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Second homes

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Weekends on the water | page 26

Haute stuff | page 13

A world-famous designer seeks refuge in this oceanfront retreat.

Accessories that simplify moving between homes.

Second home secrets | page 32

Shop talk | page 16

Design guru Orlando Diaz-Azcuy shares tips on designing a second home.

Art and accents are the draw at Bae and ACCI.

Home buying guide | page 38

In style | page 18

Shopping for towels doesn’t need to be a dry subject.ome with

Discover an enchanting new world when black and white marry.

The wide world of rice | page 44 A host of colors and varieties diversify this global staple.

The tasting room | page 20 Our wine recommendations for firing up the barbecue.

At the table | page 24 More than a winery, Domaine Chandon boasts the world-class restaurant, Étoile.

Around town | page 42 Things to do, see and enjoy in June and July.

Also on In the garden

Faces & spaces

Chocoholics can enjoy the color, scent and taste of cocoa in floral form.

Ballet and chamber pair up in San Jose; plus a designer book signing and celebrating a new furniture line.



2500 Embarcadero Street, Oakland $ 510-832-Bath (2284) Monday–Tuesday & Thursday–Friday, 9am–5pm Now Open: Wednesday, 10:30am–7pm $ Appointments Welcome

Last month, while at a friend’s birthday party, I asked the hostess how she stayed so calm while juggling work, entertaining and two teenage sons. I expected her to say yoga or watching reruns of House. Instead, she said it was the family’s twice monthly visits to their weekend retreat. Likewise for designer Alexander Gorlin, whose waterfront escape (page 26) is a refuge after a hectic week of teaching and working with clients on new homes. On page 32, Orlando DiazAzcuy, who’s celebrating a new book of the same name (Rizzoli), offers tips on designing weekend getaways. And in Haute Stuff (page 13), we showcase those indispensable items that make a second house feel like home. Flip through the pages and take your own mini-retreat.

The premier magazine of design

editorial director Kristine M. Carber art director Timothy Tsun contributing designer Sue Tracy departments editor Terri Hunter-Davis staff writer Crystal Chow

Enjoy the issue.

Kristine M. Carber Editorial Director


contributing photographers Michael Moran Kerry Hiroshi Paul Ken Perkins Lisa Sze contributing writers Craig Summers Black Joan Chatfield-Taylor Gina Gotsill Joan Jackson Deborah Abrams Kaplan Charles Neave Wendy Neri Kathryn Loosli Pritchett

Spaces, Vol. 3, No. 6 ©2009 by the Bay Area News Group. All rights reserved. Material herein may not be reprinted without expressed written consent of the publisher. If you receive a copy that is torn or damaged, call 408.278.3464 for a replacement.

Gina Gotsill Shop talk / ACCI | page 16 I discovered ACCI while strolling the Gourmet Ghetto during Berkeley’s annual Chalk and Chocolate Festival. What a find. The gallery features a variety of art, from paintings to jewelry to greeting cards — something for every taste and budget. Yet it’s quirky, too — there’s even a mosaic in the cracks of the gallery floor. It’s a fun place to wile away the hours. When hunger strikes, there are plenty of restaurants nearby where you can refuel and reflect until ready to start browsing again.


Charles Neave At the table | page 24 It was sobering when I realized that I have been writing about food, wine, people and travel since before Étoile chef Perry Hoffman was born. But when you talk to those he’s worked with and tasted his food, it doesn’t matter. He is dedicated and thoughtful and you can’t help but like anyone who starts working in a kitchen at the age of 4. If only the rest of us knew what we wanted to do in life before we entered pre-school.

Design by Alexander Gorlin Photo by Michael Moran

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for advertising information, call 925.945.4712 or 408.920.5075 For other information, call 408.278.3464

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COMMENTS? Spaces welcomes story ideas and comments from readers. Write to: Spaces, 750 Ridder Park Drive, San Jose, CA 95190 or e-mail us at

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HauteStuff When you split time between two homes, sometimes things seem to be neither here nor there. Ease the transition with items that help make your second house more of a home. — Terri Hunter-Davis

Second home

There’s rarely a good place to park a suitcase, let alone something that does double duty. Pottery Barn’s rattan luggage rack fills the bill in style: The thick rattan poles easily support luggage; the piece doubles as a table. $89;




