The Rug Company Breathes New Life Into the Historic Belli Building
Stroll east from the bustle of Columbus Avenue, and you find yourself in a very different world: Jackson Square, with its Gold Rush-era architecture and intimate, tree-lined streets. The historic neighborhood is also home to an increasing number of tony fashion and design boutiques, from Isabel Marant to Fritz Hansen. The latest arrival is the Rug Company, the British house known for its inspired fashion and design world collaborations, which recently opened an elegant new showroom in the landmark 1849 Belli Building on Montgomery Street.
The Belli building had a wonderfully spicy history as a Turkish bath, Barbary Coast theater and tobacco warehouse. In 1959, it began a more legitimate existence as the offices of attorney Marvin Belli. After Belli’s passing, the property sat empty for years, until it was transformed by a new owner into a mixed-use property with retail and residential space. In May of last year, the Rug Company leased the ground floor and, working with San Francisco architect Steve Geiszler, undertook a retrofit and design improvements to create a glorious new showroom.
The first floor interiors are now crisp, light-filled spaces tempered with panel moldings and pale parquet flooring, with accents of white and gray-veined marble adding an element of natural patterning. The gallery-like setting is the perfect backdrop for the array of vibrant color, texture and dynamic pattern brought by the rugs that are stars of the show: Alexander McQueen’s black Hummingbird rug is a bold gesture in the entry; Vivienne Westwood’s Thistle, a new design inspired by Scotland’s symbolic flower, is underfoot; and rugs and pillows by designers such as Rodarte, Kelly Wearstler and Martyn Lawrence Bullard are stacked and hung smartly throughout the shop.
And, apropos of the Bay’s tech culture, the Rug Company chose to debut its new interactive digital platform here. A large, wall-mounted interactive screen enables clients to develop their own customized rugs, choosing shape, scaling sizes and of course surfing a vast array of colors. Guests can also see how expert Nepalese craftsmen create these remarkable pieces by hand in Rug Company workshops using centuries-old techniques, bringing together past and present once more in Jackson Square.
A version of this article appeared in the February/March 2017 issue of SFC&G (San Francisco Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Reweaving History.