Saints & Sinners
Collections of biblical proportion fill a San Francisco home without making it feel cluttered. What’s the secret?
Hayes Valley, California, was just outside the original San Francisco city limits when it was first settled in the 1850s. By the turn of the century, the area was part of the growing city and attracted well-to-do residents living in impressive houses. Fifty years later, a double-decker freeway bisected the area’s streets, and Hayes Valley was no longer considered a desirable place to live.
Not long thereafter, however, artists, bohemians and hippies looking for bargain real estate discovered the neglected houses. In 1989, an earthquake destroyed part of the freeway, and the rest of the road was dismantled. Since then, Hayes Valley has become one of San Francisco’s trendiest neighborhoods.
Kim Devine moved into an 1898 Victorian home in the area with her thenhusband, artist Michael Brennan, in 1982. The couple was attracted to the neighborhood because its houses had soaring ceilings and tall windows that flooded the oversize rooms with light—perfect for an artist’s studio. Although the couple later divorced, Kim, a collector of varied interests, still lives in the house she and Michael purchased.
A home built more than 100 years ago is sure to show its age, and to Kim, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“I’ve always preferred furniture and housewares from the past,” Kim says. “In earlier centuries, humble everyday items, including bottles, bowls and flowerpots, were made by hand with meticulous attention to detail.”
Housing and displaying her assorted possessions fuels Kim’s decorating schemes. From metallic crowns to images of skulls and hands, and from antique textiles to religious sculptures and paintings, Kim is the first to acknowledge she knows what she likes—and collects it!
“Taking a focused approach is necessary in order to keep chaos at bay,” she explains. In her kitchen, for example, there’s a 1940s sink that came with the house, but no dishwasher.
“I’ve never lived in a house with a dishwasher, so I don’t miss having one,” she says. “Besides, it would reduce the space that my collections could populate. No one ever accused me of being practical.”
There are a few modern developments Kim does appreciate. “The internet has made it almost too easy to find new acquisitions from anywhere in the world,” she says. “And Craigslist has turned nearby neighborhoods into one giant tag sale!”
Collections of biblical proportion fill a San Francisco home without making it feel cluttered. WHAT’S THE SECRET?
OPPOSITE: A Japanese silk tapestry creates a dramatic backdrop for a French walnut daybed. Curved steer horns and a Noguchi lamp, reminiscent of traditional Japanese paper lighting, frame a small Madonna tapestry. ABOVE: Kim was thrilled to discover a French wedding dome at a Paris flea market. “It traveled home with me on the plane, resting in my lap,” she says. LEFT: Yoko, a short-haired Persian appreciates Kim’s taste in Persian carpets. RIGHT: A French red toile pillow cozies up to its flocked, embroidered and tasseled kin.
ABOVE LEFT: Artist Kellie Mckinnon’s scissored, layered and wrapped corrugated-paper sculpture was commissioned by Kim’s mother as a gift for “a significant birthday.”
LEFT: Sparkling gold leaves and faux berry sprigs intertwine on an iron chandelier hung from one of the home’s original Victorian plaster ceiling medallions. ABOVE: What began with a few pictures has blossomed into a full-fledged staircase gallery of vanitas, still lifes featuring objects symbolic of mortality, and other religious-themed art. OPPOSITE: A 19th-century French mirror and a pictorial linen tapestry of unknown origin form the backdrop for a large Madonna, embellished by Kim, and Santos figurines purchased at Polanco, a Hayes Valley gallery of Mexican art.
COLLECT GOLD FRAMES because you never know when you will need one to frame a postcard or a page from a magazine.”
OPPOSITE: Kim’s kitchen is an ode to midcentury-modern design and bright early California pottery. Stone counters host a collection of glove molds. A German educational wall chart from the 1960s is based on bygone botanical illustrations. The floor looks as if it might have been original to the house, but the tiny hexagonal tiles were actually installed in the 1980s. CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Shelves of Bauer and Fiestaware bowls are mainly for show. Kim stores small items inside, including chip clips and rubber bands. A Formica table in the breakfast nook continues the kitchen’s ’50s theme. Rubber gloves in vivid colors keep pace with the room’s cheerful hues. A glowing Belfast Sparkling Water advertising clock is a throwback to the days when the house was filled with neon decor. The cabinets were all in situ when Kim and Michael bought the house. They added wired glass door inserts to the ones flanking the stove.
Kim describes the second-floor master bath as her most restrained room. A study in black and white, it appears to be double its actual size thanks to a tall mirror. LEFT: Open shelves hold bottles arranged to evoke the Paris beauty salon designed in the 1930s by the French author Colette. A photo of Colette standing in front of her short-lived beauty shop is on the shelf that is second from the top. RIGHT: “My dressing table is another example of choosing the pretty over the practical,” Kim explains. “At least, its two small drawers manage to hold most of my beauty aids.”
OPPOSITE: Exposed rafters, skylights and a pale blue floor bestow the bedroom with a lighter feel than the rest of the house. A ladder, left behind by a workman, is useful for reaching books on high shelves. ABOVE: A painting of a beatific saint partially covers a wall niche that once held pink neon rods. LEFT: One of a pair, this fireside chair was crafted in India. RIGHT: “A door-less closet isn’t very practical unless you are fond of continual tidying,” Kim notes. “Another disadvantage is that the backs of all of my shoes on the open shelves have faded from the intense sunlight that streams into the room.”
An ETHEREAL COLOR PALETTE and religious images create a bedroom that resembles a PRIVATE SANCTUARY.
For a heavenly night’s sleep, you can’t do better than using a panel from a French choir stall as a headboard. Bedside domes shelter tiny lambs originally created to be part of Nativity sets. Kim has collected dozens of lambs, and they line the room’s wide windowsills.
“Spring Ahead, Fall Behind,” a painting by Michael Brennan based on a Thomas Eakins motion study, hangs over a textiledraped bench in the Victorian home’s front room. Kim Devine transformed commercial-size olive and cherry jars from a local bar into reliquaries for some of her favorite mementos.
Create one-of-a-kind display jars using found objects and a hot glue gun.
Large, heavy pieces used as head boards or placed behind seating should always be bolted to the wall to prevent accidental injury.