Interior Designer Eche Martinez Brings Ethereal Elegance to a Modern SoMa Space

Silver-leaf table lamps flank a framed Paule Marrot print from Jonathan Adler in a home designed by Eche Martinez

Stepping into the foyer of what one anticipates will be a streamlined white space in a San Francisco high-rise, a violet cowhide runner is the first element that defies expectations. As it leads past a silver-leafed powder room and into a living room with a magenta Art Deco–style armchair and a lilac Donghia sofa, it becomes evident that this will not be your typical “white box.” For interior designer Eche Martinez, the mission was instead to create a suprisingly spirited residence: “I love classical architecture, but this space was a clean modern slate and needed something a little more theatrical,” he says. “The challenge was to create a home that was bold, beautiful, personal and unique.”

The designer’s client was “a young, super-energetic businesswoman with an active social life and a deep, spiritual connection to her yoga practice,” who expected him to think outside the box. Martinez complied: Along with the introduction of vivid colors, there are subtle eye-catching textures throughout. In the living room, for example, Martinez hung a sparkly faux shagreen Elitis paper around the fireplace and defined the seating area with a geometric-patterned Mansour rug in tone-on-tone silk. “Not every single thing in the house had to stand out,” Martinez explains. “Some things had to be almost invisible.”

s covered in a Mary McDonald for Schumacher fabric and bolster in a Sandra Jordan alpaca.

Indeed, to maximize sight lines throughout the apartment, the designer used clear acrylic furniture—including a bar cart, side tables and desk chair—and furnished the dining area, which is illuminated by two walls of floor-to-ceiling glass, with Mies van der Rohe’s cantilevered Brno chairs and an octagonal table made from beveled mirrors that reflects the city skyline. Martinez also designed furniture that was produced by Coup d’Etat, such as the sculptural dining table and a console made with smoked parchment, shagreen, mirrored glass and silver leaf. 

The homeowner’s collection of contemporary art also inspired the apartment’s expressive palette of materials and colors. “With strong, saturated colors, I am not a huge fan of using patterned fabrics,” says Martinez. “Solid fabrics stand the test of time.”

Brno chairs from Design Within Reach surround a custom table from Coup d’Etat

While the spaces used for entertaining were designed to stimulate the senses, the more personal spaces were intended to soothe the soul. With wool-covered walls, the home office is a serene oasis with a glass and steel desk, Eames Soft Pad chair and a linen-covered banquette by the window. “It’s a cozy place to relax, enjoy the view or read a book,” the designer says.

The master suite required a “calm, classical palette,” notes Martinez. And, although the apartment had never been previously occupied, the master bathroom was given a gut renovation, replacing generic beige and stone finishes with glamorous honed-marble floors and oversized silver-foil–backed glass wall tiles. Above the freestanding matte-white Waterworks tub, contractor Peter Englander, who worked with Martinez on the overall remodel of the home, created an illuminated glass bubble installation to Martinez’s specifications and a glass shelf that displays artist Bill Armstrong’s Renaissance 1053. The client “wanted a dreamlike spa retreat,” the designer says, “something that was feminine and fun.”

The master bedroom was swathed in shades of gray, from pale, pearly gray slipper chairs to a charcoal silk velvet headboard and parchment nightstands finished in varying shades of high gloss resin “to create an ombré effect and bring dynamism into the space.” At the foot of the bed, he placed a pair of pony-skin benches, a warm and fuzzy element found in accent pieces throughout the home including a Lucite stool with a Mongolian lamb seat. “It has a kind of Monsters, Inc. vibe,” Martinez says with a laugh. “This is young San Francisco modern. It’s a little edgier.”

A version of this article appeared in the May 2014 issue of San Francisco Cottages & Gardens with the headline: Luminous Life.