an abstract painting hangs above a grey chaise in a San Francisco home
In the entry, Niahm Barry’s Vessel sconce and Carole Egan’s hand-carved walnut shelf face a custom chaise below a Daniel Crews-Chubb painting and a Terrarium pendant fixture by Lindsey Adelman Studio.

Shamir Shah Goes West to Update a San Francisco Home

Shamir Shah Design has left its signature imprint all over the Manhattan residential map. So much so that when a sophisticated, world-traveled couple visited a lower Park Avenue loft principal Shamir Shah had created for friends, the pair was determined to bring the designer West—specifically to San Francisco, where a recently purchased Pacific Heights house was in need of a gut renovation. “All the things he did—art, furniture, textures, textiles, scale—spoke to each other,” the wife says of what initially attracted them to Shah’s distinctive style. An ensuing dinner party established that designer and clients had mutual respect and the right chemistry—prescient planning since the project took six years to complete, thanks to COVID erupting during the construction phase.

“We do interiors and architectural design,” Shah says of his practice, “mostly in New York, where we generally don’t work with an architect on smaller residential projects.” Thousands of miles away, San Francisco’s infamously labyrinthine permitting process presented another story: “We needed a local architect to shepherd the renovation through the building department, take charge of the house’s core and shell, and work in a truly collaborative spirit.” Enter Geddes Ulinskas Architects. In a flip of the usual procedure, it was the designer who brought on the architect after diligently interviewing three other prospects. “We enhanced each other’s roles,” principal Geddes Ulinskas reports, lauding the thoroughness of Shah’s drawings. “He produced a brilliant package that was a fantastic way of communicating and transmitting his passion for the project to the entire team.”

a Max Neumann painting in the living room of a San Francisco home
In the art-filled living room of a San Francisco house renovated by Shamir Shah Design and Geddes Ulinskas Architects, a pair of Todd Merrill Custom Originals standard back-tufted sofas flank a custom bronze-framed cocktail table by Shamir Shah, all backdropped by a Max Neumann painting.

The Home Renovation Features Seismic Upgrades

The house, originally a 4,000-square-foot, three-level, wood-sided structure dating to 1947, was lackluster in design and substandard in construction. What it did have was location. At an elevation of 340 feet, the site offers panoramic views of San Francisco Bay. And in a city given to a mélange of residential styles, the property was located in a cul-de-sac of pedigree modernist houses by Gardner Dailey, Joseph Esherick, and William Wurster. In fact, the enclave is up for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Technically a renovation, the project was essentially a new build that encompassed seismic upgrades, new framing and fenestration, a reconfigured floor plan, and the addition of a penthouse, which increased the interior to 6,500 square feet. The envelope was also transformed to make a statement. An arrangement of blocklike volumes centered round a patinated bronze–clad front door, it’s sheathed in Accoya—a type of acetylated-pine siding—finished in two shades of shou sugi ban charring, which creates an intriguing chiaroscuro effect. The idea was the owners’. “We’d just come from Japan and seen amazing materials,” the wife explains. “I didn’t want cedar or anything difficult to maintain.”

“For planning we listened to the clients,” Shah reveals. “They even lived there while we were working so they could get to know the light.” The new layout pinwheels from the central core, a graceful stair wrapping around an elevator to accommodate the wife’s 90-year-old mother. From there, ground-floor spaces fall naturally in place. The living room is situated along the north side to take advantage of an existing fireplace and terrace, transformed into a shallow pool with a bronze sculpture at its center. Along the south side, also with a patio, lies the dining room and, in the east corner where daylight is sparse, the media room. A di­minutive office is tucked into the connector hall between the two spaces. The kitchen, located just behind the staircase, is designed for the wife. A top-notch cook who entertains frequently, she detailed storage needs down to a pair of appliance “garages” that avoid even a speck of clutter. Though the rooms can be closed off via double or pocket doors, “All the spaces flow, making it easy for guests to circulate,” Shah notes.

an Aaron Wexler painting hangs above a UFO table in this California penthouse
In the penthouse, Eva Menz’s Regolith pendant fixture and Niels Otto Møller’s chairs serve Ferruccio Laviani’s UFO table, while a pair of Bruno Moinard L’île d’elle sconces bookend a commissioned Aaron Wexler painting.

The second level is given over to private quarters: the main suite, two bedrooms, one doubling as a larger office, and a sitting room. The penthouse, which opens to a roof deck, is designated as a game room while more things recreational—a gym and a capacious wine cellar—join two additional bedrooms, a laundry, and a mudroom in the basement.

“In general, our work is quiet and serene,” Shah says of the furnishings and materials, which are frequently custom and used plentifully “for a rich, layered approach.” Pale creams and grays dominate the color palette, while bronze is the metal of choice. A characteristic vignette centers on the living room fireplace, which is surrounded by planes of travertine and flanked by a pair of oak-lined niches with custom bronze pedestals topped by Ju Ming sculptures, part of the family’s art collection.

