You may not know Michael Taylor’s name, but you certainly know his style. Taylor, a San-Francisco-based designer, designed homes in the ’70s and ’80s for the Bay Area elite. He’s credited with creating the California Look, that airy, informal-yet-classical design that includes over-sized white sofas, primitive objets d’art and sheepskin rugs.
Author Stephen M. Salny describes Taylor as a larger-than-life man with enormous appetites. He preferred clients who let him have complete authority over his projects and he often convinced clients to front him money for large purchases, like an 18th century Italian marble staircase, which he bought and shipped to America at a client’s expense. The staircase wound up being too big for the project and was stored in Taylor’s warehouse for 20 years until his death.
His big heart, brilliance and love of design balanced his appetites and impulses. In addition to doing homes for clients like Maryon Davies Lewis (daughter of Ralph and Louise M. Davies, whose name graces San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall), he also designed the interiors for classic San Francisco restaurants like L’Etoile and Fleur de Lys. Salny writes, “Before L’Etoile’s opening night, Taylor sat in every booth to ensure that the lighting was good and that nothing would glare in a customer’s face.”
Magazines like Architectural Digest and House & Gardenregularly featured Taylor’s work, capturing his irreverant spirit, love of nature and trendsetting style.
The surprise is how fresh and current his style remains. You can see it in his choice of colors (apple green, chocolate and cream) and patterns (tapestries and zebra print) and the way he freely combined styles, blending formal Louis XV-style chairs with casually overstuffed sofas.