West Elm’s organic cotton throws are perfect for curling up on the sofa or an early morning jaunt in the roadster. In four colors; $49 at stores or


Laptops are portable; desks, not so much. Ah, but this laptop desk is light enough to travel and attractive and useful enough to want one in both homes. In birch, oak or walnut veneer for $149$199 at; find other retailers at



Keep necklaces and such untangled en route with Vera Bradley’s jewelry case, which features zippered interior pouches and slip-in compartments. It’s pretty enough to set on the dressing table, too. $35;






Make sure the right bag comes home with you — personalize it with a cheery laminated fabric tag in patterns ranging from Pop Art flowers to bright houndstooth check. $20 at

What’s nice about second homes is that there you can justify treats you wouldn’t at home. Like a vibrant, comfy hammock. Frellen’s carries a quilted one, in a range of colors and patterns. Quilted hammocks start at $239; hammock stands start at $150. Locations in San Ramon, San Rafael and Fairfield;

Between seasons, store china and crystal safely and stylishly with the Container Store’s elegant damask chests. The china chest includes felt separators for up to 12 plates. $9.99 to $24.99 at local stores or

Not into basic black luggage? Go green instead. Jendarling’s garment bags and travel cases are fashion forward and eco-friendly, made in Northern California with organic fabrics. From $34 to $160; find stores or view the collection at


ACCI Gallery

Bae Go local

The art of craft

When Matt Bissinger and David Caler opened Bae in Pacific Heights in 2005, they knew they couldn’t be all things to all people. But as a boutique, they could support local artists while offering designers and shoppers an eclectic mix of home accessories and small furnishings. “In the neighborhood there’s a lot of ‘shabby chic,’ but definitely we bring some Asian influence and antiques,” Bissinger says. Caler scouts out goods from travels to Argentina and antique shows. One of Bae’s missions also is to feature regional artists and product lines, such as San Francisco-based elizabethW, purveyors of bath and body fare. “We try to bring in stuff you just can’t find just anywhere,” Bissinger says. While the store gets its share of locals, it also attracts designers in search of functional art for their clients. Bae’s in-store designer also works with customers to find the perfect accompaniments to their home decor.

Jewelry. Ceramics. Fine art. Kid’s stuff. At North Berkeley’s Arts and Crafts Cooperative Inc. (ACCI) Gallery, you’ll find art for every taste and every budget. Known as the nation’s oldest arts and crafts cooperative west of the Mississippi, ACCI Gallery started in 1957 when a group of Bay Area artists threw down their blankets along Shattuck Avenue and sold their wares from the street, says Lisah Horner, executive director. Today, ACCI’s 125 member artists keep the sleek and welcoming space in the heart of the Gourmet Ghetto wellstocked with pieces that inspire and surprise. There are plenty of trend-setting pieces, such as art quilts, fiber arts and woodblock prints. A few steps away, you’ll find a quaint ceramic tiered serving tray for your next dinner party, and coasters that’ll remind you of a tattoo you once saw on a sailor’s arm. Also find greeting cards based on their fine art pieces that are fit to be framed.

— Deborah Abrams Kaplan

Bae 3101 Sacramento St., San Francisco 415.928.1287;


— Gina Gotsill

ACCI Gallery 1652 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley 510.843.2527;

Photo by Kerry Hiroshi Paul

Photo by Lisa Sze

Photo by Lisa Sze


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InStyle Black and white are all right, especially when they’re brilliantly married as with this dress from Fendi. It’s perfect to wear to a wedding, in fact, or any other celebratory occasion. We certainly whooped it up when we discovered equally enchanting examples of dark paired with light. — Crystal Chow A set of melamine dinner plates go modern gothic in this Thomas Paul design. 11 inches diameter and dishwasher safe. $36 for all four at

Blanc & noir

The sturdy Sophie lounge chair from Cielo Home features zebra-stenciled cowhide and a generous seat. 26 by 29 by 38 inches. $2,856 at Let there be candlelight with the Pampa double candlestick from Jayson Home & Garden. Made of horn and alpaca silver, it measures 13 by 9.5 inches. $695 at

Present desserts dramatically on this cake pedestal by John Derian. The interesting design is actually decoupage under glass. 8.5 by 12 inches. $350 at Impress visitors as soon as they show up with this Artsand-Crafts rubber doormat from Smith & Hawken. 32 by 21 inches. $39 at 18 SPACES JUNE / JULY 2009

