Kona  Coast Retreat

Kona Coast Retreat

Nicole Hollis

Nicole Hollis

Sleek Sophistication

Operating from a brilliant light filled atelier in the San Francisco design district, Nicole Hollis imbues her designs with the sleek sophistication of a knowing and seasoned practitioner. Whether gathering inspiration from the vineyards of the Napa valley or the tropical breezes of the Hawaiian islands, Nicole seamlessly blends the alchemy of site and design. I had the recent chance to catch up with Nicole in her brimming studio to discuss her tireless pursuit of inspired collaboration with her designers and clients and the inspiration she draws from her good fortune to live with her family in the former Pacific Heights home of Julia Morgan.






When did you know that interior design would be your creative path?

Nicole Hollis: I was 12 years old and visited friends’ houses in Palm Beach. These beautiful interiors inspired me and I knew from that moment that I wanted to create unique spaces for people to live in.

You came out of Howard Backen’s office to establish your own interior design firm. What did you learn while working with Howard?

NH: Howard can simplify the complex for any client with great charm. The flow of his residential spaces are inspiring and he is always thinking about the context of his architecture.

In the Napa Valley, seasoned locals say you have elevated the time honored Backen look. What do you love about working in the wine country?

NH: We continue to be inspired by Howard’s architecture and interpret the interiors through another lens. Wine country mixes awe-inspiring terrain with pioneering attitudes. Napa Valley continues to integrate old with new in every aspect. This makes it one of the most interesting places to design.

Your husband, Lewis Heathcote, is your business partner. What surprised you about him when you two developed a professional relationship?

NH: He and I have been working together for fifteen years so our working relationship has been evolutionary. My biggest surprise is how well we continue to bounce new ideas off each other.

What type of culture have you developed in your office?

NH: We focus on a culture of “we” not “I”, so it’s collaborative and supportive working environment with clients, architects, contractors, artists, and craftspeople.

Kona  Island Residence

Kona Island Residence

Who is you perfect client?

NH: We’ve had a lot of really great clients that can give us a sense of what they think they’d like and then grant us the time and space to elevate that concept into something they couldn’t have imagined.

Do you have a creative routine or process?

NH: I do and I don’t. My process is to keep breaking up the process so I can see everything from different angles and continue to be surprised.

You recently collaborated with Brooks Walker on a Tiburon home. What was your experience like working together?

NH: The house is beautiful and stands as a testament to working with Brooks and his team. He truly understands how to listen to clients, collaborate with other parties and that the best idea always wins.

You and your family are fortunate to live in Julia Morgan’s old home on Divisadero Street. Does her spirit inspire you?

NH: Yes I think about her a lot. I cannot begin to imagine the hurdles she had to overcome in the early 20th century as a woman in design. I think of her coming home and ruminating over her projects and how I sit in the same spot, inspired by her.

Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

NH: The natural world is of great inspiration to me. I’m also constantly drawn to fashion design.

Who are your design idols?

NH: Jil Sander, Alexander McQueen, Martin Margiela, and Ilse Crawford

Favorite weekend getaway?

NH: We were married in Big Sur and it continues to pull us in.

When were you the happiest?

NH: My two children honestly have excellent senses of humor so there isn’t a week that goes by that we’re not belly laughing with them. That’s hard to top.

The Buchanan Hotel  San Francisco

The Buchanan Hotel San Francisco


Many thanks to Nichole Hollis, Katherine Nelson, and Avery Carmassi for working with Joseph Lucier and I on this feature!


Vision of a Modern Skyline

In a forest of cranes punctuating our rapidly evolving skyline, the hand of Glenn Rescalvo of Handel Architects shines through. Rescalvo's signature Millennium Tower ushered in a new era of elegant high rise design in 2009 and set a high watermark for the building boom that was soon to come in San Francisco.  As a native San Franciscan, Glenn's knowledge and love of the city's diverse neighborhood culture gives developers the necessary viewpoint to build informed architecture that responds to and enhances the lives of the city's residents.  With projects in over fifteen neighborhoods including The Pacific at 2121 Webster, the new Millennium Partners tower at 706 Mission, and the boutique 240 Pacific located in the historic Jackson Square district, Glenn is charged with a diverse stewardship as his native environment takes new shape.  
Our time together with Glenn at Handel's Market Street offices reveals a man who has a deep love for his hometown of San Francisco, a dreamer's vision for shaping the city's modern skyline, and a grown up kid influenced by his father's passion for exposing him to great architecture at a young age.

CaenLucier: When did you know that you wanted to be an architect?



Glenn Rescalvo: I knew quite early in life that I loved design, especially the lines and shapes of cars like Porsches and Corvettes as well as the designs of modern objects coming out of Italy and Germany. I actually thought of going into industrial design at one point, but because my father was an architect, I was very exposed to building design and construction and it soon became part of my day-to-day life.  Where we traveled was usually chosen by the availability of great architecture.  At the age of seven my father took me to Brasilia to see Oscar Niemeyer's incredible work. It is something I will never forget.

CL: As a native San Franciscan, how do you feel your “home town” status reflects your approach as an architect during this historic boom?

GR: Being a native San Franciscan has its pluses and minuses. First of all, I'm very passionate about this city.  I love the topography, the climate, and the culture of what true San Francisco stands for. Yet many times I'm frustrated that we don't take better care of it and help it grow to become an even greater city. Having the opportunity to live in New York, I was able to witness how government and private interest can work together to create positive change. I don't see enough of that process in San Francisco and I really hope that we can improve upon it.

As an architect here, I always strive to help improve the level of architecture, but, just as importantly, I am passionate about improving the pedestrian realm. Creating great architecture is rewarding only if the project responds appropriately to its contextual place. Collectively as city, we need to improve on our streets, sidewalks and green spaces. New York City has done an amazing job of bettering its streets and providing green spaces throughout the city. I hope that, as we continue to grow, our goals will include improving the public realm through a mix of government and private development.


"Creating great architecture is rewarding only if the project responds appropriately to its contextual place"

CL: Is San Francisco’s skyline getting more interesting with the Transbay Terminal Authority specifically overseeing the design approval process as opposed to the SF Planning Department being involved?

GR: Absolutely!  The skyline has improved tremendously, yet it is critical that these selected authorities continue to maintain the level of integrity and respectfulness to the design profession as they have done so far. To this point, I truly miss the existence of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency which, in my personal opinion, was a tremendous tour de force allowing for great place making for creative architecture to occur.  The Yerba Buena Gardens districtis an excellent case in point.  Ten years from now, I believe the Transbay Terminal district will be another "jewel" of the city.

706 Mission  Completion 2019

706 Mission Completion 2019

CL: What scale of residential design are you most enjoying working on at the moment?

GR: It’s difficult to say. I really love designing tall buildings and the gesture they can make to a city's skyline and urban form. More recently, we have been involved on much smaller scale projects. They have been very rewarding and exciting to work on, primarily because of the scale and interplay of spaces and the involved detailing.

CL: When you dream of creating the perfect residential project where would it be, how would it look, and what materials would you use?

GR: Blessed with amazing topography, San Francisco offers so many great opportunities for creating beautiful architecture.  If given the choice of where to design a residential project, I would choose a site in Sea Cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Mt. Tamalpias, and Golden Gate Bridge.  It doesn't get any better than that!  The design would be contemporary with clean lines, but not cold or ultra-static. I would use a combination of natural materials ranging from a variety of woods, polished and raw concrete and vernacular stones. The design and material would embrace the landscape and the two would become one. Room locations, window placement, and outdoor spaces would all be established based on the movement of the sun and prevailing winds. Large overhangs with floor-to-ceiling glass space would also be key features.

The Pacific Pacific Heights

CL: Tell us about working with Trumark Urban on their new project, The Pacific at 2121 Webster

GR: This was our first project with Trumark. In this particular case, I would have to say that the stars were aligned. Both Trumark Urban and Handel Architects saw this development as a unique opportunity knowing it had to be executed extraordinarily well on all levels. One of the key factors to the success of this development was the fact that there would never be an opportunity to build anything this tall in Pacific Heights ever again. Not only was this an existing 9-story structure, it was structurally sound with a parking garage and 12' floor to floors offering with extraordinary views of the Golden Gate Bridge,  Mt. Tamalpias, and the Pacific Ocean.  With all of these factors, the process of team work and collaboration was quite seamless. Not only did the architecture need to be unique and refined, but, given the demographic and the quality one would expect to find in Pacific Heights, it was just as important that the interiors evoke a certain level of sophistication and elegance.  Trumark has been great to work with as they visualized the end product and never hesitated. They simply wanted to make this project better than anything on the market, which certainly made our job very rewarding.

