Napa Valley's Shirley Robinson Gives Michelin-Starred Solbar an Urbane New Look
Designer and artist Shirley Robinson is known for creating bespoke, handpainted finishes and wallpapers that adorn interiors by the Bay Area’s leading designers. But the multi-talented Napa Valley resident’s practice includes her own interior design projects as well and, this year, Robinson won the coveted commission to redesign Solbar, the Michelin-starred restaurant at Solage Calistoga. Her design was such a stylish success that the hospitality brand awarded her the renovation of Spa Solage and the design of Evangeline, the group’s new French bistro. Here, the virtuoso Robinson shares her inspirations for Solbar’s chic new look.
Your design for the space strikes just the right note: elegant with elements of rustic Wine Country style.
I’ve had the great fortune of living in Napa Valley for more than 20 years. So I’ve come to really understand what clients want aesthetically. I wanted the space to reflect the casualness of the area and possess a sophistication that would meet the expectations of local and international guests. Solage is also a private members club, so it was important that the space was comfortable for breakfast and lunch, yet still chic for dinner.
Tell us about the chandeliers!
I saw many late nights during this portion of the project! I designed the elm-branch spheres with their 12 illuminated armatures to look like stars twinkling at night. The outcome has been so successful, we are now offering the chandeliers as part of our collection.
How did you select the blue-gray palette?
The incredible Solage pool can be seen from the dining room and was my main inspiration. I also wanted to bring in the grays of the olive trees that grow throughout the valley. That, coupled with five shades of custom mink brown, made for a unique color palette.
What inspired your design of the mohair banquettes?
The curves of the banquettes soften the room and add a feeling of intimacy when dining. I also adore mohair in any color and try to include a little in all of my projects!
The bar is so handsome. Can you share a bit about the materials?
Reclaimed wood and antique mirror played a big part in its aesthetic: The wood was from an old barn in Oregon—I adjusted its color to suit our palette—and it was all glazed by hand. The side walls are all faux bois; we matched the wood grain and color with handpainted elements using specialty tools and brushes and custom colors.
Tell us about the artwork you selected.
One of my favorite artists is the internationally acclaimed painter Ira Yeager. I have had the great fortune of knowing him most of my life. He very generously loaned personal paintings from his private collection that I carefully installed in the bar. It’s a tribute to a great artist.
What’s next for you?
I’m excited about our San Francisco residential projects, and we also have some very fun projects in the Valley and a hotel project starting in the fall. My handpainted wallcoverings collection is flourishing as well, and we are working on some wonderful papers for the royal family of Quatar. There’s never a dull moment!
A version of this article appeared in the September 2015 issue of San Francisco Cottages & Gardens with the headline: Raising the Bar.