C California Style

A three-story glass LED chandelier from Arkitektura, S.F. PHOTO: Soledad Alzaga.
Trolley seats were converted into a bench for Alzaga’s dining room, which connects to the kitchen with a see-through fireplace. PHOTO: Emily Johnston.
The Ali image was enlarged from a tiny portrait. PHOTO: Emily Johnston.
An armchair from March and floor lamp found at Summerhouse, Mill Valley, makes for a quiet corner. PHOTO: Emily Johnston.
In an Alzaga-designed Pacific Heights study, Paul Marra’s custom lacquered bronze desk is a cubist’s dream (and a nightmare to move). PHOTO: Joe Fletcher.
A Ralph Lauren carpet, Paul Marra desk, Room & Board sofa, chair and ottoman in a sitting room. PHOTO: Joe Fletcher.

Vantage Point

by C California Style

What does a vintage Louis Vuitton trunk from Argentina have in common with S.F. cable car seats? Soledad Alzaga.

While a grand house may tempt starry-eyed ideas, reality always seems to intervene. Soledad Alzaga understands this well; after all, the S.F. decorator has three children under 11. Recently, when she was designing a picnic table for a stately Pacific Heights kitchen, that moment struck. “I really liked white marble, but my clients had kids. They’re going to be cutting lemons, and it’s going to get ruined.” Solution? Caesarstone top, built-in bench, outdoor fabric cushions.

The fast-talking native of Buenos Aires isn’t new to this attitude. After nine years flipping houses, she flipped into interior design when a friend hired her upon seeing a light-strewn Upper Haight/Nopa remodel. “I actually studied graphic design but got into construction to the point where I wanted to be a plumber,” says Alzaga. “I already had a crew of people that I trusted. The next day, I filed at City Hall and got my business license.”

PHOTO: Theresa McNulty.

PHOTO: Theresa McNulty.

The projects have been nonstop ever since, from Martha’s Vineyard and Buenos Aires to just around the corner. She has imported her share of Argentinean antiques, from a hewn carpenter table to her great-grandfather’s Louis Vuitton trunk—found in pristine condition in the back of a house. In S.F., she’s just as likely to pop into a little Indian vendor as Arkitektura. “High and low—for me, it has a sense of humor.”

Much of her job, indeed, revolves around opposites. Taking on a 10,000-square-foot, five-story John Maniscalco space in Pacific Heights, Alzaga found a way to temper life with four kids and a dog (“The first thing the dog ate was the most expensive rug in the living room”). While the children enjoy their own playrooms, the grown-ups have a book-filled study offset by a Saarinen table and a Cubist Paul Marra desk. Glass windows showcase the Bay view, and the diamond-pattern carpet reflects onto the desk’s facets.

Elsewhere, low-profile B&B Italia and Maxalto sofas in soothing beige contrast the rustic charms of an Indian bed retrofitted as a coffee table. It’s worn, weathered, perfectly family-friendly. “It has character, age and story. And I love that somebody used to sleep on it!” soledadalzaga.com.

Written and edited by Alison Clare Steingold.