"When we began designing 240 Pacific, we knew that we needed to be extremely sensitive and cognizant of the history and urban fabric of the district."

CL: Jackson Square is such a beloved historic district in the city.  What decisions did you make to integrate 240 Pacific into its L shaped lot and maintain a dialogue with the surrounding buildings?

GR: When we began designing 240 Pacific, we knew that we needed to be extremely sensitive and cognizant of the history and urban fabric of the district. We wanted our design to embrace the location's history and elevate the quality of the neighborhood by creating a design that was contemporary yet sophisticated and contextual.  Historically known as the Barbary Coast, this area of San Francisco was one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. The site sits on the northeast corner of Pacific and Battery where the Old Ship Saloon, dating back to 1851, anchors the corner. The Saloon became one of the key components to a variety of design decisions made for the project.  The use of masonry brick for the exterior facade relates the project to its neighbors.  We felt it was extremely important to maintain a level of continuity not only with the Old Ship Saloon at foreground of our project, but with most of the existing neighboring structures in the district. As we developed the design, we strategically proportioned the window openings and materials to resemble that of the surrounding environment.

240 Pacific Historic Jackson Square District

CL: Where do you like to spend time away from work?                                                       

GR: I either like to be in the mountains skiing or on the ocean. When I travel to other cities - as great as it is - my mind is always working, absorbing images and ideas, and I'm not really relaxing.  When I'm either in the mountains or on the ocean, I have more time to reflect and be inspired.

CL: Favorite restaurants? 

GR: Cotogna and Spruce.

CL: What are you reading now?  

GR: The White Eskimo by Stephen Brown and The Four Quartet by Joseph Ellis

CL: What would you be doing professionally if you were not an architect? 

GR: Early on I really wanted to be a veterinarian.  I love animals and always had a way with them. Maybe next time around!

CL: Blondes or Brunettes…?

GR: Diversity is the best way to live life, but final answer...brunettes


Building Upscale

Working with some of the best architects in the world, spending time creatively solving problems for clients and building a home from the ground up are just a few of the things that make a day at the office so fulfilling for Danny Bernardini of Upscale Construction.  As a native San Franciscan, Bernardini has been hooked on building since he was a child.  To this day, we see the child inside of him is still very much alive with his infectious curiosity, good will and an inherent ability to keep the creative process of home building a win-win process for all involved.  CaenLucier had a moment to catch up with Danny between appointments at a favorite watering hole near his Union Street offices.

Danny Bernardini, Tony Kelly  and  Brad Hayes

Danny Bernardini, Tony Kelly and Brad Hayes

CaenLucier: What was it that led you to becoming a general contractor in San Francisco?  How and when was Upscale Construction formed?

Danny Bernardini: I loved building as a child.  When my father hired a contractor to do any work around the house, I sat there and looked and tried to help anywhere I could.  As I grew older, I wanted to get into development, so I worked for a general contractor in Marin, then got my license and started Upscale Construction in 1995.  I saved enough money to start doing some home flipping, but then got my first break on high end home remodeling via a VC who saw one of the homes I flipped.  Soon after that, the word got out and Upscale Construction grew to where we are today based on client/architect/ real estate agent references.

CL: The city is a competitive market for high-end building firms.  What sets Upscale apart for the competition?

DB: I truly believe our core values set us apart.  We try to instill in our team what got us to where we are today, which is a company based on mutual respect, creativity, and customer service.

Mutual Respect Treat all members on the project team, whether it is the laborer, sub-contractor, project manager, client, or architect with the mutual respect you would want.  You want everyone on site and involved in the project to have a positive attitude towards working in the client's best interest.  If everyone is well respected, you will get that positive attitude reflected in their work.

Creativity – Custom building comes with challenges behind every door.  We found that our creativity to problem solving was one of the reasons many of our clients liked working with us.  We empower our team to think out of the box to solve problems and to be proactive in doing so.  No idea is a dumb one.

Customer Service – The design/build industry is based on customer service.  After all, we are building the homes people quite often live in for the balance of their lives.  Without customer service, you can’t gain a complete understanding of what the client wants out of their home.  If you don’t understand that facet, how can you really build their dream home?

CL: What is your favorite part of the design/build process?

DB: I personally love seeing what gets accomplished on the site.  When I was a laborer/carpenter, and even now, I found myself losing what we call “valuable time” at the end of the day walking through the job site looking at what got accomplished.  There is nothing better than knowing you built something from scratch! This is why I don’t see this time as time lost.  I actually value this time.  On that note, I miss swinging the hammer, so I do a lot of that at my own home.  I am enjoying teaching my son to do so!




"Treat all members on the project team, whether it is a laborer Sub-contractor, PM, Client, Architect with the mutual respect you would want.  You want everyone on the site and involved in the project to have a positive attitude and want to work in the client best interest.  If everyone is well respected, you will get that positive attitude reflected in their work."

Pierce Street  Pacific Heights

Pierce Street Pacific Heights

CL: What are the challenges that are presented when working with an existing home in town?

DB: One of the bigger challenges is trying to keep the neighbors happy.  Let’s face it, there is construction occurring on every other house these days.  The neighbors are constantly faced with double parked cars, noise, debris, etc. We try to make it as easy as possible on the neighborhood and we try to set up a relationship with the neighbors so they know they can come to us with any issues.  We have heard some people say "at least Upscale Construction will be the builder."  If a neighbor has to deal with a job site, most feel at ease knowing it is us managing the construction.

Another big challenge is communication.  I feel we are great builders, but to be honest, I think there are a ton of great builders.  I believe our communication style reduces the challenge of the actual build out for the clients and architects we work with.

CL: Are there any particular architects that your enjoy working with?

DB: We are really blessed in San Francisco to have some of the best architects in the world!  I enjoy working most with architects that are good collaborators and involve us in the early budgeting phase. Just take a look at our signs around town and you will see many of the talented architects with whom we work.

CL: With San Francisco as a tech hub, what new technology has come into play in your profession?

DB: Home automation is more and more prevalent in the homes we are building.  Savant home control systems seem to be one of the more popular choices out there.  Also, 90% of the homes are installing radiant heat throughout.  The day of the forced air systems seems to be going away. 

CL: What would your dream project look like?

DB: Something with a Bat Cave, unlimited budget, unlimited schedule, pleasant neighbors, and at a site with unlimited parking...wouldn’t that be nice!  We recently completed a Mid-Century home in Sea Cliff where the design was true to the original design, but modernized for how peole live today.  The client happened to be the architect.  For him to build his dream home in the vernacular I most enjoy was a treat!!

CL: How would you advise people looking to do a large scale renovation or “ground up” project to best interview builders?

DB: Interview your general contractors to best understand how they work.  Be collaborative with them and the design team to achieve your budget.  Share your budget.  Share your goals.   If you can find the team that is your advocate (team being the right architect, engineers, and general contractor) then you have made a great start.  I would not put several general contractors up against each other. There is a fallacy that people think they will get the best price by doing this.  The problem there is you have too many sub contractors bidding on the project and the sub selection might be based on price only versus right fit.  The subs will also only give so much effort to bidding it and they will miss scope.  They have little motivation to bid it if they know they have little odds of getting the job.  I could go on and on, but it is key to find the team members you truly believe have got your back, then make sure they are capable of the build, capable of managing the build, and capable of open, effective communication and transparency.

"Find the team members you truly believe have got your back, then make sure they are capable of the build, capable of managing the build, and capable of open, effective communication and transparency."

CL: What are the common mistakes that clients make during the construction part of a new home?

DB: They change their minds too much!! I am not sure about the exact psychology behind it all, but it seems a lot of client’s want something but hold back until construction starts to add it.  For example, we do a lot of pre-construction analysis with clients and commonly the "off the cuff" cost is too high.  So we then work with the design team and client to cut the cost to something they are happy with.  Then we start...mid-stream they add most of the items we discussed (and cut) back into the project.  The big problem then becomes the changes cost more than originally budgeted.  There is a sequence we try to keep in construction.  Disrupting it costs time and time is money.   I understand there are many variables in making decisions, but if a client knows for sure that they are going to do something tell us early so we can do it for the best price and in the proper sequence.

