For many designers, participating in showcase houses provides a rare opportunity for unrestrained creativity. When offered to rethink an octagon-shaped vestibule with 14-foot umbrella-groined ceilings inside the location of the 2023 San Francisco Decorator Showcase, Jon de la Cruz knew constraint would be his guiding principle. “Highlighting the geometry and symmetry with natural light and texture was imperative,” he recalls. “A design concept is only as successful as the house allows. And although this was a Designer Showcase, the bones of the room were so strong I practiced a heavy amount of restraint from overworking any decorative ideas or remodeling any of the interior architecture. In this case, the 1927 Spanish-style home had some mid-’80s minor additions—gas fireplace insert, casework, HVAC grilles—that we stripped away, and from there we were able to give the room function and purpose.”

With its unique shape and only 176 square feet to work with, de la Cruz envisioned a flexible space for a family to enjoy. “Because of its central location at the top of the circular staircase and the midpoint between all of the second-floor bedrooms, it seemed logical to create a multipurpose breakout space for the family to connect, especially now that Zoom calls and iPhones and laptops seem attached to everyone’s wrist,” he says. “A place to nap, a spot to read, a table to write or email, a corner to chat or take a Zoom call—all with flattering light.”

Art over the banquet is Danae Mattes’ Terrain, 2020, clay on canvas from Dolby Chadwick Gallery. The wall-hung cabinet is made of parchment, walnut and bronze by Aguirre New York. Photos by John Merkl.

Next to an existing mantle, de la Cruz positioned a pair of chaise loungers where guests could nap by the fire. On the opposite wall, de la Cruz hung a cabinet by Aguirre New York that sits next to a custom banquette made by JF Fitzgerald Furniture, which is paired with a Carrara marble Eros dining table by Angelo Mangiarotti for Agapecasa that is perfect for working at home, board game nights or happy hour. The room is topped with an impressive 60-inch Empire-style chandelier made from layers of hand-knotted jute tassels that exude idyllic California coastal style. “It anchored the room visually and quite literally set the quiet, luxurious tone,” he says. “The fixture did double duty as a noise diffuser in the large echo-chamber vault. The minute you reach the top of the stairs, you’re drawn in and slowed down by its size and softness.”

Affectionately dubbed “the upstairs keep”—a nod to the traditional keeping room—de la Cruz wanted to design a space that defied trends and focused on comfort and purpose. “Since this was my fourth rotation at the Decorator Showcase, I admit this time I stopped worrying about presenting all of my very best ideas. I didn’t bother myself with making a huge impact; I didn’t focus on what was trending to attract press,” he remarks. “Focusing on the room and what it needed to be beautiful, comfortable and useful was most important. We don’t often get to listen to what the room wants. Sometimes a client or ego or practicality tampers with the result.”