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One Designer’s Secret to Turning Heads? Defying Trends.

Designer Jeff Schlarb eschews the going design tropes to deliver a one-of-a-kind dwelling in Pacific Heights.


Art or wall covering? The dining area is defined by a framed panel of wallpaper that extends across the ceiling.

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In the kitchen, designer Jeff Schlarb had the massive marble island moved a few inches to improve the room’s circulation.

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Schlarb says the vanity caused a “tearjerker moment”—when the clients first saw it, they welled up.

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In the living room, the white palette is enriched by plenty of patterns and textures.

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The bedroom is owner Kent Wakeford’s favorite room in the house. “It’s my sanctuary,” he says.

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There is one thing Jeff Schlarb never wants to hear when guests enter a room he’s designed. “I don’t want them to say, ‘Oh my gosh, I have this too!’ That’s my nightmare,” he says. To that end, the designer spends considerable time and energy giving trends a wide berth. “We try very hard for our fabrics and shapes and patterns not to be on fad.”

The trouble is, Schlarb’s statement-making spaces are just the kind of design eye candy that sparks trends in the first place. But while someone may attempt a copycat version of, say, the dreamy four-poster bed hung with two-tone curtains that he created for client Kent Wakeford’s master bedroom, it’s virtually impossible to replicate the combination of textures, hues, and patterns that Schlarb used to complete the space. That’s a code uncrackable to anyone not inside his constantly whirring brain.

Wakeford fell for Schlarb’s work when he toured a model unit that Schlarb designed at the Pacific, a luxury residential development in Pacific Heights. “His mind is always racing. As I would communicate my vision, you’d see his mind already painting a picture,” Wakeford says. He ended up not only purchasing a three-bedroom townhome in the complex but hiring Schlarb to transform it. Over the six-month period from purchase to move-in, the two worked together closely to personalize every aspect of the new construction. For Schlarb, that meant understanding as much as he could about Wakeford—the former COO of the video game company Kabam (which sold to Netmarble for a reported $800 million in 2017), the current owner of the esports team the Seoul Dynasty, and the father of two young daughters.

“Our clients already have amazing lives—they are on a good jam,” Schlarb says. “It’s my job to make already amazing lives just that much more amplified.” To soup up Wakeford’s life, Schlarb started with a standout bedroom that features three different wallpapers, an octopus-inspired chandelier, and a pair of sconces dripping with thousands of baby-pink beads. “The master bedroom is just delicious,” Schlarb says.

The bedroom for Wakeford’s two daughters is just as amped up, but it’s aimed at an audience that adores unicorns and the color purple. The walls and ceiling are colorblocked in pastels, and the rug is flecked with rainbow hues: Not surprisingly, the girls were involved in the process. “They loved it,” Wakeford says. “They had input into some of the colors and specified that they wanted a bunk bed.” Downstairs, each room exudes a different energy. “I wanted the living room to be artistic but also very calm,” Wakeford says.

“It would have a different feel from the dining room, which would be more upbeat and high-energy.” Wakeford grew up in a family of creatives—his mother was an actress and writer, his father a cinematographer—and within professionally designed homes, so he’s well versed in the language and process of design. “Each room ended up having a slightly different tone,” he says, “yet they all fit under one big vision.”

The living room is light, bright, and airy, awash in tones of white, but it gains depth through a variety of patterns and textures. The dining room, which is the first room visible upon entering the home and can be seen from all the others, needed a dramatic element to define its identity, but it also needed to play nicely with the surrounding spaces. Schlarb chose a Casamance wallpaper with an organic zigzag motif (“Have you seen this pattern before? No”) and confined it to a framed panel that wraps from the back wall up across the ceiling. “This kind of grounds the dining room,” Schlarb says, “without making the whole space dark.”

Lively dinner parties and casual cocktail hours have resulted, as Wakeford and his girlfriend both love to entertain in their new space. “They are so house-proud,” Schlarb says. But the true test of a successful design is when the owners walk through the door with no guests to impress and still get the same high. “I like to come home to a pretty sick home and feel good,” he says. “Don’t you?”

Originally published in the May issue of San Francisco

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