Talented interior designer Jeff Schlarb, is a San Francisco-based designer whose style can be defined by two simple words, “rad elegance.”
Your design firm was established in 2002 and has tackled hundreds of projects from intimate spaces to large projects. Which has been the most challenging and rewarding?
The most challenging project is hard to recall. I am honestly sitting here racking my brain on what is the most challenging. The clients are great, the projects turn out the way the clients dream, and the process is pleasant. Maybe the only challenging thing is when the production of a custom piece gets delayed. It’s all really fun from my perspective, though. Mind you, our team is really doing the heavy lifting for the design execution. Ha!
The most rewarding project would have to always be our most recently completed project! We are photographing an amazing Healdsburg, California home next month, and I am fired up! The artwork, the finishes, the light fixtures … ahhh it’s just a dream home. It’s classic and refined yet artistic and mind-blowingly creative.
Tell us about “Rad Elegance.” Is that an unspoken mission statement, and what does it mean to you and your team?
Do you remember the movie RAD? It was a movie about Crew Jones, who was an underdog freestyle and BMX bicycle competitor who overcame great odds to be the hero of their town’s competition. Rad Elegance isn’t about freestyle bikes, but I have loved that phrase since then. To be Rad is to be a little cooler. It’s to be a snowboarder who extends his legs for extra hang time; it is the surfer who goes a little deeper into the barrel. I think of design as sculpting sometimes, and when we’re creating a classic interior that has been designed to withstand fads, we like to at least reach back and grab an edge. We like to bend the designs ever so slightly to reflect our clients’ artistic sensibilities—I suppose ultimately helping them realize a more creative self when at home and aiding in the recharging spirit of their home.
Your team also believes in giving back… How has designing enabled you to do to so?
I have evolved a lot on this lately. As a designer who has versatility, philanthropic opportunities to donate time and resources seem to find us. I laugh sometimes knowing that we could actually make a career of just doing good samaritan work if that were an occupation. But my latest feeling is that our studio is actually a vehicle—a vehicle to continue to build our network, to find compatible connections between our clients who love to give and causes that are deserving of resources. It’s a unique position we find ourselves in. I know that, the more we can grow and the more influence we can have in the design community, the more influence we can have on our greater community. At the end of our firms’ life-cycle, one day when it’s all over, we intend for the epitaph not to read, “This team created beautiful, innovative, thoughtful, and timeless interiors.” The stone should read all of that and should also read, “but their greatest success was leaving the community better than they found it. Their good deeds made a meaningful difference to so many.”
Your work is extremely compelling and eye-catching yet creates a holistic approach and environment that remains true to your team’s creativity and the client’s story. Where/how did you learn how to hold that tension well?
I appreciate that question—thank you. It is a hard tension to keep taut. For better or worse, I use the analogy of pushing the gas and brakes. You’ve got to apply more brakes when there is more fuel in another area of a room. One tall feature in a room has to be met with drama on another side. It’s experience and playing with different solutions for years I suppose—that’s what makes the difference.
Let’s switch gears for a moment and chat about Ten Thousand Dreams. In a world littered with “minimalist” designs that are cold and create a somewhat unwelcoming environment, your work in Ten Thousand Dreams creates the complete opposite effect. What were some things you drew inspiration from on this project?
We wrote our design concept for the room, and we knew that it was going to be a mood change when viewed. There was going to be a deeper feeling and a romance to the room. That’s how we made the first step, by creating that desired feeling we wanted when we all experienced the space. We then drew inspiration from designers like Tracey Kendall, who is a London-based wallpaper designer. We teased out a new way to snuggle an ottoman up to a bed frame—that was a new idea too! We call it the sidecar! Finally, we were inspired to create a connection to the room for all who spent time in there.
Each piece and color seems to have a deep intention. Can you elaborate on the selections?
In the world of minimalism as you say, and in a world where “clean and contemporary” is photographed everywhere, we feel like we know some tricks to make layered spaces that have a soft, comforting vibration still look contemporary. We intentionally only used a few main colors—indigo, cream, burnt orange, and fresh greenery. I think by peppering the limited color palette and evenly distributing them around the room, we made a crisp space.
You have participated in the SF Decorators’ Showcase for some years now and have displayed some amazing installations. What was the most demanding aspect of this project?
The time frame. The demands of designing, fabricating, installing, and editing an interior at that fast of a pace is dizzying. However, luckily our team is used to working at a pretty good clip, so we usually finish early so we can re-iterate. Which is key.
You are a family man, creative, designer, and philanthropist. What is one piece of advice for young people in this ever-changing world?
I would advise this: Let’s be bright shining comets in life, ones that burn through the atmosphere torching their own paths until the one day that the fuel is gone and the comets pass on. Let’s approach life that way versus revolving around a planet as a moon does, round and round, every day experiencing the same view. Carpe diem.
Follow him on Instagram: @jeffschlarb