The Artful Lodgers


Charles de Lisle curates a home for avid collectors

The living room’s white- and-gray palette serves as a neutral backdrop for the homeowners’ art, including a Julian Hoeber painting above the fireplace (the artist made the frame). Photography by Matthew Millman.

CONSIDER this a work in progress—a home whose interiors continue to evolve as its occupants rotate and add to their art collection. Along the way, the couple enlisted designer Charles de Lisle to reimagine their San Francisco townhouse, located in the Laurel Heights neighborhood. “They had it furnished for years and then decided it wasn’t quite working,” he explains. “They started collecting art in a different way and wanted the furniture to fit with what they were doing. So we looked for pieces that were more sophisticated in provenance, that made more sense with the idea of them being collectors.”

In the dining room, for instance, a vintage Kast modular cabinet by Maarten Van Severen for Vitra, Camembert chairs by HOWE and a pair of Robert Haussmann polished aluminum ceiling lights dating back to the 1970s share space with a Tony Feher sculpture comprised of bottles filled with oil and a mobile by Kate Shepherd, both from Anthony Meier Fine Arts. The draperies, which can also be found in the adjacent living room, are fashioned from an inexpensive cotton duck. “It’s like something you’d find in an old gallery in SoHo,” he says. “I like combining that with the beautiful wool rug and the fancier things, like the artwork.”

Atop the dining room’s Maarten Van Severen-designed cabinet sits an aluminum-plated Ry Rocklen sculpture made from a smashed cardboard coffee tray. Photography by Matthew Millman.

The living room has benefited from some key refreshes. De Lisle reupholstered the existing sofa in gray velvet. A coffee table that belonged to the grandmother of one of the clients was revamped with a black flamed granite top. The polished metal from the dining room is carried over into the living room in the frame of the Milo lounge chairs from Lawson-Fenning and de Lisle’s own Sophie table lamp, part of his line with Phoenix Day. While some works in here— including a sculpture by Michael E. Smith (installed on the ceiling), a Julian Hoeber painting (above the mantel) and a ceramic by Roger Herman (on the side table)—may be changed out at some point, one in particular is unlikely to: In a corner to the right of the fireplace, the clients cut into the Sheetrock to accommodate a sculpture by Jedediah Caesar.

The walls throughout were previously “different neutral beiges that we eradicated,” says de Lisle. Now most are white, with a few exhibiting more dramatic color choices. Take the guest room, where de Lisle advocated for a shade reminiscent of pistachio ice cream, which took some convincing. “I wanted to make this room more fun and not have it be so serious,” he notes. Surrounding a streamlined Legnoletto bed by Alias are an Andy Coolquitt light fixture, a 1960s bamboo rocking chair, a Ry Rocklen table composed of trophy parts and a Mark Hagen painting made of white house paint and burlap.

The guest bedroom features an Andy Coolquitt light fixture and Mark Hagen painting, flanking a Legnoletto bed by Alias. Photography by Matthew Millman.

The dove-gray master bedroom is anchored by a chainsaw-carved redwood headboard designed by de Lisle and fabricated by Rick Yoshimoto. The base of the bed is wrapped in black patent leather. The ceiling light is de Lisle’s Linden Horizontal Stick, created for the Future Perfect. A Gea side table by Kazuhide Takahama for Gavina serves as a landing spot for a David Korty vase; above it hangs a sculpture by John Beech, described as a “rotating painting” because it can be spun.

The office, enveloped in an inky black, includes another creation—a cypress stool—by Yoshimoto. Flanking the clients’ leather sofa, which is topped with pillows in a Missoni fabric, are plywood tables inspired by Donald Judd. The lighting includes functional works of art: The pendant lamp is by Jason Meadows, and the editioned Evan Holloway sculpture has a nose that illuminates.

In the master bedroom, de Lisle designed the redwood headboard fabricated by Rick Yoshimoto; the ceiling light is also by de Lisle. Photography by Matthew Millman.

With its warm gray walls, the den is a cozy place to relax and watch movies. Visually, says de Lisle, “we neutralized the room to hold the art and then added bright colors to balance it out.” The bespoke sofa features a tomato-and-gray wool gingham by Romo, while a Saarinen side chair is upholstered in steel gray leather. The clients can kick up their feet on an ottoman with a Christopher Farr zigzag pattern in rosy hues. Works on paper by artists such as William Anastasi (it reads “I don’t want this on my wall”) and Chris Johanson (with a series of faces) are displayed salon-style.

In the den, interior designer Charles de Lisle paired a custom sofa, upholstered in a tomato- and-gray wool gingham by Romo, with a Saarinen armchair from Knoll. Photography by Matthew Millman.

According to de Lisle, the project has stretched over multiple years as he and the clients have shifted their attention from room to room, at times revisiting decisions as the art is updated. Not that that’s necessarily a problem. Whenever he goes to the house, there’s new art to admire and new artists to learn about. “They have a really good eye and are always finding amazing stuff,” says de Lisle. “I love working with people who like things that are aesthetic and beautiful, intriguing or smart.” – Anh-Minh Le