Haven by the Bay
Walking through the front door of Colette Daniels’ San Francisco apartment is like stumbling into Coco Chanel’s living room on the Rue Cambon. Every corner of the space that Daniels affectionately calls her “romantic little getaway” is infused with deep jewel tones. The result of such meticulous attention to detail is a place finely attuned to a glamorous lifestyle that harks back to the 1940s, when tinkling crystal and perfume-filled soirees were the norm. You would not be surprised to find a dapper top hat on the entryway table, left behind by an errant guest.
The 4,000-square-foot apartment was not always this portrait of tasteful, urban elegance. When Daniels first bought her pied-à-terre in the city—intended as a two-day-a-week escape from her main house in Walnut Creek, a quiet suburb across the Bay Bridge—it needed help. “It was very blah,” she recalls. “I literally redid the entire place.” The apartment, on the 22nd floor of the Four Seasons hotel, was very corporate, with open, boxy rooms and undistinguished moldings. Unremarkable at best, it was hardly the look that she desired.
So Daniels—a vivacious woman who punctuates many of her sentences with a tumbling laugh—hired the design team of Andrew Fisher and Jeffry Weisman of the San Francisco firm Fisher Weisman to help re-create the space. “Within five minutes of talking to them, we just clicked,” Daniels says. “They are really knowledgeable and listened to my dream and vision, and they helped me get there.” Weisman echoes the compliment. “It was a fabulous partnership, which is not easy when undertaking ambitious remodels,” he says. “We had good communication, very clear ideas, and lots of enthusiasm.”
The renovation took about a year, from start to finish. Everything had to be created from scratch and executed with the help of artisans and specialists. “This was one of the most challenging things we’ve ever done,” says Weisman, “and one of the most exciting, because it’s so intensely detailed and customized.”
The entryway sets the stage for the rest of the space. A small oval room that Fisher terms “dazzling sparkling”—the first room guests see—is a shimmering wonder of multifaceted mirrored-glass panes arrayed geometrically. The effect is surreal, like stepping out of the real world and into a bejeweled inner sanctum, which is just as the designers intended. As Weisman says, “You’re coming down a long corridor that’s very dull, and then you open the door and—bang! It’s transformative. You are instantly somewhere else.”
After such a powerful welcome, you move into a muted round room with a delicate floral mural. The area allows some quiet breathing space before proceeding into the rest of the apartment. Each of the subsequent rooms has a different feel and vivid hues, from the deep blue in the living room to the decadent pink in the master bedroom to the media room’s striking black walls and decor. “It is one surprise after the next,” says Daniels. Elaborates Weisman, “This apartment is the anti-beige; it is a totally passionate love of color and texture and richness. It is sexy and romantic and dramatic.” A variety of textures, from leather flooring in the media room to soft silk sheer window coverings in the kitchen, enhances the sensual experience.
There is no doubt that the apartment is an adult playground, and the appeal of the space goes beyond its aesthetics. Though Daniels adores her two young boys, her children stay with their father half of the time; this apartment is her chance to indulge her fantasy of having a place in the city. A Southern California native who has called the Bay Area home for more than two decades, Daniels has always idealized San Francisco as a set of glittering towers located just 20 minutes across the bay from the suburban house she shares with her children and household staff. “There’s not enough going on there, in terms of shopping and restaurants and culture. Plus, I’m busy running kids around and being a full-time mom,” Daniels says. “I love being able to come to the city and put on a gorgeous silk skirt and a beautiful blouse and go out and have a fabulous dinner—the wardrobe is even different here. It’s really living a double life, but in the best way possible.”
When she is not enjoying the many restaurants in San Francisco, Daniels, a consummate host, often has people over for dinner parties. The glimmering lights of the city provide the perfect backdrop, and guests can admire the view from the window seats that weave around the apartment. Weisman, who has attended many soirees with Fisher at the apartment, notes, “Colette entertains beautifully. When you come here at night and everyone’s dressed up and candles are lit everywhere and the music is going—it’s like you walked into a Fabergé egg. It’s just incredible.” Should guests become tired or indulge in too much champagne, two guestrooms tucked behind a wallpapered door off the entry provide comfortable beds to spend the night.
Living at the Four Seasons provides its own set of pleasures that further enhance this urban idyll. Daniels has often had chefs from the hotel restaurant prepare and serve meals to her guests, and an ever-obliging room service delivers the breakfast she eats in the sun-filled kitchen. Other services are also available: A residential concierge books tickets to plays and reserves tables; a maid service ensures that the apartment is readied for her arrival; and people are always on hand to help with repairs or routine maintenance tasks.
To maintain the sense of femininity in this magenta and gold room, the television remains hidden in a Fisher Weisman–designed credenza. The firm also custom-designed the bed, bench, and bedside table. The bedspread is by Gretchen Bellinger, and the pink lamps are antique Venetian glass pieces from the 1920s with silk shades by Bella Shades.
Daniels, who is now remarried, spends as much time as possible with her new husband in their San Francisco retreat. Thinking back on her experience designing the apartment with Fisher and Weisman, she says, “I don’t think there’s anything I would have done differently. I wanted a girly, glamorous, 1940s kind of life—and I think I got it.”
Fisher Weisman Design & Decoration