“We wanted large walls for art,” Shah continues. Whether existing, purchased, or commissioned, the pieces were curated by the designer. An impressive Max Neumann canvas, one of the first works acquired and a Shah favorite, anchors the living room. A pair of Julian Watts stained-maple bas-reliefs adorn the adjoining wall, across from which hangs a Katherine Hogan wire sculpture, a ghostly presence reminiscent of the late San Francisco artist Ruth Asawa’s iconic pieces. Arguably closest to home is the commissioned site-specific mixed-media work spanning a media-room wall. Made of canvas, burlap, rope, and wood, it’s by Malcolm Hill, Shah’s life partner.

Inside the Curated, Art-Filled Home by Shamir Shah Design

a love seat and armchair in a sitting room of a California home
Nearby, Charles Kalpakian’s Crescent loveseat and Luca Boto’s Dep armchair gather round the travertine fireplace while, outside, a Dylan Lewis bronze arches above the terrace’s shallow pool.
a Katherine Hogan wire sculpture hangs above a daybed
The living room’s Katherine Hogan wire sculpture and Kevin Walz daybed.
a kitchen with stone countertops, backsplash, and floor
The kitchen’s sintered stone countertops, backsplash, and floor.
a set of oak stairs inside a home
The oak stairs curling around the ash-clad elevator core.
an abstract painting hangs above a grey chaise in a San Francisco home
In the entry, Niahm Barry’s Vessel sconce and Carole Egan’s hand-carved walnut shelf face a custom chaise below a Daniel Crews-Chubb painting and a Terrarium pendant fixture by Lindsey Adelman Studio.
a chandelier hangs above a table in the dining room
Matthew Brandt photographs enliven the dining room, where Lindsey Adelman Studio’s Catch chandelier hangs above a Tyler Hays trestle table.
a mixed-media mural hangs above a sofa in the media room of this home
Malcolm Hill’s site-specific, mixed-media mural presides over the media room’s custom sofa and Vladimir Kagan Wysiwyg armchairs.
a bedroom of neutrals inside a California home
The main bedroom is an oasis of calm outfitted with Bruno Moinard Apora armchairs, a velvet-upholstered custom bed, cerused-ash millwork, and Stardust Silk vinyl wallcovering.
an earthquake-resistant, 1,800-bottle wine cellar
The earthquake-resistant, 1,800-bottle wine cellar.
a textured rug beneath armchairs and a sofa in a penthouse
A Paul Balmer commissioned painting, Antonio Citterio’s Michel Club sectional, and vintage teak armchairs in the penthouse.
a Lionel Smit sculpture on the terrace of a San Francisco home
Heated cast-stone furniture and a Lionel Smit sculpture on the south terrace.
a bedroom doubles as an office, and includes several small tables and a convertible sofa
A third bedroom doubles as an office, its Erickson Æsthetics EÆ lounge chair joined by three Caste Design Powell tables and a custom convertible sofa sporting a vintage Kuba cloth.
the exterior of a San Francisco home by Shamir Shah Design and Geddes Ulinskas Architects
Geddes Ulinskas Architects added a penthouse to the residence and sheathed the cubic volumes in two shades of shou sugi ban–charred Accoya, an acetylated-pine siding.
shamir shah design: nely cuzo; cailen messersmith; olivia manzano; wendy wahlert
geddes ulinskas architects: alla agafonov; roma olišauskaitė
lutsko associates landscape architects: landscape consultant
jon brody structural engineers: structural engineer
matarozzi pelsinger builders: general contractor
todd merrill studio: custom sofas (living room)
through fair: floor lamp
through ralph pucci international: daybed
through galerie bsl: loveseat
la cividina: armchair
argosy designs: custom pedestal
Woven: custom rugs (living room, media room)
neolith: sintered stone (kitchen)
Holly Hunt: sconces (stair), chairs (dining room), armchairs (media room)
through maison gerard: sconce, shelf (entry)
Lindsey adelman studio: pendant fixture (entry), chandelier (dining room)
bddw: table (dining room)
chris french metal: custom front door (exterior)
amuneal: custom coffee table (media room)
emmemobili: table (penthouse)
dwr: chairs
garde: pendant fixture
phillip jeffries: wallcovering (bedroom)
bruno moinard éditions: armchairs (bedroom), sconces (penthouse)
B&B Italia: sectional (penthouse)
galanter & jones: seating (terrace)
erickson æsthetics: chair (office)
caste design: tables
Sacco: custom rugs
Resawn Timber Co.: accoya siding
amari: windows
benjamin moore & co.: paint

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