Agustin’s Barrio Baroque
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Name: Agustin Sanders
Occupation: Interior Designer
Location: Nob Hill — San Francisco, California
Size: 650 square feet
Years lived in: 3-1/2 years — rented
The story reads a bit like the treatment for Harry Potter: Young man enters specialized and venerable college, learns artful sorcery and a mastery of the dark arts. He waves a magic wand, sees into the future and pulls from the past, all while channeling the skills of his mother’s craft. All is possible, in the wizarding world (and San Francisco home) of interior designer Agustin Sanders.
But Agustin’s is more of the practical magic variety… the wand he often wields is a paint roller, the dark arts he performs are with Benjamin-Moore, not Severus Snape, and the profession he practices is one to which his mother first introduced him. “My mom was an interior designer, so I was always around furniture and fabrics,” he explains. It was the Academy of Art, School of Interior Architecture and Design where he polished the inherited craft, and where he has become, not so long ago, part of the staff.
This is no typical just-out-of-college apartment, one he shares with his roommate Daniel Fogarty, a Fashion Merchandising student also at AAU. Agustin’s mix is a little glam and a lot street smart, especially in his bedroom. “It has a dark perspective… maybe like a ‘chic Goth?'” Agustin ponders. Whatever the moniker, it’s the mix of a sure and confident hand. “I love Renaissance and very intricate details, so I think that could be where my style goes.”
This Renaissance man’s decorative style is not without wit or deeper meaning. A fortune cookie message over his bed nearly commands the room, elevated to mysterious importance. “It’s the first thing you see: this big antique frame, and then a tiny little sticker.” Elsewhere in the room, winged hearts (in artwork and a tin milagro) seem tattoo-inspired and city gritty, but they also harken back to his cultural roots and a strong bond to family: the milagro was a gift from Agustin’s mother, via Mexico City. The folk art adds a grounding, personal note to the nearby silver sequins and gray galvanized side table. That limited, shared palette makes friends of strangers across the ages. The mix of urban and Old World makes even ubiquitous pieces (the Louis Ghost chair, a West Elm piece or two) seem rediscovered, and a dressmaker’s form plays the role of Greek statuary convincingly.
The home itself sets the stage for that mix. Lifetimes of renovations and room repurposings in the pre-war building created a space with elements both new and old. Pre-Agustin, the “old” was weary and the “new” was hardly inspired. His ability to look at a space for future potential, let him see past both. To the rescue, two great tricks: paint, and lighting, both easily undone when it’s time to move on. Agustin defied the convention that dark paint makes spaces smaller (and in the process, his charcoal-y choices gave the original floors surprising warmth). More ambitious than some renters (and with the approval of an understanding landlord), Agustin even painted the kitchen cabinets.
Trading out light fixtures is the second trick employed to banish the rental blahs, and the choices are highly personal, and high style. Edison bulbs add a wine-bar air to the kitchen, and the shade of the bedroom chandelier shares drama with the window treatments. Those drapes are a modern take on Carmen’s mantilla, sweeping arcs that push the ceiling higher and filter surprisingly bright San Francisco light.
Agustin finds inspiration in and around San Francisco and its diverse pool and melting pot of cultures. “Everywhere you go, there is something that can be turned in to something pretty cool for an interior design.” For this urban scout with a trained and talented eye, that means inspiration is found, literally, around any corner. “My friends make fun of me because I always find very interesting things on the street!” Agustin has that enviable talent for being at the right place at the right time when treasures are booted to the curb. “Especially in the neighborhood I live. I feel like a lot of people just throw things out that could be reused, with just a coat of paint.” Or simply as is, evidenced by the doorframe with its collage of foxed-glass panels missing and present. “It’s pretty heavy! I don’t know how I got it into the apartment!” he marvels.
In Daniel’s room, the style is more spare than Augustin’s “barrio Baroque,” but hardly monastic… a modern lamp on a vintage dressing table that shares its curves, wall-mounted crates as lively but practical storage and electronics perched on a castaway set of store props. The tubes, papered to look like logs, were from a downtown clothing store changing displays… more street finds casting their charms about the apartment.
As composed as the spaces appear, they are constantly in (mostly) happy flux. “I always like to be changing and moving things around, which I think my roommate doesn’t really appreciate!” Agustin laughs. His willingness to shake things up extends to a room’s function when circumstances warrant, and nothing on the floor plan is too sacred to rework. His parlour-turned-bedroom (nearly a studio apartment in its own right, zoned for storage, work, and sleep) takes another turn when Thanksgiving and dinner parties come up. “It’s a whole process, but it works for me!” Bed and mattress disappear with the help of a walk-in closet, clearing the decks for dinner. That (windowed!) closet is a saving grace and does all the heavy lifting, but other storage is hiding in plain sight… stacked vintage suitcases hide Agustin’s penchant for lighting and other items of décor while serving as tables and stands.
Multi-function thinking extends to the space itself. Halls and entry are turned into usable areas where friends are happy to hang. The kitchen is a perfect illustration. “Because we don’t have a very big common space, I wanted to create a space where it kind of leads into the kitchen without just feeling like you are walking into, you know, a kitchen!” Paint, table and stools turn a throwaway wall into wine bar. “By putting in a few sitting spaces around the door and by the window, (I was) trying to create a place where people can sit down and not feel like they are walking into a kitchen.” The most successful of that seating is a home hack: a painted base of uncertain origin topped with glam cushions, making it the best seat in the house. “It’s just another way to create extra seating in a space that’s so awkward.” The cabinet base is especially inspired. “We have extra storage, we have extra seating,” notes Agustin.
Like all good stories, Agustin’s take on that window seat is about more than what’s seen at first glance. “You look over to the trash area. But if you don’t really pay attention to that, you can see the bricks from the other building, which makes it more interesting.” That seems to be a particular skill of this interior designer worth watching: the ability to look beyond the obvious, the cast off, the thrown away… and see something beautiful in it. Or just past it. With that kind of skill, that kind of outlook, the fortune that hangs over Agustin’s bed- “You will be successful in your career.”- seems destined to come true. No magic spells required.
Listen to the interview with Agustin here.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: “Barrio Baroque”!
Inspiration: The mix of cultures in the city.
Favorite Element: Items I find on vintage or antique stores.
Biggest Challenge: Storage and transforming my bedroom into a dining room for different events and dinner parties
What Friends Say: Where do you put your bed when you have dinner parties??
Biggest Embarrassment: Telling my friends where and how I found several items in my apartment…
Proudest DIY: I did everything so EVERYTHING!
Biggest Indulgence: My room.
Best Advice: Don’t spend so much money on expensive furniture.
Dream Sources: Always any antique stores, flea markets and vintage stores.
Resources of Note:
PAINT & COLORS
• Chess Floor Lamp: West Elm
• Branch Shelving: West Elm
• Kitchen Stools: West Elm
• Bar Table: IKEA
• Light Fixture: CB2
• Industrial Bar Stools: West Elm
• Tree Stump: Retail store display
• Pintuck Duvet: West Elm
• Storage Trunk: Vintage
• Horsehead Bedside Lamp: VIntage
• Throw: West Elm
• Chandelier: Clarita Nickel Chandelier
• Shower Curtain: West Elm
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