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Redwood City 2424 El Camino Real 650-261-0200

Mon-Fri Saturday Sunday

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Wine photo from TSchon/ grilling photo from timegoodwin


Just add fire Wines that let you turn up the heat ight about now, serious grilling season hits high gear. Out come the three Bs — burgers, brats and beef — as manly men don questionable aprons and prepare to sear or smoke something. The question remains, however (and I think you saw this coming): What wines can be paired with what B, especially with hot weather on the way? We are now in primarily red wine territory, but you’ll want to avoid the heavyfisted cabernets that clash with the high temps. Sadly, this means that even if you’re doing up some really choice ribeyes, you won’t want to crack open your Cakebread or Martha’s. Too powerful, too serious, too sweaty. How about a Central Coast syrah or Phillips’ Incognito blend? Zinfandel, too, pairs wonderfully: say, Seghesio’s value-priced version or something from Cline or Dry Creek. Burgers, despite being decidedly casual fare, don a little dressing-up with a stemmed glass instead of a beer (ah, the



fourth summer B) stein. You need something big to stand up to the drippings and toppings, but nothing you have to think about too hard. Phelps’ Pastiche maybe, a grenache-based Rhone-styled red. A zin from Justin (Paso Robles) or Black Sheep (Murphys) can handle even Dagwood-style layerings between bun and burger. But brats — now this is where the going can get weird. Sure, a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is the go-to beverage of the first and wurst order. And a stand-up pinot can do the trick, maybe Rex Hill from Oregon, David Bruce from Santa Cruz or Schug from Carneros. But easier on the palate would be a pour of a different color. Rosés like Mont Blanc’s syrah or Monteza’s merlot are nicely crisp and dry. On the white side, a gerwürztraminer from DeLoach or Navarro also have the required backbone. And now a word about pinot noir. There is a pinot style to fit anything you throw on

the grill. Even (gasp) fish. Light and fruity Carneros stylings complement casual fare, while tonier Russian River or Oregon versions will have you putting on your best bib and tuck. Yes, pinot does just about everything but windows. New and recommended • X Winery Los Carneros Chardonnay, 2007: With grapes sourced from the renowned Sangiacomo and Truchard vineyards, a well-balanced wine with hints of vanilla and butterscotch. $19. Grade: B • Chateau La Clare Cru Bourgeois Medoc, 2005: A subtle Bordeaux blend that’s really quite lovely from start to its long finish. Kosher. $28. Grade: A• Wild Horse Unbridled Bien Nacido Chardonnay, 2007: Depth, richness and a creamied, full body. A real pleasure to pour. $24. Grade: B+ — Craig Summers Black

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‘‘I choose to feel fit.’’ “My granddaughter used to visit me on her way home from the gym. She would tell me about her workouts and all the great equipment. It sounded fun, but I didn’t think it was for me.That was before Belmont Village. Now I exercise three times a week with a licensed physical therapist, on professional equipment designed just for me. Plus, I’m more active now that I have a driver to take me places, lots of social activities, and a chef to do the cooking! And my granddaughter? She wishes she could join my gym!”

“I choose Belmont Village” • Chef-prepared, restaurant-style dining • Free scheduled transportation daily • Fitness and social activities • Licensed nurse on-site around the clock • Medication management • Housekeeping and laundry • Assistance with daily living • Circle of Friends® memory program • Short-term stays available • Specialized Alzheimer’s care

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Chef de Cuisine

Perry Hoffman Age: 25 Hometown: Napa Experience: “The French Laundry when I was 4 and my grandparents owned it and I started helping out in the kitchen; then at Zinsvalley in Napa when I was 15. For me those three years were my culinary school.” Other positions include his uncle’s restaurant, the Boonville Hotel; two of the Fairmont hotels; and Auberge du Soleil in Napa with chef Robert Curry, before coming to Étoile two years ago.”

Étoile at Domaine Chandon 1 California Drive, Yountville 707.944.9400;


Early inspiration: “My grandmother, just watching her in the kitchen. She made cooking make sense.” Favorite food: “I absolutely love Korean and Japanese food. And sparkling wine is great with sushi. A simple roast chicken with rosemary and chicken is terrific, too.” Guilty food pleasure: “It’s not strictly food, but for me it’s milk and cookies after I get home after work.”

