Cocktails with artistic flair

Design by Michael Schwab


Eternally preppy saloon impresario Perry Butler’s landmark joint at 1944 Union Street is a museum of all things newsworthy in San Francisco for the last 47 years, with nary a square inch of empty wall space. But he’s long felt something was missing. “I’ve always wanted a poster,” he says, “A simple, clean, classic illustration of our signature cocktail.”

Perhaps Butler was listening to his inner adman. After all, his dad was a Madison Avenue heavyweight whose newly minted Dartmouth grad son had a brief fling in the hard-drinking agency world of the 1960s. He didn’t like it.

Two years ago, Butler approached San Anselmo graphic designer Michael Schwab, possibly the Bay Area’s most prolific and passionate poster artist. Schwab turned him down, saying he was too busy. Schwab’s style — strong, simple, retro images in warm, bold colors reminiscent of the ’20s and ’30s — makes even Alcatraz look inviting. The Golden Gate National Park Conservancy, which runs The Rock, has enlisted Schwab to produce a series of posters capturing the various places in the national park the conservancy oversees.


Japantown fountains in limbo

One of Ruth Asawa's origami fountains in Japantown when the water flowed.

One of Ruth Asawa’s origami fountains in Japantown when the water flowed.


It’s hard to find people in Japantown these days who remember when the water stopped flowing and the once-lovely fountains on the Buchanan Street pedestrian mall became two interesting but somewhat curious sculptural objects.

This is not what widely beloved, internationally renowned San Francisco Japanese-American artist Ruth Asawa had in mind when she created them four decades ago.

Yet it is not clear when — or whether — anything will be done to reclaim and restore the fountains.


A stylish office close to home

Partners Steve Mohebi, Yves Behar and Amir Mortazavi in their new space.

Partners Steve Mohebi, Yves Behar and Amir Mortazavi in their new space at 2193 Fillmore.

A NEW SHARED “forward-thinking workspace” with refined aesthetics and upscale amenities is in the works in a long-vacant upstairs space at Fillmore and Sacramento.

Expected to open in September, Canopy will offer shared tables, a personal desk or a private office in an airy space with communal areas and conference rooms for a price: $650 to $4,000 per month.

The concept of “workspaces located in the heart of where people live” is the brainchild of industrial designer Yves Behar, developer Amir Mortazavi and investor Steve Mohebi, all of whom live nearby.

“Canopy was born from a desire to have a place near our homes where we could work and be inspired,” said Behar. “Our goal is to bring great people together in a mature work environment that stimulates great ideas that design can amplify.”

Canopy will offer shared tables, a personal desk or a private office (above).

Canopy will offer shared tables, personal desks and private offices (above).

Many of Behar’s own designs will be featured, including his modern office furniture for Herman Miller, his Juicero Press juicer and Sodastream sparkling water. Jane on Fillmore will do the catering, and there will be Sight Glass coffee and Pique tea.

While Fillmore is the first Canopy location, the founders hope to expand the concept to other locations throughout the country and eventually around the world.

“Pacific Heights — and specifically Fillmore Street — was the perfect place to prototype the Canopy concept,” Behar told Forbes, “because the demand just wasn’t being met.”

Mortazavi pointed to the many desirable aspects of living in Pacific Heights and to Fillmore’s restaurants and boutiques.

“We never really need to leave the neighborhood, except to work,” he said. “Canopy fulfills the missing piece of having a perfect living situation.”

Canopy’s workspace will feature furnishings designed by Yves Behar and others.

Canopy’s shared workspace will feature furnishings designed by Yves Behar and others.

The blue bridge blues

Rendering of proposed improvements to the bridge at Fillmore and Geary.

Rendering of proposed improvements to the bridge at Fillmore and Geary.

THE NONPROFIT San Francisco Beautiful has taken on a new local project: the forlorn bridge at Fillmore and Geary. A conceptual rendering has been released by SWA Group and fundraising has begun.

“I think that we can all agree that the bridge, which spans Geary at Fillmore, has fallen on hard times and needs some new paint,” writes SF Beautiful executive director Darcy Brown in announcing the project. “Well, we didn’t think that would be enough to enhance this rather high profile transit hub that almost everyone in the entire city experiences at one time or another so, we went to the Fillmore community and asked them what transformation they wanted to see happen. We then met with our friends at SWA Group, an international design firm, to use the suggestions and create a rendering.”

