“I walked into the space and just fell in love with the room,” says designer Jonathan Rachman of the living room he designed for this year’s San Francisco Decorator Showcase. It’s not hard to see why. The living room of the Classic Revival home features soaring ceilings and equally generous windows, which means sunlight is in ample supply. But it was Jonathan’s muses for his design, not to mention some exquisite wallpaper, that resulted in the fashion-driven fantasy he ultimately created.
Discover how he distilled his unique vision into a jewel box of a room that channels the elegance of a Parisian salon, and shop Jonathan’s collection of pieces to steal the look.
When Jonathan heard that the property’s inhabitants included two aspiring young fashion designers among the large family, his course was clear. “I wanted to inspire them with this room.” Not that he needed any convincing to turn to fashion for inspiration. “I love fashion and it really was my formal education in style.” It was the enduring friendship between two style icons, the actress and humanitarian Audrey Hepburn, and the French couturier Hubert de Givenchy, that ultimately sparked Jonathan’s imagination, along with Givenchy’s Salon Vert in Paris, as featured in the book The Givenchy Style. “We imagine them returning to Givenchy’s green salon on Rue de Grenelle to enjoy each other’s company while “April in Paris”, the duet by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, plays softly in the background,” he says. “The idea is classic but current. I tried to imagine, had they continued to be friends and if this was in Paris, what would this room look like now in 2017 versus in the ’70s or ’80s.”
His overall vision in place, Jonathan turned to the details, and in particular the walls. Along with the rest of the design world, he’s obsessed with the exquisite wallpapers created by de Gournay, but unlike most, he counts Hannah Cecil Gurney, the daughter of the company’s founder, among his close friends. The natural collaboration resulted in a custom design called ‘Silk Tree,’ which features hand-painted, hand-embroidered blossoming mimosa branches against an emerald, dyed silk ground. For that particular shade of green, Jonathan once again turned to the past for inspiration, pulling the wallpaper’s unique chartreuse shade from a vintage Royal Doulton plate, gifted to him during a trip to Italy. Opulent execution aside, “what makes de Gournay so special is the wallpaper is laid out and drawn specifically for the layout of the room,” says Jonathan of the perfectly suited wallpaper and space.
With the room’s elevated points of inspiration you might expect all functional considerations would fall off the radar, but you’d be wrong. “There is nothing that breaks my heart more than a beautiful, gorgeous room that’s unused,” says Jonathan. To that end he added generous banquets by the windows, “so there’s enough seating for everybody, even in a formal room.” A circular table and chairs, the ideal spot for family games or entertaining, a generous sofa and armchairs that can be repositioned as needed are all among the family-friendly considerations. “I really cater to client’s needs. The function has to work for them,” says Jonathan.
A keen-eyed collector by nature, Jonathan is not one to skimp on the details. The medallions of the room’s pre-existing molding were dialed-up with real gold leaf, and the window treatments add just a subtle hint of chinoiserie to the space. For Jonathan, designing a space that feels current doesn’t necessarily mean out with the old. “The fireplace I kept as is, because I love patina. I think it’s part of the story. You can look at all the imperfections and point out a memory of when something happened.” The various books and accessories nestled throughout the room are all pieces from his own vintage collection, which he’s amassed over the years. “I’m a collector I think first and foremost because I’m a romantic and a sentimental person,” he says, a fact his room attests to quite beautifully.
JONATHAN’S STYLISH CV
Getting his start:
Born in Sumatra (an island in Indonesia), Jonathan began his career in the corporate world before leaving that all behind to open the floral boutique Fleur’T on Clement Street in San Francisco. His client roster included Marc Jacobs, SJP, and Oprah. Soon his aesthetic approach was being sought after for interiors help as well, and his design firm was born.
Currently in the works:
Today he runs his interior design business from his eponymous store, J.Rachman on SF’s Market Street, where he sells antiques, jewelry, and other curiosities. Besides client projects around the globe, he’s working on his own Bali bungalow.
His personal mantra:
“It’s just about what looks good to me, and that’s how I see life. You don’t have to please everybody, but if you just do it from your heart, passionately, I’m sure there are people that will appreciate what you’re doing. All my life that’s how it’s been.”
Photography by Suzanna Scott