Tales of a swallow

Floriana (8 of 11)

Spring is approaching and one way you know that is through the swallows, those migratory geniuses, always good luck to sailors, and now in its ancient pilgrimage to San Juan Capistrano, to reclaim their mud nests in the arches of the old vault.

It’s a lifestyle I completely understand, caught between two places, always longing for the place you left, always freest in the in-between. For me, between a small town in Slovenia and San Francisco, two lovers I could never give up.

Speaking of the swiftness and gracefulness of swallows I think immediately of my favorite dress designer, Isabel de Pedro, who has created a print of flying swallows on the fabrics of one of her most sophisticated and feminine dresses.

I put it on and I’m in flight; I’m away, I’m a swallow perhaps…

Country house




chandelier 1

I have told you about the love I have for this house before.

The house stands at the end of the village, which overlooks an apple orchard. This is not far from the Adriatic. There are just nine houses in the village, along with a church and a creek. The house was built two centuries ago, although nobody knows when exactly.  The last date chiseled in the face of the stone portal is 1806.

The walls are a yard thick in places, meant to hold warmth in winter and cool in summer. The stone is held together by crumbling mortar. The enormous and very old oak wine barrels confirm stories of once existing “ostaria”. The front double door opens into a vast courtyard, surrounded by living quarters, a barn and a wine cellar. The back of the house is built into a hill, a drain runs under the floor. The roof tiles are terra cotta, underneath all whitened with the natural pigment of the lime stone dust, exposing the terra cotta in the geometric pattern. The timbers are worm-riddled.

The previous owners included four cousins; one of them, Nino Capone, is a cousin of Al Capone. before emigrating to New York, the Capones lived in the nearby town of Fiume. Nino’s mother, as a little girl growing up in the house, moved as a young woman to Trieste, where she met Al Capone’s uncle, married him and they had a son Nino, who become a partial owner of the property upon his mother death.

Adriana, my daughter, and I spend almost every summer there, but I think of the house much more often, dreaming about it the way you would dream of a lover. I visit it the way you would a vacation home a few hours away.  In my visions I am often in the courtyard, sitting under the wine pergola, sipping the local wine, feeling the sun.

Or, I remember the times that this or that happened, the time Adriana found a monstrous spider on the wall and carefully took it to the orchard or the time we watched a ferocious fight between a scorpion and centipede. Or, memories of our neighbor Maria, now gone, who had this beautiful tradition of leaving the basket of her garden treasures: tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, or whatever was ready to harvest that day, leaving it for me to find every morning when I opened the frontdoor.

When I am really there, I am always busy, cleaning the wine cellar, tending the orchard, oiling the timbers, pruning the vines. It’s not just the upkeep, it’s a very intimate work I do with my own hands. It’s a relationship, with the stone walls, with the village, with its history and mine.

The Renaissance Eye, The story behind Floriana Interiors


If one of the great challenges of interior design is to find the intersection of principle and predilection — a common ground between designer and client — then the need is to find someone with a worldly knowledge of both people and beauty, and also someone bringing with them a network of artists, artisans, architects and builders.
Such are the resources and talents of Floriana Petersen, who grew up in Slovenia, in a small town of stone walls, slate roofs and picturesque gardens. While studying art history at university she spent summers restoring old frescoes in some of the country’s great cathedrals. It was during long hours meticulously pairing and repairing that she acquired her appreciation for the nature of what is artistic.
Upon arriving in San Francisco she began working as an accessories designer, making handbags and custom leather bound books and boxes for clients such as Oprah and Rolling Stones Magazine.
In 2007, she turned her focus to interior design, beginning with San Francisco Noe Valley home, which included a wonderfully creative indoor pool, along with superbly crafted furniture. Every niche became a tableau.
Her signature is a clean, sophisticated design with European elegance. She is particularly adept at drawing out her clients, to discover those objects, collections, and materials, and those architectural nuances that hold personal significance, and reflect the creative instincts of the client.
Floriana Petersen is also an author; her new book, 111 Places in San Francisco, is at once a guide, but also a collection of brief essays about her favorite points of interest in the city.

CALIFORNIA HOME+DESIGN , Winter 2015, page 88,89

Salle de bain

It’s the place to cleanse and purifty, to recast ourselves, to begin and end the day.  Our most private refuge.  Hence, the need for design that is at once practical and dreamfull.

Tile is at the core. For my clients I often use the selection offered at a company in Sausalito, Heath ceramics, which was founded in 1948.Their tile and tableware is still made in small runs on the original premises in Sausalito factory

I am taken by the unique natural look they get using a hand-glazed technique.

For a bathroom I did recently in the Peninsula, I chose a very pale color of canvas. I accented one wall with a wide, bold strip of crease-out tiles, which suggested an art piece. I put a Japanese soaking tub in one corner is surrounded with bold limestone slabs, which gives the sense of a well. Across is the vanity, hand-made from a silky English sycamore maple. The vanity is topped with a perfectly round sink with the gentle thin walls, illuminated by two pendant lights, delicately shaped as rain droops.

