When staging San Francisco’s most exclusive properties for sale, interior designer, Arthur McLaughlin, edits out his clients individual taste. The native Southern Californian moved to the bay area in 1982. Before opening his company, McLaughlin worked for famed Los Angeles interiors firm James Northcutt Associates. JNA specialised in international, luxury hotel and resort projects.
McLaughlin’s high-end hospitality experience along with set design for Paramount Pictures foreshadowed his success as stager and designer.
When McLaughlin designs residences, he alters his approach from staging. ‘Permanent interiors are a different animal, it’s really personalised. We interview clients and ask what they like. Hearing what people are saying, really listening to them, that determines what they need, and what we design for them,’ he explained. For his own home, a Beaux Art masterpiece attributed to architect Arthur Brown Jr., McLaughlin infused the interiors with his unique vision.
The Russian Hill villa, commissioned by a Canadian silver king in 1913, served as a pied-à-terre on journeys to his Mexican mines. The mansion later housed artist, Irma Engel Grabhorn, wife of master printer Edwin Grabhorn. Grabhorn and his brother Robert operated San Francisco’s esteemed Grabhorn Press. Arthur McLaughlin & Associates honoured the building’s
fabled history while updating it to the present.
With five levels and nearly 5,000 sq ft, the fanciful concrete steel reinforced structure features a copper mansard roof. A lyrical double wrought iron stairway welcomes visitors. McLaughlin restored the entrance’s original crescent glass and metal canopy along with replacing seventy-five broken windowpanes. On the interior, he renovated the kitchen and five baths introducing modern conveniences.
In the expansive three-storey foyer, walls painted with broad greige horizontal stripes set an eclectic backdrop. McLaughlin juxtaposed a French Napoleon III bureau plat with the pensive portrait, ‘Woman in a Plaid Hat’ by contemporary painter, Joanne Landis. On another wall, a Spanish Golden Age portrait of a man gazes out from the past. An Italian Neoclassical gilt tole and crystal chandelier illuminates the space while a graphic Persian tribal rug grounds it.
The light filled living room showcases a massive fireplace flanked by a pair of period Russian mahogany and giltwood armchairs. Chinese window screens with intricate carved fretwork add visual texture. Surmounting the mantle, McLaughlin installed an impressionistic waterscape by Gioi Tran, from ArtHaus. An over scaled brass framed mirror backs the opulent green velvet tufted sofa from Coup D’Etat. The designer companioned these with Eames 1950’s elongated Elliptical Table.
On the opposite side of the salon, an ebonised grand piano holds court. A pair of brushed metal and hide benches provides occasional seating. Shelves display a treasured collection of
antique English tea caddies and leather bound books. While visiting Art Basel Miami, the designer met Florida artist, Abel Guillermo Villarino. An abstract painting by Villarino now
centres windows refl ecting the vivid foliage colours seen from outside. McLaughlin says of the living room, ‘I love entertaining family and friends here. It is perfect. The architecture is formal yet the furnishings are casual and comfortable.’
From the master bedroom, a panoramic view of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay dominates the space. McLaughlin dressed the bed in fi ne linens from Matouk. A Regency mahogany and gilt metal bookcase by Liverpool cabinet maker, George Bullock, exhibits the designer’s cherished possessions.