CL: What architectural style do you most gravitate towards?

DB: Contemporary and Mid-Century Modern.

CL: What would you do if not building San Francisco’s finest residences?

DB: I would sell produce.  It was my first job on Union Street as a kid and I loved it!

CL: What is your favorite SF restaurant?

DB: Tony’s Pizza in North Beach.  I grew up hanging out in North Beach and I love pizza!!

CL: What do you like to do in your time off? 

DB: I enjoy working on construction projects around my house, golf (which I never have time to do), and tennis with my family.  Most of all, I love spending time with my wife and kids.  I am a workaholic so the time I do spend with them is precious.

Wine Country  Healdsburg

Wine Country Healdsburg

Vallejo Street  Cow Hollow

Vallejo Street Cow Hollow

Elizabeth Street  Noe Valley

Elizabeth Street Noe Valley

CaenLucier would like to thank Danny Bernardini for all his time and effort participating in LOFTY HEIGHTS!


Walls of Art

Dating back from the Caves of Lascaux and the fresco adorned ancient city of Pompeii to the more refined skills that ancient artisans employed using lacquer finishing and verre églomisé, decorative painting and finishing reflects the history that cultures had for story telling and beauty.  Willem Racke of Willem Racke Studios offers clients an opportunity to enter his world of time honored artistry to grace their homes with his fresh vision on traditional techniques. Sitting down recently with Racke at his production studio in the Inner Mission shed light on the creative talents of this master craftsman.

CaenLucier: How did you come to the profession of decorative painting?

Willem Racke: I fell into decorative painting. I decided to take a break from college in New Zealand to travel to the US and Europe for a 1 to 2 year trip. I lived in San Francisco for six months then went to New York with the idea of living there for a while, then moving on to Europe. I had a friend in San Francisco and she put me in contact with a friend of hers who lives in New York that happened to be a decorative painter who needed an assistant. I loved the work and was crazy about the art scene in NYC. That six months lasted over 3 years. I returned to San Francisco, started my studio and haven’t looked back.

CL: If you could indulge yourself at home with your craft, which room and what type of treatment would draw your creative talents?

WR: I have bought, renovated and lived in several homes over the last few years, integrating decorative finishing into every one of them. The building where I live now is an industrial building in South of Market, which I renovated into a sophisticated urban loft. The style is very contemporary and I've used decorative finishes throughout, subtle Venetian plasters, custom finished wood paneling, industrial metal finishes. I’m currently working on a mural for my powder room; it’s going to be silhouettes of trees in black-and-white. In my next house I would love to have a paneled library finished in eggplant color lacquer.

CL: Looking back in history what examples of different cultures informing each other have been brought to your modern day craft?

WR: I think people need to be reminded that decorative painting is the first form of art, man painted the walls of caves long before any of the fine arts as we define them existed. Decorative plaster, frescos and painting techniques all date back to Roman times and probably were established well before that. Many historic cultures were reflected in how they painted and finished their residences and temples, Venetian plaster is written about in Vitruvius's De Architectura, a 1st Century B.C. history of Rome. So nothing is really new, it’s all about a fresh vision for traditional techniques that suits the aesthetics of today.

Lacquer finishing, as another example, is enjoying a revival today. The techniques for creating great lacquer are the same as the ones used in ancient China, we have modern tools and equipment to apply the materials but the hand sanding and buffing are all essential to a true lacquer finish.

CL: What are a couple of centuries old techniques that you enjoy employing in today’s interiors?

WR: I like subtle, tonal Venetian Plaster, it really elevates a neutral palette, we do a special Strata finish that goes from dark to light in a way that complements the interior furnishings.  I really like Verre églomisé, a reverse glass painting technique that gives an effect that you can’t duplicate in any other way, it plays with the light in a room.

Willem Racke

Willem Racke



"I think people need to be reminded that decorative painting is the first form of art, man painted the walls of caves long before any of the fine arts as we define them existed. Decorative plaster, frescos and painting techniques all date back to Roman times and probably were established well before that."

Tortoise shell  powder room

Tortoise shell powder room

CL: What would the powder room of your dreams look like?

WR: I have always contended that if you are going to go wild, do it in the powder room. I have done many extravagant powder rooms. We did an all tortoise shell powder room in a Nob Hill a pied a terre, walls and ceiling and cabinetry that is just over the top. Recently, I completed a verre églomise powder room inspired by the post impressionist jungle paintings of Henri Rousseau, it was quite a feat of art and engineering to create and install but it’s spectacular. Another over the top powder room was for a young, hip couple. We did the floors walls and ceiling in op art themed polka dots that oscillate for a bit of a mind-bending experience. If you aren’t a bit stoned when you walk in you certainly will be when you walk out.

CL: Have you seen any decorative finish in your international travels that you have developed to make your own?

WR: The Tsarskoye Selo museum in the Catherine palace in Saint Petersburg is one of the highest examples of decorative finishing in the world. Every surface is decoratively painted or gilded or treated in some way. I was really impressed by the elaborate inlaid wood floors and I developed techniques to translate that look into stenciled and stained designs for wood floors.

CL: Have you seen over the years your part of interior design work go through particular fads?  If so what?

WR: When I first started finishing in the 80’s the look was Memphis, lots of pastel blues, purples and greens. There was a lot of sea sponging wall finishes and faux marble was usually over the top. Now finishes are more refined and subtle, I mean we still do faux marble, we participated in the restoration of the Salon Doré at the Legion of Honor where we faux marbled the trim to match the real stone.

CL: Do you have a particular finish application that is near and dear to your heart?

WR: I am really liking verre églomisé these days, it’s a vintage French technique of reverse painting on glass that has a lot of visual impact when it’s done well. The jungle inspired verre églomisé powder room is a memorable room. I also love tortoise shell finishes, they can be so dramatic in the right setting.

Painted Beams  at the Park Lane

Painted Beams at the Park Lane

CL: Looking back on your career, what was one of the most challenging projects you were commissioned?

WR: We did a Venetian plaster mural for Cushman Wakefield’s downtown headquarters that were designed by Gensler. The mural is a “snails eye” view of an office tower done in monochromatic tones of plaster and then incised to create a bas-relief. The geometry of the extreme perspective in different tones combined with the thousands of facets were a real challenge to execute but the final result was worth the effort.

CL: How do you find yourself most often brought into a interior design project?

WR: My projects are commissioned mostly through designers, architects and contractors, I also work directly with clients. I have worked to develop ongoing long term relationships with all my clients who rely on me for my knowledge, experience and sense of aesthetics.

CL: Any particular designers that you enjoy working with/understand how best to implement your skills into a project?

WR: I have had the opportunity to work with many of the best designers on incredible projects. I have worked with Jay Jeffers on many of his projects, his work is elegant and beautiful. I enjoy working with Kelly Hohla, she is a rising creative talent with a unique point of view. I love working with Darin Geise of Coup D’etat, he is a unique force in the world of bay area design, we have done wall finishes for the showroom as well as window displays. I have done projects with Peter Marino, an amazing architect and designer.  

Stained and  stenciled floor

Stained and stenciled floor

Tortoise shell  chest of drawers

Tortoise shell chest of drawers

Op Art  Powder Room

Op Art Powder Room

CL: What is your idea of a perfect client?

WR: The perfect client is someone who I resonate with on an aesthetic level. I like working with designers and clients who understand and respect the art and craft that goes into finishing. I have a lot of experience and expertise in the field and it’s always great to be able to work with clients and designers who know, for example, that I have an extensive reference library for research that centers on decorative arts, both historical and modern to resource from. I can do my best work when the designer or client gives me some free rein and likes to collaborate.

"It’s a big project with great design and finishes; we have been working for six months producing samples and concepts."

CL: What is your favorite project that you are working on currently?

WR: We are working on a project in Hillsborough with Kelly Hohla, interior designer and Richard Beard, architect. It’s a big project with great design and finishes; we have been working for six months producing samples and concepts. In one of the rooms, we are doing lacquer finish inspired by the 2015 San Francisco Decorator Showcase room I designed that has a muted, polychromatic palette and high gloss finish. We’re also doing a dark turquoise lacquer pantry. Subtle Venetian plaster finishes and custom wood graining and finishing are part of the plans.

CL: What are you reading at the moment?

