It’s no coincidence that Jeff Schlarb is a natural interior designer. With an eye for contemporary design and an art-forward aesthetic, Jeff began his career over 20 years ago. Although it was somewhat by chance, he found his calling after moving to San Francisco where he discovered a hidden talent.
At first, he was more interested in the business side of design, but he always had a creative streak which quickly expressed itself.
It could be considered almost kismet how he revolved his life towards the artistic and more cultured ways of the world.
In 2010 he was selected for the San Francisco Decorators showcase, and before long he became a leading voice in the Bay Area design community.
Jeff Schlarb And The Maximalist Approach
Jeff expressed that his motivation and the inspiration for his work comes from multiple facets in his life, “I’ve got layers of inspiration. There is of course the creative outlet, like ‘I want to be creative, I need to be creative.’ I also like to make people happy and when we finish a project, it makes me happy when my clients love their new home. Plus I have to provide for my 2 daughters! So there’s also the fatherly instinct. I have to make sure I’m expressing my clients’ wishes in the work I’m doing for them. Luckily I have many repeat clients!
Regarding his maximalist approach to design, Jeff explained, “I like to layer a lot of pattern, color and texture, but in a way that feels cleaned-up and pulled together. We always include spaces where the eyes can rest, not overwhelming you. I also keep a keen eye on the shapes of the furniture, the special finishes and the elections of artwork to complete the aesthetic. Our style is sometimes described as ‘curiosity without the chaos.’”
Balance is important to him.
When approaching a new project, he’ll ask, “Where in this room do the big moments belong? Where do we need some texture or color? Maybe it’s in the upholstery on the chairs, or a hand-painted wall, or statement wallpaper on the ceiling. Then I’ll ask, where do we need to pull it back so that the room feels balanced and not too weighed to one side, or too messy.”
Part of his expertise is “knowing where to show restraint and where to add the punches of excitement and how to balance those elements around the room.”
To Schlarb, “Art is everywhere, it’s in the little details, it’s in the materials and the finishes- the trim on the pillows or a chamfered edge on a marble countertop. We’ll often take traditional ideas or finishes and modernize them in a cool, new way.
He also has to navigate what kind of art the client needs. “Some clients have well developed art collections. Others want our expertise to fill their home with interesting art. We always include a mix of mediums including painting, sculpture, photography, 3D etc. And we’ll gently push clients to consider artwork they might not have considered before.”
“Artwork has content attached to it,” he says. “The art is doing something, it has a voice in the room. Sometimes it’s an ethereal painting that doesn’t necessarily have much to say, but it’s beautiful and decorative. Other pieces are more compelling and demand attention. To me, the most interesting art participates in the conversation of the room but has a subtle message. Most of our artwork is on the happy side even if it’s provocative in some way.”
Jeff describes a photograph he installed for a client in the Marina district of San Francisco.
It was an edgy print by Tyler Shields, of a woman in a Bat Man mask smoking a cigarette.
He talked about how the choices are specific to each client, indulging their taste and preferences to create rooms that they want to live in.
He shares his philosophy about the experience he wants people to have when they step into a room he has designed, comparing it to how one looks at a piece of art in a museum or gallery.
Jeff describes his designs as something that requires discovery. “When you step into one of our rooms, you don’t just look around once and say, ‘cool, nice room, and that’s it’. It is more like viewing a piece of art that you’re seeing for the first time -you have to look around, find hidden details and discover more and more about it.”
Similarly, he compares it to “finding a finely tailored suit with cool details, discovering the contrasting threads on the button holes.”
“We want our designs to be interesting, with a little edge, but done with balance and artistry.” stated the maximalist.
Current Maximalist Projects
Among his other projects, Jeff is currently working on a new restaurant and bar called Holbrook House, an expansive space in a historic Neoclassical bank in the financial district of San Francisco, opening early 2023.
Much of his design inspiration came from recent trips to London and Geneva. The 40-seat restaurant will be anchored by a grand bar, surrounded by blue leather and walnut banquettes, contrasted against a rich burgundy wall covering and brass lighting fixtures.
He says “it’s going to look like San Francisco and feel like San Francisco, but in a worldly way” And that it’s sure to become an “instant classic.”
He is also finishing a private home in Switzerland with sweeping views of Lake Geneva. It’s a beautiful 8,000 square foot custom built home.
Regarding the design he says, “You find surprises around every corner,” including a “Lego gallery” with incredible Lego art created by a notable artist, which leads to a wine cellar and screening room.
The kitchen is entirely custom-made which Jeff designed in collaboration with Lanserring, a British company known for it’s bespoke craftsmanship.
Jeff Schlarb Design Studio
Jeff Schlarb Design Studio is an award-winning interior design firm founded by Jeff Schlarb, a leader in the Bay Area design scene for over 20 years.
The studio, with offices in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles, specializes in luxury residential and commercial projects worldwide.
Combining elements of color, pattern, texture and art to create a layered look that is simultaneously complex and balanced, classic and contemporary. Jeff designs each project to become a happy exploration. For more: visit jeffschlarb.com. Find other experts in the industry!