SF 20/21: The Show Must Go On


I love design shows: Getting dressed up, wandering the aisles sipping champagne, and drooling over gorgeous art, imaginative booths and exceptional furniture. What’s not to like? 

This year, one of my very favorite shows, SF 20/21—formerly focused only on 20th century pieces but recently expanded to include contemporary artists and designers as well—invited us to participate. Not just to be a spectator/coveteur traipsing though the decked-out Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason, but for CH+D to host our very own booth. The whole team was excited, but also a little freaked out. By the time the decision was made, there were about four days until opening night. An impromptu brainstorming session resulted in the idea to recreate the cover image from our latest issue—a serene yet glamourous St. Helena bathroom designed by Erin Martin.

We all jumped on our phones, and the next four days was a tizzy of tracking down tubs, arranging delivery of a 10-foot-tall mother-of-pearl inlayed cabinet, sweet-talking contractors and even one morning of spray painting in an alley behind the office (thanks, Bryan Anthony). 

By Wednesday, just hours before the hard-hat tour hosted by De Sousa Hughes, we had our very own completed booth at SF 20/21, thanks to help from Waterworks, Coup d’Etat, Porcelanosa and Tazi Designs.



Now it was finally  time to put on my aisle-walking shoes and enjoy. While I was getting ready for Thursday night’s preview party gala  (benefitting SFMOMA) I received a text message from a friend at the show reading “Man Down!” with a picture attached. He said maybe a jealous nearby booth “Black Swanned” us. 

I panicked. I looked down at my shoes:  While appropriate for slowly strutting about, they were not going work for climbing a ten-foot ladder and negotiating fishing line. And besides, guests were already starting to arrive for the party, and it would take me at least 45 minutes to get on the scene. I called our director of operations, Jeremy Paz, at his house.  After casually asking what he was up to, I begged him to drive down to Fort Mason and fix our sign. As he has so many times in the past, Jeremy saved the day…or evening. Within 20 minutes, we were up and running again. 

By the time I arrived, all was well. As he has in years past, Stanlee Gatti kitted out the entrance with an installation that celebrates the up-and-comers, the creatives, and those who work with their hands. Open-front lean-to-style booths, framed with unfinished 2x4s, held artists and designers who worked on their varied crafts—from portraiture to crepe-paper baubles to textiles—as the crowds milled past. 

The main space was filled with faces and names both familiar and new. Some of my favorites: 

NoHo Modern, an midcentury furniture gallery from Los Angeles, captivated with a booth filled with a carefully edited selection of furnishings and a backdrop of graffiti. 


San Francisco gallery, Anthony Meier Fine Arts, featured one of my favorite images of the night. 


LA sculptor Antoinette Faragallah—who we recently shot for an upcoming “In the Studio”—was on hand at the Gray Gallery booth, as were her deep-sea-inspired creations. 


Interior designer Charles de Lisle debuted his lighting collection in a booth smartly constructed out of peg board. 


Reform Gallery, out of  LA, displayed a handful of oversize sculptural pieces that made me wish I had more than a mere 500 square feet to fill.


The star of the night was undoubtably Hedge Gallery, who enlisted Rael San Fratello Architects from Oakland (one our Ten to Watch firms, featured in CH+D‘s most recent issue) to design and fabricate a booth out of hale bales and blackened steel. It was definitely one of the more popular places to hang out.  

And after a whirlwind week of learning what’s it’s like to be on the other side of the aisle, the celebration seemed even sweeter. Like a stay at a super stylish sleep away camp, I’d seen and commiserated with the same crew of designers, artists and gallery owners over the past days—same faces, different outfits—and felt more a part of California’s exceptional design community than ever. 

Check out the show for yourself this weekend. It runs through Sunday. 

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