WR: I’m reading The White Road: Journey into an Obsession by Edmund de Waal. The author is a ceramicist who specializes in porcelain. The story is about his travels to the “white Hills” of the world and tracing the roots of porcelain and how it became the refined art and collected thing it is today. The book was given to me by Ron Schwartz, my first client and now friend, who is a collector of fine porcelains. It’s really given me a respect for the art and it’s significance in history.

CL: If you could choose another career what would it be?

WR: I would be an architect. That was my original plan. I wanted to travel for a year or two then return to New Zealand to study architecture. Obviously, my life went in another direction. I am really happy though that my chosen career enables me to be a part of the world great architecture and design.

CaenLucier would like to thank Willem Racke for all his time and amazing energy!


Paul Wiseman

Paul Wiseman

"The internet generation thinks that quality and appropriateness come with the push of a button. What we do is a process, not a product."

Entering the home of The Wiseman Group along the northern slope of Potrero Hill is to be transported into a world of serene order and beauty punctuated by the ever warm greeting from the bespectacled master of ceremonies himself, Paul Wiseman. Before we sat down in the firm's project clad conference room, Wiseman indulged us in a tour of the firm's extensive design studios. During the past 30 years, Paul has become one of the most successful and respected interior designers in America. Architectural Digest’s special edition, “100 years of Design,” mentions Paul as one of the top designers. He has been widely published and over a 16 year period has been listed on the A.D. Best Designers list. Our look behind the TWG curtain tells a story of unrelenting precision and passion where the alchemy of Paul Wiseman and his creations live.

CaenLucier: What do you consider "good" design?

Paul Wiseman: Anything that is appropriate for its location, climate and use. Attention to detail and well considered options result in design decisions of the highest caliber.

CL: How has your constant curiosity as a person kept your work evolving and fresh?

PW: I am always curious and there are only two guarantees in life – death and change, so I might as well be curious about change.

CL: How do you see your client’s process today in relation to the way clients and the process worked as you came to prominence years ago?

PW: I think the internet has been a great benefit and also a great hindrance to our industry. The internet generation thinks that quality and appropriateness come with the push of a button. What we do is a process, not a product.





CL: You are currently working with Richard Beard on a Joseph Esherick home in Hillsborough. How has your experience working with Richard on past projects and this current project been unique, surprising and professionally enhancing?

 PW: Working with Richard has been professionally enhancing due to the fact that we are both well-traveled, with our focus based upon the love of architectural history and cultural references. This also enriches our relationship with clients by offering our special and unique talents within the design process. Working with a great client and a talented architect like Richard reinforces my belief in the collective creative process.  It’s a wonderful synergy! We also share a wicked sense humor.

Pacific Heights Collaboration: Paul Wiseman and Richard Beard Architects

Please view the before and after photograph slide show below!

CL: How have your travels trained your eye?

PW: I was very fortunate to have lived abroad twice in Australia and France and have the opportunity to have extended travels around the world before cultures became more homogenized. Combined with my general curiosity, it allowed me to have a very deep dictionary of cultural cross references.

CL: Have you ever traveled with a client for collective inspiration for a project?

PW: I have numerous times over the years.  In one instance even before the house was built, I went on a buying trip to London with our client. We really bonded around discovering four 18th century chimney pieces that set the tone for the entire design of the home. The soft limestone-not marble-suggested a relaxed palette for the décor.  We were so lucky to find them; I have never seen that quality since.

CL: Working with a variety of clients’ personal aesthetics and different property locations, is there a Wiseman touch that is a common thread throughout these homes.

PW: Every client is different. What I hope to achieve with every project is to get the client to connect to the architecture and location based upon their own personal preferences. Good taste comes in many forms and it is my job to be the guide.

Hillsborough Living Room

CL: You lived in a very formal residence on Nob Hill prior to your current residence on Belvedere Island. How have each of these residences been a reflection of the same person?

PW: The city apartment formally provided a great backdrop for that part of my life that was much more social. In order to maintain my creativity, the older I get the more I must have sacred space to rejuvenate that creativity. Belvedere provides a perfect venue – I can garden and cook and still entertain, but at a much more relaxed pace.

CL: What is your favorite color and why?

 PW: Most shades of yellow and green, because they remind me of nature.

"We have had clients that became serious students of the architectural styles and design motifs we chose for their home.  Armed with the knowledge and possessing great creativity, they put their stamp on the project and made it their own."

CL: How would you describe your "dream client?"

PW: Intelligent, curious, kind and respectful. We have had clients that became serious students of the architectural styles and design motifs we chose for their home.  Armed with the knowledge and possessing great creativity, they put their stamp on the project and made it their own.

CL: What is your favorite project that your firm is working on at the moment?

PW: All of my projects are favorites, but the most unusual is the Frank Gehry house that we are currently working on. It is Frank’s first residence in 25 years and his first residence in Northern California. 

CaenLucier would like to thank Paul Wiseman for all his time and amazing energy! We would also like to thank Layne Varholdt and Kevin Peters of TWG for their organization in helping us produce this feature!



"Every site tells you something different, and siting and locating a new house is a real art.  After many years, I’m happy with my record."

When meeting Richard Beard for the first time one perceives a sense of calm and good humor.  Recently visiting his new Dogpatch offices, it is clear why, as we peruse high-caliber past projects and current visions underway that cast light on a creative talent at the top of his game.  With his substantial body of work, Beard shows his understanding of the ability of truly listening, deftly assessing a site, and creating an interactive approach with his discerning clientele which engages and always inspires.  After working at BAR Architects and heading up their residential design department, Beard decided to open up his own shop, Richard Beard Architects, in 2014 to create a smaller studio environment specifically focused on residential design.  We found him in good spirits over lunch as he shared some personal insights on architecture and beyond.

CaenLucier: When did you first realize that you wanted to dedicate your career to architecture?

Richard Beard: That’s easy:  I was a teenager, working for a bricklayer in Houston, under the hot Texas summer sun.  It was a very Ayn Rand / Fountainhead moment.  Think about when Gary Cooper is looking up out of the stone quarry at Patricia Neal, and you’ve pretty much got it.

CL: After working at BAR Architects as a senior partner for many years and heading up the custom home residential design group, how are you now enjoying having your own firm?

RB: I’m enjoying it a lot.  I’m happy to have been a part of BAR’s growth and success over the years—they’re up to about 85 people now I believe—but it was time for me to take a new tack and move on to a smaller studio of architects primarily focused on residential design.  The size is great, as is my staff, and I’m most happy that we have a roster of great clients and projects. 

Soda Canyon, napa valley  collaboration with paul wiseman

Soda Canyon, napa valley collaboration with paul wiseman

Burwell House  Sonoma County

Burwell House Sonoma County

CL: What architecture around the world inspires you?

RB: Wow.  That’s a big one.  I’ve been fortunate to have traveled quite a bit for work and pleasure.  It’s not always just the architecture, but how the community of design and culture develops with it.  From my own home state, Texas, there is Marfa, and all of Donald Judd’s work.  Completely amazing.   Visit his former studio in New York (soho) sometime, too.  And Renzo Piano’s Menil collection—one of the most beautiful yet understated museums in the world.  The Kimball in Fort Worth.  These were all early inspirations. Houston when I was growing up was a big boom town and still is to a degree.  Gerald Hines was bringing in great architects for commercial projects—it was inspiring.

The Menil  Collection

The Menil Collection

But further afield, have you been to the Amalfi Coast and Naples?  While it’s full of tourists much of the time, there are amazing places there that really impress on quite human scales and emotions:  in Naples, the Certosa for instance.  Sublime.  And on the coast, the San Pietro Hotel, sitting on an unbelievably steep bluff, not entirely “designed” but more accrued over the years, is really great.  And then there’s Ravello, the Villa Cimbrone and gardens.  No wonder Gore Vidal lived nearby for so long.

Villa Cimbrone  and Gardens

Villa Cimbrone and Gardens

I’m also a big fan of Japan.  In particular there’s a wonderful island, Naoshima, in the Seto Sea, that is magical in many ways.  Art installations and Tadao Ando’s architecture really amaze you, and the juxtaposition with the little fishing village’s indigenous architecture makes for quite a place.  I’m glad it’s so hard to get to, otherwise it’d be over-run.

CL: That’s interesting that you mentioned Japan.  I notice that you’ve had some multi-family projects over a long time in Japan.  How is working over there, versus here, for instance?

