The Renaissance Eye, The story behind Floriana Interiors



home-design

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

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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

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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.

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 .”

Cork models

Roundtemple, Tivoli (2)

D. Cöllen, Forum Triangolare

D. Cöllen, Kapitolstempel 2008 (33)

Cork, not the county but the bark from the Cork Oak, always suggests to me the extremes of youth and age.  Youth, because of cork’s elasticity and flexibility; age, because of the way, especially in its untreated form, it looks dry and wrinkled.

When my friend Dieter Collen was searching for a material to build architectural models, his research brought him back to the 18th century, when souvenirs of ancient roman architecture were made of cork (Cork Oak  is grown all around the Mediterranean but particularly in Portugal and Spain). The souvenirs in the 1700s were bought up by wealthy English aristocrats who brought them home and set them down as centerpieces on their dining room tables.  And so a starting point for reminiscences about travels to the Mediterranean, along with tales of Amaretto and ancient civilizations.

Dieter has revived this forgotten craftsmanship, and his models have become not merely talking points for architects but art pieces by themselves. Each piece is made to scale, precisely following dimensions and accuracy of the ancient buildings, temple ruins, bridges or towers. But at the same time he elicits sentimental nuances form the tactile natural look of cork. If you look closely at his model of the Coliseum, you can actually hear the roaring crowd as the gladiators and the lions stalk each other. Each of his pieces conveys its signature ambiance.  And so if you lean close to the Great pyramid of Cheops you can hear Napoleon coming out of the Great Tomb trying to tell all of his astronomers, artists and astrologers, about his mystical experience. “No, what’s the use,” he reportedly said. “You would never believe me.”

My questions to Dieter:

In what era of history would you live if you could choose?
In the 4th dynasty (2500 BC) in Egypt as an architect for gardens and irrigation.

Where would you go if you had to leave right tonight to an unexpected vacation?
To our house in France near Cahors, having picnic with friends on the banks of the Lot.

What was the last great architectural object you saw, that makes you want to build the model of?    The destroyed Buddha statues of Bamian / Afghanistan, helping to rebuild this treasure as a symbol against stupidity of men.

Who inspires you the most?
Antonio Chichi, the Italian master of cork modeling in the 18th century.

Your favorite building of all the times?
The great Pyramid, because it is the only human construction where 25 000 people worked over 20 years together to reach at last one point at its top which was seen as the connection to universe.

Prada Marfa Texas

A few weeks ago Steve and I took Hwy 90 East out of Van Horn,  West Texas on our way to Marfa. The speed limit is 75, but even at 100 it feels like you’re hardly moving at all.  It’s just ranch land, tumbleweeds and the big nothing on the either side of the highway, no traffic, just train tracks to keep you company.

After an hour I started to wonder if we would ever again see another human being.  Suddenly we see something off the road, a low modern building.  We’re past it and we’re thinking, “wait a minute”.  We make a U and half a mile back, there’s a Prada store right in the middle of nowhere, the symbol of haute couture in the middle of the big nothing. It was truly surrealistic: the dream of a feminine world in the ultimate cowboy country.

Prada boutique is an art installation by Berlin artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset. The installation’s door is nonfunctional, it will never be opened. On the front of the structure there are two large windows displaying Prada shoes and handbags, which you can’t buy; they will stay there forever, and we will always know what the 2005 fall collection was, picked out by Miuccia Prada herself. The building was intended never to be repaired, so that eventually it will degrade back into the natural landscape.

And it reminded me of the last lines of Shelley’s poem, inspired by a statue of Ramesses II.

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bar

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Bar Agricole

I fell in love with Bar Agricole the first time I stepped in the place, and not just because of the way it’s been designed, and those heavenly cocktails, but because it evokes so many associations with where I came from.

As you know by now I live as much in the past as in the present.  Each is my parent.  Each tries to drag me away from the other.

And so yes, I admit it. The glass skylight sculpture takes me back to Trieste, to the feeling of those strong winds, the Bora, raging across the Adriatic through the Kras area. Sidewalks in Trieste have railings just so passengers don’t get blown away. Roofs of the houses are covered with extra bricks, so tiles don’t fly away.  It will take your mind if you’re not careful.

Incidentally, the skylights fixtures are made of a thousand fused tubes of clear glass, a masterpiece by Nikolas Weinstein. They appear like curtains blowing in the wind or air- dried laundry catching the wind, with the ever changing light hitting the fabrics and in this case, glass, a material that adds the most dramatic effect to the space. The skylights are surrounded on one side by a wood siding crafted from reclaimed whiskey-tanks that fold down behind the tables, like a wave of warm evening air following the winter coldness of the blowing glass.

Bar Agricole is a perfect mix of the old country and always inspiring California, the minimalistic and at same time dramatic interior, all designed and made by local artists, designers and craftsmen. Chairsbenches, even the waiters uniforms are designed by a local designers.

