Explore this playful San Francisco townhouse that celebrates fun and glamour

Jonathan Adler has reinvigorated this chic Beaux Arts home with his tongue-in-cheek style

Colorful home designed by Jonathan Adler in San Francisco
(Image credit: Jose Manuel Alorda)

An ornate four storey house built in 1915 in San Francisco’s historic Nob Hill has been transformed from a traditional Beaux Arts house into a modern home.

While arts and education board member Gerine Ongkeko, and her husband, corporate lawyer Jorge del Calvo's San Francisco home may be dripping in historic decorative plasterwork, corbels and mouldings, what goes on between the walls is a different story. 

The Jonathan Adler effect is in full force throughout the 106-year-old building, his design studio transforming what once were formal, functional rooms into spaces full of pizazz that raise a wry smile. ‘The house is unrecognisable from when we bought it five years ago’ says Gerine. ‘It was off-white and beige all over, still fabulous but I wanted something glam and fun.’ Who else to call but Jonathan Adler? 

Living room

Colorful home designed by Jonathan Adler in San Francisco

(Image credit: Jose Manuel Alorda)

‘People go crazy over the living room as it’s the first room you come to’ says Gerine. ‘Then they go through the rest of the house!’

The living room merges ornate plasterwork with dazzling metallics and blocks of colour.

Foyer

Colorful home designed by Jonathan Adler in San Francisco

(Image credit: Jose Manuel Alorda)

The playful foyer invites guests into the home, putting them at ease and giving them a teaser of the eclectic design elements to come.

‘The foyer sets the tone for the house’ says Gerine. ‘It’s all about good design that doesn’t intimidate people. When people used to enter the house, they didn’t know what to do – the foyer is to make them feel welcome rather than awed.’

What was once a beige and brown staircase is now a vision in different shades of blue, with the carpet for each step individually made. ‘The staircase says 'come on up!' says Gerine. ‘I can’t imagine the house without it’. 

Dining room

Colorful home designed by Jonathan Adler in San Francisco

(Image credit: Jose Manuel Alorda)

The dining room’s original wood panelling and decorative glass fronted cabinets are juxtaposed with bold Adler furniture in vibrant tones and sculptural shapes.

‘As immigrant kids – I’m Filipino and he’s from Cuba – Jorge and I both grew up in very humble surroundings, but our move to San Francisco signalled a new era for us.’ The couple started completely afresh, with every piece of furniture brought in by the Adler team. ‘When we moved in, we ran around, oohing and aahing like kids in a candy store – it was so much fun and exactly what we wanted’ says Gerine.

Kitchen

Colorful home designed by Jonathan Adler in San Francisco

(Image credit: Jose Manuel Alorda)

Unexpected hits of pattern perk up the grey kitchen, from vivid fabric panelled shutters to a graphic rug and playful accessories.

With Gerine’s initial vision for a Parisian apartment-style home, Jonathan and the team stepped it up a gear. The building’s architectural features were honoured and given a twist by a mix of Adler pieces and classic European design icons.

Landing

Colorful home designed by Jonathan Adler in San Francisco

(Image credit: Jose Manuel Alorda)

Initially thinking she’d be guided with just a few design concepts, Gerine eventually overhauled the entire house with team Adler, walls, floor and all. ‘I love, love, love color but I never realised I could be so avant-garde!'

A redundant space on the landing becomes a joyful pit stop between rooms with a lively orange sofa. The dancing lines of Verpan’s Clover sofa dare you to not take a seat.

Hallway

Colorful home designed by Jonathan Adler in San Francisco

(Image credit: Jose Manuel Alorda)

The beaded Resist artwork was added to the house as a response to Donald Trump taking power.

Main bedroom

Colorful home designed by Jonathan Adler in San Francisco

(Image credit: Jose Manuel Alorda)

Vivid ochre curtains pick up the shot of gold woven through the bedroom. 

‘I was initially against any matchy matchy colors, but they really work with the draperies and headboard’ says Gerine. ‘The color combination of green and ochre was a real surprise to me, but now I love it’. A colossal four poster bed takes centre stage in this main bedroom.

Back hall

Colorful home designed by Jonathan Adler in San Francisco

(Image credit: Jose Manuel Alorda)

The back hallway is also a less formal entrance from the garden and garage, with its vivid plant pattern also designed to put visitors at ease. 

See also: a luxurious but laid back Mexican villa inspired by the colors of the ocean and desert surrounding it

Amy Moorea Wong
Amy Moorea Wong

Amy Moorea Wong is a freelance interior design journalist with a decade of experience in contemporary print and digital editorial, previously News Editor at Livingetc. She writes on a broad range of modern design topics from news and interior zeitgeist to houses, architecture, travel and wider culture. She has a penchant for natural materials, surprising pops of colour and pattern and design with an eco edge.