RB: Well, there’s quite a difference.  My client in Japan values quality, design and operations to an amazingly high degree.  For over twenty years I’ve been working for them, with the exact same team of interior and landscape designers.  They’re an inspirational group, challenging and rewarding.  Japanese contractors are amazing.  I was visiting a recent project under construction—I couldn’t believe how clean everything was.  On each floor are two rolling carts that contain fire extinguishers and five or six brooms.  That should tell you something.  The workers practice group supporting drills every day.

Pacific Heights  Paul Weisman  and  Richard Beard  Collaboration

Pacific Heights Paul Weisman and Richard Beard Collaboration

To view the before and after photos of this amazing residence- Click Here

CL: This all sounds pretty great; what would you like to do if you were not an architect? 

RB: Hah!  Concert pianist, but I’m a terrible player.  Ditto tennis.  Rock star?  But then Paul said I’d look like Keith Richards.  Writer was and is always an attraction, both fiction and non-fiction.

CL: What are your reading now?

RB: Apart from keeping up with the ever challenging stack of New Yorkers, I’m currently re-reading some of Truman Capote’s early essays, profiles and observations.   He was a great writer back then.  Also Haruki Murakami, “After Dark.”   And “Rendez-vous with Art” by Philippe de Montebello.

CL: What is your favorite project that you have completed recently?

RB: I think the Cole House project in Calistoga is a favorite.  It’s a historic farmhouse (late 19th century) complex we’ve completely re-done, while keeping all the historic exterior historic pieces in tact.  Great clients.  And the project includes a historic, commercial chicken coop.  Try that one.!

Cole House  Calistoga

Cole House Calistoga

Abalone Cove  Big Sur

Abalone Cove Big Sur

Santa Lucia Preserve  California

Santa Lucia Preserve California

ICAA Julia Morgan Award Winning Residence 2014  Dolores Heights, San Francisco

ICAA Julia Morgan Award Winning Residence 2014 Dolores Heights, San Francisco


It's a sunny afternoon along the docks of Sausalito's warehouse district.  Greeted with a wry smile and a wave of the hand, we are welcomed into W.E.T. Studios and the home of George Mead, one of the San Francisco Bay Area's most talented and prolific commercial/fine artists.  His loft is magical, as Mead's life and creations intermingle and punctuate the sophisticated, voluminous realm of this creative giant.  His warmth of spirit and sense of an endless search for beauty are seen in his various series of works that surround shelves of paint, cans of brushes, and his drafting table with continuous work under progress.  Most notably for San Franciscans, George's hand painted album covers graced the perimeter of Tower Records at the foot of Columbus Avenue for decades, as did his large scale back drops for the largest rock and roll tours from the Rolling Stones to the Grateful Dead, from Elton John to Billy Joel, Justin Timberlake and beyond.  For more on his work please visit

"Knowing the necessary and unexpected changes in life, in my thought, there is no choice but to embrace change on many levels. I have embraced and used the technological changes in my art with the necessary integration."

Proust Questionnaire

What is your idea of perfect happiness? Moments spent without the past or future nagging at me.

What is your greatest fear? Living in the past and/or future.

Which historical figure do you most identify with? Batman.

Which living person do you most admire? Obama.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?  Forgetting everyone’s name, including my own some nights.

What is the trait that you most deplore in others? A lack of compassion.

What is your greatest extravagance? Spending time answering these questions.

What is your favorite journey? The next one.

What do you consider the most over-rated virtue? Patience.

On what occasion do you lie? Unfortunately, never, but this has a cost as well.

What do you dislike most about your appearance? I don’t go there.

Which living person do you most despise? I don’t go there either.

What or who is the greatest love of your life? The next one.

Which talent would you most like to have? Being able to sell my work.

What is your current state of mind? Slightly annoyed at dealing with this questionnaire.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Not having to think about ridiculous and impossible scenarios.

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be? Not having to think about ridiculous and impossible scenarios.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?  Still being alive.

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what do you think it would be? Someone not having to think about ridiculous and impossible scenarios.

What is your most treasured possession? My life.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? My life.

Where would you like to live? I would like to live in the present.

What is your favorite occupation? Reflecting on a number of seemingly substantial albeit self imposed spiritual and moral dilemmas with my painting.

What is the quality that you most like in a man? Compassion.

What is the quality that you most like in a woman? Forgiveness.

What do you most value in your friends? The lack of regard for social graces.

Who are your favorite writers? Pablo Neruda, Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Who are your favorite painters? I will take the path of opening the window a bit wider with answering the question, “Who are your favorite artists?” At present too many to list, but please note; Al Weiwei is near the top.

What is it that you most dislike? Greed and the current political morality which is governed by such.

How would you like to die? Peacefully.

What is your motto? I have two......

“Beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and devil are fighting there, and the battlefield is the heart of man.” Fyodor Dostoevsky
“Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”. Horace Mann

CaenLucier thanks George Mead for taking the time to share with our readers!

Click the image to see more of George Mead's collection of work.






"We want our clients to see as many artists as possible to help them hone their tastes and feel confident about their choices."

San Francisco art consultants, Stephanie Breitbard and Evie Simon, were glowing on a recent holiday evening. And why not, they had assembled some of the Bay Area's most astute collectors for the opening reception of their new Jackson Square art salon, Simon Breitbard Fine Arts.  The firm was originally established in 2007 by Stephanie Breitbard out of her private residence in Marin County.  This newfound synergy of "city and suburb" will certainly benefit their clients experience and strengthen their cosmopolitan viewpoint as art consultants and not, simply, gallery owners.  CaenLucier recently talked shop with them as they springboard into this exciting time and revitalize the location that once housed the city's famed Ernie's Restaurant.

CaenLucier: Tell us about SBFA and your firm's portfolio of services?
Stephanie Breitbard: SBFA blends traditional gallery-artist representation with in-home art consulting. We offer a personalized approach to the acquisition of fine art. By providing visits to clients' homes we are able to offer a holistic and individualized approach to the process of buying art. We offer photoshop mock-ups as a way to visualize artwork in the home environment, allow clients to consider work in their home for a period of time before purchasing, and provide/coordinate delivery and installation.
CL: What can guests expect when they visit the gallery? 
Evie Simon: SBFA’s appointment only gallery space offers an intimate setting in which to explore the gallery’s selection of paintings, sculpture, photography, and mixed media works. We always have a rotating group show so that every time clients come in there is something new to see. We have examples of work from over 100 artists and digital images of available works in artists' studios. We want our clients to see as many artists as possible to help them hone their tastes and feel confident about their choices.
CL: Art is such a personal purchase. How do you help your clients feel comfortable in their selection?
SB: We pride ourselves on our accessibility and individual approach. We meet our clients wherever they are in their acquisition journey, from the new to more seasoned collectors. Because we offer a rotating group show instead of single artist shows, our clients are able to see work from several artists at once. This helps them make informed decisions based on seeing a diverse array of artwork. We also allow clients to spend time with work in their homes before committing to purchase, and because we have spent time in clients' homes and understand how they live and interact with their environment, we are able to offer sincere and valuable advice about specific works and placement. Acquiring art should be fun and rewarding, not stressful.
SBFA  843 Montgomery Street

SBFA 843 Montgomery Street

CL: The space is beautiful! How did you find it, and how did you know it was right for you?
ES: Thank you! It had amazing architectural detail already and that was important to us. Our focus is really on LIVING with art so we needed that to be reflected in our gallery space. Being in the Jackson Square neighborhood with residential and design-focused neighbors really felt like the perfect fit for us. This neighborhood has so much soul and history and is also surrounded by some delicious restaurants - we can even walk to SFMOMA so are excited for that to open back up this spring! We are able to express ourselves authentically in this space and show our unique approach to acquiring artwork.
CL: The space is more of a “home” than a gallery. How did you achieve this look?
ES: That is exactly what we were going for. This was a collaborative effort between us, Elizabeth Cooper Interior Design and Sutro Architects.  Together, we created a unique gallery experience, layering an eclectic mix of vintage and custom furniture, light fixtures, and home accessories sourced from local and international sources to craft a beautiful yet comfortable space to display artwork. We wanted people to feel as comfortable lingering over lunch or a cup of tea in our space as coming to look at art.
SBFA  beautiful reception  to allow clients to feel at home

SBFA beautiful reception to allow clients to feel at home

CL: The SF art scene is really evolving right now. Why do you love being a part of it?
ES: It is an exciting time to be involved in the art world here in the Bay Area with SFMOMA re-opening, the Minnesota Street Project getting off the ground this spring and a vibrant community of artists and collectors in close proximity. We have close relationships with our artists and love to see this kind of momentum in the Arts. All of us at SBFA invest heavily with time and energy at Bay Area arts organizations and find that very gratifying. The Bay Area is full of innovation and pushing boundaries. We feel very at home here with our approach. 
CL: What’s next for SBFA?
SB: The gallery is the new thing this year! Even with new opportunities we really try and stick to our roots of finding new talented and unique artists for our clients. We are constantly in artists studios and attend  fairs in order to find new artists to add to our stable. We pride ourselves on having new artists expressing fresh ideas so that anytime a client comes to see us they can see something new and different from their last visit. We plan on attending more international art fairs in the next year so that we can continue to be inspired by new trends in the art world.

