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Interior Designer Jay Jeffers Calls Antiques the Soul of a House

If you had to describe Jay Jeffers' style in two words, perhaps the most accurate way would be to borrow the title from the interior designer's recent book, Collected Cool. Jeffers says his livable luxury look would not be possible without antiques. He thinks that if you believe living with objects possessing history makes a home fusty, you need to reconsider. "Antiques, art, and accessories play a huge role in the decoration of a home," he says. "In fact, they are the very soul of an interior." Jeffers' own weekend home, a St. Helena getaway dubbed the Poolhouse that he shares with his husband, Michael Purdy, is the poster child for a modern interior that makes use of antiques. As the design community gears up for the San Francisco Fall Antiques Show, an event for which Jeffers chairs the Designers' Circle, he invites us inside.


↑ When Jeffers and Purdy purchased their St. Helena home, it was an uninspiring ranch house located close to the town's charming Main Street. Jeffers (who is at the helm of both Jay Jeffers-The Studio and Jay Jeffers-The Store) had been working on several projects for clients in the area and was lured by the town's weather. He couldn't help but notice the double-digit temperature change has he commuted from notoriously cool San Francisco to delightfully warm Napa Valley. Although the place was lacking character, they worked with Shay Zak of Zak Architecture to open the interior up to the lot—which had the benefit of backing up to vineyards. For the interiors, Jeffers and Purdy applied a unique modern-rustic aesthetic that relies on antiques and vintage finds.

"In my opinion, a home should have a collected look. You can accomplish this by mixing in fine antiques, vintage pieces, or flea market finds, and my preference is to have a blend of all three categories," he says. At first glance, his own home may seen unabashedly modern, but a closer study shows that older pieces make up the backbone of the style.


↑ For example, the master bedroom makes use of sconces made out of antique Italian corbels, the chair is a vintage piece by Finnish designer Ilmari Tapiovaara, and the upholstered headboard is crafted from an older Moroccan rug. "When you use pieces with some history, age spots, and patina, it goes a long way to composing a personal style," says Jeffers.

In this room, and throughout the house, Jeffers made use of reclaimed wood to fit the rustic-modern aesthetic. Jeffers says that although he is known for using color, in this project he decided to use a more restrained, more neutral palette. Less refined materials, such as the wood, give the space drama and interest through texture.


↑ Sometimes, the antique/vintage items are in a supporting role, such as these midcentury stage lights in the bathroom, but they offer a lead-character impact.


↑ In the dining room, the couple purchased a 20th century cabinet, stripped it and literally stuffed it with their creamware collection. "I love the bubble glass on the doors of this piece," Jeffers says. "I will probably never get rid of it." The creamware collection was years in the making, and the designer calls it a character-building feature for the home.


↑ The unique arrangement happened one day when Purdy was just playing around, and because it caused the couple to view the collection in a new way, the skewed composition stuck.


↑ Placing the reclaimed wood in a chevron pattern in the living room was also a perspective-altering move. The old wood is the backdrop for both modern and vintage furniture (such as the 1960s era leather chair by Gerard Van Den Berg).


↑ Styles and periods mix on a micro scale on the living room's old-school bar cart. It holds a 19th-century silver tray and vintage decanters. The painting above it is also a piece with patina. "If you are going to collect antiques, they don't all have to be super high end. Certainly those big-ticket items are wonderful, but there is room for everything," he says.


↑ An example of that mix-and-mingle concept is found in the home's hall, where a vintage cabinet that's backed with wallpaper holds both Jeffers' grandmother's silver and new pieces.


↑ Jeffers willingness to give humble materials a high-end look is on view in the powder room, where he fronted a vintage mirror with a custom chandelier he had crafted with what he calls "kooky resin grapes that were popular in the 1970s."


↑The interior designer (seen above) admits that introducing antiques to a new audience can require some measure of client education. "Some people associate antiques with grandma's house," he says. "But, generally, when you expose them to that world or they see what's out there, they realize it's a way to define their personality in a space."

The San Francisco Fall Antique Show opens with a preview gala on October 21. The show runs October 22 through the 25 in the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason.

· Collected Cool [Amazon]
· Jay Jeffers-The Studio, Jay Jeffers-The Store [Official Site]
· San Francisco Fall Antiques Show [Official Site]
· Zak Architecture [Official Site]