Name: Claudia Juestel, Founder, Adeeni Design Group
Location: Lower Nob Hill, San Francisco, California
Size: 760 square feet
Years lived in: 6 years; owned
There's a chic opium den vibe, and one could picture Mrs. Meers of Thoroughly Modern Millie, stylishly perched and plotting the fall of a perky ingénue in the afternoon sun, mai thai or dirty martini in hand. This place certainly has a few secrets and a colorful past. Now, the secrets are only a hidden home office and a few tricks of the trade, all under the deft hand and trained eye of Claudia Juestel, the glamorous heroine of this tale of the city.
For Claudia Juestel, founder and principal of Adeeni Design Group, this circa-1926, 17-story apartment building was love at first sight. "It's right in downtown San Francisco, off of Union Square, and I just love it here. The building has so much character."
Along with that character, like a lot of things in San Francisco, the building has a juicy past. Rumor has it the original developer thought he could provide a service, of sorts, to the neighborhood's gentlemen elite when he envisioned the building. Claudia dishes the dirt on the building's bawdier past: "He was thinking he could get the guys from the Bohemian Club and the Olympic Club to buy apartments here as a little pied-a-terre for perhaps what some people called the 'niece'," Claudia chuckles. Those lucky ladies had the benefit of noted architect John C. Hladik's gracious design. "Every unit is a one-bedroom, four per floor, and each is a corner unit, with the most beautiful city views."
She also loved the building's motif mash-up, and New York-ish vibe. "It's a Tudor revival building, a time period where there was a lot of mixtures of styles," says Claudia, whose own globetrotting past (she grew up in Austria) predisposes her to mixing, not matching.
What she originally saw inside wouldn't have gotten a second glance from most other house hunters. With a designer's vision, Claudia looked past a more forgettable hippy-trippy sampling of San Francisco design history. "The people who had lived in the apartment had an artistic bent, but in the wrong direction," she says, with a professional's tact. "The previous owner had sponge-painted the entire apartment… walls, trim and even bathroom vanities," marvels Claudia, about what was no doubt a heady whiff of Haight-Ashbury-inspired "high" style. Claudia had to contend not just with walls that morphed from lavender to terra cotta, but also burgundy ceilings, a faded Manet poster glued to the dining room wall, pink carpet and a mirror-and-brass closet in the bedroom, partially covering the windows.
She had to use another of her senses to get past the apartment's original condition. "The place smelled horrible!" Claudia recalls — a combination of clove and "other" cigarettes, and the scent the real estate agent used to try to camouflage it. "It smelled so bad I had to seal the walls!" Claudia says.
Those walls were color and odor neutralized with a calmer, though no less colorful range that came first from outdoors, then from underfoot. "My palette was certainly a response to the foggy, cool light that we have here," says Claudia. She calls it "a warm, fall palette," although on the rare sunny day, it has the tang and zest of freshly peeled citrus. A large striped area rug of Claudia's own design was the living room's starting point, and every color in the space, and every room, was pulled from it. "That set the tone… olive-y, chartreuse-y greens, combined with rusts and oranges and chocolate. But the accent color is sort of an aqua blue."
That aqua accent, a supporting player elsewhere, takes more of a star turn in the bedroom, although that depends a bit on what bed linens Claudia has pressed into service. Sets of chocolate, white, teal or chartreuse bedding color both the bed and the space, as the whim, season and temperature change. "When you have a small room, the color of the bedding changes the whole feel of the room. When I put in the teal, the whole room feels cooler."
Aside from a bad color trip, when Claudia first spotted it, the apartment had good bones: nicely proportioned rooms, wide arched passages, steel-framed windows, a fireplace. It all just needed a nudge here and there to improve flow and up (and update) the style quotient. The kitchen's linoleum was replaced with hardwood to keep sight lines uninterrupted, crucial to a plan with a pass-through kitchen that greets you almost at the entry. Throughout, the floors got a coat of chocolate stain. "I think dark floors are sexy. They are a pain for dusting, you see everything, but I love how it offsets the rest of the colors."
