Monday, April 27, 2009

Georgian on My Mind!

Barbara and I planned to visit the 2009 San Francisco Decorator’s Showcase as we always do. For designers, this is our “Super bowl” as it were, and is always a must! This year would be a little different. We had done the walk-through in January to see the house, and find out if there was a space that inspired us into action. Sadly, we decided this was not the year for us to participate, but couldn’t wait to see the ways that other designers had transformed the beautiful Georgian mansion which was built in 1910.

The official image for the San Francisco Decorator Showcase 2009. Illustration by Clay Seibert

This year instead of just visiting the house during touring hours, we decided that we would attend the Opening Night party. The event was absolutely beautiful, and I was amazed to see the house completely transformed. The first thing I noticed (and loved) was that there were more spaces with a clearly contemporary bent than most years. I was so happy to see an ultra modern kitchen in this Georgian jewel, which strikes me as a more European approach to design. I think overall this Showcase is one of the best (as a whole) that I can remember in recent history. I guess the economic climate had a positive effect in this particular instance.

A shot I took of the house opening day Saturday April 25, 2009

My plan when I went to the party was to snap loads of photos with my iPhone to use for a blog post, but I was so dazzled by the rooms, seeing friends, the food, and the lively atmosphere that it completely slipped my mind until I was on the sidewalk waiting for the valet to bring my car around.

We had planned to go again (yes again) the next day (Saturday), because Barbara’s cousin Wendy was coming to visit from England. Wendy is also a designer, so it was a must for her as well. Seeing the house in the morning with less people was quite a treat. I felt like I was able to pick up on loads of details that I didn’t see the night before. We were also able to talk to some of the designers that we had not previously met to get their insights on inspiration and the design process.

A vignette from "The Dweller's Lodge" by Darren Geise at Coup D'etat

I thought I would snap some pictures on my return, but it was made clear that photographs were not allowed. I did manage to snap a couple of shots in the lower level in a room done by Darren Geise of Coup D’etat entitled “Dweller’s Lodge” which was amazing in its content and execution. This was a tiny room with a grand personality. Rustic wood paneling (clearly custom made for the space) and beautiful (albeit masculine) furniture and paintings gave this room serious “wow” factor. The room even smelled amazing. Coup D’etat always seems to get it right!

A view into the room "A Dweller's Lodge" by Darren Geise at Coup D'etat

I am happy to report that the San Francisco design scene is alive and well and producing beautiful interiors. To all my design industry peers who participated….Well done!

This year’s San Francisco Decorator Showcase, which benefits University High School is at 2830 Pacific Avenue now through May 25th. Please visit:

David Hansen

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

As The World Turns!

On Saturday, March 28, 2009, I was invited to “Wine in the Dark”, a candlelit evening hosted by friends to celebrate Earth Hour 2009. As it was my “first time” I didn’t really know what to expect. I had heard a few things, but hadn’t taken the time to "Google" it before I arrived.

The invitation said 8 o’clock. I arrived and found the property dark, but soon caught sight of twinkling candles illuminating a mossy brick path leading me to “Fallen Oak Cellars”, an ivy-clad former Guesthouse that had been transformed into a glorious “Wine Room”, the namesake of the 400 year old Oak that had fallen the year before.

The garden was fully illuminated by hanging lanterns, votives and a blazing log fire, setting the stage for this evening of education and thoughtful conversation about Earth Hour and what that meant. Guests were handed “glow in the dark” necklaces, a glass of Cabernet, and a seat by the fire. We made ourselves comfortable and as the proverbial clock struck, there was a hush. This was a world event. It made me feel part of something bigger.
For those of you in the dark, I found the following about WWF online:

“…People of all ages, nationalities, race and background have an opportunity to cast their vote for Earth. WWF are urging the world to VOTE EARTH and reach the target of 1 billion votes by the time world leaders meet in Copenhagen for the Global Climate Change Conference in December 2009. This meeting will determine official government policies to take action against global warming, which will replace the Kyoto Protocol. It is the chance for the people of the world to make their voice heard.
Earth Hour began in Sydney in 2007, when 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for one hour. In 2008 the message had grown into a global sustainability movement, with 50 million people switching off their lights. Global landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Rome’s Coliseum, the Sydney Opera House and the Coca Cola billboard in Times Square all stood in darkness. In 2009, Earth Hour was taken to the next level, with the goal of 1 billion people casting their vote for Earth.”

Being avid “green people”, this was the perfect opportunity for my hosts Roxie and Garen to enlighten us (so to speak) about solar energy. They went into detail about how they have gone green in their home, installing solar panels and collecting rainwater. It was all very interesting, and even more so when they told us that their total electric bill for this rather large home was $175 for the YEAR! Makes you think about giving it a try, no?

The night went on well into the late hours with more logs on the fire, more wine, and more conversation. I had shared an evening with old friends, new friends, and a very bright little boy who held me captivated with his tales of daring do. I left that night with a sense of pride at being informed and at having taken part in a “world event”. This was definitely food for thought.
So now there’s an Earth Day AND an Earth Hour???

Bash me if you will, but forgive me please. Lightning has struck. I’m enlightened. I now realize that being a good “green citizen” means more than recycling, composting, and recycling rainwater. It means more than using green products on residential projects. I’m realizing that I’ve neglected my civic responsibility to volunteer, and that’s a very powerful word.