Biggest challenge: “Last year I did a week of cooking in Korea. I had just 36 hours to create a ninecourse dinner, with no one in the

kitchen that spoke English except for one Australian chef that spoke no Korean. There was no communication; hands down it was the biggest, toughest challenge of my life.”

Which dish are you most proud of? “Roasted wild striped bass with forbidden rice, apples, smoky bacon and lobster consommé. We recommend a red wine, our petit meunier, with the dish.”

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be: “I’d be a gardener. You get to play in the dirt and there’s no stress.” — Charles Neave


ÉTOILE AT DOMAINE CHANDON Dungeness crab with shaved fennel and Madeira gelée Serves 5

Ingredients: 1 small handful (about 15 leaves) spinach 2 fennel bulbs, fronds trimmed and reserved (1 shaved thin on a mandolin) 4 tablespoons olive oil (divided) 1 cup cream 1/2 cup Madeira 2 sheets gelatin (soaked in ice water) 1 pound Dungeness crab meat 2 tablespoons crème fraiche 2 tablespoons lemon juice (divided) 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds 2 parsnips (peeled and shaved into long strips) 2 cups canola oil for frying

Directions: • Fennel sauce: Bring water to a boil. Blanch spinach until tender. Shock in an ice water bath, drain out excess moisture. Place one fennel bulb in a medium pot with 2 tablespoons of olive oil; sweat, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until the fennel is soft. Add cream and simmer until fennel is tender. Place fennel and spinach in a blender and blend till smooth. Salt to taste. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and chill. • Madeira gelée: In a small pot, bring Madeira to a simmer, whisk in gelatin until dissolved. Place mixture in refrigerator and let cool until set. • Crab: Mix together crab, crème fraiche and 1 tablespoon lemon juice; salt to taste. Mold crab into 15 one-ounce mounds (about the size of a champagne cork); refrigerate and set aside. • Parsnips: In a skillet, heat oil to 300°F. Fry half of the shaved parsnips until crisp; reserve remainder.

To assemble and plate: Combine shaved fennel and remaining parsnips with reserved olive oil and lemon juice; season to taste. Pour a serving of fennel sauce on each plate; top with three mounds of crab mixture. Serve salad atop crab. Pull the gelée into chunks and place where desired. Garnish with fennel fronds and pomegranate seeds.


Weekends on the water

By Joan Chatfield-Taylor Photos by Michael Moran

he cliché about weekend homes is that the stressed urbanite goes off to rural isolation, where he distracts himself fighting raccoons, planting a vegetable garden and barbecuing every night. But for some city dwellers, the best escape is staying close to another city. Take architect Alexander Gorlin, a very busy man, who’s head of a boutique architectural firm that designs everything from mansions for the rich to shelters for the homeless, with synagogues and schools in between. On top of that, he has managed to teach at his alma mater, Yale Architectural School, for several years and to write two books on the design and history of the American townhouse. To escape from his routinely stressful existence, he heads for a pied-à-terre on a private island in the southeast where he is footsteps from the water. “I see it as a total escape from the hubbub,” he says. “I like its exotic sensibility and its flare — and, frankly, the total mindlessness of being there. I really turn off from the pressures of work. I hang out by the pool looking down the inland waterway.” Gorlin is a veteran of waterfront living, as one of the architects involved in the




development of Seaside, a planned and picturesque community on the snow-white beaches of the Panhandle in Florida. Seaside is considered the original and quintessential expression of the high-density, pedestrian-friendly ideals of movement called New Urbanism. Yet Gorlin’s weekend retreat looks nothing like the pared down-Victorian style of Seaside’s pastel cottages. It’s a sleek aerie with glittering nighttime views, and sits on a high floor of a building named the Gorlin, designed by none other than Gorlin himself. The building is part of a development planned by New

