Short Conversation with Sausalito Designer Charles de Lisle

THE SAUSALITO DESIGN COLLECTIVE of Charles de Lisle creates bespoke fabricated furniture, innovative lighting, decorative arts, cutting-edge interiors and landscape projects often seen in design publications, including SPACES, New York Times T Magazine, The Wall Street Journal and more. The firm was noted on Architectural Digest’s top 100 list.

On second homes

De Lisle enjoys the concept of a humble wood building made sophisticated through design. “Growing up in the ’70s, I loved the romantic idea of a barn. I think it’s still very cool now.”

On his heroes

“A show of William Wurster’s work at SFMOMA back in the ’90s was really inspirational; the buildings were really beautifully put together, simple but different.” To de Lisle, Wurster offered a new way of thinking about living in California.

On mastering one’s craft

The designer says it’s about being deft at finding solutions, whether it’s looking at color, understanding how egresses work in buildings, even knowing how to facilitate purchasing something. “It’s about honing your skills so you don’t have to think about those skills — so you can focus on the part that makes it special.”

On restoring/not redecorating

“When clients are really interested in design and design process, a house becomes more about story than about image.”

De Lisle was brought in to design a model home for San Francisco’s $850 million tower
De Lisle was brought in to design a model home for San Francisco’s $850 million tower at 181 Fremont. His goal was to show how condo units could appeal to a younger buyer. Photograph by Matthew Millman.

On working with creatives

Artist J.B. Blunk’s protégé Rick Yoshimoto carved a giant wooden sink out of one piece of wood. “At first it seems super familiar; it doesn’t seem bizarre. Then you realize it is a solid piece of wood and not made of veneers — it is this crazy object. And all of a sudden, it is a piece of art.”

On collaborating with David Alhadeff of The Future Perfect on a new lighting collection

“Our idea was to build a basic set of lighting that could fit anywhere: in a modern or a traditional house, an Arts and Crafts house, a beach house, an apartment.” The inspiration? Cherry blossoms and bicycles.

On working on stores for fashion designer Rachel Comey

“The idea was to make a more masculine, brutal space that would hold beautiful clothes for strong women.” How did he do it? Rough surfaces versus soft things. “It was all mixed together to be a little jarring and it’s kind of what she does with her clothes. I’m a huge fan.”