Modern Elegance in San Francisco

By Catherine Yang
Catherine Yang
Catherine Yang
June 27, 2013 Updated: June 27, 2013

San Francisco is an endlessly innovative city, and this translates into the interiors of residents’ homes as well, says designer Catherine Kwong, whether it be with edgy statement pieces on the cusp of art and design, or in controlling the lighting and sound in your home with a mobile app.

“I think that in San Francisco, people are really open to new ideas,” says Kwong, who started her own firm in San Francisco in 2011.

Many of her clients live a very modern lifestyle, she says, and what they’re looking for in their homes is a clean space that lends itself to function.

“People will find different things beautiful, but something that’s elegant is something that’s simple, and it can be beautiful without being overly fussy,” Kwong said. That sort of clean and clutter-free space “becomes a modern backdrop for their daily life.”

Edit, Edit, Edit!
“Get rid of all unnecessary clutter, and be ruthless about leaving only the pieces that you love,” Kwong said. 

“It’s amazing how a clean background can really open up a space, and it lets those special pieces really shine,” she said. The city is ripe with art as well, and many homeowners may already have a collection.

“A lot of times, art can be a big statement or very graphic,” Kwong said. “Then the interiors need to be a bit more quiet, to let that piece shine.”

In getting rid of clutter, only keep the essentials or things that inspire you.

Treat Yourself
“Hang artwork on the walls, buy fresh flowers—peonies are my personal favorite—and it can be just a small bouquet in a favorite glass vase,” Kwong said.

You should invest in pieces you really love, and go for quality when it comes to major pieces. Then accessories, new pillows, and bedding are pieces you can update as trends change.

“Also, bad lighting can really kill the vibe in a room,” she said. “Switching out light fixtures or bulbs in a house can make all the difference.”

Ambient lighting can make a great difference, and different fixtures, desk lamps, and floor lamps can act as statement pieces as well.

Personalize It
A modern space follows function, and function is personalized to each individual or home.

“Design is really personal,” Kwong said. “Is it the face for [your] family, is it a showcase piece? … Each individual puts their sort of style and voice to the space.” 

“I think San Franciscans have a very modern way of living, and I strive to approach residential design in this way, too,” Kwong said. 

“San Francisco is such a hotbed of innovation and creativity. I love how people here think outside the box about everything. From food trucks to crowdsourcing, San Franciscans are really reimagining the way Americans live,” she said. 

“I’m constantly inspired by all the innovative companies and people here in the Bay Area—it’s changed the way I think about spaces.”