The theme is naturally water, the symbol of both purification and life.

Clothes Quarters



Palo Alto Closet

Behind the closet door.  Secrets of the universe. The real diary….And I marvel at all those dresses, all those ‘me’s.  Shoes and belts and scarves, this and that, put on or taken off with an identity of the moment. And there are dresses in there that caused great commotions.

Every dress, every pair of shoes has its own story; The time she was lost in Venice, and could have cared less. The time she spilled ice cream down the front, on that hot moony night in Manhattan.  The great wines, the foreign smells. The restaurants those dresses have known, the streets those shoes have walked. And always the thought of what she’ll look like, how she’ll be wrapped, how she’ll unfurl…

All those visions of women’s dearest possession in one place: a closet. …..

As a designer I love big closets, where dresses can breath. Where eyes can linger. Recently, I designed a closet for sophisticated client who spends her life helping others. And so her closet is more than a storage space, is the space, that is just about her. It’s the space where her eyes can rest on silks, chiffons, linen summer dresses or on warm cashmeres for the winter.

I chose silky, refined blond English Sycamore wood for cabinets, sophisticated and soft, not to disagree with the colors of the fabrics.

Over the cabinets slides a large barn door-style sliding mirror with stainless hardware adding just the right portion of masculinity to what is an intimate woman’s space.

The shoe cabinets are custom-made from the same English Sycamore wood; the ends of the illuminated shoe shelves with the hidden strings of a leed lights are accented with the 2” ribbon of a purple heart wood, beautiful and rich echoing the antique plumpish rug and the colored upholstery on the custom made bench, a place to sit an ponder the day’s sartorial decisions.

All very natural,with a little touch of surprise and mystique. Just like my client.

Poet Sofa


One of my favorite designs is the Poet Sofa, upholstered in warm, soft wool fabrics and imagined as a piece of furniture where you can cuddle up with a cup of coffee, or drop into to read the book review, or sit to take off your stockings.

It has a friendly, classical shape and whenever I see one I have the impression that the arms are reaching out to give me a hug.

The design appeared in 1941, done by Finn Juhl  during the Danish Modern epoch. Juhl used organic forms and soft lines, resulting in a comfortable piece designed with exquisite craftsmanship. Juhl, also an architect, combined the best aspects of the modernist style with curves and soft edges.

Recently, when asked to furnish a client’s new home in Venice Beach, the Poet Sofa came to my mind. My client has a deep appreciation of mid 20th Century modern style; her father was a product designer, well known for his slick telephone designs in the 1970s.  She, herself, works as a sound engineer on movie sets,  and survives a busy schedule. A woman in need of refuge I thought, and perhaps something with an industrial touch.

As soon as I showed her the Poet Sofa she was in love. It defines the mood and ambiance of her space, and responds to her desire to keep stress at bay.  Something stylish and a spot for reflection. A perfect match.

The sweater

sweater by Steve Werney

Rain has finally come back to the door. The land needs it. Time to curl up, get cozy and wrap yourself up in a soft warm sweater, to feel safe and protected.

And so off again I go on a memory, to one rainy November day a few years ago. I was strolling up Fillmore Street, on one of those cold days when you want nothing more than to sit next to a fireplace, sip hot tea, give your concentration to the flames and be close to someone.

I walked by a store, saw something in the window, bought it and walked out, in my cozy and new soft sweater.

A few months later I travelled to Paris.  It was spring, but still very cold, I went exploring the promenade of Le Viaduc des Arts, enjoying the old railroad on the brick and stone viaduct, which carried trains until the late 1970s. Later, the old vaults beneath the rail line were turned into craftsmen’s workshops and galleries. There you can find cabinet builders, musical-instrument makers, fashion designers and even textile restorers.

I wandered from shop to shop, from a paper restorer to a flute maker. And then to a knitting shop. I stepped in, admiring the yarn, knitting machines and sweaters, particularly one that was olive green and cozy looking. I handed it to a petite, dark-haired young woman. She looked at me smiling, as though she knew me. I told her I wanted to buy it. She wasn’t surprised, she told me she knew I would buy one of the sweaters.

“How did you know that?” I asked.

“Because you are wearing one of my sweaters,” she replied.

I told her that was highly unlikely since I had bought it in San Francisco.  “Yes, it’s a little store on Fillmore Street,” she said and named it. She added that it was the only other shop in the world that sold her creations.

But what are the odds of such a coincidence? That I would have been wearing the sweater that day and find my way to her store and all because of the weather and the seasons, a restless heart on a particular day…

Farm, cook, eat

The Shed-Steve Werney

The Shed-Steve Werney 1

The Shed-Steve Werney Photo

The Shed by Steve Werney Ph

Friends are the most valuable possession, are they not? They may take you on some grand adventure, whether to a place or a state-of-mind. Or else they teach you some trade. One of those is my friend Jerry Doyle who taught me how to apply and preserve finishes on different surfaces. Just now he’s restoring one of the oldest houses in Healdsburg.

