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Publication Date: 2019-05-01

Behind the Design

Behind the Scenes of the SF Decorator Showcase with Kari McIntosh Design

The 2019 San Francisco Decorator Showcase has kicked off in Presidio Heights. Themed "Le Petit Trianon", this year's Showcase is set in an 18,000 square-foot estate built in 1904 and inspired by a neoclassical chateau built on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles. Running until May 27, the open house features 36 designers who worked tirelessly to craft 33 curated rooms worthy of the home's grandeur. Here, we talk with Kari McIntosh, a creative designer with a clever eye for detail, about the Showcase and her spaces within it.

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Photography by John Merkl

Dering Hall: The spaces you designed at the SF Decorator Showcase, a butler’s pantry and an atrium, were inspired by 17th-century France and the Palace of Versailles. What drew you to this particular subject?

McIntosh: The home was built in 1904 as a replica of the Petit Trianon at Versailles. When I toured the home, I had an idea for a floral cutting room in my mind. The minute I laid eyes on the atrium, it reminded me of the orangerie at Versailles [an indoor room where fruit trees were protected during winter], and I knew that this space with the connected butler’s pantry would make the perfect floral cutting and arranging spaces — I titled my room in the showhouse “Fleurs Et Orangerie". The door between the spaces features the most incredible original verdigris and gold grill, and that inspired the floral cutting room to take on a more glamorous design.

Photography by John Merkl

Dering Hall: What are some of the most important details of your designs?

McIntosh: The verre églomisé backsplash is something that I have wanted to do for a long time, and Showcase was the perfect opportunity. My wonderful decorative artist, Caroline Lizarraga, worked with me on that and the gold leaf ceiling. The Abnormals Anonymous “Buggie” wallpaper is also a strong graphic draw for the room. They custom colored the paper to match the C2 Paint color “Baritone”. High quality cabinets by Greg Bergere of GO Build Studio feature door panels that I designed to reference the ironwork on the grand staircase. Recently released hardware by Hoffman Hardware and Paul Ferrante's “Butterfly Lantern” are the jewelry of the room. The marble countertop by Da Vinci Marble is “Invisible Blue” featuring “Azerocare,” and it has wonderful coloring and movement that really sing with the other elements.

Outside in the atrium, I tracked down Eye of the Day Garden Center, a West Coast distributor of authentic European terracotta pottery, for original Versailles planter boxes made to the specification and design of Louis VX’s landscape architect. Those paired with a Loro Piana Interiors polypropylene stair runner, 19th-century glazed terracotta stools from C. Mariani Antiques, and a gilt mirror from Erin Lane Estate create a luxe yet approachable outdoor space.

Photography by John Merkl

Dering Hall: You’ve participated in the Showcase for the past three years, and you’ve attended since 1999. How is this year different?

McIntosh: The size and history of the house make it a spectacular showhouse. The home was built in 1904. It survived the Great Earthquake in 1906, and it’s on the National Registry of Historic Homes. Its illustrious history continues, as an artist also squatted here a few years ago. All of that makes for intrigue and grandeur — there is even a ballroom in the home!

Photography by John Merkl

Dering Hall: How long does it take you to prepare each year for the Showcase?

McIntosh: It depends on how early they have the house. It can take anywhere from three to five months. This year we walked the house on November 1st (which was unusually early). However, with end-of-the-year project wrap-ups and the holidays, which meant most of my subcontractors were unable to start until the end of January, I designed it in about the same amount of time.

Dering Hall: What has been your favorite part of the Showcase each year?

McIntosh: The camaraderie between the participating designers has been the nicest surprise to come from participating. It builds a sense of community, and once you design for SF Showcase, you are part of a club in the industry.

Photography by John Merkl

Dering Hall: When the Showcase begins, how do you celebrate, and how do you celebrate when it ends?

The Showcase begins with a bang — there’s the whirl of press day, Patron Preview [a gathering for participants] and the Opening Party, and designers are required to attend daily. I don’t personally celebrate — I hang on for a wild ride that results in meeting and interacting with up to 15,000 visitors in over a month’s time. When the showcase is over, I go on a summer vacation with my family to reconnect after spending so much time working. This year we are taking a week long trip to Glacier National Park.

Photography by John Merkl

Dering Hall: In your opinion, what are the strengths of the Bay Area design community, and where does the community have room to grow?

McIntosh: The Bay Area design community is a lovely network of designers who mostly support and cheer for each other. From what I understand, this is unique compared to other areas of the country. In terms of areas of growth, I would love to see more Bay Area focused educational opportunities like the ones that the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art (ICAA) presents. I have enjoyed their visits to local artisans, historic architectural sites, and gardens, and I would like to see more of those types of educational outlets available throughout various design networks.

To read more about Kari McIntosh and her work, check out this recent Q+A with the designer from our colleagues at Chairish.

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