Ken Fulk Designs for an Art Collector in San Francisco

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When a prominent art collector and philanthropist set about revamping his 1912 Ernest Coxhead–designed house in San Francisco’s Presidio Heights neighborhood, he called interior designer Ken Fulk. At the 9,000-square-foot three-story house and its new east wing, with horizontal bands of windows facing Presidio Park, Fulk has infused each room with an Oscar Wilde–inspired theatrical aestheticism. “I have a strong sense of tradition, but why not mix it up?” Fulk says. “This house isn’t like any other I’ve done. It’s a crazy mash-up of different styles that could have gone wrong but didn’t.”

The designer filled the house with rarefied designs from the likes of Tommi Parzinger, T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings and William Haines, with restful photographs by Stephen Galloway and Todd Hido. In the living room, gray-blue walls look “as if the San Francisco fog has made its way in,” says Fulk, while a large canvas by Carla Klein of clouds against a bright blue sky suggests chilly but sunnier weather. In a spatial do-si-do, working with architect Lawson Willard, Fulk moved the old kitchen and formal dining room to opposite sides of the foyer. The latter’s coffered ceiling, with copper-leaf insets by Willem Racké, reflects candlelight, and beveled wall panels painted glossy hazelnut-red echo the old library walls. A Warhol portrait of Marisa Berenson and a striped canvas by Thierry Feuz add a contemporary edge, as does a coquillage chandelier presented to the owners by artist Andrew Fisher. “There’s always a tension when you juxtapose old and new,” says Fulk. “My clients don’t care if anyone else likes it, and I don’t care either, as long as my clients do. What’s important is that whether there’s a fancy fundraiser crowd at home or fifty teenagers singing karaoke, it works.”

Text: Zahid Sardar
Photography: Matthew Millman
Originally Published: April+May 2012

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