With that enhanced flow comes spatial trickery: the apartment lives larger than it reads on plan. "Have you noticed that some of the new apartments seem smaller, when you hear the square footage? The older apartments, they are all laid out really well. It's a small space but it feels spacious." Claudia may credit the vintage of the apartment, but she gets plenty of space-enhancing credit herself. Trim is one of her tricks: white molding is a constant that pulls the eye from room to room.
Those rooms unfold easily one to another with walls that change in tone but stay fairly even in value. Each room also shares the master color plan, keeping a lively range surprisingly quiet. This is sophisticated sorbet, not citrus punch. "I usually keep the bedroom door open, because I like that enfilade, and those three colors connecting, and seeing through the space," she says of the vista from living to dining to bedroom.
Throughout those rooms, there are pieces of Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Tibetan descent, mixed with contemporary furnishings both custom and vintage. "I love exotic things, and I love travel, so I think my place is sort of cosmopolitan."
To Claudia, the cosmo mix is also about how we live, in a shrinking world. "People are traveling so much now. They're exposed to so many more styles and cultures and countries. And even if they don't physically travel there, via the internet we see so much more." But it's also matter of (changing) taste. "Who wants to have a total mid-century modern interior? Who wants to be in a very, very, very traditional 18th century French interior? We don't live in a particular style any more. It's not the 18th century, and we're not Louis XIV. That's sort of how design has evolved."
She manages to create her exotic mix without having it look like an import store, partly by how pieces are paired and positioned. A treasured and ornately carved Chinese chair sits next to her sleek glass desk, while white metal repoussé Rajasthan chairs in a Regency style cozy up to a modern metal and glass dining table. Claudia uses a fashionable analogy to make sense of it all. "You've got a great blouse, and a great sweater, and excellent shoes. Then it's a matter of how you put those things together. I think that's what stylists and interior designers are good at."
Even with the mix, the accent is definitely Asian. Why? Primarily, location, location, location. "Living in the Bay Area," says Claudia, "we probably have more Asian antiques than anything else." But it's also a designer's understanding that sometimes you just have to go with the flow. Case(good) in point: the pair of Chinese lacquer cabinets, dipping perfectly just below the high windows flanking the fireplace. "I had a different plan for them, which I still want to do: custom Syrian mother-of-pearl inlaid cabinets. But at the time, these were so reasonable, so I just snatched them up!" Claudia continues, "It's perhaps turned into a little bit more traditional look, a more bit more of an Asian look than I anticipated. That happens with client projects too. You can't find the pieces, and then you come across something different, and you kind of change your direction… there's not just one option that works."
Like she mixes periods, styles and places, Claudia manages just as deftly to merge work and play in this high style home where, believe it or not, she runs her busy interior design practice.
"When people come over for a dinner party, they say, 'You work from here?'" says Claudia, and it's easy to see why they wonder. Like other work-at-home designers (past-House Tour designer-in-residence John Eason comes to mind), Claudia enlists furniture that never looks utilitarian to do the heavy lifting. "I very much believe in decorative storage, whether for a home office or anything else." Those two cabinets in the living room? "One has all the client boxes and all the samples, and the other one has all the office supplies. So a lot is hidden in there!" Double-duty furniture also helps make it all, and everyone, work. "My staff works in the dining room, and that one cabinet, the Tibetan piece, houses all of their stuff, the laptops, and all the office supplies." Deep closets and a wall of book storage take up any remaining slack, hiding filing cabinets and catalogs or displaying research books.
But even with such stylish solutions to keep order, it's a matter of discipline, and putting on your best face for company… and Apartment Therapy cameras. Claudia fesses up, with a laugh, "It may have been a slight bit more cleaned up when you were here! My desk never usually looks that clean!"
Even though her space seems picture-perfect and almost party-ready, like most designers in their own homes, Claudia apologizes for problems only she sees, projects waiting in the wings as budget and time allow. That gorgeous fireplace, with Tudor-tapered chimneybreast? "There is the beautiful mantle with the corbel, but the fireplace opening is just a gaping hole! We will address that, I promise! And we will send you pictures!" No doubt, like the rest of the place, it will be gorgeous. That's both the end of story, and something surely to be continued.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Cosmopolitan chic.