Stephanie Breitbard Fine Arts private gallery is located in San Francisco’s historic Jackson Square neighborhood. Located at 843 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA 94133

Benjamin Anderson , "Fanta", 10.5"x12", oil on linen

Benjamin Anderson, "Fanta", 10.5"x12", oil on linen

Jeanne Vadeboncoeur,  "Weapons of Mass Disruption", 52"x72", oil on panel

Jeanne Vadeboncoeur, "Weapons of Mass Disruption", 52"x72", oil on panel

Pamela Stretton , "Selfie", 48"x48", reconstructed inkjet print on foam

Pamela Stretton, "Selfie", 48"x48", reconstructed inkjet print on foam

Linda Raynsford , "Antique Tool Box Spheres", 6-20" round, reclaimed steel

Linda Raynsford, "Antique Tool Box Spheres", 6-20" round, reclaimed steel

Catherine Mackey , "Horizontals No 2", 48"x60", mixed media on panel

Catherine Mackey, "Horizontals No 2", 48"x60", mixed media on panel

Paul Norwood , "Autumn on the Bay", 60"x60", oil on canvas

Paul Norwood, "Autumn on the Bay", 60"x60", oil on canvas


Lewis Butler of BUTLER ARMSDEN ARCHITECTS discusses modern living in traditional exteriors, the importance of honesty with clients and his wife's novel, Dream House.

Lewis Butler

"I’m very honest and up front with my clients from the first conversation on. When you are honest with a client early on in your relationship, it stands out. Most likely no one else has bothered to tell them the truth."

Portola Valley  Courtyard House

Portola Valley Courtyard House

"Our most exciting developer project is 115 Telegraph Hill, which is four houses on the last large empty lot on Telegraph Hill.  Despite the fierce opposition that fought us for three years, we gained project approval and are going forward. " 

Lush with sensory detail and emotional complexity,   Dream House   is about family, home, and an architect’s journey to understand the crippling hold one house has on her.

Lush with sensory detail and emotional complexity, Dream House is about family, home, and an architect’s journey to understand the crippling hold one house has on her.

CaenLucier: How has being a professional architect enhanced your life?
Lewis Butler: I like being an architect, and I’m going to do it for a lot longer.  It’s a worn out expression perhaps, but no two days are the same and almost all of them are fun and entertaining.  There are tougher weeks when we have lots of opposition to our projects and have to attend hearings, especially when they run after work hours.  I like my clients, I like my employees, and I like most of the others that help us do what we do professionally.  A great benefit to what I do is the intellectual dialogue that often accompanies the process.  I end up in great conversations on various topics, and sometimes these conversations sail into uncharted areas.  Just yesterday, a client and I were recounting the great Orson Wells movies both famous and lesser known, and we were trying to piece together what happened at the end of his career.  I don’t know where that came from but it delayed the start of our meeting by a half hour!  Today it was a conversation with a potential new client about how Crick and Watson used physical models to lead them to the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA.  

CL: Upon being elected as the chairman of the Department of Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1938, it is rumored that Walter Gropius proclaimed "Classicism is dead!" Do you feel your Masters of Architecture from Harvard gave you a suitable foundation to interact with the strong classical language of San Francisco architecture?

LB: San Francisco is a very young city, and most of its Classical buildings were built when Frank Lloyd Wright was well into his architectural career.  So the Classical architecture in this city was built at the beginning of the Modern Era, which can make working within the Classical context more difficult, not easier.  Classical architecture in Rome or Paris is old, there is no question about that, which makes it easier to appreciate the contrast of modern architecture in its midst.  The best example of that is the Pompidou center in Paris, of course.  We find that our clients appreciate traditional architecture, but don’t want to live in a traditional interior.  So we combine an aggressive approach to open modern living with traditional exteriors in many cases, and find that the two seemingly opposites are very compatible, and elevate the final product.  We are also doing six new houses in San Francisco right now, and two new residential buildings. When we don’t feel that the existing architecture is good, we replace it with new, and that’s exciting.  Where education enters this answer is that one has to know which buildings have merit and which do not, and be able to explain that to the Planning Commission in a persuasive way.  We’ve never lost a hearing at the Planning Commission, and it’s our understanding of architecture and the city that has given us that successful record.

CL: I am sure you have seen a lot of technology advancement in the course of your 30 years in business.  How has this changed the way you work with your clients?

LB: New technology for the most part stacks on old technology, with occasional casualties like the Betamax and fax machines.  So we use every tool from hand sketching to complex 3D modeling programs to explore the architecture.  We still build models too; there is no substitute for a great model.  Different clients respond to different mediums, so we adjust our presentations to their preferences.  I will say that my iPad is out every day.  I keep a gallery of project photos in iPhoto, and show them to clients and employees all the time.

CL: Do you miss your drafting table and straight edges?

LB: Wow. Maybe the drafting table and straight edge is like the fax machine: we really haven’t used one in years!  I suppose I miss the idea of it, but not very much.

CL: What is the one tool you never leave your office without? Your iphone doesn’t count.

LB: I don’t leave the office without a sketchbook, tape measure, trace paper, a scale, and spare fountain pens.

CL: I am sure that every project is as unique as your clients and their needs. How do you like to start your relationships?

LB: I’m very honest and up front with my clients from the first conversation on.  If they are expecting something that is unlikely to happen, I let them know that.  We live in a world where it’s rare that people tell each other what they really think.  When you are very honest with a client early on in your relationship, it stands out.  Most likely no one else has bothered to tell them the truth.

CL: In a way, you establish mini relationships. Do you have a favorite story of a family that you helped?

LB: I have many stories like this, but my favorite family story is when the kids of one of our past clients hire us to work on their house.  It has actually happened quite a few times, and it’s great to get the perspective of the next generation as they become adults.

CL: I cannot wait to read Catherine’s book Dream House! From what I have read, her passion for architecture and family is undeniable. Did she discuss her book with you while she was writing it?

LB: We had many discussions about Dream House. After all, it was ten years in the making.  Dream House is a novel first, and is about architecture second.  The notion of architecture then occurs at many levels.  The chapters begin with a quotation from various famous architects.  The quotations have a lot to do with the content of the chapters in turn, and provide an “architecture” that structures the book.  Then there is the house itself, which is described in detail.  Since the protagonist Gina is an architect, there are great descriptions of the architectural process.  Catherine has a passion for family and architecture, and that’s what drove her to write Dream House. Otherwise you can’t possibly create what she did, because writing a book is much harder than being an architect, much harder.

"Catherine has a passion for family and architecture, and that’s what drove her to write Dream House. Otherwise you can’t possibly create what she did, because writing a book is much harder than being an architect, much harder."

CL: When you imagine your dream personal residence, what shape does the form and function take?

LB: Dream House begins with a quotation from Gaston Bachelard from his famous book The Poetics of Space.  A different quotation from the same book applies here, “Sometimes the house of the future is better built, lighter and larger than all the houses of the past, so that the image of the dream house is opposed to that of the childhood home. Late in life, with indomitable courage, we continue to say that we are going to do what we have not yet done: we are going to build a house. This dream house may be merely a dream of ownership, the embodiment of everything that is considered convenient, comfortable, healthy, sound, desirable, by other people. It must therefore satisfy both pride and reason, two irreconcilable terms.”

CL: How would you describe the process of working with developers as opposed to end users on a project?

