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Designing for the View

By Jessica Zimmer | Photos by Matthew Millman

The new half-floor penthouses at 181 Fremont are open. They are inviting spaces showcasing a 180-degree view of the San Francisco Bay. With accents of blue, orange, and cream, the fully furnished $15.5 million apartments offer the benefits of living 70 feet above downtown.

San Francisco–based interior designer Kendall Wilkinson likens 181 Fremont to a canvas with four walls and a ceiling. Here, she can share what it means to enjoy nature in the city. “The idea is for you to take in the whole space, see it as fluid and cohesive. That’s why we made these penthouses warm yet classic. There are many areas that allow for presentation and drama,” she says.

Elements include high-backed chairs and loveseats made from high-quality materials; large, welcoming beds; and bold, colorful artwork. “Art consultant Holly Baxter helped with the latter,” explains Wilkinson.

Buyers may choose from two options. The first layout—for single adults looking to entertain—allows guests to mingle during parties and dinners, yet reserves office and entertainment space for the resident. The second layout—for families interested in gathering—creates cozy spaces where children can interact with one another as well as with adults.

The design for the dark, romantic main entry provides one of the most exciting spaces in each apartment. The main entry features hardwood floors, a choice between 25 richly textured wall coverings by Phillip Jeffries, and antique brass fretwork screens that line the view of the Bay with an Art Deco motif.

The great room fully shows off the view, a scene juxtaposed by walls with artwork in blue and white. The great room also has an eco-friendly fireplace and furniture that mixes 1980s glam with mid-century design. The centerpiece is a large, curvy, white sofa inspired by the work of American designer Vladimir Kagan, set alongside original 1980s Brueton-designed coffee and side tables.

The central area of each penthouse, with the great room, dining room, and kitchen, is a circular space. “That way, residents can always take in the view,” says Wilkinson. “We created a private area to the side by installing custom-made glass sliding doors to close off the den. This can be a more intimate room, to watch television or use as a home office.”

The master and guest bedrooms are pockets that take people away from the urban environment. The beds are big and luxurious, offering a feeling of vastness. Unique elements include his-and-her dressing rooms with Poliform products in the hallway leading to the master bedroom, a bed inspired by the furniture of French interior designer and architect Jean-Louis Deniot, and a choice of handmade wall coverings by Robert Crowder. A pink and red-streaked painting by Yunhee Min adds bright color.

Custom pieces can be found throughout each penthouse, such as a dining room chandelier by American industrial designer Peter Bristol, who creates pieces for Apple; a one-of-a-kind Italian mirror in the entry; a painting also in the entry by American artist Raffi Kalenderian; and an oversized rug in the master bedroom.

The ever-changing nature of the water and natural light truly set 181 Fremont’s penthouses apart. “We emphasized the view by having some pieces of furniture tailor-made,” says Wilkinson. “This ensured the scale and proportion were correct. It was also key to bring in deep blue and seaglass green accents, and white walls that remind you of foam and clouds.”

Wilkinson feels that the Bay is a reminder that in California, design involves combining elements of the outdoors and the indoors. She expresses gratitude for the Jay Paul Company, which developed the tower and gave the 181 Fremont team an opportunity to be creative throughout the design process.


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