Expansive Purpose and Joy
By Joseph Lucier
After years of working with the city's most respected names in interior design, both independently and as collaborators, Cecilia Sagrera-Hill and George Brazil decidedly founded their eponymous firm, SagreraBrazil Design. Their sumptuous touch is distinct and graces the urbane corners of San Francisco's luxury residential neighborhoods. From work in Nob Hill's venerable Park Lane apartments to the stately residences that dot the sloping hills of Pacific Heights, this duos eye for color and hand for au courant materials offers their fortunate clientele designs that inspire life's expansive purpose and joy.
CaenLucier: How did your career paths lead you to creating the SagreraBrazil Design partnership?
George Brazil: We both come from a similar background of culinary arts. Cecilia was studying with the plan to work with her parents in their catering and events business. I was studying to become a pastry chef. I believe that most people with a creative calling do their own soul searching when choosing a creative outlet. Luckily our searching lead us to both working for another designer. Our shared views on what is possible within interior design, how we wanted to run our business, and most importantly, how we wanted to serve our clients led us to forming our partnership fifteen years ago.
Cecilia Sagrera-Hill: It was destiny for us to work together, as we had already created a great partnership when we worked for another designer. This gave us great insight into an unspoken comfort that developed from this early partnership.
CL: How has your approach to design been enhanced by time and experience?
GB: We have had the great opportunity to experiment and explore different design solutions for our clients with their trust and encouragement. With our many years of experience we have created a broad knowledge base which to draw from. Because we are a team of two principals we are also able and excited to challenge each other and come from a different point of view within each project.
CSH: We each have our strengths and have been able to learn from each other allowing us to really push the boundaries for our clients, which has given us the opportunity to continue to grow our design approach, the old saying “you learn something new every day” applies to the constant growth to our design.
CL: What does timeless design mean to you?
GB: Creating a space that isn’t a time stamp of when it was created. AND, it seems ironic that timeless design is based on what has happened in the past instead of what might happen in the future since a timeless design is really about forecasting what will be considered good taste in the coming decades.
CL: Do you run from or gravitate towards trends?
GB: Neither. Although we may not follow or insist on using the latest color of the year, de rigueur metal finish, or popular accessory, it is impossible to not be influenced by trends. That being said we always approach the work we do wanting to understand who our clients are and how they live or want to live. Our clients are influenced by design trends and come to us wanting to integrate some. It is up to us to make sure they are appropriate and will help create the finished space our client desires.
CSH: Our design philosophy has always been to ensure that the end result of our design represents our Client based on conversations and pushing them beyond their comfort zone, not by trends. The color of the year may influence a starting point for our design for a Client but it will more than likely not end up being on the walls in the house.
CL: What particular materials are you integrating into your designs today?
GB: For us it is less about a specific material and more about how we are using it. Hand painted/handmade wallpaper is figuring into our projects these days. Using materials that are handmade or hand finished gives a warmth and depth we aren’t able to find any other way. Plus, the control we are able to have over the finished product allows us to truly create a cohesive design throughout.
CSH: I agree with George – especially with hand painted tiles/custom colored to fit our design. There is something inherent about the hand-made that will always take precedence in our design, that tactile nature is so important to provide depth in any space.
CL: Who are the industrial designers today that that are exciting to you?
GB: We are always looking for materials and furnishings that have a handmade quality to them. It adds a soft and intimate quality to our interiors. Anna Karlin from New York – artist and designer. We love her furniture. Jocelyn Marsh – artist and designer. OCHRE – Most beautiful lighting fixtures.
CL: When you imagine your perfect client, what does the initial project conversation sound like?
GB: We always take time in the beginning of the interview process to make sure we get to know our clients as much as we can. We are going to discuss why they are hiring a designer, what that looks like to them, what they are expecting and what role they want to play in the process. With the complexity of the projects we design and manage along with the time frame which can be several years we want to make sure we are the right fit for a potential client and that a potential client is the right fit for us.
CL: Speak about the importance of lighting design.
GB: Lighting design is a critical piece in order to have a successful project. Especially with the new lighting technologies and the ease of lighting control systems there is no reason to not having a successful lighting design. The color temperature of a light source affects how our eye reads color and materials. This is such an important step in the design process and one that some clients may not understand so it takes time for us to show our clients the differences.
CL: Who are the architects that inspire you?
GB: John Saladino, David Adler, Gil Schafer, and Andrew Skurman
CSH: Luis Barragan
CL: Are there any areas of the world that you draw from for design inspiration?
GB: It would be difficult to not be inspired by travel. Anywhere in Europe really, specifically Paris, London.
CSH: Travel is inspiration alone – it keeps the mind open to other perspectives. Japan, South America, Paris.
CL: What would you be doing if you were not an interior designer?
GB: Artist, ceramicist, potter, gardener
CSH: Teacher, painter, ceramicist
CL: Favorite weekend getaway?
GB: Carmel or Calistoga – quiet and relaxing, catching up with friends.
CSH: Calistoga or Healdsburg – great for relaxing and enjoying great weather.
CL: Favorite restaurants?
GB: Because we cook a lot when we go out it is usually for what we don’t cook like Korean BBQ. We love Ohgane in Oakland. In San Francisco we love Spruce and Garabaldi's.
CSH: Quince and Jackson Fillmore is such a great neighborhood place down to earth and since we have been going for so long, the staff remembers you.
CL: What are you reading?
GB: The Values Factor by Dr. John Demartini, Bachelor of Arts: Edward Perry Warren & The Lewes House Brotherhood by David Sox
CSH: Los Cuatro Acuerdos by Don Miguel Ruiz, Leading Women by Nancy D. Oreilly, Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
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Many thanks to David Kensington and Whitney Robinson for working with me on this feature!