Inspiration: The world at large through travel and armchair travel.
Favorite Element: I love everything together and how each piece from various parts of the world plays off the other, sort of the United Nations of design.
Biggest Challenge: Having expensive taste and not always a budget to match.
What Friends Say: "Warm and inviting."
Biggest Embarrassment: When I could not get the long boards of mahogany to cover the beams make the turn into the living room, and had to block the sidewalk with caution tape to bring them up seven floors on the fire escape.
Proudest DIY: I don't DIY! I hire people and ask them to do exactly what I want.
Biggest Indulgence: The custom mirrored buffet with horn handles I designed.
Best Advice: Measure thoroughly and schedule well. And have no fear about expressing yourself.
Dream Sources: For unique items, I love antique and vintage stores, as well as flea markets. We have the Alamada Antique Fair right in our backyard. I also love to design custom pieces and work with the best local craftsmen and artisans.
Resources of Note:
PAINT & COLORS
• Walls: Sherwin Williams "Viva Gold" SW6367
• Walls: custom "Apricot Butter"
• Walls: custom "Sicilian Olive"
Dining & Living Room
• Walls: custom "Moroccan Apricot"
• Ceiling: Dunn Edwards "Burnished Cream" DE5365
• Trim: Dunn Edwards "Coffee Cream" DE5364
• Windows: DE5364 Dunn Edwards "Black Walnut" DE6063
• "Pheonix" custom Nepalese hand-knotted wool rug: Claudia Juestel
• Horn mirror: Roost
• "Avril" custom Nepalese hand-knotted wool rug: Claudia Juestel
• Desk: "Silverado" chrome-plated base from CB2, custom glass top
• "Morgan" desk chair: Levenger
• Coffee table: Past Perfect
• "Armand" custom sofa upholstered in Stroheim and Romann "Heirloom Chenille"
• "Capote" custom chair, upholstered in Great Plains "The Last Straw," Terra Cotta
• Buffalo horn end table: ZGallerie
• Horn nesting tables: Roost
• "Key" custom mirrored buffet with custom horn pulls, silver-leafed: Claudia Juestel
• Desk lamp: Robert Abbey
• "Lotus" capiz chandelier: Roost
• "Progressive Ring" sconces: Global Views
• Aqua cashmere throw: Yarnz
• Custom decorative pillows in Clarence House "Taibus Cred," Stroheim & Romann "Grenada" and vintage silk floral from Leftovers consignment store
• "Begger's Bowl" in nickel: Oakland artist Dave Meeker
• Water color painting of dragon: Yang Ruifen
• Lithograph of a horse: French/Vietnamese artist Le ba Dang
• Mercury glass lamp with vintage rawhide shade with henna design: Roost
• "Lotus" capiz chandelier: Roost
• Red straw "Delight" bowl: Oakland artist Dave Meeker
• Lithograph of a warrior horse: French/Vietnamese artist Le ba Dang
• Range: Frigidaire Professional Series
• Ceiling fixture: Access Lighting
• Ceramic ram's head: ZGallerie
• Sheepskins: Bowron in Barley
• Custom painted silver night stands: Lloyd Loom
• Trunk made from Antique gilded Chinese architectural elements
• Indian rosewood screen: vintage
• Custom Vietnamese silk duvet cover and shams
• Bedspread: Zucchi Collection
• Custom decorative pillow in Quadrille "Twist" chartreuse
• Glass "Ripple" table lamps: Regina Andrew
• Nickel ceiling fixture: vintage
• Turquoise cloisonné vase: vintage
• Lithograph of a leopard: American artist Guy Coheleach
• Horses by Austrian-American artist Konrad Juestel (Claudia's uncle)
• "Bluebird" woodcut: Frederic Marvin
(Images: Patrick J. Hamilton)
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