Years ago, I signed up with Friends of the Urban Forest, a local “beautification” project (shades of Andie MacDowell and Gérard Depardieu in the film Green Card) visualizing myself planting trees and flowers, making beautiful vegetable gardens for community sharing. Sad to say it’s been almost 2 years and nada, not a single event have I been able to attend. I’ve been so busy.

So here we come full circle. Firstly feeling absolutely shamed at my ignorance of Earth Hour and now I come to learn that there’s an Earth Day! Action is required here and I’ve decided that there may be one thing I could commit to - The California State Parks Foundation, a phenomenal group who can organize well meaning people like me with structured days and project sites where you can volunteer your time with others cleaning up the environment. Here’s a little bit about them…

Earth Day 2009
Restoration & Cleanup 
Saturday, April 25, 2009 –
Sponsored by California State Parks Foundation

"In 1998, the CSPF developed its Earth Day Restoration and Cleanup program to engage Californians of all ages and demographics in environmental improvement projects in their communities. It is also an opportunity to educate people about behaviors that will help sustain our planet for future generations. Statewide, thousands of volunteers plant trees, restore trails and wildlife habitat, and clean up beaches and parklands. Millions of others learn about simple things that can be done every day to protect our precious natural resources."

Wish me luck. This time next year I hope to have some very good things to look back on.

Barbara Ashfield

Monday, April 6, 2009

Mr. Smith Goes to San Francisco!

I am one of those people that qualify as an “Anglophile”. If it’s English, I love it! The Brits have an uncommon gift for mixing the new with the old and are able to take something quirky and make it serious business. One of the text book examples of this is the designer Paul Smith.

A fantastic vintage wing chair upholstered in a trademark Paul Smith fabric in the Men's suit area.

Since opening up his first shop in England in 1970, he has become a style icon and shows why Anglophilia is such a mainstay in popular culture. Mr. Smith’s style is the perfect balance of kooky and chic. His stores not only sell his trademark look clothes but new and vintage books, leather goods, luggage, vintage art, fragrance and accessories. Since the first time I visited one of his stores in Los Angeles, and then later in London I have been a huge fan. He treats his stores as a curated gallery featuring vintage finds such as watches, art and books from around the globe alongside his sportswear and accessories.

A collection of vintage art graces a wall in Men's accessories.

When I learned that he would be opening a store in San Francisco I was elated. I knew his style and approach to retailing would be a great match with San Francisco. The store officially opened on March 6th, but I didn’t make it there until yesterday. I snapped some pictures with my iPhone to show a few of the great features of the new store. That ingenious British style is hard at work in this latest incarnation of Mr. Smith’s vision.

I love how the heating and air conditioning ducts are done in copper!

The first aspect of this store (as with all of Paul Smith’s stores) is that it is a little off the beaten path. Instead of front and center in Union Square, it’s down Geary a block or two tucked away from the main shopping commotion. A great feature of the store is that it goes through the entire block, and has an entrance on Maiden Lane as well…very San Francisco! Along with the great mix of merchandise and hip design elements I was amazed by the selection of out of print and vintage design books (something I love!) combined with an equally fantastic selection of new and current books.

A tremendous collection of new and vintage design books...I'm sold!

If you’re looking for a great place to go clothes shopping with lots of style or you’re in the market for a great gift, the new Paul Smith store is worth the trip.

A terrific French style chair upholstered in trademark Paul Smith fabric in a fitting room.

Paul Smith is located at 50 Geary Street in San Francisco or visit:

David Hansen

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Pure Magic, Pure MÄDDERLAKE

Spring has sprung – and my first glimpse of that presented itself last week as I peered into the window at my favorite neighborhood flower shop in San Francisco. I was taken in by a window filled with grape hyacinth, ranunculus, daffodils the color of egg yolks, and, standing like soldiers against a myriad of color, magnificent branches of flowering Quince, a personal favorite.

Image from the book Flowers Rediscovered: New Ideas about Using and Enjoying Flowers

Seeing that window made me think of the once great Pure Mädderlake, (now since closed) a world-class, high-style New York City florist whose carefully wild aesthetic spread like wildfire among the city’s upper crust. It has been said that Pure Mädderlake single handedly changed the flora arena - where lavish was out and natural was in; where twigs, flowering branches, berries, roots and vegetables took center stage. They were also known for pairing flowers and plants with unusual containers like moss and lichen-covered pots, old wood crates and cans.
Image from the title page of Flowers Rediscovered: New Ideas about Using and Enjoying Flowers showing the Madderlake paint color tube.
The original shop opened in New York City’s Greenwich Village in the 1980s, it’s namesake a paint color. It was the brainchild of owners Tom Prichar, and Jay Belecki and together they pioneered what became known as the “American Natural” style in floral design, creating a Movement according to The New York Times. They taught us to change the way we see and buy flowers and, through example and through their books (Flowers Rediscoverd: New Ideas About Using & Enjoying Flowers, Pure Madderlake Trade Secrets & Natural Christmas), they encouraged us to refine our palettes and expand our minds in the floral arena. I can’t help but compare Pure Mädderlake’s “American Natural” Movement to Alice Waters’ Slow Food Movement. Though decades apart, both continue to teach us that pure, natural, unadorned nature is what’s best, and most beautiful, for us in mind, body and spirit.
Image from the book Flowers Rediscovered: New Ideas about Using and Enjoying Flowers

Image from the book Flowers Rediscovered: New Ideas about Using and Enjoying Flowers
These days, Prichard and Belecki reside in Tokyo and are teaching classes in flower arranging. Apparently they have quite a following… and I am sure they are still creating magic, Mädderlake style.

Barbara Ashfield