Gary Hutton: an Interior Innovator Continues to Push the Design Envelope

The luminous epoxy floors at a Hutton-designed home at the Four Seasons

Interior designer and Northern California native Gary Hutton has been at the creative cutting edge for more than three decades. By bringing conceptual thinking and material innovation to his projects, the San Francisco designer creates singular, dynamic spaces for residential and commercial use. Most recently, Hutton designed the interiors for the new San Francisco Museum of Craft and Design and a leading art collector’s Los Angeles residence, and is currently at work on a 9,000-square-foot LEED platinum home.

You attended UC Davis at a “golden moment” when you were able to study painting, sculpture and ceramics with such noted artists as Wayne Thiebaud, Robert Arneson and Manuel Neri. How has that interdisciplinary approach lingered?

GH: I’ve been able to experiment with so many different materials and processes and always look for creative solutions. In a home at the Four Seasons, for example, we did floors made of epoxy, which at the time was only really being used in biotech labs. We had to re-do it three times to get it right. But when you’re trying something that hasn’t been done before, you have to be willing to take risks and work through the process.

Gary Hutton You often design for art collectors. What is your approach to showcasing blue-chip art in a home?

GH: A home with incredible art needs to have an elegant and appropriate background for the work. For example, for a client in Tiburon, we covered rough, re-sawn wood walls with an almost opaque, gray-white stain. We achieved a pale, textured background that is a perfect backdrop for a major 1962 Stella painting.

What’s influencing you these days?

GH: Brushes! We recently found these great wall panels with black bristles about an inch-and-a half deep—they have an incredible, violent texture. We’d been seeking a sound-absorbing material for cabinets in a screening room in a home for a very conceptual art collector, and decided to use the panels. I’m so fascinated with them that I also did a coffee table made entirely of these brushes for the Museum of Craft and Design biennial survey.

Your acclaimed furniture line, currently represented at Johanna Spilman's showroom, started with custom pieces designed for clients. You continue to expand with intriguing shapes and materials.

GH: Custom work gives the client something no one else has. In a sense, it’s in the grand old tradition of high design—we try to think of ourselves as couture. One of my favorite new pieces in our collection is the Tripod table, which will be introduced next month. It combines beautifully patinated hand-cast bronze legs and a disc top of highly machined metal. I love the contrast of textures and colors, plus it’s perfect for a book and a drink!

What’s happening in San Francisco that’s inspiring you right now?

GH: Oh, there are so many! The Museum of Craft and Design is doing an awesome job. The shows are interesting, the shop has great things and I designed it! I also think Anzfer Farms is really creating a beautiful, thoughtful product. I really admire their integrity and free spirit.

A version of this article appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of San Francisco Cottages & Gardens with the headline: Design Icon: Gary Hutton.