San Francisco Design: Inside 3 Game-Changing New Spaces

The city's hottest new talents show off their latest projects.

With iconic architecture that ranges from Edwardian to Arts and Crafts, San Francisco is no stranger to design movements. But some of the city’s best work is behind its iconic exteriors. Three of the Bay Area’s hottest interior designers open the doors of their most recent projects and show us what our insides are made of.

Designers: Rebecca Brownlee McEfee and Kate Hanzo, Studio Hatch

Rebecca Brownlee McEfee and Kate Hanzo, Studio Hatch

Studio Hatch co-founders Rebecca Brownlee McEfee and Kate Hanzoare mix-masters at heart. The design duo—friends and frequent collaborators who launched their firm in 2012—alternates collaborative sessions between offices in McEfee’s Inner Sunset home and Hanzo’s place in the East Bay, and relies on disparate skill sets to bring their creative vision to life. “I draw out more of the contracting aspects, and Kate is so much better with the imagery,” says McEfee. “Our strengths really balance each other out.”

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the multi-functional commercial offices that they create for some of San Francisco’s hottest startups, including Github and HotelTonight. “So many young, energetic companies want hipper offices, and they don’t want them to feel corporate,” says McEfee. The pair hits the sweet spot by creating the ideal mash-up of work-and-play in their low-key office designs.

Project: HotelTonight

Studio Hatch designed Hotel Tonight

McEfee and Hanzo translated 10 years of experience in hospitality design into the San Francisco offices of HotelTonight, a last-minute booking startup that was the first commercial project for Studio Hatch. Taking a cue from the company’s portfolio of hip hotels, they modeled the space after a staff favorite (Ace Hotel New York), sprinkling in masculine details such as tufted-leather Chesterfield sofas near the reception area and plaid wingchairs at the communal lounge tables. And like many startups, HotelTonight puts a premium on its collaborative environment.

“For anyone who had a desk, they wanted a second place for that person to work in a more relaxed setting,” says McEfee, who carved out a series of smaller lounge areas from the 17,000-square-foot floor plan of the SoMa warehouse. Hanzo selected comfortable furniture that would adapt to various working styles, including sofas on casters and flexible cafe tables in the kitchen, which also functions as a meeting space. The designers also built a custom reception desk around a vintage jewelry case, in which they displayed a collection of HotelTonight mementos, selected by co-founder and CEO Sam Shank.  

Designer: Jay Jeffers, Jeffers Design Group

Jay Jeffers

Though launched from a spare room in his home more than a decade ago, the humble beginnings of Jay Jeffers’ eponymous design firm aren’t fooling anyone—the founder has a lock on luxurious interiors. With his signature blend of rich texture, a colorful palette, edited collections and one-of-a-kind vintage, Jeffers has turned out sophisticated interiors from coast to coast, but keeps his local fans sated with projects such as the famed Caterpillar House in Carmel Valley and the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe penthouses. He recently opened his first retail outpost, Cavalier Goods in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, with his partner Michael Purdy in 2012, lending a space to the skilled craftsmen and designers with whom he frequently works. But he truly cemented his status as the head of a full-fledged design empire with the March publication of his first coffee-table tome, “Collected Cool: The Art of Bold, Stylish Interiors.”

Project: Pacific Heights Residence

Jay Jeffers' Pacific Heights Residence Project

When Jeffers began the renovation of this 4,500-square-foot home in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood, his clients were recently engaged and hoping to modernize their space with clean lines and dramatic detailing. But the designer says that “by the end of phase one, their first baby was on the way, and today they’re a family of four.” Jeffers added drama on a family-friendly scale by painting the home’s woodwork a deep charcoal color, providing an updated background for the owners’ collections of inherited items and family photos (the designer converted more than 100 images into black and white and hung them, salon-style, along the stairs). Vintage rope armchairs and an heirloom collection of antique guns—safely locked away in a case that the wife gifted to her husband—anchors the masculine library. The dining room features a sturdy live-edge table and a Hermès-orange ceiling lacquered by local artist Willem Racké. And in true Jeffers style, even the tiniest members of this family get their own dose of drama—the designer created a custom, tree-inspired bookcase for the nursery. 

Designer: Lauren Geremia, Geremia Design

Lauren Geremia

With a degree in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design, Lauren Geremia might not be the obvious choice for design darling of the technorati. But since launching her interior design firm in Oakland in 2006, Geremia has translated her fine-arts focus into eclectic interiors filled with the bespoke creations that she designs herself or commissions from her fellow artisans—and San Francisco’s creative class can’t get enough. Her studio recently finished out the offices of some of the city’s biggest names in tech (Dropbox, Hightail and Instagram, to name a few), and has developed a signature of incorporating a relaxed, cozy vibe into high-powered commercial enterprises. “Creating the right space and lifestyle can have a huge effect on your productivity,” says the in-demand designer, whose office thrums with up to 20 concurrent projects at any given time. Sounds like she might know a thing or two about it.

Project: SoMa Live/Work

Geremia Design SOMA Live Work

Geremia transformed this 4,000-square-foot firehouse in downtown’s industrial SoMa district into a residence-cum-creative incubator for a former Facebook employee. The homeowner’s passion for the arts, which extend to his own LED light installations, directed the inspiration for the space, says the designer. The vast open-plan first floor, which was formerly a retail gallery, can host rotating art exhibits and events for a few hundred guests. On the second floor, Geremia reinforced the art-house vibe by designing custom lighting and installing large-scale works by photographer Catherine Wagner. When inspiration strikes, the second floor also contains a music area overlooking the downstairs gallery, and a shared workspace nested underneath a new stairway leading to the roofdeck. Geremia worked with Boor Bridges Architecture to reconfigure access to the roof—a new, open-tread stairwell and expansive rooftop lounge (complete with a translucent coffee table that doubles as a skylight), make the space more inviting. “People want to be able to relax with their friends and to be comfortable, but they also want to be able to be collaborative and productive,” says Geremia. “Having each of those dimensions is important.” 

Sarah Virginia White