January 27, 2012

Grown-Up Man Cave

By Beth Hughes
Special to the Chronicle

In December, San Francisco interior designer Kendall Wilkinson participated in the Maison de Luxe show home at the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills.

Her South of Market artisans built everything in the room before packing and shipping it south to the national historic landmark, where they assembled the room for a three-week display in the benefit for the Friends of Greystone, a nonprofit devoted to the preservation and promotion of the 46,000-square-foot limestone mansion built in 1927.

Now she's reassembled much of the room designed for the Luxe magazine event in her Sacramento Street shop, filling the windows and the store itself with a must-see example of a designer working to please only her imagination.

"You could do whatever you wanted" for the show house, said Wilkinson, a veteran of such projects, including the 2010 Elle magazine project in St. Francis Wood and many San Francisco Decorator Showcases.

So Wilkinson did exactly that. She faced a 13-by-14 foot room with a great view and a wonderful light, and imagined it as boy's room transformed into a sophisticated space for a 20- to 30-year-old "night crawler."

She designed a pergola to create a room within a room that is sensual, luxurious and very, very grown-up with a hint of the libertine in the Phillip Jeffries gold-leaf paper covering the ceiling juxtaposed with a natural sisal floor covering from Stark Carpets. At the same time, the room suggests gatherings of good friends and good conversation, either before or after a night on the town, or collaborators hammering out a deal in Silicon Valley. It's masculine without the reek of big-screen, master-blaster testosterone.

"We wanted it to be a little edgy," Wilkinson said. "A lot edgy, actually, and I wanted an indoor-outdoor feeling" that maximized the view beyond a welcoming window seat.

Constructing the pergola, with its corner guards of brass with a soft patina, pushed her team. "At every stage of the game, we asked, 'Can you do this?'" she said. "We did a lot of tweaking to it. We had to figure out how to have electrical lights but without seeing the wires" to the Sonora suspension lamp by Vico Magistretti.

A huge iron foundation, hidden by the rug, anchors the structure. Wilkinson kept accessories and other decorative touches to a minimum. She paired vintage sconces with black crystal and cut glass with the Fog lamp from the Morosini Collection. She used photographs by Mark Shaw and Solve Sundsbo, both known for their fashion images.

Two striking elements dominate the Twilight Room: upholstered benches that appear to float in the pergola, their backs made from Victorian chairs, and an infinity mirror.

"The benches didn't look good without backs, and I didn't want to put typical backs on them," said Wilkinson. "I had the chairs...They were waiting to happen, but I didn't know how they were going to happen. I thought, 'here's a way to add a back without blocking the view.'"

The chair backs, lacquered in Benjamin Moore's Evening Dove, provided her signature, a classical element in even the most modern of rooms.

The wall-to-wall infinity mirror, designed so the images can be changed out, increased the room's already high wow factor. It reflects Diane James Home's handmade silk cherry blossoms without end. They're sandwiched between panels of mirror, and that's all Wilkinson will say about it, other than other images or things can be reflected.

"I can't tell you how it works, that's why I'm trademarking the whole thing and patenting it," she said. "It's smoke and mirrors - it's magic."

While Wilkinson said the bench "may be a one of a kind," or one with just a few iterations, Piece, the infinity mirror, which can be adapted to suit traditional as well as modern rooms, will be available as a custom order but without much of a wait. "Fabrications will take just a few weeks," she said, with quick delivery because "it's made in San Francisco."

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