Urbanists, so it’s a combination of mid-rise townhouses, with access to the water, pedestrian walkways and open space. When Gorlin moved in, his first challenge was waterside glare so bright that it made it difficult to enjoy the view. He solved the problem by wrapping each floor of the building with a deep balcony sheltered by louvered metal extensions. From inside, the 10-foot depth of the balcony blocks the view of the ground, so that you feel as if you’re floating between sky and water. The balcony’s resemblance to the deck of an ocean

liner is no accident. Gorlin pared down every detail of the retreat to put full emphasis on the views. “In this case, the design is more about the site and the experience of the site, and less about the details,” he says. The only color on the walls is a pale blue, a continuation of the sky. The windows are dressed with simple curtains made of translucent, gently fluttering white parachute cloth. The floors throughout are pale gray stone imported from Spain, a choice he made for its soft color and for its impermeability to humidity. Simply furnished, and intentionally so, the


space underlines Gorlin’s pleasure-seeking mood by showcasing a few pieces that stand out for their cheerful good humor. A curvaceous chair splashed with squiggles of brilliant colors is designed by Marc Newson, and is right at home with a chrome yellow side table by Konstantin Grcic. For the walls, he selected works by two artists known for their dark humor and in-your-face strangeness. Sean Mellyn’s large painting — A Girl Named Brancusci, hangs over the twelve-foot sofa in the living room. The simply furnished bedroom is dominated by Southern California painter Thaddeus Strode’s Loudness is a Force (or the Modern Prometheus). If it looks as if a party is about to break out, it often is. Gorlin finds the space an ideal setting for entertaining, often in honor of favorite causes, including Arts in General and Cooper Union. “Everything was chosen for visual pleasure,” he says. “Yes, things are comfortable when they can be, but my emphasis was on the visual aspect.” The coffee table is made of large stones set in concrete, and seems a weighty accent in such an airy space; but don’t be fooled, the stones are actually set in rubber, so it’s soft to the touch and quite comfortable to sit on. Gorlin calls it “unexpected sensory association.” Sculptural lamps by Noguchi and Ingo Maurer and a sleek glass and steel dining table designed by Carlo Scarpo pay homage to the Modernism he espouses, though that wasn’t always the case. He had taught modern architecture at Yale and worked for both I.M. Pei and Richard Meier but, “I was a devout classicist while I was at the


American Academy of Rome, where I was just swallowed up by the city,” he says. “And at the beginning of my career I was asked to do traditional houses.” Gradually he turned to a more modern aesthetic. “Classicism is based on rules, and there’s more freedom in modern design. Fortunately I’ve been able to convince my

clients and have done more and more modern residences.” As he moved towards Modernism, he also expanded his design work to include challenges like low-income housing built as modular units and supportive housing for the chronically homeless. Even before the current economic crisis and the resulting reaction

to glitzy access, he says, “I had to expand from doing houses for wealthy people.” And when the demands become too much, he heads to the lighthearted mindlessness of a weekend escape as diverting as an ocean cruise. S



Orlando Diaz-Azcuy on designing second homes By Kathryn Loosli Pritchett

While Bay Area interior architect and furniture designer Orlando Diaz-Azcuy loves urban living, he also enjoys the pleasures of weekends away.

he Cuba-born native has owned homes ranging from country cottages in Napa to rambling Spanish-style abodes in suburban St. Francis Wood. He currently maintains second homes in New York and Miami where he often can be found designing primary as well as second (even third and fourth!) residences for clients around the world. Below he shares tips for creating inviting yet stylish retreats.


Is the design of a second home different from a primary residence? Yes and no. I once had clients who moved from the city to the country and they wanted their country house to be identical to their city house on the interior, even if the exterior looked like a country house. I’ve also had clients with multiple homes who wanted everything down to the silverware drawer in the same location throughout all their homes so they didn’t have to guess where things were in each home. But generally, you don’t have a second home if you don’t want a separate environment from your main home. Whether it’s in the mountains or on the coast, you want to experience something different. And, of course, you’re usually going to a second home to relax. Even if you bring work with you, you’re not dressing up and you’re likely getting outdoors more to experience your surroundings. The design needs to enhance relaxation. What design elements create a relaxed environment? A more relaxed atmosphere will be reflected in the furnishings through a calm yet invigorating color palette,



comfortable materials and ease of maintenance. This last point is really crucial, because unless you have a staff you want the maintenance of a second home as easy as possible. Flooring is the most crucial decision since it suffers the most in a second home. I prefer stone, wood or a resilient manmade material. Avoid shiny, slippery flooring but also be aware of how the material will break down. Some slate can delaminate in cold weather and flake off into sharp pieces that will cut bare feet like a knife. How does the home’s location affect its design? The location is likely what brought you to the house so you should work with the architect to provide access to views of the setting. Whether the home is located in the country, mountains or near a body of water, you need to bring the outside in visually and then create an interior that doesn’t compete with the view. Also, I avoid using clichéd decoration. No weathervanes in the country house or seashells in the beach house. That seems too artificial. Does the nightscape influence the design? Window treatments are important, particularly at night. Usually vacation homes are in less populated locations and so it’s quite dark outside the home at night and everything just disappears. Because of that you can have these big expanses of black windows that are a little unnerving. In my Napa home, I installed shutters in the bedroom that

