The life-changing magic of cluttering up
When your day job is curating the most covetable buys on ebay, your home is hardly going to be an exercise in minimalism… By Becky Sunshine. Photographs by Carlos Chavarria
the eclectic home of a Californian collector
‘A lot of people want their homes to be a quiet place where they go to relax and not be overwhelmed by things. But I’m the opposite,’ says Bradford Shellhammer as we walk around his vibrant San francisco home. ‘I’m uneasy if I’m somewhere pristine or too minimalist. I need textures, layers and lots of colour.’
this much is clear. everywhere you look, bold colours and patterns have been clashed with happy abandon: overlapping graphic rugs and brightly upholstered vintage sofas are thrown together with design classics, such as Verner panton heart chairs, a George Nelson for Herman Miller dining table and an eero Saarinen coffee table.
these live in surprisingly joyful harmony with contemporary works including a Karim Rashid sofa and plastic hanging Algue screen by Bour- oullec Brothers for Vitra, which divides the kitchen and dining areas.
‘It’s probably borderline tacky,’ says Shellhammer who cites Andy Warhol, Cyndil au per and the odd ball film character pee-wee Herman as creative influences. ‘put them all in a blender with the tin Man from The Wizard of
Oz and the Joker from Batman and what you’d come out with is my style.’
this startling aesthetic has caught the attention of high-profile fans, and last year bagged Shellhammer the job of head of curation at ebay – with the enviable task of choosing items on the site he liked and making them readily available to users–necessitating a move to the West Coast.
‘I lived in San francisco for five years in my 20s, so I know the city,’ he says. ‘I grew up in Baltimore, finished
‘I’m uneasy if I’m somewhere pristine. I need textures, layers, lots of colour’
my first degree, lived in New York and just needed to experience California. It’ s a special place with an exciting energy, although hugely expensive now because of the tech community.’
Shellhammer has personal experience of the boom and bust of the dotcom world. He is best known for cofounding Fab.com, a discount site for hip home war es, which grew rapidly before imploding( it was valued at almost $1 billion in 2013 but reportedly sold for just $7 million in cash and $8 million in stock two years later ). Shellhammer went onto launch another shopping site, Bezar.com, in early 2015, but decided to sell it and joined ebay in February last year.
He now divides his time between an apartment in Manhattan, which he shares with his husband Georg i Balinov, an investment banker, and this former garage in the Soma (South of
Market) district of San Francisco. Shellhammer was immediately smitten by its industrial architectural details. His proper ty-hunting checklist included plenty of wall space to house his 100piece art collection, so the 16ft-high walls were perfect.
‘ We had a house in upst ate New York wit halo to fart and furniture, but decided to sell it as we were rarely there,’ he explains. ‘I hate to leave my things in storage when they can be on display, so this place was the ideal backdrop. It was exactly what I was looking for: raw and quirky. Ge orgi thought I was crazy, but I think it’s perfect.’
The building dates back to the late 1930s and was used by General Motors to house exhibition props for a number of years. In the late 1980s, it was divided into three residential duplex es, each around 1,500sq ft.
Visitors enter from street level into the garage, which houses a football table, then head up into the unexpectedly sunny main apartment. The openplan kitchen-dining area leads into
‘This place was exactly what I was looking for: raw and quirky’
the living room, which is overlooked by a mezzanine study and TV room. Up a few more steps is the bathroom and a compact, cosy bedroom in the eaves.
Shellhammer has also displayed his numerous collections: two glass cabinets in the bedroom are stuffed with thousands of toys, a mixture of childhood play things, gifts and travel mementos. In the bathroom, a squadron of model aeroplanes (one from each airline he and Balinov have t ravelled with) have been mounted on the wall.
‘Every day I have a different thing that I love the most,’ he says. ‘But after some big ups and downs in t he past four years, I’ve realised what’s important and I don’t have an unhealthy attachment to any of it.’
Which is precisely why Shellhammer is selling much of the contents of his West Coast home on ebay ahead of a more permanent move to New York to take on a new role at the site. He quips: ‘The t rouble is, I keep seeing more things that I like. It’s an occupational hazard.’
Right Even functional spaces such as the bathroom and kitchen have been used as an opportunity to play and display. The model aeroplanes are one of many collections that appear throughout the apartment
Right Shellhammer in the Warholian mezzanine TV room. Below The bedroom. ‘I love how raw and industrial it is, with exposed beams and rubber floors.’