Steping into this eco-perfect tavern. designed by architects Aidlin-Darling, it’s like visiting a gourmet showcase of San Francisco Crafts and Design, with the perfect esthetics and there you are, sipping a seductive classic cocktail, shaken and stirred by the tavern owner, Thaddeus Vogler. The drinks are fresh and at the same time celebrate the old traditions of farmhouse distilling, mixed with fresh fruit, every sip dangerously delicious.

My father and my grandfather were masters of distilling plum brandy, which makes me respect and enjoy those beautiful cocktails all the more. Thank you Thaddeus Vogler for giving us the gift of locally made food, drinks, art and design. More please.

Pillow talk

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Elizabeth st-7

Bespoke, as a verb, is the past form of bespeak, which is an old-fashioned word, from the British, that means to suggest.  To give evidence of.  But the word is also an adjective that means to make something to the buyer’s specification. To customize.

And so for example, a group of London taylors in Mayfair, known as the Savile Row Bespoke Association, has tried to set standards for the making and selling of apparel to secure a certain trademark.

The standards are basically these : Hand work used almost entirely on all garments, including the “individual cut of a paper pattern” and Personal service, such as qualified advice, a large selection of fabrics, or the keeping of all records for future orders.

Bespoke is also the name of an interesting store up in the Sierra, in Truckee.

And so you come to this little town and here is this little store, which has an ‘old soul’ according to the proprietor,  I am always drawn to that notion of an ‘old soul’.  When you see a child and you say: he or she is an old soul, you want to spend time with that child. And that’s how you feel in this store. You want to find a story behind the objects, in the notebooks, ceramics and clothes, which are all made by hand by an artist or by a small company.

Isn’t there a special pride when you buy an object and you know it was made by hand locally?

You can also find some antiques like an old typewriter that is actually used for typing the labels. And the books that bring you right back to your childhood, all printed in USA or Sweden.

But my attention was focused on some unique plump pillows with a hand-embellished extra stitch. They are a labor of love and a unique work of art, crafted by the store’s owner, Heather River. Heather carefully chooses the fabrics with geometric abstract design.

They remind me of Kazimir Malevich suprematism paintings, like the red crosses on the blue background. To the beautiful abstract design of this organic cotton she adds a clever artistic surprise: an extra stitch to emphasize the shape of the cross. The designs also include abstract lines portraying churches and houses on the top of hills.

That image, along with the store and the town and the river took me right back home.

My questions to Heather:

Who inspires you the most?

I am inspired by a combination of many elements.  From antique stores to small boutiques, blogs to good coffee shops, old barns to rusty tools, inspiration comes to me in many different forms.  What inspires me about other artists is how they can a seemingly ordinary object and surprise me with something simplistically fantastic.

What is your favorite place in Bay Area?

My favorite place to visit in the Bay Area… hum that is hard there are so many. One of my favorite places to visit in the Bay Area is Paxton Gate. I love the way they display everything as though you are sifting through a museum of objects. I also adore eatting at Tacu Baya in Berkeley… the enchiladas are incredible!

What was the last great object that you found or that was given to you?

One of the most amazing things about having my shop is that people really connect with all of the “old” things I have. Often wives are ready to leave before their husbands who find my old tool and typewritter collections facinating to say the least. I have had perfect strangers give me family heirlooms because they know I will cherish and keep them “safe”  in my shop. The last object that was given to me was an amazing old short hand dictionary. A man just walked in to my shop told me he had been in the week prior and realized he had something I would really like. It was a wonderful surprise.

Where would you go if you had to leave right tonight to an unexpected vacation?

A train ride across Europe, stopping at all the small towns and villages, eating delectables, and drinking amazing espresso with my son, Husband, and dachshund Lulu.

The latest fun thing you did?

Sitting on the shore of Lake Tahoe all day for my birthday with friends, fresh fruit, and sandy kids.

Adriana’s handwriting

I watch my daughter more than she realizes, especially now that she is leaving. I look at her letters and essays from school, and above all, the beauty of her handwriting is what strikes me. That hand  ballet-dancing across the page, each swirl, an artistry. Then you see the completed page and all it needs is a frame.

The notes that she leaves on the kitchen table are remarkable, even something so mundane as a shopping list.  And so the word “sponge”, for example, does not convey utility but rather itself, its own form, an abstract image.  Look at the “s” and what is it but a swan’s neck, with such sensuality, such grace…

And then there are dinner party guest lists, where the friend’s names are celebrated even before they are invited. Along with birthday cards and letters where feelings spill across the page and what have you got?  The profound poignancy of a handwritten letter. It’s the attention to each letter.  Such an old world concern.  And perhaps that’s why I examine it, why I let it enthrall me — because it draws you back, not to another decade but to another century, to some classical sensibility long forgotten when the form of the day wasn’t tied commercial enterprise, but to expression itself, for itself….

Hence the forgotten, and totally romantic experience, of receiving a letter that you can put on a shelf or on a wall or simply in a drawer, where it doesn’t disappear when your computer breaks down or when you push the delete button.

It’s the lost art I appreciate.

Floriana

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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