closed over the French doors at night so I didn’t feel so exposed. The other rooms all have soft drapes to envelope the occupants at night. I also painted the walls and ceiling of the dining room a soft terra cotta that felt very cozy once you’d come inside for the night. And the bedrooms were painted with wide stripes to add an element of surprise — that’s always welcome. Second homes often are places where you entertain, so how do you create a flexible design that can accommodate guests? The primary intent should still be to create a home that is a peaceful place to relax. Yes, you may have events like a birthday party or other celebrations where people gather, but you wouldn’t want the house to feel like its permanently set up for action all the time. It should be a place to unwind and relax, with the capacity to transform for special occasion celebrations. How do you keep a second home feeling fresh, when it goes unoccupied for much of the time? Ventilation is a significant problem. Homes experience humidity, mildew, stale smells and other problems when they’re closed up for 50-90 percent of the time. Of course, if you have an onsite caretaker they can handle this problem. Otherwise, people try to counter staleness by putting too many scents in a home — overloading it with potpourri and candles. In my home in Miami I have someone open it the day

before I arrive and move the outdoor furniture back outside. It’s also worth the extra cost to leave the air-conditioning or heat on low when you’re away because it helps protect against the elements. Can second homes — even rustic ones — be luxurious? Of course. Historically, second homes, whether they were English manors or Italian villas, were used to entertain the noble class and there was always a component of black-tie formality. In America you’re less likely to find that same formality but there is no reason you can’t have the things you love in your [second] home. Beautiful art and sculpture are always welcome. However, you need to think about ease of maintenance to provide ultimate relaxation. And designing with the luxury of convenience is always important. For example, a well-appointed bathroom where there is a robe hook near the shower is an accessible luxury. I also like a TV in the bathroom so you can relax in the tub and catch up on the day’s events. Most importantly, find some way to put used towels out of sight even if they aren’t going immediately to the laundry. There’s nothing worse than walking into a bathroom full of wet towels. S

Resource: Orlando Diaz-Azcuy 415.362.4500


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Wrap yourself in luxury

towels Photo by Kerry Hiroshi Paul

that wow By Wendy Neri

ne of life’s small pleasures is stepping out of a shower or bath and wrapping yourself in a cottony soft, plush towel that does its job in seconds. At the same time, one of life’s minor annoyances is stepping out of a shower or bath and into a scratchy, thin towel that just redistributes the water droplets on your body. Fortunately, it’s an easy annoyance to avoid, with the abundance of luxury towels, made of the finest cottons from faraway lands, so readily available. With just a little know-how before you hit that next white sale, you’ll be cocooning yourself in spa-like luxury every time you step out of the shower. The single most important factor that determines a towel’s quality is the type of fiber from which it’s made. Anyone in the industry will tell you that the best towels are made from long-staple Egyptian cotton. “True Egyptian cotton is grown only in Egypt, and the conditions there lend themselves to producing the longest and finest staples,” says George Matouk Jr., president of fine-linen purveyor John Matouk & Co. Inc.


Go natural What this means to the consumer is a softer, more absorbent towel. “Long-staple cottons are the best because they don’t have to be twisted together so many times and so tightly to make yarn. The more twisting that happens, the harder it is for water to be absorbed by the cotton and the rougher and less fluffy the terry loops will 38 SPACES JUNE / JULY 2009

be,” says Matouk. In fact, an industry buzzword you’ll be seeing more of is “zero-twist” yarns, a recent technical innovation that makes an incredibly light, soft and thirsty towel, says Matouk. Other quality towels are made from Brazilian, Turkish or even Supima (American-grown) cotton, but the keyword is cotton — never synthetic. Beyond that, the rest is up to you. “Buy a towel that feels good to you,” says Matouk. “Some people love an extremely soft towel; others want more texture. Don’t buy on brand alone. Feel it first and find one that you will be comfortable with every day when you get out of the shower.” Unfortunately, that’s not always as easy as it sounds. For one thing, some manufacturers coat towels with sizing to achieve the silky feel some consumers are after. Not only does this sizing repel water, it also dissipates after a few washings, leaving you with a coarser towel than what you originally bought. And contrary to what many people believe, a thicker towel does not mean a better towel, especially when you consider that they take up more shelf space, become heavy when wet, and take longer to dry.

