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Out of This World

S.F. interior designer Jonathan Rachman mines tradition and travel to give his modern interiors international elegance and wit.

A cool mist blurs early-morning Russian Hill at a stately shingled residence where Jonathan Rachman is hard at work: As his assistants unwrap silver, he aligns a petite moss-green velvet sofa beneath an antique gold-framed Swedish mirror, and deftly swoops an armful of ivory garden roses into an antique crystal vase.

“My passion is to work with stylistic underpinnings of classical design but to make it unexpected and less formulaic,” says Rachman, whose iconoclastic San Francisco firm, Jonathan Rachman Design, is shaking up the establishment.

Originally from history-rich Sumatra, Rachman made his first design-business foray with a floral and accessories boutique on Clement Street, Fleur’T, which attracted the likes of Marc Jacobs, Sarah Jessica Parker, Madonna and Oprah, thanks to his self-professed “relaxed spontaneity” aesthetic. These days he works from a design studio in the Dogpatch district, servicing clients from California to New York to Bali and Singapore, who come to him for his particular blend of Old and New World. “I like a sense of history, but rooms must be current and contemporary,” he says.

Prizing harmony and functionality but with a weakness for eccentricity, handcrafted Asian textiles and surprising art, Rachman is also an unabashed Anglophile, using menswear tweeds and twill or herringbone fabrics inspired by London tailoring for pillows, curtains or a table covering. As a lifelong collector of precious objects, his clients’ rooms and his atelier are textured with a curious and lively trove of the vintage, salvaged and rare. “It’s references and traces of the past that add meaning and biography to a room,” he says.

Beyond his residential commissions, Rachman is currently busy with myriad side projects, including the new JRD fabric range The Sisters for San Mateo-based Bolt Textiles, and a glamorous J. Rachman collection of Italian leather goods and embellished glassware that is launching in the summer. The prolific decorator seems to feed off the packed schedule: “I’m just getting started,” he says.


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