LB: In the past we rarely worked with developers because they were frankly not interested in the architectural quality that we bring to an end user project.  In the last five years that has started to change, and I think that the markets are starting to overlap for the first time.  Developers are now understanding that the highest profit margins involve houses that have a level of quality that one would expect to provide for a discerning individual, not a mass market.  So we are working for three developers now on single-family houses and two-to-six unit buildings.  Our most exciting developer project is 115 Telegraph Hill, which is four houses on the last large empty lot on Telegraph Hill.  Despite the fierce opposition that fought us for three years, we gained project approval and are going forward.  These houses are finished at the very highest end, and even include a car elevator that allows the vehicles to disappear underground, allowing more view opportunities for the rooms above.  So the developers are really looking for the same thing from us as our individual end user clients, and that’s an exciting new market for everyone involved.

CaenLucier thanks Lewis Butler for taking the time to share with our readers!
115 Telegraph Hill Boulevard

115 Telegraph Hill Boulevard

Woodside  Kitchen

Woodside Kitchen

San Francisco  Residence

San Francisco Residence


Stephen Suzman and Jarrod Baumann of ZETERRE LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE continue to surround refined interiors and architecture with their beautifully designed and sculpted gardens.


CaenLucier: How did your interest in gardens and landscape design begin?

Stephen Suzman: I grew up in an Edwardian time warp in Johannesburg, South Africa with large gardens that included two major perennial borders which consisted mainly of plants that could be found in pre- war English Gardens.  South African natives, other than Agapanthus, Freesias Nemesia and Lobelia were not popular at the time.

My mother and my nurse taught me the common names of huge numbers of annuals and perennials before the age of five. Until I left South Africa in 1967, I was intimately involved in many aspects of our garden planning.

Later on when I lived in Italy, then in France and England, I began to explore some of the great gardens of Europe. Villa Gamberaia, Stourhead, Vaux-le-Vicomte and Hidcote Manor were some of my earliest inspirations.

I began my serious pursuit of landscape design after I had been actively gardening in San Francisco for eight years. A close friend, visiting form the east coast, invited two of UC Berkeley's professors of landscape architecture to tea. When they saw my garden, they suggested I join the summer school at UC and the rest was history.  

Jarrod Baumann:  I was raised on my family’s ranch in the oak woodlands near Yosemite.  My grandfather purchased 800 acres of beautiful land from one of the Getty Trusts.  The home that I was raised in was built in 1882 and had been inhabited by some of California’s oldest and greatest families.  I created a secret garden with the use of some old stone walls that had once been a sheep-herders pen.  Every penny that I could get my hands on went into collecting rare plants.  When I left for university to study landscape architecture, I had over two hundred plants thriving in my garden including everything from heritage roses to black arum, calla lilies to honey bush, and the uniquely Californian native Redbud Trees. 

CL:  South Africa has plant species that are unique to the region.  What particular species have found their way to North America by trend or through the hand of your design?

SS:  South Africa is a treasure house of plant material. Many of these plants arrived in California during the 20th century.  I have an extensive, illustrated lecture on South African plants used in California.  I have just counted well over a hundred different species listed in the Sunset Western Garden Book. The Western Cape is one of the five Mediterranean climate zones (the others being central Chile, the Mediterranean itself, California and parts of South West and South Australia) where most rain falls during the winter. Plants of other climate zones in South Africa are also well adapted to California, because of their drought tolerance.

Many South African plants have established themselves and even naturalized in California.  Agapanthus, Amaryllis belladonna (Naked Ladies) Calla Lilies, Asparagus ferns, Bird of paradise (Strelitzia), most Pelargoniums; succulents like Aloes and Ice Plants; innumerable bulbs such as Watsonias, Oxalis, Ixia, Dierama, Babiana, Freesia, Gladiolus, Eucomis and Dietes (the freeway Iris!).  There are grass-like and rush-like plants called Restios, as well as the Plumbago, Proteas, Leucadendrons shrubs; trees like Podocarpus, Cape Chestnut and Erythrina.  Many members of the Daisy family including the Felicia, Euryops, Osteospermum, Dymondia and Gerbera are commonly found in California nurseries.  I keep in touch with current hybridization experiments in South Africa and use quite a number in my garden design. 

CL: Is Zeterre known for a particular look or does the site and client’s vision play a more important role?

SS: At Zeterre, we are deliberately non-iconic. We feel that it is critical to be site specific and architecture appropriate. We also supply the client and other designers on the team with a questionnaire to identify specific desired program elements as to materials, colors and plant selections.  Accordingly, we have considerable experience in both traditional, formal and cutting edge or minimalist contemporary gardens of many different styles and sizes.  We prefer to treat each garden as a unique design exercise. 

JB: A landscape becomes special when it becomes an extension of the people it surrounds. It should mimic a perfectly tailored original garment that fits your lifestyle, makes you feel great and hints at the person you are inside.  It is a one-of-a-kind garment, not a look seen all over town.

CL: In the estate of your dreams, what shape would the landscape architecture take?

SS: My dream garden might incorporate stylistic elements of diverse inspirations such as Capability Brown, Gertrude Jekyll, Fernando Caruncho and Luciano Giubbilei.  It might be situated in the more intensively situated garden locales of South Africa, the South of France, western England or Sonoma. I prefer strong, rather formal bones with more casual planting inside the boundaries.  I like surprise and tension between enclosed spaces and long, open views. Sometimes, I crave simplicity and serenity and sometimes complexity and novelty. There would be a number of garden rooms which might focus on a style, a season, a color or mood. It could be a minimalist garden, maybe a fall color garden, a white and silver garden, a sinister garden or one that is sculpted. There would always be an extensive kitchen garden and orchard for me to indulge my culinary exploration. There would always be an area devoted to plant experimentation to test new hybrids and extend my plant repertory.

JB: We just bought 40 acres in Sonoma, where I am working on designing my dream garden.  I love the French garden aesthetic, especially the old Bastide gardens of Provence.  There is such elegance in simplicity.  I love simple, tailored gardens with old stone and antique pieces hidden throughout.  Order gives my mind peace.  However, I do love surprises in the garden.  I might hide a blue garden behind the house with seductive blue agave’s mixed with blue atlas cedars and dreamy blue palms. Most people would probably expect me to want a very contemporary garden because of the gardens I have designed.  I do love contemporary gardens, because of the freedom to create elements that have never been done before. But it’s the gardens of old where we look to learnstructure and discipline.

CL: When redeveloping a property, at which phase do landscape architects usually join the project?

SS: I feel it is critical that the landscape architect and designers join the project early on to assist the architect and clients with the placement of the main structures. 

We can often eliminate unnecessary retaining walls and take full advantage of sun and shade issues. I have never forgotten a project which boasted a 76’ long kitchen/family room. If the kitchen had only been three feet shorter, our client would have had ample room to turn around a large SUV.

JB:  I agree with Stephen.  As landscape architects, we spend much or our university studies in site planning to be aware of seasonal cycles and sun patterns.   Our best projects happen when our clients engage us early on to work with the architect to plan the home’s site.

CL: Do gardens of the past inform you on your design decisions today?

SS: Absolutely!  Every garden I have created belongs to the past as well as the present. I am constantly refining my own designs which are encouraged by new horticultural, climate and client demands. Of course, I am beholden to gardens of the past. I have traveled widely in Europe, India, Morocco, and Thailand in addition to my native South Africa and the US to further inform my design language.

JB:  I am working with a publisher on a new book called “The Modern Formal Garden”.  The first portion of the book features gardens from my travels throughout Europe and parts of Asia.  I have been very fortunate to have these gardens impact and inform my views on structure and design.  One cannot create a successful, timeless garden without a complete understanding of time-tested design rules.  They can be broken, but only after they have been mastered.

CL: You and Jarrod have forged a new partnership at Zeterre.  How are you finding this new beginning?

SS: I am often asked, “Why did I join Zeterre”?  I have admired Jarrod and his work for several years.  It is exciting working with another plant enthusiast as many landscape architects end up using the same twenty five plants time after time. I was impressed by Jarrod's unusual and daring plant combinations.  Jarrod also brings a tech savvy element to the table.  After I saw one of his 3D fly through renderings, I was hooked. It is such an effective way to express ones ideas and clients enjoy the process more as it effectively facilitates the production of working drawings. We are all able to better understand the feeling of the new reality and can easily answer questions like “What is the view from the master bedroom”, “What does the view look like from the pool”,  or “What will the screening look like in 1, 3 or 5 years"?

CaenLucier thanks Jarrod and Stephen for discussing their firm and their love of landscape architecture with our readers.