On one of my visits, he introduced me to Cindy Daniels who, with her partner Doug Lipton, own The Shed, a market and community gathering place. It’s a celebration of food’s journey from field to fork, and a place where you meet a friend, sit in on a lecture, languish over a perfect expresso or a delicious lunch made from local ingredients. And then, you can shop for traditional hand-forged gardening tools and a very tasteful choice of cooking equipment.

The food is carefully selected, and the shelves stocked with the best spices, pasta, aging cheeses, and smoked fish. You can even buy salt from Slovenia, which of course is dear to my heart. There’s a story here, which involves Maria Teresa — who ruled the Hapsburg Empire for four decades, married for love, and had 16 children. She was known for her reliance on diplomacy and government reform. She also built a railway line from Vienna to Trieste, in large measure to secure this specific salt; now you can get it at the Shed.

The building itself, stands in the shape of a modern, very minimalist barn made of glass and recycled steel. It was designed by Jensen Architects. Inside, everybody tends to gather in the kitchen, which has a very homey feeling and is anchored by a wood-fired oven. Thick Carrara marble slab tables are a vision of minimalistic sturdiness and enduring character. I love the feeling of cold marble, set against warm, wood counters.

Close by is a zinc-covered Fermentation bar where you can order everything fermented. And here is one more surprise I love: glass funnels used as light fixtures over the bar. The second floor offers an open spacious meeting room, known as the Grange, where the Sunday suppers, music, films and lectures bring the people of Healdsburg together.

Among those who inspired the Shed is the poet Wendell Berry with the quote: “An agrarian mind begins with the love of the fields and ramifies in good farming, good cooking and good eating .”

The Epitome of Streamline Moderne Style

Floriana (2 of 11)



One of San Francisco’s signatures is its Victorians, but the Malloch Building, at 1360 Montgomery St. on Telegraph Hill, is an unexpected match to the city’s esthetics.

I became acquainted with this Art Moderne-Style building while working on a remodeling project for a client, who, just like the Lauren Bacall character in Dark Passage, owns a stunning, very chic apartment in the building.

Everywhere you look there’s an abundance of curves, everything flowing round and round: the dining room is round, the Art Deco fireplace is round, even the light seems rounded, coming in indirectly, through floor-to-ceiling windows, which, as you might imagine, offer unparalleled views of the Bay, with Yerba Buena Island in the backdrop.

Every element in the building reflects the Streamline Art Moderne style, including a trio of silver sgrafittos by Alfred du Pont. All the details have been preserved exactly as they were when the building opened — in 1937 — including an elevator encased in a backlit glass brick shaft. At night, as it comes up to get you, you have the sense of rising liquid silver.

An open-air lobby appears tropically lush and green with monstera leafs, framed by etched, sandblasted windows, and the art deco geometric images of clouds. You can still admire the same etched-glass windows and stylish railings just as they appeared in the film, and as Bacall lead Bogart up to her 3rd floor apartment, for ‘the kiss.’

Such a perfect contrast — the mid 20th century, sleek all-white moderne interior serving as a backdrop to one of the great examples of film noir. And no wonder that that famously stylish Humphrey Bogart took his refuge in apartment No. 10.

Show Dogs and Vampires



Sitting at the corner table of my friends restaurant Show Dogs, watching the wild street life at the corner of Market and Golden Gate Ave., I remembered another wild scene, happening in the same building. I am talking about the morbidly beautiful cult movie, Interview with the Vampire, which begins with the camera sweeping over nightly San Francisco Bay, traveling down Market, following street life like a hunter following his prey, and then finally zooming in on a top floor window at the St. Martin Hotel. We are drawn into the dark, sparsely furnished room where Louis de Pointe du Lac, a gloomy gorgeous vampire, portrayed by Brad Pitt, is spinning his 200-year-life story to journalist Daniel Malloy.

The Flatiron Victorian building, known for the fictitious St. Martin Hotel to classy vampires and to foodies alike, also features the Show Dogs restaurant. They all come to find substance at this artisan’s hot dog place, where you can sink your teeth into the most delicious wild boar sausage, accompanied with poached cherries in red wine. Imagine little Claudia, after her first bite, saying, “I want some more.”

Of course, my little darling, then you shall have it.

Foreign Cinema owners and chefs, Gayle Pirie and John Clark, opened Show Dogs four years ago, serving delicious, locally-made sausages and other fine foods accompanied with locally brewed beer.  You can also order a glass of deep, red wine — and all that just a few floors below the room where I imagine that my favorite vampire is to this day still telling his fabulous stories.


I am an interior designer, drawn to beauty in all its forms, especially in art, architecture and fashion. As a designer, I take my inspiration from my clients, and from what I find in the world.

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