Signature Style of Great Cities: San Francisco

American Style

Diane Dorrans Saeks wrote that San Francisco is a "free thinking college student who fled to France to study life, literature, art and architecture, returned with a head full of European history" and settled in California. Though much is of European inspiration (it is the "Paris of the West," after all), San Francisco's signature style is as rich, unique and detailed as one of its famous Painted Ladies.

History & Architecture: From Beaux Arts to Bay Area

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While the Gold Rush brought the people and the port brought the industry, Europe influenced the style of San Francisco during the 19th and early 20th centuries. After the earthquake of 1906, the city was quick to rebuild and show a beautiful, Beaux Arts face for the Panama-Pacific Exposition of 1915. Though the Parisian influence is still apparent throughout the city (such as the California Palace of the Legion of Honor), a more native style was on the horizon.

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During the early half of the 20th century, California-born architect William Wurster pioneered the use of indigenous materials and simplistic design that became the prototype for the ranch-style home across America. Wurster's name became synonymous with Bay Area architecture, designing hundreds of homes that are still beautiful today. This Wurster 2 bedroom in The Castro sold in March 2010 for $300,000 over asking.

Modern Style: Relaxed, Colorful, Natural

To discover the design style of modern San Franciscans, you need not look any further than our House Tours (follow the caption links above to tour the whole home). There's an absence of pretension, that relaxed California vibe flows through the decor, inviting you to sit and put your feet up. There's a sense of play in color choices, whether bright primaries or muted palettes. And across all neighborhoods and home styles, San Franciscans focus on the natural elements of light and air, either bringing them in or focusing the attention out.

For our favorite places to shop like a San Franciscan, check out our City Guide:
The Best of San Francisco: City Guide | Apartment Therapy Marketplace

Images: 1. Flickr user fototastisch licensed by Creative Commons; 2. Palace of the Legion of Honor, Wikimedia Commons; 3. San Francisco Gate; 4-8. Apartment Therapy, as linked above.

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