San Francisco Decorator Showcase

San Francisco Decorator Showcase

  • Jack Ryder
  • 01/26/23

Since 1977, the San Francisco Decorator Showcase has raised more than $17 million to benefit the San Francisco University High School financial aid program.

The 45th Decorator Showcase will be open to the public from April 27 through May 27, 2024. The 2024 Showcase house at 2898 Broadway is located on the Gold Coast of Pacific Heights.  The Dutch Colonial Revival was built by Walter D. Bliss (Bliss & Faville) for his parents in 1899. Rendering above by Clay Seibert

The following is a brief history of my involvement with this remarkable community fundraiser, as well as some tidbits about the properties that have been transformed for our enjoyment by some incredibly talented designers. You can peruse my photos and read more about these fine houses and others on my Instagram blog @statelysf. 


Two years after I moved to San Francisco from Los Angeles, where I'd been decorating projects in Cairo, Riyadh, Côte d'Azur, Malibu, Hawaii, Lake Tahoe, and Los Angeles; I worked on the design of the primary bedroom at 2516 Pacific Avenue for the 25th Annual Decorator Showcase. The spectacular Tudor Revival was the former residence of the British Consul General. It is not as grand as the British Ambassador's residence in Paris, but it is a lovely house in a wonderful location. Though I have transitioned from design to real estate, I have been to almost every decorator showcase since. 


The Tudor Revival estate at One Cherry (c.1914) that abuts the Presidio is where I met Jay Jeffers. Jay's fresh designs are captivating and unique.  We became friends, and I hosted 150 of my closest friends at his marvelous design studio on Post Street to celebrate my 40th birthday (c.2012). We also co-hosted a wonderful friend and fundraiser, "Night in Havana" benefiting the Sir John Soane's Museum London Foundation's Traveling Grant for Cuban Architects in 2016. He recently purchased and remodeled the Madrona, a stunning boutique hotel resort in Healdsburg.


Originally built for the Mason family in 1902 by Newsom & Newsom, 3701 Washington Street (pictured below - courtesy of Steve Gothelf) was rebuilt in 1928 by Bakewell & Weihe. It is a magnificent Beaux-Arts on one of the best corners in Presidio Heights. I remember the Sunday I visited with my friend Christina who grew up down the street. We went to one of my other all-time favorite San Francisco events, the California Mille party at the Fairmont Hotel hosted by the Swig Family. Will Wick's telephone closet was the show-stopper at the showcase.


The magnificent Italian Renaissance Revival at 2901 Broadway, was designed by Henry Clay Smith in 1927 for industrialist, ornithologist, and poet, Milton Ray who purchased the lot from President Herbert Hoover in 1912. The architecture is inspired by the Villa Medici in Fiesole, Italy. The current owner recently finished an eight-year renovation by the renowned design firm, Tucker & Marks along with classical architecture master, Andrew Skurman Architects. Suzanne Tucker was one of the first people to interview me when I arrived in San Francisco in 2002, and we've remained close friends since. I was honored to serve on the Board of Directors of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art - Northern California in 2017 with Suzanne Tucker and Andrew Skurman, who have both been the recipients of many design awards. 


The Italianate villa at 2820 Scott Street was built for Eugene and Olive Grace by James A. McCullough in 1905. Its extravagant interior adornments, including a massive domed Tiffany skylight, were allegedly installed to welcome Crown Princess Marie of Romania. She was to be a houseguest for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition but was unable to make the trip to San Francisco after the outbreak of World War I.


2830 Pacific Avenue is one of the finest Georgian residences in Pacific Heights with its signature neo-classical ornamentation and red brick façade. Nathaniel Blaisdell designed the house in 1910.


Currently in escrow, and one of the most wonderful French Normandy Revival houses in San Francisco, 3450 Washington Street in Presidio Heights was built in 1929 by one of my favorite architects, Albert L. Farr. 


The Italian Renaissance Revival at 2950 Vallejo Street was built in 1927 for Wm. R. Clark, a successful paving contractor. The designer is unconfirmed. There are three different architects credited in various sources: Angus McSweeney, Gottschalk and Rist, and John H. Powers, who did 2930. It's a stunning house with gorgeous views of the Presidio and Golden Gate Bridge. I was in love with the library decorated by the elegant Heather Hilliard.


