SF-based designer Jonathan Rachman partners with luxury property agents to create real estate gold.
Interior Designer Jonathan Rachman
Sheltering in place forced many of us to use our imaginations as a way to escape to different places, and perhaps different times. But there’s one place in San Francisco that allows you to do both: Le Petit Trianon. With nearly 18,000 square feet of living space, the property, built from 1902 to 1904, is one of San Francisco’s largest private residential lots. The designated National Historic Landmark, in both name and style, takes inspiration from a chateau constructed by King Louis XV between 1763 and 1768 on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles.
For $21.8 million, it can be yours.
Inside, the circular entry welcomes you with marble flooring, six Ionic columns and four rounded French doors, each offering views of lush, indoor gardens. And that’s just the beginning. There are 20 rooms here, after all, including nine bedrooms, six baths, three powder rooms, two kitchens, nine fireplaces—you get the picture. Climb the marble staircase to the second level, past the sun-drenched landing overlooking the main central atrium, and you’ll find the original grand drawing room.
This is the Blue Room.
3800 Washington Street
Much like the property itself, luxury designer Jonathan Rachman—the man behind the Blue Room—was also inspired by royalty. In September 2018, he scored a coveted invitation from Lady Rose Hanbury, the Marchioness of Cholmondeley, and Claud Cecil Gurney, founder of the famed design house de Gournay, to an intimate candlelit dinner at Houghton Hall in Norfolk, England. The evening had a profound effect on Rachman, who was determined to return to San Francisco and design a project inspired by the surreal beauty of that night.
That opportunity came along shortly when the San Francisco Decorator Showcase committee selected him to be part of the 2019 Designer Showcase House. The property at 3800 Washington St. in Pacific Heights known as Le Petit Trianon would be put on the market once the design was complete and listed under Coldwell Banker Global Luxury (coldwellbankerluxury.com) agent Joel Goodrich.
The timing was serendipitous. Rachman and Goodrich were already good friends, though they had never collaborated on a project before. By then, Rachman, a former florist and now owner of Jonathan Rachman Design (jonathanrachman.com), had already created an international reputation for himself—not just among homeowners and designers, but among real estate agents who wanted the cachet of attaching Rachman’s name to their listings.
“When I am brought in by a client, be it the owner or agent for a property on sale, I make sure that the design is catered for its salability,” says Rachman. “I typically plan or propose all aspects of the design, from finishes to fittings, as well as its curb appeal. I look at how the design would impact the price and capture a potential buyer’s eyes.”
With the vibrant colors and ornate patterns from the Houghton Hall dinner still fresh in his mind, he went to work.
“The long table for that dinner was lit entirely by candlelight,” says Rachman. “Guests experienced the house just as it would have appeared in the 18th century, when the original wallpaper was installed. The celebration was to showcase the Cabinet Room’s original wallpaper discovered by the marchioness in the attics.”
Indeed, the Blue Room has all the makings of a designer inspired by decadence—velvet and silk fabrics; rich hues of azure, rose and soft emerald; bespoke handpainted chinoiserie wallpaper, an exact replication of the wallpaper in Houghton Hall. Attached to the grand space is an enclave that immerses you in a deep cobalt haze, with gold trim, silk coral drapery and two daybeds. You can almost picture Marie Antoinette lazing about with her gaggle of girls.
Douglas Manful with Black Book International Brokerage (blackbookfirm.com) has been in real estate for 25 years and is focused on one thing: luxury. His listings range from $3 million to $50 million-plus. “I have been involved with luxury properties from the beginning of my career,” he says. “Many of my clients seek maximum discretion when selling their properties, and this is why they hire me.”
Of all the local agents, Manful has worked with Rachman the most, and brings him in at the earliest stage of the process. Currently, the two are working on several projects ranging from “your average single-family home to a 40,000-square-foot mountaintop estate to an iconic mansion in Pacific Heights to an international hotel resort development, to name a few,” he says. Proving his commitment to discretion, Manful doesn’t reveal the property addresses, but he does openly advocate for agents working hand-in-hand with designers to optimize the whole experience.
“I am a big fan of working with specialists that are experts in their fields,” he says. “The collaboration between the designer, my clients and myself is a powerful way to maximize the potential of the property in line with our goals and to the standards of the market. Buyers have a different experience when they tour a home that has been well designed. It absolutely does add a flair to say that Jonathan Rachman designed the home.”
The design was a hit with the property’s listing agent, who is already looking forward to more projects with Rachman. “He has done extraordinary work,” says Goodrich, whose real estate expertise spans 28 years.
“San Francisco real estate is unique for several reasons,” he says. “Topographically, it is one of the most stunningly beautiful cities in the world. We are a huge business destination for national and international buyers as we are the tech capital of the world. Plus, our extraordinary variety of architecture—from the world-famous Victorians of Alamo Square to Nob Hill’s exquisite Parisian-style Beaux Arts buildings to the grand mansions of Pacific Heights, and the starchitect-designed ultramodern high-rises in South of Market.”
1333 Jones Street
Of course, Rachman is not limited to grand mansions and over-the-top designs inspired by royalty. On the opposite end of the design spectrum is his project for 1333 Jones St., Unit 1102 (selling price $2.4 million), in Nob Hill’s legendary co-op The Comstock. In this high-rise unit, Rachman opted to go with modern decor and a much more subdued palette of slate gray, black and alabaster white.
“Jonathan’s design intent in this home centers around ‘hushed luxury’ and is found at every moment,” says listing agent Pete Rodway with Compass Real Estate (compass.com). “The market for fully turn-key, move-in luxury apartments has historically been quite strong. The opportunity for a buyer to achieve the ultimate end product without having to endure the headache, budgets and timing of completing the work themselves is a unique value proposition. Every detail in Jonathan’s design has been thoughtfully curated, designed and executed, from the book-matched Carrara marble bathroom to the integrated design of sculptural air-conditioning units and cleverly concealed coat closet behind a focal art piece.”
Listing agents often encourage sellers to work with stylists and stagers prior to marketing the home. With the exception of the Washington Street property, the goal is often to broaden the appeal of the residence by neutralizing bold palettes. “We were very fortunate that our seller worked with Jonathan to fully design the home,” says Rodway, “including custom furnishings, window coverings and built-ins.”
The owner hired Rachman to completely overhaul and customize the high-rise unit, knowing that it would eventually go on the market. “So we did everything to make sure the owner’s lifestyle was met while keeping in mind that it needed to represent a future value of the unit,” says Rachman. “The unit was very dated, and my job was not only to bring it to date but to make sure it would sustain its aesthetic—not trendy, but classic in its aspect.”
1. “Hire a professional designer. While you may think we are expensive, the ROI is tremendous—not to mention, if you make a few mistakes, it will cost you more.”
2. “Have a goal of perceived value. Consult with noted, experienced agents and determine what your house is worth.”
3. “With that in mind, start basing all your decisions on finishes, fixtures and decorating your house to support the value you want to achieve.”
4. “You are selling your house; the goal is not to make it yours. Don’t be too attached to your personal aesthetic. While the end design might not represent you, it will represent the amount you want in your bank account.”
5. “You get what you pay for—it’s not a cliche; it is a reality. Hire the proper professionals, be it designers, contractors, agents, artisans, to do the job. Don’t forget finishes and fixture selections.”
Photography by: Portrait of J. Rachman by Suzanna Scott Photography; Exterior shots of 3800 Washington Street Photos by Daniel Lunghi for Lunghi Media Group; Photos of 1333 Jones Street: by Daniel Lunghi for Lunghi Media Group; Cover shots of blue room by Douglas Friedman Photography