A Talented San Francisco Design Team Puts a Modern Spin on a Classic Space
Written by Jeanine Matlow
Photography by Matthew Millman
To say that Marysia Rybock and her colleagues think outside the box when approaching a project is an understatement. The senior designer at San Francisco–based ScavulloDesign and her crew created a showstopper of a dining room for the San Francisco Decorator Showcase, which acts as a fundraiser for the San Francisco University High School Financial Aid Program.
The team took a fearless approach to the design. “We wanted to rethink the dining room for the twenty-first century and to lighten and modernize a dark and moody space, while keeping the beautiful Gothic-style woodwork,” says Rybock of the Classical Revival environment of the house. “The space itself is already very dramatic with the dark wood and frieze. We created the wow factor by making sure each object in the space would be just as strong—the saturated color palette, the scale of the furniture.”
The existing mural, which was hand-painted by Evans & Brown in the 1990s, served as the muse for the imaginary homeowners. “Our clients were based off the characters in the decorative frieze; we imagined a multitude of dining options, from small and intimate to a casual and garden-like setting to a grand soirée,” says Rybock, who added thought bubbles to some of the characters to take the serious surroundings down a notch. The entertaining phrases include: “The room never looked so good” paired with “I’ve never looked so good” and “If these walls could talk.”
Though the Gothic Revival–style dining room already featured such fine details as pointed arches, quatrefoils, ornate oak paneling, and a detailed plaster ceiling, the design team was determined to take the rest in a separate direction. “We strove to keep the beauty of the traditional Gothic architecture with traditional furniture styles upholstered in modern-day fabrics,” explains Rybock. “The dining tables and chandelier made from mother-of-pearl shells are the true break from the traditional—a definite twist on modern-day dining.” While the trend seems to be moving away from formal dining, Rybock takes a significantly different approach. When a dining space is this spectacular, she believes people should be encouraged to linger long after the plates have been cleared. “Why should you just eat in such an amazing space?” she says. “Lay back and enjoy the view or just relax after a great meal.”
The wing chair, which Rybock calls the princess chair, is a modern adaption of a traditional wing silhouette. “It’s very feminine and inviting,” says Rybock. “Since the corners of the room are so dark, we brought life and spirit with the large-scale floral print fabric. . . . We had to bring colors that would glow in the space, even on a gray San Francisco day.”
No surface was left untouched. The technique on the ceiling, Rybock explains, is a slurry Venetian plaster with a wax finish in a brilliant turquoise blue. “[It’s] reminiscent of a perfect twilight evening,” she says. The fireplace, which is covered in reindeer moss, helps take the formality of the room down a notch. “The rich green and texture lend themselves to the otherwise dark elevation,” Rybock says. “This is pure fantasy—a ‘showcase’ trick to camouflage an uninteresting marble surround.
“We had an amazing showcase team working together,” says Rybock, who credits Meghan Kraus, a designer in the office, for coming up with the idea of the multiple tables that overlap. Their incredibly colorful resin tops were done in mercurial purple with the exception of the high top, in mercurial orange. Each of the wrapped metal bases is unique.
“We didn’t want the table bases and the accessories to be typical or too heavy; they had to be just as animated as everything else in the space,” says Rybock. “To keep with our concept, there had to be a light hand. We didn’t want a set table, nor did we want the accessories to detract. That proved to be a surprisingly difficult balance.”
In the end, the designer says everything turned out better than expected. “The collaboration with all the local artists exceeded my expectations with the finished designs,” says Rybock. This talented team reminds us that great design is something to be savored, much like a good meal. “It takes some time to really see everything: the amazing chandelier, the unique table layouts, the moss surround, the bright and colorful materials and fabrics, the fact that there’s a chaise in the dining room, the funny quotes, the mythical accessories in the curio cabinets,” Rybock says. “Most walk away (and come back) with a huge grin on their face.”
[Source: Matlow, Jeanine. "Fancy Feast" Home By Design. October-November 2012. Web. 16 October 2012.]