2012 was the year I obtained my real estate license in California and joined the luxury division of Coldwell Banker in Pacific Heights. 2020 Jackson Street was special because my mentor and friend, Dona Crowder had the listing on the house, and we had a wonderful time at the Opening Night Party. Built in 1902 by Julius Krafft, the house was a wedding gift from Isaias Hellman, head of Wells Fargo Nevada National Bank, to his daughter, Clara, and new husband Emanuel Heller, a business attorney whose law firm, Heller Ehrman, would one day go global and become one of the most distinguished in the world. The residence served, for a short time, as the business office of Wells Fargo Bank after the 1906 earthquake devasted the downtown financial district.


My late friend Lee Herbst Gruen lived at 2800 Pacific Avenue for many years. If you've lived in San Francisco for a while, you probably remember the enchanting rocking horse she kept in the window. The Georgian Revival was built in 1899 by Ernest Coxhead for Sarah Spooner, a wealthy art collector from Philadelphia.


The lovely Edwardian-era house at 3660 Jackson Street was designed by Alfred H. Jacobs (designer of San Francisco's Curran Theater) in 1907 for Alfred and Rose Sutro. Alfred Sutro a graduate of Harvard University and Hastings School of Law was a partner at Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro and was general counsel for Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company. I enjoyed hosting my friend Esmond, who has a terrific house on Bellevue in Newport, Rhode Island. 


Originally designed by Julia Morgan, 3630 Jackson Street in Presidio Heights was built in 1917. Julia Morgan designed more than 700 buildings in California during a long and prolific career. She is best known for her work on Hearst Castle. Morgan was the first woman to be admitted to the architecture program at Beaux-Arts de Paris and the first woman architect licensed in California.


The first and only showcase hosted on Telegraph Hill. The Mediterranean Revival villa at 298 Chestnut Street was built in 1929 on a triple-wide corner lot for the Martini Family. It was the first fully concrete house in San Francisco.


The Italian Renaissance Revival with temple portico, quoins, elaborate cornice, and pedimented upper windows at 2698 Pacific Avenue was built for financier/industrialist Julius Mack in 1904 by Newsom & Newsom. I was a frequent dinner guest of the previous owners. It was also because of this showcase that I enjoyed several dinners with the de Gournay family and designer Jonathan Rachman who designed the main living room.


465 Marina Boulevard was a big departure from other showcases for two reasons: the location and its transformation from a 1930s Spanish Mediterranean to an unusual modern exterior concept.


Modeled after le Petit Trianon, the house at 3800 Washington Street in Presidio Heights also hosted the showcase in 1982. Built by Frank Van Trees in 1902 for Corinne and Marcus Koshland, whose Bavarian father Simon founded Koshland Brothers wool trading company, the property originally sat on three full lots. The original Petit Trianon was built in 1768 for Louis XV at Versailles in the Greek Revival style. My friend Scott Robert McMahan, a former ballet dancer with the Oakland Ballet, and the youngest designer to ever participate in the Decorator Showcase, designed my favorite space in the house, and it was just a rectangular corridor. 


This was an unusual showcase because shortly after I toured the house at the beginning of construction with my dear friend Suzanna Allen, the COVID pandemic struck and prevented all in-person tours of the house. 22 22nd Avenue in West Clay Park is a delightful Spanish Mediterranean Revival built in 1926. I was a frequent guest at dinner parties, garden parties, recitals, concerts, and readings at this home previously owned by the Meakin Family who lived there for forty years. The Meakins own the lovely Tal-Y-Tara Tea & Polo Shoppe at 6439 California Street, which is currently closed for renovations. 


The penthouse at 1080 Chestnut Street on Russian Hill was the first time the event was held virtually, and the first time in a condominium. According to my friend and colleague, Gregg Lynn at Sotheby's who recently sold the property and lives in the building, the penthouse at 1080 Chestnut is "distinguished by soaring ceilings and grand entertaining rooms complemented by majestic, oversized windows commanding 360-degree views of nearly every San Francisco landmark".


Get your tickets! See you there.


Special thanks to my dear friend, Lisa Congdon who attended University High School and has served as co-chair of the event for many years.

Thank you for reading. Jack

San Francisco Decorator Showcase