Michael Albanese 2013-03-15 04:02:00
At The St. Regis San Francisco, a small renaissance is taking place in the lobby. Design At The St. Regis San Francisco, a small renaissance is taking place in the lobby. “Good design is a renaissance attitude that combines technology, cognitive science, human need and beauty to produce something that the world didn’t know it was missing.” —Paola Antonelli, curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York A captivating 16-foot grand fireplace immediately captures the attention of anyone passing through the front doors The St. Regis San Francisco. Glance around to the walls and view the prestigious contemporary art in rich shades of smoke blue, silver and bronze surrounds the clean, geometrical lines of the interior architecture. A glamorous zebrawood bar with glass pendant lighting complements custom-designed fixtures and furniture with subtle and elegant ebony finishes. On the shelf above the bar, a photographic image of the Golden Gate Bridge is “painted” against the individual spines of its books. This is just some of what’s to be discovered upon entering the 4,660-square-foot lobby of The St. Regis San Francisco today. Already known for its impeccable style and bespoke service, the hotel had a desire to recreate an intimate yet welcoming space, a salon for the senses and a meeting place for the creative intelligentsia and business-minded alike. Inspired by the City “We wanted to maintain this exceptional energy but revitalize the lobby to reflect the sophisticated elegance of the St. Regis and the modern sensibility of San Francisco,” says Toni Knorr, general manager of the hotel. “The lobby was a natural starting point for a series of renovations and design improvements the hotel has planned for 2013 and 2014. We needed a discerning eye. That is why Theresa Fatino immediately came to mind for its bold reinterpretation.” Fatino, a Los Angeles-based designer who previously lived in the Bay Area and was once the original product development designer for Pottery Barn, was excited at the opportunity. “This kind of design goes straight to the heart of what I love to do,” Fatino says. “It was a fantastic collaboration and a true labor of love. We responded to the vision of the hotel’s original designer, Yabu Pushelberg, while pushing toward new levels of refinement, enchantment and culture creating.” Fatino drew her inspiration from San Francisco itself, particularly in the vibrant blocks surrounding the hotel. From the Palace of Fine Arts to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to the landmark Golden Gate Bridge, cultural and historical influences are everywhere. Having once lived in San Francisco, she was thrilled to design a space where creative conversations could ensue. She knew that design was, as a contemporary described, “intelligence made visual.” “This is a new building in a refurbished neighborhood in a magical city. There is no other city in the world like San Francisco,” Fatino says.“It is inspiring in how it strikes a beautiful balance between its rich history and its vibrant, youthful culture. When I think about this city, I think about magnificent minds at work. It is truly a city of modern renaissance and one of my greatest influences.” Theresa Fatino Driven by Detail Although the first-floor interior architecture remained the same, a brand-new layout in the lobby was required, as was the installation of beautiful finishes and furniture. “I wanted to create new dimensions in this already wonderful space,” Fatino says. “The goal was to draw people in organically and have them enjoy thoughtfully selected pieces meant to inspire and welcome. ” All of the furniture in the lobby was designed by Theresa Fatino Design and crafted specifically for The St. Regis San Francisco. “Everything is size appropriate and designed to scale,” she says. “Some of the pieces are designed by others, but we customized them in new fabrics or finishes, like the floor lamps from Foscarini and Contardi. We finished the latter in black matte and attached a delightful little candle light, for instance.” Newly designed carpets adorn the space throughout, while Cappellini faux-marble stools are tastefully placed around the lobby for additional seating. Tub chairs are covered in warm taupe mohair and complement high-gloss charcoal gray lacquer-accented side tables. There are custom curved-back dining chairs in royal navy velvet and black lacquer by Lee Jofa, which serve as great companion pieces to the customized sofas with Makassar ebony trim and tufted upholstery in gun-metal shimmer ultra-leather. “One of my favorite aspects of the refresh is the art installation high above the bar created by Thatcher Wine,” Fatino says. “He came up with this amazing idea of taking a photograph of the Golden Gate Bridge using Instagram and then created an art piece on the spines of the books reflecting the entire photograph.” Fatino was careful to preserve some of the original lobby art, including Andrew Morrow’s extraordinary “Love” and “War” murals. These magnificent pieces pay homage to the original “Old King Cole” mural that was once commissioned by Col. John Jacob Astor IV for the original St. Regis hotel, The St. Regis New York. A Touch of History Philosophically, Fatino takes a very scientific approach to her initial work in order to achieve the kind of intrinsic alignment that connects a brand to its re-conceptualization. She begins by gathering exhaustive information on the history, culture and evolution of her subject. And the St. Regis has certainly seen an