Terry vs. velour “What makes a towel good is largely a matter of personal preference,” says Jennifer Marks, editor-in-chief of industry publication Home Textiles Today. “The trend for several years now has run to plush and plump, but there are many people who prefer a towel with what the

Photo by Kerry Hiroshi Paul


industry refers to as a ‘drier hand,’ ” meaning a more absorbent feel. For some people, this need is met with a terrycloth towel, which is made from large loops of yarn that enhance its drying ability. (The more loops, the greater the drying power.) If you go this route, look for tightly woven loops that stand up straight and are dense enough that you don’t see the base of the towel. Others prefer the softer look and feel of a velour towel, which is created by a shearing process that removes part of the terry and shortens the fabric pile. Keep in mind that these shorter loops result in a slightly less absorbent towel. If absorbency is your main concern, knowing that information will help you choose the right towel, since it’s difficult to gauge by look and feel alone. “Unless you are comfortable spilling a bottle of water ‘accidentally’ on all the towels in the store to see which absorb the best, it is difficult to test for absorbency,” says Matouk. “If you buy towels from a top-quality store, you can be sure they won’t carry a towel that doesn’t absorb water well.” If you have the means to be so luxuriously on the safe side, you can find superior towels at stores like Yves Delorme (Burlingame, Los Altos and Menlo Park); Cover Story (Los Altos); The Maids’ Quarters (Los Gatos); Misto Lino (Danville) or Frette, Scheuer Linens, Sue Fisher King, and Haute Home Linens (all in San Francisco). Highend brands include Abyss, Carrara, Sferra, Matouk, Anichini, SDH, Frette and Espalma.

The price of luxury Of course, you need to be prepared to absorb the higher cost. At The Maids’ Quarters, a typical ensemble — which includes a bath towel, a hand

towel and a wash cloth — adds up to about $115. Most people purchase at least two to four sets of the same towel at a time to allow for everyday use and laundry backups. (To be sure, the ultra-luxe, pretty, embellished or embroidered “for company only” towels run higher.) But it’s worth the investment, as with proper care (see sidebar), these towels should last about five years, says Debbie Walker, manager of The Maids’ Quarters. “No matter how you wash them, they come out the same all the time due to the quality of the cotton,” she says. “They don’t get flat, their longevity is much greater and they’re very absorbent.” That’s not to say you can’t get quality towels at home-goods giants or department stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond, Anna’s Linens, JCPenney, Macy’s or Kohl’s. Such stores carry long-recognized names like Martex, Springmaid, Utica, Royal Velvet and Cannon, all venerable “big brands” in the linen industry. Such stores also carry designer lines like Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, DKNY and Tommy Hilfiger — “good, well-made towels,” according to Marks. “Other brands like Nicole Miller, Liz Claiborne, Laura Ashley Home, are constructed to meet the price-point demands of the retailers that carry those brands as exclusives,” she says. In other words, the old “you get what you pay for” adage most definitely applies here. “Generally speaking, price matters,” says Matouk. “Fine cotton costs the same amount whether you are making something for Target or for the corner linen store. Inexpensive towels must have less expensive cotton in them.” Think about how annoying that would be when you step out of the shower on a cold winter morning. S

Towel tips With proper care, your everyday towels should last around five years or longer. Manufacturers recommend the following tips: • Never wash towels with rough materials such as denim, which will break down the soft fibers. • Launder frequently with soft water and detergent. To ensure proper sanitation, you can wash in hot water with a coldwater rinse. • Do not use bleach, especially on colored towels. • Do not use fabric softeners, which contain silicones that will make the towels repel water. • To maintain fullness, shake wet towels before putting them in the dryer and fluff again upon removal. • Never allow acne medicines, makeup removers or other facial products that contain bleach alternatives to touch your towels. Such products will act like bleach and discolor your towels.

