Gabriel & Guillaume, a traveling decorative arts gallery, opens its latest curated suite in a San Francisco penthouse.
By Rachel Gallaher
Nancy Gabriel and Guillaume Excoffier, the founders of gallery Gabriel & Guillaume, outfitted the penthouse of San Francisco's Fifteen Fifty residential building with vintage furniture from four different decades. Image by Douglas Friedman.
Rising up at the nexus of three iconic San Francisco neighborhoods (SOMA, The Mission, and Hayes Valley) the city’s newest luxury apartment building—the sleek, modern Skidmore, Owings & Merrill-designed Fifteen Fifty by Related California—is currently the unexpected site of a rare collection of vintage furniture. In a move that seems to be growing in popularity, in which a gallery or boutique outfits model units in luxury high-rises around the country, Gabriel & Guillaume, an ephemeral traveling gallery with roots in Beirut and Paris, has worked its magic on the 40th-floor penthouse at Fifteen Fifty.
In partnership with frenchCALIFORNIA—a firm that creates exhibitions within model apartments by connecting real estate developers to galleries—Gabriel & Guillaume outfitted the 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom unit with an exhibition of rare pieces of collectible design including original midcentury furniture from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s from Brazil, Italy, and France. A contemporary art collection with works by Julian Hoeber, Amikam Toren, Ian Wallace, Davina Semo, and Claudia Wieser complements the furniture choices.
"We wanted to create an immersive exhibition that connects with potential future residents, showing them the possibilities of a modern, artfully-minded lifestyle in San Francisco,” says Guillaume Coutheillas, founder of frenchCALIFORNIA. “We also wanted to create a safe environment for visitors to view art and design in person through private appointments.”
Color was a big driver for the interior design choices. Above the bed, a 1950s lighting piece by Angelo Lelli for Arredoluce, Italy is the showstopper in this bedroom. Image by Douglas Friedman.
While Gabriel & Guillaume have mounted traveling or temporary exhibitions in cities including Paris and New York, this is the gallery’s first stop in California.
"As our first West Coast exhibition, we sought to make an impactful presentation while making sure the pieces we chose were appropriate and elevated this modern space,” note Nancy Gabriel and Guillaume Excoffier, the founders of Gabriel & Guillaume. “We curated an eclectic mix that we felt brought the space to life with original midcentury modern furniture from various decades and countries. We also included a selection of contemporary pieces, many of them ceramics, from up-and-coming designers from around the world including Lebanon, and mixed in a few antiques as well."
As a brand-new unit without previous tenants, the penthouse is a fresh slate—both energy and design-wise. Gabriel and Excoffier took advantage, creating a streamlined space that pops with color and layered graphic interest.
“We were given a blank canvas, a whitewall gallery of sorts, to do whatever we'd like with,” they explain. “For this project, we not only chose the design pieces, but also did everything from selecting the colors of the walls, wall treatments, wallpaper, and more. Unlike working with a historic building, we were able to create the narrative of the space from scratch, rather than working with a pre-existing story."
In the living room area a Martin Szekely Stoleru sofa dates to the late 1980s. The bookshelf on the right is from midcentury Brazilian designer Jorge Zalszupin. Image by Douglas Friedman.
"We envisioned a space that would appeal to a young buyer who has an appreciation for art and design but still enjoys a completely new space,” Coutheillas adds. “Together with Gabriel & Guillaume, we worked to show that high design doesn't have to be intimidating or cold, but rather can be an immersive, fun learning experience. We made sure to also choose pieces that start at a lower price point for an entry-level collector."
From a set of armchairs and a couch by French designer Martin Szekely (both from the 1980s) to a bright-green 1950s bookshelf from Brazilian designer Jorge Zalszupin, the furniture reads as eclectic (and might seem disparate if seen individually), but a through-line of green, yellow, and blue accents, as well as a visually pleasing contrast of shapes and textures, helps create workable tableaux throughout each of the rooms. Under the deft hands (and sharp eyes) of Gabriel and Excoffier, the generic unit transformed into an elegant space that proves that contemporary architecture doesn’t have to equal cold, industrial interiors.
In a room where the color is more subdued, Gabriel and Excoffier amped up the pattern and texture. Image by Douglas Friedman.
"While so many modern, new buildings are monochromatic and minimalistic in nature, we wanted to challenge that notion by creating a colorful, creative interior that inspires visitors and future residents,” the duo explains. “With people spending time at home now more than ever, we wanted to use bold, bright colors that bring a sense of warmth, cheer, and hope to those in the space."
The space is open to the public through May 2021 by appointment only. Those interested may schedule a time and date by emailing RSVP@frenchca.com