A Tale of Two Closet Designs


The San Francisco Decorator Showcase House, opening on May 1, can inspire in designers what I once heard famed restaurant owner Pat Kuleto call “ass against the wall cooking.” What Kuleto was referring to was the phenomenon that happens when you find yourself in the kitchen with a big meal to prepare and few ingredients. To his thinking, this is when magic and creativity kick in.

George Brazil probably understands the meaning of the term. He and Cecilia Sagrera, partners in SagreraBrazil Design, are working on their first Showcase project, a bathroom and an adjacent dressing room. “It’s a little like being on a reality television show,” Brazil says. “The process happens so quickly, much faster than it happens in real life. And, as the organizers have said, this is a fast moving train that, once started, can’t be stopped.”

As the train races towards opening day, Brazil and Sagrera found themselves with some unexpected ingredients. The owners of the house decided that they might not put it on the market, and therefore they wanted some input into the design of the bathrooms and the kitchen. “We were going to use pale greens and taupes in the wall color and the tile for our fictional client,” says Brazil. “But the owner doesn’t like mosaic tile and found the scheme a bit too sophisticated for her young daughter.”

Back at the drawing board, the restrictions gave birth to a new idea: instead of using tile for color and texture, the duo created an asymmetrical book matching of oversize marble pieces to create subtle, yet modern, patterns with the veins. Drawing from the nature colors in the stone, they are having the walls painted a warm taupe.

The owner also wanted to keep the built-in closets in the dressing room. “This actually worked out, as it saved us some time,” says Brazil. “Since we were keeping them, we decided to inset mirrors into the paneled doors, making for the full length mirrors every closet should have.”

The closet system will, in part, wear its original colors, as the designers are having the layers of paint that have been added over the years sanded back to create a rich patina. A mod wallpaper will enliven the existing architectural details.

The classic closets also inspired the design of the bathroom vanity, which is being created by Luis Norori of Antique Restoration, Inc. in San Francisco.

“Keeping the closets and the woodwork is just fine because it speaks to the era and the history of the house,” says Brazil. “This isn’t a new mansion in the suburbs, this is a historic mansion in San Francisco and it should look like it.

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