Resources Cover Story 650.948.4395 (Los Altos)

Haute Home Linens 415.674.0561 (San Francisco)

Misto Lino 925.837.6575 (Danville)

Sue Fisher King 888.811.7276 (San Francisco)

Frette 415.981.9504 (San Francisco)

The Maids’ Quarters 408.395.1980 (Los Gatos)

Scheuer Linens 415.392.2813 (San Francisco)

Yves Delorme 650.342.6767 (Burlingame) 650.917.9183 (Los Altos) 650.324.3502 (Menlo Park)


Shopping Guide ANTIQUES Collective Antiques 650.347.2171

APPLIANCES Airport Appliance 510.783.3494

Direct Appliance 925.560.0500

Fry’s Electronics 408.487.1000

Valley Heating & Cooling 408.294.6290

DINING Carnelian Room 415.433.7500

FURNITURE AND ACCESSORIES Eastern Wholesale Furniture

COMING UP: Style issue


Ethan Allen

An East Bay couple eschews the litany of delays that comes with decorating a new home by calling on designer Robineve Cole of J. Hettinger to transform the house into a lavish but comfy retreat — all within a month. The French fabric known as toile de Jouy has been around for more than 300 years, but its appeal has never waned. We showcase the story-telling cotton in new colors and new renditions of traditional patterns.

408.227.4900 / 408.998.2995

Frellens 800.707.7888

INTERIOR DESIGN J Hettinger Interiors 925.820.9336


Plus, a tour of Bay Area architect Anne Fougeron’s award-winning home, the renaissance of rosés, and at the table with the chefs of Marché and A Coté.

Jack London Kitchen & Bath Gallery


Kitchens Unlimited

Video of Tiffany’s Brian Neel giving tips on setting an elegant summer table.

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Sincere Hardware 510.832.2838



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The Home of Old-Fashioned Service Since 1962 Visit our showroom at 1171 North 4th Street, San Jose

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REAL ESTATE Belmont Village 408.984.4767

Chateau Cupertino 408.446.4300

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6 7/09 &

Opening Donato Enoteca

July 11–Nov. 29 Richard Avedon Photographs

With a name containing enoteca, one would think Donato Scotti’s new endeavor might have something to do with wine. Donato Enoteca is that and more. The eatery, slated to open in early June, focuses on contemporary pan-Italian cuisine and smaller-production wines from Italy, California and France. Scotti describes it as “a place where people will … fall in love with the cooking, atmosphere and sense of Italian hospitality.” 1041 Middlefield Road, Redwood City; 650.701.1000 or

Richard Avedon — widely considered one of the greatest American photographers — is the subject of a retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. More than 200 of his photographs, taken from 1946 till his death in 2004, will be featured. Information:

June 7 Sunnyvale Art and Wine

Visit Menlo Park’s Santa Cruz Avenue for a cornucopia of art, music and food during the annual Connoisseurs’ Marketplace festival. Artisan crafts, cuisines from around the globe and live music will be featured. Information: 650.325.2818 or

Kick off the season with Sunnyvale’s annual art and wine festival, on South Sunnyvale and Washington avenues. The wares of more than 500 artisans will be featured, along with a variety of wines from some of the Bay Area’s finest winemakers and brews from local microbreweries. Information:

June 7 Temescal Street Fair The Temescal neighborhood of North Oakland livens up with its annual street fair on Telegraph Avenue between 45th and 51st streets. Food, crafts and neighborhood shopping are featured. Information:

June 27 Wine & Cheese at Wente Sample artisan cheeses paired with Wente Vineyards wines and learn about the fine art of pairing at the winery’s barrel room, 5565 Tesla Road, Livermore. Reservations: 925.456.2305, extension 4.


July 18-19 Connoisseurs’ Marketplace

July 24-26 Gilroy Garlic Festival Summer wouldn’t be the same without this annual extravaganza celebrating the stinking rose. Crafts, music and — of course — all things garlic. Christmas Hill Park, Gilroy;

On the bookshelf Noodles Every Day In Asian cooking, it’s all about the noodle — from full meals to snacks, from haute cuisine to street food. Corinne Trang presents noodle-based recipes from across the continent in Noodles Every Day from Chronicle Books. Dishes range from Vietnamese pho to pad thai, from udon with short ribs to stir-fried rice sticks. Information:


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Spaces Bay Area  

Spaces Bay Area magazine, Northern California

Spaces Bay Area  

Spaces Bay Area magazine, Northern California