Openings + Preview

New Perspectives

By Jennifer Blot

The penthouse of 1080 Chestnut Street provided a template for design teams tasked with transforming the modern space (COURTESY OF NEW PERSPECTIVES)

Decorator Showcase delivers a different type of design event this year, thanks to 3D technology and creative thinking

Call it a fortuitous Plan B in a year when Plan A is taking a hiatus. And a modern feat no one could have dreamed of when the San Francisco Decorator Showcase debuted in 1977. This year’s Decorator Showcase New Perspectives benefit for University High School’s financial aid program is a virtual tour of a virtually designed space, meaning the 10 design teams tasked with reimagining a spectacular Russian Hill penthouse will not actually touch the property.

Instead, the space at 1080 Chestnut Street — currently on the market for the first time in three decades and listed at $19 million by Gregg Lynn of Sotheby’s International Realty — assumes the role of muse for the designers, who have used its expansive floorplan and 360-degree views to come up with a collective vision coalesced into a spectacular and immersive 3D experience by event co-sponsor Steelblue, a San Francisco creative agency that works on high-end real estate projects with developers and architects.

When it became clear that a full-scale in-person tour would not be feasible this year, organizers took a different tack. “We were fortunate enough to be able to base the inspiration and the digital layout on a real property,” says Thelma Garza, director of events at University High School, and a key member of the Decorator Showcase planning team since 2014. This year’s May 22 event is an “experiment,” Garza says, not only for the virtual experience, but also the venue: an urban 18-story midcentury building that is a detour from the older single-family estates traditionally selected for the annual tour.

“Doing a Decorator Showcase at the top of a high-rise could never be done physically; it could only be done virtually,” Lynn notes. But even a virtual — or vicarious — experience will be well worth it. By all accounts, the light-filled 5,445-square-foot penthouse, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, 19-foot oculus, built-in shelving and clean, sleek modern feel, is pure magic. “Buyers who have come to tour it, and their agents, have all lost their breath,” says Lynn.

“It was a very good win-win because we were able to do something to continue to raise funds for student financial aid, which is a need that isn’t going to go away just because we aren’t having [in-person] events,” Garza adds. Meanwhile, she has already begun the process of selecting a home for the 44th annual Decorator Showcase, an in-person event scheduled for next spring.

The New Perspectives design process kicked off with architect Stephen Sutro, an UHS alum, who worked from the original floor plans of the pent­house, made a few subtle tweaks to create some more distinct spaces, and supplied the design teams with the plans and specifications to guide them.

Instead of holding an in-person designer day and soliciting proposals, the UHS team (which includes Garza and Jenny Bittner Borden of UHS, Design Advisory Board chair Geoffrey De Sousa, and O’Brien Chalmers and Phil Ryan of Steelblue) reached out directly to several designers to gauge interest.

Though the digital design process was accelerated, there were no real-life delivery headaches or cost limitations — the sky truly was the limit for transforming the penthouse’s principal bedroom and bath, living spaces, office/library, and the yoga/Pilates/meditation room.

In addition to the virtual tour, there will be webinars on collecting and considering art in the design of a home, San Francisco’s real estate market, and a Q&A session with the panel of designers.

The New Perspectives virtual tour, and access to design webinars, launches on Saturday, May 22. The event is free, but donations are encouraged.

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