When news first broke of the opening of Serena & Lily‘s first West Coast store, on Sacramento Street in San Francisco, I was delighted. After our 8 month home renovation project was completed last winter, I’ve been finding myself nose deep in their gorgeous catalogs, looking for guidance and inspiration while designing our interiors – which can be so daunting and intimidating, by the way! So the new design shop was the perfect jumping point in helping me decorate one of the most important rooms in the house: my son Quincy’s nursery. Their gorgeous prints, worldly touches, California sensibility, and artisanship make shopping a cinch. And being able to pull fabric samples from the walls, touch rug swatches, and feel the quality of the wallpaper, made the design process so much fun. But it was the trusty design advisers at the shop that really helped push me to take risks with some unexpected elements in the room, which will be revealed next week! In the meantime, I’m picking the three brains, behind the Sausalito-based brand, on all things related to design and the shop. And if you’re in the Bay Area, do stop by – it’s wonderful.

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The inspiration.

Serena Dugan, Chief Creative Office & C0-founder: We started with the design concept. There’s so much joy in the experience of designing something new – finding pairings that look great or surprise combinations of patterns or colors that you love – and we wanted to give that experience to our customer. We want people to touch and feel and see the products, and you really can’t do that with technology or even through a catalog. Design Shop is about that experience, the creativity and the joy that it brings to design something you love. We also wanted to dispel the myth that design is only for those who are trained or professional. We have tried to make the design experience intuitive, foolproof and fun. You can never go wrong if you’re creating something that speaks to you.

Aaron Mutscheller, Chief Brand and Innovation Officer : In terms of the feel, the shop was actually modeled after our design studio in Sausalito. People are always walking in the space and telling us how nice it is – the light, the smell, the feeling of openness. We wanted the shop to feel the same way. 

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San Francisco love. 

Lily Kanter, Chief Executive Office & Co-founder: San Francisco can be formal and casual all at the same time. It’s also innovative, approachable, outdoor lifestyle, colorful, and progressive.  I think all these things have influenced our brand in many ways.

Serena: What’s not to love about San Francisco? It’s a city that has everything. San Francisco, and the Bay Area in general are a little easier and breezier than other parts of the country.  I feel so lucky to live and work here. That feeling of gratitude infuses the brand with a sense of expressiveness, celebration, and unpretentiousness.  We’re happy . . . and I think that reflects through our use of color and pattern.

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First step to redecorating a space:

Lily: Pick a design focal point for the room. It’s that standout item that will be the star of your room – it might be a piece of furniture, a work of art, or an heirloom piece – that can help spark ideas for the rest of the space.

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Favorite part of the shop:
Lily: I love the art wall. It’s stunning and totally inspirational. It makes me want to create another one in my house.

Serena: I love the feeling you get when in your walk in the door. There’s a sense of excitement and possibility, like you can really create something special here.

Aaron: The view of the store front and windows from Sacramento Street is one of my favorite parts. It was inspired by traditional European storefronts and is just what I had in mind for a Serena & Lily store when I first concepted it decades ago.

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Wallpaper wonder:

Serena: We work with York Wallcoverings, which operates out of its original factory in Pennsylvania. They mix all the colors by hand and use the original mechanical printing machines from the 1800s. It’s incredible to see the process and beauty of the papers they create. You can see the texture of the pigments sitting on the surface of paper, which gives it the loveliest handmade quality. You get quality in pigment and print that you just can’t get in fabric. It’s very tactile and artisanal.

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How to create the perfect art wall:

Serena: Start by selecting art pieces that speak to you. Then just start arranging on the floor to feel what pieces you want to hang together. Don’t worry so much about perfect alignment or matching. Art walls are supposed to be quirky. The most important thing to remember is that there is no wrong answer. Feel confident that if you love it, then it works!

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Future projects:

Lily: We’re looking into ways to bring the Design Shop model to new regions.

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(photography by Kristen Loken)