The Refined Sophisticate
BY JOSEPH LUCIER
Several years back, I heard Jay Jeffers announce to a designer panel his passionate and constant search for the next beautiful chair. I was stuck by this singular vision and lifelong pursuit of something as charming and utilitarian as a chair. It’s this wanderlust for a perfect object being supplanted by another that continues to drive and develop the refined interiors of Jay Jeffers. In a recent evening at the sumptuous Linden Room in Hayes Valley, Jay romanticized his inspiration for experiencing new cultures through travel, the genesis of his epynomous retail store, and where he escapes to from his tireless schedule of brining his clientele’s dreams to life.
Joseph Lucier: How did you decide upon the profession of becoming an interior design?
Jay Jeffers: I have a business degree and moved to San Francisco to become the next Hal Riney in advertising. I landed at Gap Inc. in their advertising department and while I learned a great deal, I soon realized that marketing was not going to be my vibe. I took a night class through Berkeley Extension in interior design and it was the first time I could see myself making a living doing something I love. That was 20 years ago.
JL: Of the many past design and style icons, who inspires the work you do today?
JJ: I'm inspired by so many – David Hicks, Dorothy Draper, and Albert Hadley (Mrs. Astor's library!), Jean Michel Frank, Gary Hutton, Jamie Drake, Kelly Hoppen, Kelly Wearstler – the list goes on and on. But a quote from Billy Baldwin that I read in design school is a mantra that has stuck with me throughout my career. He said, "If one walks into a room and says, 'Billy Baldwin designed this space' then I didn't do my job correctly." Meaning that a home should reflect the architecture, it's surroundings and most importantly, it's inhabitants and not their designer.
JL: Brass is back and it seems like the Seventies style has returned to vogue. Any thoughts?
JJ: There is a glamorous reaction to the Belgian gray that has been in vogue for years and brass is certainly a part of that. I love the warmth it brings to a room. But like anything else, use it lightly. I strive to create rooms as timeless as possible. I don't want someone to walk into a space 10 years from now and thing it is "so 2016."
"A home should reflect the architecture, it's surroundings and most importantly, it's inhabitants, not their designer.
JL; What is your relationship to using color in your design work?
JJ: I like it. Color evokes a mood in a space. The mood can be dramatic, sexy, quiet, and everything in between. The key for me, as with anything, is using it sparingly. I'm not one to paint every room a different color.
JL: What is your philosophy on incorporating art and accessories into a home?
JJ: To me art and accessories are the soul of the home. A home that just has a bunch of furniture but nothing on the walls and no accessories is just a house. When you have paintings, sculpture, photography, and objet hanging on walls and sitting on tables, suddenly the space reflects who you are.
JL: You have a retail component to your business at JAY JEFFERS - THE STORE. What drove you towards opening an atelier and designing products for retail?
JJ: I opened the store for a few reasons. The main reason is that I love to shop! But in the last downturn San Francisco lost so many great shops that I would have to find interesting things for my clients. It has been a great adventure finding wonderful one of kind items as well as new furniture and lighting lines to represent. Funny enough, our biggest customers are other designers, which makes me think we must be doing something right!
JL: How do you see the Tenderloin neighborhood around your store maturing? Where do you see the neighborhood in five years?
JJ: I bought the building we are in 9 years ago and the neighborhood has changed so much. We've seen the addition of Jane Bakery, Mr. Holmes Bakehouse, Emily Holt's Hero Shop and fantastic restaurants like Huxley and The Saratoga. The Tenderloin has a rich history and has evolved into many things over the years. I'm excited to see what comes next.
"To me art and accessories are the soul of the home."
JL: How do you like to travel and what inspiration do you find from experiencing other cultures?
JJ: I love all types of travel – experiencing a new culture opens your eyes and expands your mind. I'm heading to Cuba in a few days on an architectural tour and so excited to experience the history and the people of that country. I am also very much a fan of sitting on a beach chair with a good book and a glass of rose and doing absolutely nothing!
JL: What did you get personally from the process of publishing your monograph 'Collected Cool: The Art of Bold, Stylish Interiors' in 2014?
JJ: Publishing my book was a lovely stroll down memory lane! To put the 18 projects together in the book and see their common threads as well as their differences was amazing. It's hard to explain the feeling when that first copy arrives in mail and you open it and see what you have accomplished over the last 10 years.
JL: What was your experience like working with Trumark Urban to create model residences on their current Pacific Heights development, The Pacific?
JJ: Working with Trumark Urban was a fantastic experience! They really allowed us to create beautiful and unique apartments that felt like homes.
Jeffers Interiors at The Pacific
JL: Favorite restaurants?
JJ: I live in Hayes Valley, so my favorites are walking distance – Petite Cren, Cala, Monsieur Benjamin. And my latest, The Saratoga is just down the street from my office. If someone asked me if I had to choose my last meal, it would be a caesar and roast chicken from Zuni.
JL: When you want to get away from it all, where do you escape?
JJ: We have a place in St. Helena that is our refuge. It is cozy and warm in the winter and beautiful and sunny in the summer. It is definitely my happy place.
JL: What is your travel bucket list?
JJ: Japan – It's been on the top of my list for years and I still haven't made it there.
JL: What are you reading?
JJ: The New York Times on Sunday. I currently don't have a book. Every time I try to start one I fall asleep after the first paragraph. :-)
Thanks to Jay Jeffers and Kat Daly for working on this piece with me. - Joe