area, has partially “retired” from the urban spotlight and quotidian clients, to a rural setting. But her work can be viewed in her 2012 book Around Beauty (Rizzoli), where her ideas about nature inspired forms and comfort might, in her words, also give you a “frisson of pleasure.” And now a line of furniture, designed exclusively for Baker Furniture, makes her work again accessible for many. Shown, her sturdy Bench Press 3316 of metal, wood and leather, evokes logs afloat, rafts and a delicately balanced seesaw. Prices vary by finish.
SIX PLANES of colored and antiqued mirrors are pieced together to form designer Robert Sukrachand’s faceted 45-inch-long Gem mirror, framed with stained hardwood. Shown, a pink and whitewashed ash Gem, available at HSH Interiors in San Francisco, $2,050 (many color options available).
Keller Court Commons
HARKING BACK to the ways we lived in the past, Keller Court Commons is a new compound of eight two-story homes on about three acres where an old farmhouse once stood in Petaluma. Designed by architects Chris Lynch and Mary Dooley of MAD Architecture for developer Jim Soules, who has touted the concept for two decades, it takes the original California approach of individual bungalows surrounding a shared common green, free of cars. The modest, roughly 1,500-square-foot structures are modern, derived from vernacular farm buildings with shed roofs; some, like the shared commons building, have colorful siding. Soules’ partner Milli Fredricks, an artist, did the interior design.
Lodge at the Presidio
AFTER THE CLEAR SUCCESS of its 2012 boutique Inn at the Presidio, San Francisco’s Presidio Trust has launched its new 42-room Lodge at the Presidio. Run by Waterford Hotels and Inns, which also operates Sausalito’s Inn Above Tide. The three-story 1890s brick facility, formerly the U.S. Army’s Montgomery Street Barracks for artillery, infantry and cavalry troops was renovated by Architectural Resources Group. As at the Presidio Inn, rooms designed by Laura Cook Interiors have modern furnishings combined with authentic memorabilia and artisanal objects that evoke the past. Spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge from many rooms, vistas of national park forests and the bay, a fire pit in the communal courtyard, rocking chairs on the porches and reception and dining lounges bring a sense of comfortable luxury to the design.
Donald Judd: Specific Furniture
EVEN IF YOU don’t own a piece of furniture designed by 20th-century artist Donald Judd, you can now sit in one of eight replicas during Donald Judd: Specific Furniture, an exhibition at SFMOMA from July through November 4. Judd called works beyond sculpture “specific objects,” and Judd’s original architectural furniture pieces, alongside other items and drawings he admired or was inspired by — including works by Alvar Aalto, Gerrit Rietveld and Mies van der Rohe — are the focus of the displays, conceived by architecture and design associate curator Joseph Becker in collaboration with the Judd Foundation. Shown, Judd’s 1984 Armchair design in SFMOMA’s collection, fabricated posthumously in 1998.
Interior Portraits:At Home with Cultural Pioneers and Creative Mavericks is photographer/ author Leslie Williamson’s latest foray into the homes of designers, this time in California. Past and present luminaries include architect Ray Kappe of Pacific Palisades, poet Robinson Jeffers of Carmel, artists Madeleine Fitzpatrick and Evan Shively in Petaluma, and restaurateur Alice Waters in Berkeley. Williamson’s subjects, she suggests, helped make California — typically portrayed as a place of sun and sand — deeper than its mythical self. Rizzoli, $55
Designing with Palms, by horticulturist Jason Dewees with photographs by Caitlin Atkinson contains virtually everything you need to know about palms and their use in gardens. Based on the San Francisco author’s knowledge and hands-on expertise gleaned at Flora Grubb Gardens, where he works, it is encyclopedic, instructive, and an inspiring coffee-table delight. Timber Press, $50
Design by Nature: Creating Layered, Lived-in Spaces, by fashion designer Erica Tanov with photographs by Ngoc Minh Ngo, has ideas on how to translate flowers, water and wood into elements of interior design. For instance, the skeletal lacy remnants of a leaf inspire gauzy drapes, and actual ferns are used to stamp patterns onto wallpaper. Ten Speed Press, $35
Figures in a Landscape: People and Places, by travel writer Paul Theroux, is an entertaining set of essays recalling far-flung encounters in Morocco, Ecuador and Zimbabwe. Conversations with celebrities like Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor and, even a New York dominatrix’s thoughts on the virtues of Saran Wrap and the do’s and don’ts of spanking are revealing. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28
DESIGNER DUSTIN FEIDER of O2 is at it again, installing lofty, artful treehouses in redwood groves. This time, his faceted 22-foothigh Pinecone Treehouse of wood and glass over a steel armature, made for a television commercial, is on temporary display in a Bonny Doon estate near Santa Cruz. For about $200,000 plus shipping costs you can even take this cool getaway home.
THERE IS A BUSY new bar where restaurant Range used to be on Valencia Street in San Francisco. Appropriately, the ’60s-style hideout is called The Beehive, the brainchild of veterans of The Treasury bar downtown and Range, including chefs Phil West and Arnold Eric Wong and designer Steve Werney. Interior designer Floriana Petersen and Werney who also co-authored a San Francisco guidebook, spearheaded the retro beehive-inspired interior. Gilded hex-pattern wallpapers, waxy cast-resin fondue-resistant tabletops, and creative midcentury-style booths, graphics and signage were all produced/hand-assembled at their shared Mission District atelier. Food, by Byron Gee of Rotunda at Neiman Marcus fame, and cool cocktails in vintage glassware never had a better backdrop.
Editor-in-chief Zahid Sardar brings an extensive range of design interests and keen knowledge of Bay Area design culture to SPACES magazine. He is a San Francisco editor, curator and author specializing in global architecture, interiors, landscape and industrial design. His work has appeared in numerous design publications as well as the San Francisco Chronicle for which he served as an influential design editor for 22 years. Sardar serves on the San Francisco Decorator Showcase design advisory board.