Brown says of the rendering: “Beautiful isn’t it? In order to make this rendering a reality, we need all the help that we can get. The Blue Bridge belongs to all of us and in order to transform the decor from what I call mid-century prison yard to a beautiful crossing that we can all be proud of, we need contributions to match the city’s grant.”

To learn more or contribute, go to

Conjuring a musical moment

ROCK & ROLL impresario Bill Graham helped launch a new era in both music and performance when he began presenting shows at the Fillmore Auditorium in the ’60s. He also helped launch a new art form by commissioning artists to create posters to promote and commemorate the shows, a practice that continues today.

MORE: The art of the Fillmore

At Soko Hardware, it’s the mix that works

Eunice Ashizawa and her nephew Aaron Katekaru help run Soko Hardware in Japantown.


After Masayasu Ashizawa came from Japan to San Francisco nearly a century ago, he opened a hardware store in 1925 in the heart of bustling Japantown and named it Soko — Japanese for “that place.” Soko Hardware’s founder could not have imagined the family business would be thriving in that place today under the management of his grandson Philip, born years after his grandfather died.

Soko Hardware, at 1698 Post Street, thrives not just as a local hardware store, but also as a destination for Bay Area residents and visitors who come for the paper lanterns or the authentic teapots or the delicate china — sometimes even for the hardware.

“I think of going to Soko as a special treat, like going to a museum and finding things I didn’t know existed,” says Mill Valley resident Sue Steele. (more…)

First look: 2016 jazz festival


NOTED SAN FRANCISCO graphic artist John Mattos has been selected to create the poster for the 2016 Fillmore Jazz Festival, coming on July 2 and 3, and this week he revealed his design.

“Like good jazz, it’s unexpected,” said Mattos. “There isn’t a guy with a horn in this, so it’s not replicating the experience of the festival. After all, the real function of the poster is to get attention, and a complete departure like this might get more attention than visually interpreting the aural experience — plus, it’s kinda light-hearted.”

Mattos follows other top poster artists who have offered their take on the Fillmore festival in recent years, including Michael Schwab, Craig Frazier and David Lance Goines.

MORE: John Mattos nails it in London

A designer finds her niche

Photograph of Isabelle McGee at Regard Interiors by Daniel Bahmani

Isabelle McGee, owner of Regard Interiors: “I work to simplify lives and add a little zest.”

SHE’D WORKED FOR THE RITZ in Paris and other international corporations, mostly designing hotels, but French designer Isabelle McGee wanted something different — something more intimate — when she set out to establish her interior design atelier in San Francisco.

One day she was walking on Sutter Street, just a block from Fillmore, when she struck up a conversation with Joan O’Connor, longtime proprietor of Timeless Treasures at 2176 Sutter and a notorious neighborhood networker.

“I need a space like this,” McGee told her. So O’Connor promptly called upstairs and introduced her to the landlord of a nearby vacant storefront.

She had found her home. In late 2013 McGee opened her consultancy and showroom called Regard at 2182 Sutter.


An icon gets more authentic

Photograph of the Haas-Lilienthal House by Jim Simmons Photography

Photograph of the Haas-Lilienthal House by Jim Simmons Photography

THE HAAS-LILIENTHAL HOUSE at 2005 Franklin Street has a new paint job that returns the historic Victorian to its original, more subdued color palette.

To restore the historic integrity of the house, which now serves as its headquarters, San Francisco Heritage commissioned architectural conservator Molly Lambert to conduct a paint study to determine the original colors, patterns and sheens of the house. Lambert took 40 paint samples for microscopic testing, which can differentiate layers of primer, glaze, dirt and paint to identify the original colors.

“We don’t choose colors,” said Lambert. “They are there for us to discover.”


A grand tour of St. Dominic’s

Photograph of St. Dominic's Church by Alex Mizuno

Photograph of St. Dominic’s Church by Alex Mizuno

THE DOCENT PROGRAM at St. Dominic’s Church at Steiner and Bush is sponsoring “The Grand Tour: An Overview of Church Art & Architecture” on Saturday, August 22, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Docents will lead visitors on a tour of treasures in wood, stone and stained glass inside and outside the church. The event — a “drop in and stay for as little or as much as you like” tour — is free and open to the public. For more information, call 415-517-5572, or email

VIDEO: “Restoring St. Dominic’s”