evolution as a brand, particularly In its urban properties such as San Francisco and of course, New York, where the original St. Regis hotel founded in 1904. “First of all, there is a legacy to maintain,” Fatino says. “And when I imagine what life was like when Mr. Astor envisioned the St. Regis, it is easy to imagine a traditional, perhaps even antiquated, time and place. But, Astor was very much living in modern times. His style was opulent and his visual offering generous. It was, after all, the Gilded Age of New York City. But, if he could create a hotel in 2013, what would it look like? How could we pay homage to tradition while exploring a strong, modern twist? Those questions were my starting points. “I imagined if the lobby of The St. Regis San Francisco was his grand salon today, every single element would be selected with purpose,” she continues. “There would be a sense of integration yet discretion. There would also be an emotional connection, an inherent sense of belonging, an environment that attracted diversity, personality and glamour. Essentially, the interior would match the elegance and sophistication of its guests.” Behind the Bar “I thought we had an awesome bar experience already,” says Barry Peterson, director of catering for The St. Regis San Francisco. “But what Theresa did is brilliant. She nailed it by making something great even greater by reinterpreting the lobby and bar space. The bar is so diverse now. You can have our signature bloody mary before brunch or enjoy an evening celebration with a group. “The space is very adaptable now. There are unique spaces within the space and they can be anything you want them to be,” he continues. “There are ports for your laptop if you are working during the day. There are these incredible wingback chairs—my personal favorites of all the furnishings—where you can have A wonderfully crafted cocktail with a friend. And there are these custom gray shimmer swivel barstools at the bar that make socializing even more classy.” The bar, operated HiroSone and Lissa Doumani, co-owners of the Michelin-starred Ame restaurant, adjoins the lobby and ties in so beautifully that there has been a profound enhancement in the food and libation experience. “I talk to our guests and the residents consistently and they all want to spend more time in the bar,” Peterson says. “In fact, one of the residents wants to design her apartment to match the lobby and bar.” Some of the sophisticated pieces in the bar include dining tables with gold-flecked leather tops and lacquered, stainless steel bases. The cocktail tables are a geometric and modern interpretation of the Palace of Fine Arts created in a graphic pattern for the tabletops. The bar chairs are custom-made in gray velvet by Moroso. “There is great detail here,” Fatino adds. “These intricately inlaid bar tables have five different woods, all in shades of gray that create the pattern of arches with trimmed detail in polished stainless steel.” One of the most notable features in the refresh is a leather strap room divider between the concierge/ residence entryway and the bar. Black leather straps, like large fashionable belts, are connected by polished stainless “buckles” and hang from the ceiling. Intended to be a room divider, but not to be exclusionary, guests on both sides of the buckled strap wall can peek through to see what is happening on the other side. Guest Appeal The St. Regis San Francisco has been a destination for global guests to meet and mingle since it opened in 2005. Fatino was curious to see how the hotel’s guests, residents and local community would utilize and enjoy the new space, since there was a suggestion of separation and yet inclusion. “We installed a beautiful, stainless steel and leather room divider between the space where residents can go to their homes without having to engage with others, if they so wish,” she says. “We were also mindful about the transitional spaces, such as the lobby to the reception and concierge areas. We wanted the transition to be fluid and organic.” Residents of The St. Regis San Francisco have fully embraced the redesign of the lobby as well since they are the ones walking through it on a daily basis. “The lobby refresh has made the best even better,” says Richard Wollack, a resident at the St. Regis and advocate of the design refresh. “It is sophisticated yet comfortable. It makes me want to stop and have a drink every time I walk by. That is our only concern about the renovation—that it is such a great experience in the lobby that we may end up spending more time there than in our residence.” This kind of feedback energizes Fatino, who knows the service levels for guests and residents are paramount. “Nothing will ever replace the human element [of service], of course. But, I believe there are ways to deliver service through design,” she says. “I wanted to inspire everyone who enters the lobby, but for it to also have that ‘meant to be lived in’ quality. What I wanted to achieve was a modern interpretation of a traditional, private saloon. I wanted to take that renaissance attitude in my work here.” Shortly after the project was complete, Fatino sat in the lobby one evening for hours and watched guests and locals alike enjoy the different spaces for very different reasons. “There was a young couple enjoying a bottle of wine and a romantic conversation. Nearby, businessmen met. At the same time, a gentleman sat quietly by the fireplace reading the newspaper,” Fatino says. “It was all very rewarding.”
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