Jarrod Ryan Baumann








Stephen J. Suzman


palm springs     desert entry garden

palm springs   desert entry garden

cypress ridge

cypress ridge

serenity    Fragrant jasmine star, agave and cypress

serenity   Fragrant jasmine star, agave and cypress

cypress ridge  scalloped metal retaining wall supports planting of erysimum

cypress ridge scalloped metal retaining wall supports planting of erysimum


For over three decades Ryan Associates have built exceptional homes in San Francisco, the Napa Valley and beyond.  Having had the pleasure of representing a number of these properties for sale, CaenLucier reconnects with Eric Friedman of the San Francisco based firm to discuss highlights of past and current residential projects, a look behind the scenes at the art of fine building and the ins and outs of working with architects, designers and his noteworthy clientele. 

CaenLucier: You have worked with Ryan Associates for over two decades.  How has the profession of high end renovations grown/changed over the years?

Eric Friedman: I don’t think we’re able to print houses yet, but there’s plenty of amazing modeling software out there that really helps to communicate design intent as well as solve the possibility of certain construction problems. We commonly use software to program the CNC router that make perfect parts every time, but for the most part we still make things by hand.

CL: What sets Ryan apart from other builders in the Bay Area?

EF: I think if you talk to our subcontractors they will tell you that there are many fine builders in our community, but Ryan is a league apart.  They’ll tell you that we do all of the things required to help them be successful enabling them to do their best work.  We’ve worked really hard to forge these mutually beneficial subcontractor relationships, but ultimately our design partners and clients are the winners.

CL: What are the most common mistakes clients make when interviewing a general construction firm to build their home?

EF: The danger clients face is not understanding the consequences of hiring their team piecemeal.  They have to understand their motives and goals for the project and then need as much coaching as possible in unifying those interests in building their team. The traditional point of view of the owner is that you hire the architect first. The traditional approach works just fine if the architect believes, as we believe, that collaboration is a fundamental part of a successful project. One of the keys to our success has been our ability to team build on the client’s behalf.  It’s really a question of drawing out from the client what their top priorities are, what their design instincts are, and then start to match the correct design partners and resources.

CL: San Francisco has many talented designers and architects.  Who are a few of your favorites to work with?

EF: Our interest is in working with architects and designers who are invested in the collaborative process and who value the services we provide. We’re not attached to working with starchitects.

CL: How would you describe the perfect Ryan Associates client?

EF: The perfect Ryan client is clear around their goals, is invested in everybody being successful and wants to have fun along the way. It helps if they don’t think of themselves as a builder, designer or tradesperson.  Clients who understand they’re in a rarefied territory and rely on our expertise really get the best performance from us. 

CL: What is the most fun part of your job?

EF: I get to work with a range of incredibly talented and gifted people who inspire me on a daily basis.  Architects, engineers, all the makers and builders, but especially my co-workers for whom I have unlimited respect. It’s a really good feeling that comes when putting in an honest day working with our crew.

CL: Tell us something we don’t know about Ryan.

EF: We’re known for doing the big house on the hill, but our core business is the $1m to $5m remodel.  We are in the service business and are set up to do small projects and service work.  We want to take care of our clients’ homes forever regardless of the need.

CL: What is your most favorite project that you are working on right now?

We’re doing a modest but lovely 2,500 square foot bridge-to-bridge apartment on Russian Hill in a somewhat disintegrating 90 year old building.  The clients are so happy and excited that the good feeling has permeated the dozens of people that have contributed to the effort. It may or may not get published, however we’re very proud of what we’ve built.


Launching our monthly series featuring San Franciscans of note, CaenLucier sits down with the city's leading classical architect, Andrew Skurman, to discuss his reinterpretation of one of Pacific Heights' last existing duplex apartments.  2000 Washington Street, originally designed by Conrad Alfred Meussdorffer in 1922, is one of the city's landmark residential buildings. It grandly sits adjacent to Lafeyette Park and the Spreckels Mansion where Danielle Steele resides when in town. 

CaenLucier: You have had many projects at both 2000 Washington Street and its elegant neighbor 2006 Washington.  What is it about these buildings that inspire the classical traditions your firm embraces?

Andrew Skurman:  2000 and 2006 Washington were built in the 1920s, with no expense spared, and with the most elegant classical interiors. One of the the apartments was designed by Julia Morgan. They all have high ceilings, large column free spaces and orientations that allow for an effortless reconfiguration that takes advantage of the glamour of classical design. 

It is by the way possible to recreate a classical home in a very modern building, but it takes a lot more effort. In order to do that, a client of ours built a second set of classical French windows in front of the building's standard modern windows. It does work really well and one cannot imagine the bare sheet rock walls behind the paneling, moldings and details.

2006 Washington

CL:  As I remember, your clients purchased the full floor apartment completely gutted. Did this offer any advantages?

AS:  When an apartment is old and in bad condition, it might be less expensive and one can achieve better results by gutting it rather than changing just part of it. You are then completely free to redo all the electricity, heating, and plumbing to modern standards, and to conceive a completely different floor plan that takes advantage of every square inch of available space.

Gutting allows for a complete re-creation and the imagination of the client can really flow. But in buildings of quality, there usually are elements that should not be eliminated but reworked. I love to find charming elements to retain and build upon. It saves expense as well as maintaining the original historical beauty. In one of these apartments, we reconfigured everything except for a delicate and beautiful dining room. Which we restored with care.

One of the apartments at 2000 Washington Street is morphing into something different for the third time. When we first created it, it had dark wood, a colorful palette, and traditional furniture. Then, under the magic wand of Fisher-Weisman, it had a kind of a facelift, it was entirely painted white and became one of my favorite things: a classical background with modern furniture. We are now completing a third remodel on the same apartment! But our black and white marble floor in the entrance and many other features have remained through all the changes.

Andy Skurman

CL:  How do you feel your interior architecture decisions held up when the visual palette changed from traditional to contemporary after we sold it to our clients?

AS:  As an architect, it is wonderful to see a space you created evolve under the impetus of the new owner’s taste. There isn't just one kind of beauty, one esthetic or one architectural truth. I look forward to a diverse future, full of classical homes and homes that whisper their classicism.

CL:  What were your favorite aspects of the renovation when it was completed?

AS:  There is a gallery of arches, long and wide, which allows for the display of art better than a mere corridor. As one walks about 50’ through this 8’ wide space from the entrance hall to the living room, the view that pulls you forward is of the bay in it's full glory. The gallery has a quality of light that reminds me of one of my favorite places: the Vasari corridor, in Florence, that jumps from the Uffizi Gallery over the Arno river to the Palazzo Pitti.  This is where the museum exhibits self portraits of artists collected since the 16th century.

CL:  Were there any specific historical design elements that you incorporated into this project?

AS:  The language of classicism is so rich. The paneling details are from the Wren Period in England, a voluptuous raised panel. The pilasters are in a fancy Doric style from the baths of Caracalla in ancient Rome.The back and white patterned paving in the entrance hall was inspired by Robert Adam (an 18th century Scottish architect). The muntins on the French doors and windows reference the fretwork on Chippendale furniture. 

CL:  You and Paul Wiseman worked on this project together originally (prior to working with Fisher-Weisman seen in these images).  What was the experience like working with designers of your caliber?

AS:  Paul Wiseman has a huge palette of talents, from pure classical to modern. He can create the most detailed interior or a luxurious modern home with great art on the walls. He excels at everything he touches. We speak the same design language and share many references. We recently had dinner together and I enjoyed every minute.

Dining Room

CL:  You regularly visit your residence in Paris.  How does your exposure to the city's timeless elegance enhance your design vocabulary?

AS:  In my constant research of classical beauty, I love to roam around the Europe, scrutinizing and analyzing the details: in the cathedral of Reims, the integration of restored medieval stained glass windows, cohabiting with others made in 2011 by Imi Knooebel; in London the saucer domes of St. Paul, with their lacy edges, Wren’s simple yet sculptural solution to the ceiling of the nave. I can visit the same building many times, and there is always something new that catches my eye. 

Paris is a stopover from which I go to all the other countries, Italy, my most beloved, where I go every year, but also to Spain and England, Germany and Greece. I was in Greece this summer. The Parthenon was covered with cranes. What a beautiful image of the constant efforts, even in a country with considerable economic problems, to maintain our common patrimony. I mentally took in once more the proportions of the majestic columns and their orders.

CL:  What are your favorite projects that you are working on now?

AS:  We are currently working on an addition to building that is a national monument at a major East Coast university. More next time we talk…