San Francisco Design Center

By Sophie Azouaou - © 2007 SophiSticate Interiors
San Francisco Sentinel , Friday January 5, 2007

When Susan and Joe Phillips decided to redesign their home, they knew they needed the help of a Design Professional.

They had been living in their beautiful Victorian home in the Oakland Hills for several years and were ready for the design project. The Phillips wanted to give their home an updated look in keeping with its style. To achieve their goal they turned to an Interior Designer:

"I had never worked with a Designer before. My mother redesigned her home last year and I was impressed with the result, so I contacted her Designer," says Susan.

"First she gave us a paint color consultation and together we decided on a color theme for the house. After came the selection process, we explained the look we were trying to achieve. My wife and I were overwhelmed before we hired her services. We did not know where to start or where to go. Our Designer made the process much easier, she saved us time by choosing the right showrooms for our project. She sorted through all the options before submitting us with samples," explains Joe.

Getting a house ready for a design or remodel project involves more than just hiring a contractor. The help of a designer is important.

A Designer who is an expert in the field has access to many sources, not available to the public and will help with the selections of materials, textures, lighting, furniture, and accessories.

Two favorite destinations for Design Professionals:
Established in 1971 by the late Henry Adams, the San Francisco Designer Center
( SFDC) is a "Mecca" for fine home furnishings, bath and kitchen designs, high end textiles from all over the world, unique window coverings and beautiful accessories.
It is also a great source for floor coverings and includes several showrooms that specialize in tiles, carpet and hardwood floors.

With more than 100 showrooms that carry over 2,000 manufacturers and a three building complex the SFDC remains a leading destination for interior designers and related industry professionals.

The public is welcome and tours of the SFDC are now available and are complimentary.

"We want the public to become aware of the vast selections and the quality of furnishings and accessories available at the SFDC," comments William Olsen owner of the Stanford Design showroom.

The tours organized by the Design Studio Program are very helpful for people who are ready to start a remodeling or new design project.

The tour guides who are design experts will inform the consumer about the design process and the role of an Interior Designer.

Consumers can choose how to participate in the design process, from using a buying service for a few key pieces to hiring a Designer for an entire project.

The tour also explains the difference between retail shopping and shopping with a Designer and the ability for the clients to have any items customized to their needs.

"Shopping with a Designer at the SFDC is an experience unlike any other, especially at retail," says Norma Waterman owner of the J Scott Waterman showroom.

"My passion lies is in the home fashion industry which is constantly evolving.

We have opened our doors inviting the public to experience the abundance of choices available to them through a Designer," adds her son Jeremy Waterman.

Tours of the SFDC will also show why the use of a Designer who has a lot of expertise in the field, is crucial in helping make all the right choices.

"People do not really understand all the work involved in selecting colors, fabric, materials, and textures for a project. It is a highly detailed process. The help and expertise of a professional Designer is necessary when you come to the SFDC," explains Matthew Conaway, sales representative at Kneedler Fauchere."

"Our goal is to make the process of acquiring home furnishings and accessories an enjoyable experience," concludes Christie Mc Rae, owner of Mc Rae & Company.

Another favorite destination for Design Professionals is the San Francisco Mart:
Established in 1915 the SF Mart is known in the home furnishing industry as the "trade only building", which means that only retail furniture store buyers, Interior Designers and related industry professionals are admitted throughout the year. However, it is open to the public twice a year during the sample sales in May and November.

It houses more than 100 showrooms that display 1,000 lines of home furnishing and decorative accessories.

The key to shopping at the SF Mart is establishing a relationship with an Interior Designer who can accompany you. Interior Designers' fees are reasonable, generally based on a mark up of your purchases or on an hourly fee.

The Interior Designer who will help you with the admission is familiar with the building and its showrooms and will save you time by selecting the right ones for your design project.

"We carry fine wall décors with over 1,800 images and wall hangings that can be customized. Because of the large selection and custom choices, the help of a Designer is important," shares Angela Peterson, showroom manager at New Century Pictures.

" We offer rugs for every room in the house. From braids to hand knots. A Design Professional will know what to select," adds Fran Wilson, manager of the Capel Rugs showroom.

The SF Mart, which celebrates a 91 year legacy of Home Furnishings and Design this year remains one of the two leading destinations for Design Professionals.

"The SF Mart is changing into a Design Center catering to all the Designers' needs. Showroom managers offer personal services, they have created guest lounges with refreshments for Designers and their clients," explains Occhi Tirta, manager and sales representative of many showrooms on the 4th floor of the SF Mart.

" We felt involved in the project without the headaches and could not be happier with the outcome. Our house looks beautiful!" conclude the Phillips. They have since recommended their Designer to a friend who found herself in the same situation.

The abundance of great showrooms at the SF Mart and SFDC makes it difficult to list them all.
Here are a few you could check:
SF Mart:

  • For a traditional look: Furniture Forum, Heckman, Kessler, Showroom 500,
    Westley Allen.
  • For contemporary to transitional: Artisan house, Brownstone, Design by Mirador
  • For beautiful home accessories: Capel rugs, Hellenic rugs, New century Pictures, Graphics International, Horizons.

The SF Mart has just added many new showrooms to its repertoire such as Liz Claiborne Home, Tommy Bahama, Lexington and more are expected to open soon.


  • For a transitional look with a traditional twist: Mc Rae and Company, Witford, Wroolie
  • For a more classic style: Kneedler Fauchere, Randolph and Hein, Shears and Windows, The Sherill Collection, J Scott Waterman.
  • For those interested in a more eclectic look: Sloan Myasoto, Stanford Designs
  • For the rest you just may have to go and see for yourself!

- To schedule a complimentary tour at the SFDC: call 415.490.5888
Or sign on line:
- A tour of the SF Mart will be offered once a year starting this Fall.
For more information call: 415.552.231 or visit the website:


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