A San Francisco Landmark Gets a Guggenheim-Worthy Makeover

Don’t get mad, get even—especially in matters of houses and ex-spouses. That seems to have been the message Mary Alice Huntington hoped to send when, in 1910, fresh off her divorce from her railroad-heir ex-husband, the San Francisco socialite built the architectural equivalent of a revenge dress. The mansion was […]

Don’t get mad, get even—especially in matters of houses and ex-spouses. That seems to have been the message Mary Alice Huntington hoped to send when, in 1910, fresh off her divorce from her railroad-heir ex-husband, the San Francisco socialite built the architectural equivalent of a revenge dress. The mansion was one of the grandest the city had ever seen, with nine bedrooms over nearly 12,000 square feet, a Tudor Revival facade of Shakespearean dimensions, and a seriously sexy view out to San Francisco Bay.

And so it stood for more than a century until in 2018 the house went on the market, and a neighbor, living two doors down with her husband and children, became obsessed. True, the two-toned exterior, with its brick chimneys and timber corbels, exuded a certain archaic glory—no match, one would think, for a dynamic philanthropic couple whose art collection includes works by Lorna Simpson, Mark Bradford, and Richard Prince.

In the family room, the sofa is by Christophe Delcourt for Minotti, and the cocktail table is by Wendell Castle from Friedman Benda. The rug is by Atelier Février, the chandelier is by Michael Anastassiades, and the artwork is by Doug Aitken.

Douglas Friedman

But she saw the potential. “I had always admired its beauty,” she says. Her husband, who is in finance, initially disagreed. “He thought it was the ugliest house he had ever seen,” says designer Nicole Hollis, who oversaw the renovation alongside the architect Stephen Willrich. “He didn’t think we could do anything with it.”

Today, the meticulously restored landmark exterior is elegant in charcoal gray. And the interiors are utterly transformed—a testament to the power in combining bespoke design with a professional’s vision and a homeowner’s unbridled enthusiasm. The tone is set in the entry hall, where a mirror-polished bronze pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama is framed by a swooping white-plaster staircase; it was Hollis, who was hired midproject, who proposed replacing the traditional picket staircase with this dramatic, modern gesture. “That just blew everybody’s socks off,” the owner says. “It has this Guggenheim feel. It’s just extraordinary and edgy.”

the dark walled powder room has a deep blue sink illuminated by a multicolored florescent ceiling light and a neon lit circular mirror

In the powder room, the sink is by Sabine Marcelis for Etage Projects, the mirror is by Agape, and the ceiling light is by Johanna Grawunder for Carpenters Workshop Gallery.

Douglas Friedman

Hollis, whose modernist interiors are layered with work by the artisans she seeks out around the globe, filled the house with surprises: Just steps from the entry lies a dark-walled powder room where a fluorescent-tube light installation by American artist Johanna Grawunder hovers over a blue-resin vanity by Dutch designer Sabine Marcelis. The photogenic, Dan Flavin–like space is a hit with the couple’s two teenagers.

On the second level, a massive picture window overlooks a thicket of trees, San Francisco’s lush Presidio Park visible just beyond. The living room features a sculpture by Larry Bell and a painting by Josef Albers—both homages to the square. But if the art is all about right angles, every-thing else in the space, from the Pierre Paulin chairs to the oval cocktail table by the Campana brothers, has rounded corners. “It was unintentional,” Hollis says, “but at one point I realized that everything curves, from the staircase to the furniture.”

the kitchen has a stone island with a sink across from the same stone cabinetry with a stove and cabinets above, windows along wall with wood cabinetry, stone countertop, and sink below

In the kitchen, the custom island and cabinetry are by Vaselli for Elementi. The sinks are by Blanco, and the fixtures are by Waterworks. The flooring is oak herringbone by First, Last & Always.

Douglas Friedman

When she pushed the couple to take some chances, they were persuadable—and stuck with the plan even when the pandemic made everything more complicated. This is how they came to have an entire kitchen, including decorative fronts for built-in appliances, handmade in Tuscany from a single block of pale, purple-veined Breccia Capraia marble. “It’s so tricked out; you knock on the dishwasher, and it opens,” Hollis notes. “There’s no need for hardware.”

the dining room has wood wall paneling, a curtained floor to ceiling window, a bronze fireplace and dining table with eight chairs, a rug, and wall artworks

In the dining room, the wood wall paneling and bronze fireplace, table, and sconces are all custom by Ingrid Donat for Carpenters Workshop Gallery; the chairs are by Sergio Rodrigues for Espasso. The rug is by Atelier Février, the chandelier is by Paul Mathieu for Ralph Pucci, and the console is by Faye Toogood for Friedman Benda. Artworks are by Keith Haring (above console), Jenny Holzer (bench), and Yayoi Kusama (above fireplace).

Douglas Friedman

Even more ambitious was an entire dining room commissioned from a single artist, Paris-based Ingrid Donat, who created grooved-wood panels for the walls, custom lighting, and a dining table, fireplace surround, and crown molding all in hand-cast bronze. The room was fabricated in Donat’s studio in France; each piece was numbered and shipped on pallets to San Francisco, where they were installed by local craftspeople. “It took us over a year and a half to get it done,” Hollis says. “It was down to the wire.”

An entire dining room was commissioned from a single artist—from the wall panels to the fireplace.

For the couple, the house was envisioned as a place where they could host charitable events and share their art collection with the local cultural community. But of course, it was also intended as a refuge for their family. After moving in last fall, the family couldn’t resist gathering in their dining room over a meal of Chinese takeout. “Our lifestyle isn’t formal, but the room is soft, warm, and cozy,” the owner says. “You just want to sit at that table with the fireplace on, eat and drink too much, and have a lot of laughs. That’s the sentiment I wanted for this entire house—a place to build memories while enjoying the work of the artists all around us.”

Mary Alice Huntington, who commissioned the home over a century ago, would likely have approved. Living well, after all, is the best revenge. 

march 2022 cover elle decor

This story originally appeared in the March 2022 issue of ELLE DECOR. SUBSCRIBE

This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Next Post

Column: Courteney Cox's cleaning-supply brand: a good thing

Mon Feb 21 , 2022
Courteney Cox has a new line of pricey scented cleaning products, because of course she does, and she recently put an assortment of them in a box full of flowers to give to Ellen DeGeneres on her final birthday episode of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” because of course she did. […]