fulk 5 Author: Leilani Marie Labong
In the glory days of San Francisco’s Gold Rush era, large ships dropped anchor at the rollicking Barbary Coast (known today as the Jackson Square design district), providing ungainly fortune hunters curbside access to the city’s best opium dens and brothels. Where docks once existed, turn-of-the-century brick-and-timber structures now stand. Inside the historical Musto Building, which has been transformed into a fashionable new members-only social club called The Battery by acclaimed SF designer
Ken Fulk, one particularly dark and contemplative space bears the name of the legendary waterfront. fulk 5
Perhaps the library’s best assets are its witty contradictions, which are subtle but decidedly Fulkian in nature. Here, old-timey enchantment makes room for modern-day apparatuses: laptop warriors sidle up to distressed-oak library tables, which are supported by vintage iron stands from French warehouses. And let’s not forget the sheer irony of naming a quiet intellectual space after what was essentially the premiere red-light district of 19th-century America. "This library was inspired by a sexy, well-read ship captain," says Fulk. "It's not ironic at all. Brains are by far a person's hottest feature."
Photographer: Joe Fletcher Photography fulk 4
The above timeworn metal sign was shipped from the East Coast.
Photographer: Joe Fletcher Photography fulk 3
To wit, the library’s new beamed ceiling and cushy toffee-colored leather seating—sourced from vintage shops in Zurich and San Francisco and redolent of old cigarette smoke—conjure the timeworn character of a stately men’s club from back in the day. The floor-to-ceiling bookshelves are populated with hardcovers that fall into such categories as “Better Than the Movie” (Harry Potter series) and, appropriately, “Seaworthy Books” (The Old Man and the Sea). The collection is an extensive time capsule preserving the best of “what seems to be a fading art form,” says de la Cruz. Tucked amongst the volumes is a small monkey statue—a nod to Monkey Inferno, an SF incubator for cool Internet projects founded by Michael and Xochi Birch, owners of The Battery. An architectural staircase model sits atop one of the reclaimed oak library tables.
Photographer: Joe Fletcher Photography fulk 2
Although the building’s century-old brick shell and some original redwood columns were preserved, the brand-new interior architecture, a collaboration between Ken Fulk Inc. and SF design studio Fee Munson Ebert, still manages to recall a bygone era. “Even though we started over inside, we still wanted the building to feel very established,” says Jon de la Cruz, design director at KFI. “We let history set the course for the design.” Above: Cushy vintage leather seats are practically made for curling up with a book.
Photographer: Joe Fletcher Photography fulk 1
Taking cues from the area’s maritime history, Fulk painted the walls and ceiling of the Barbary Coast Library in a deep navy blue C2 Paints shade called Moby Dick. The bold oceanic hue sets the stage for the design’s unique conversation pieces. A large-scale early-1900s metal sign from an East Coast naval museum depicts an old ship a-sailing; a creepy-chic chandelier of seven taxidermy birds represents not just the seven hills of San Francisco but also a squawking, fish-preying flock (practically a prerequisite for the life aquatic) and a beautiful floor is made of reclaimed oak planks arranged in a handsome
herringbone pattern to evoke a ship’s deck.
Photographer: Joe Fletcher