The famed architect Julia Morgan was probably used to people tricking out her buildings, filling them with all manner of strange and whimsical treasures. William Randolph Hearst famously jammed his Morgan-designed Hearst Castle with acres of fine European antiquities.
So Morgan would’ve probably been tickled to see how a slew of interior decorators would work their magic on the 1917 mansion she designed in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights - the site of the 2015 San Francisco Decorator’s Showcase.
For the last three months, 28 top Bay Area decorators have transformed 9,700 square feet of Morgan’s classic rooms with splashes of color, bold furniture and even elements of street art. The annual event raises money for San Francisco’s University High School — which Morgan also designed.
“She actually designed 800 buildings,” said decorator Glenda Flaim, whose Showcase room pays tribute to Morgan. “I kind of calculated on a 40-years career — that means a building every three weeks. That is an unbelievable feat.”
Flaim’s designed bedroom features a wall curtain revealing Morgan’s original drawings of the home as well as an original correspondence. Flaim noted Morgan was the first woman to be licensed as an architect in California as well as the first woman admitted to the prestigious L’Ecole National Superieure des Beaux-Arts school in Paris.
“I think for me it was paying an homage,” Flaim said, “thinking about the accomplishment.”
Other decorators took a more liberal trajectory in paying tribute to Morgan’s rooms. Decorator Cecilie Starin filled a lower dining room, she calls it ‘Street Soiree,’ with a wall mural by Ian Ross whose street art decorates Facebook and other tech companies. Colorful sculptures of Ross’ paint cans adorn some of the walls.
“I wanted to juxtapose the beautiful traditional architecture with something that was very new,” said Starin, “and would sort of shake-it-up.”
Tineke Triggs used the inspiration of a 1960s Vogue magazine cover to transform an upstairs bathroom into a room you wouldn’t mind spending a day or two in. A green settee adds a bolt of color along with a wall-sized photo of a model, harkening back to the famous magazine.
“There’s a great tension to do the showcase,” said Triggs, “because you’re doing something you’ve never done before.”
In the Gentleman’s Private Lounge, decorator Eche Martinez created a warm escape where the baron of the house might sit in repost between exotic jaunts and a night on the town.
"I wanted to create a space that conveyed sort of the mind set of a 21st century dandy, jet sitter,” said Martinez.
The 38th annual Showcase will be continue through May 25th - giving visitors plenty of time to see how Morgan’s design still serve as a contemporary canvas, even almost a century after its construction.
“I think she had a classic element,” said decorator Phillip Silver, “that bounds in all her architecture.”
For more information on the showcase, click decoratorshowcase.org