When he welcomes you into his studio on Jesse Street it is like entering in his private home. There is a kitchen where he cooks sometimes for his employees and for himself. Gary Hutton, one of the most talented and popular interior designers in San Francisco and owner of Gary Hutton Design, has a peaceful and intriguing way to engage anybody in a conversation, most of all when he talks about his projects. You can feel his excitement and a bit of deserved pride when he shows you pictures of few of the houses that he worked on and furniture that he personally designed. A craftsman, an artist a thoughtful and eclectic designer, he has a strong opinion about where the design industry is going and what people need to keep creating and producing projects that are solid, timeless and functional. Born in Santa Cruz, he grew up on his grandmother's orchard in Watsonville. He soon realized the world was bigger than the 30-acre ranch when he saw actress Kim Novak during the filming of Alfred Hitchock’s “Vertigo”. Passionate about art he studied at UC Davis under the teachings of masters like Robert Arneson, Manuel Neri and Wayne Thiebaud, who helped him to find his real vocation. His signature piece the Ciao Table has been copied and reproduced by some of the biggest home retailers in America.
We met him in the quiet of his studio on a Friday afternoon.
D: How did the local design and architecture change in the last five to ten years?
GH: Certainly the technology has changed things dramatically, especially when you have to deal with younger clients. They don’t understand waiting for anything. This has made my job more difficult because you have a process of education that you have to get through and the younger ones don’t understand. When you do something special everything is not available right there, you need time. There is a lot of education that has to happen around that. My older clients understand that because they know the process. They have been there already and they know how long it takes to complete a project. For younger people there is a sort of impatience and sometimes they refuse to accept what you tell them . They tell you “I have furnished the whole house in an afternoon why you cannot do this faster”. Our job is different. We are not furnishing a house. We are creating a complete environment and it is something very different than picking up some furniture. Good design is about understanding the relationship with time, space and people and you create a whole environment around that.
D: How is technology affecting the concept of design and architecture, the development of a product or a building?
GH: With all this information available clients now are more sophisticated. In the past you knew about an Italian designer or certain types of furniture if you were in the industry. Now, people know about everything because they look online and they discover a cabinet from 1960 or a particular designer. They know what they want, more than in the past. Few years ago we did a project for the number 8 employee of Google. His girlfriend, now his wife, she knew everything about design by reading blogs, magazines etc. We had to work very hard to keep a step ahead of her because she knew everything.
D: What are your favorite design pieces and architecture buildings in the Bay Area?
GH: Joe Eichler building on Washington and Spruce Street. The scale and the proportion of the house are perfect. The Bank of America building in downtown and the interior of SFMOMA.
D: And those you don’t like?
GH: I don’t like all the new buildings in downtown.
D: In your opinion who are the new and talented designers and architects in the Bay Area?
D: What do you think about housing affordability? Is there a solution to solve this problem?
GH: I don’t think that the current trend of thinking is going to solve the problem. It is difficult to deal with the Department of Building and to communicate with them. The process to get the permits and the approval is too long. The city has to re-evaluate it and make it faster. The lack of affordability isn’t something new. San Francisco has always been an expensive city. I moved here in 1973 and for my first one bedroom I paid 250 dollars. I remember my parents told me that it was very expensive and I was going to leave soon because in their opinion I was not going to be able to pay it. I think that one of the biggest problem we are facing now is the homeless situation. In Salt Lake City people have a lot of money. They decided to invest their money in building houses for the homeless where they can live and stay. Now the situation is better there. I think that the city has to find a new way of solving this problem. They keep doing the same thing and they expect a different result. This is insane. They need more creative thinking.
D: What are your thoughts on San Francisco’s and the Bay Area future?
GH: San Francisco is home to many good designers and I think that we are going to attract more talented people during the next few years. In the past for good design people used to go to New York or Los Angeles, now they come here too. I used to go to LA to shop, but now I find everything in the city and my friends from LA are coming here too. I think that people want to move to the city because San Francisco is a beautiful place to live, people want to help one another and there is a strong sense of community that you cannot find anywhere else.
D: What are you going to do to leave a positive mark on the city?
GH: I try very hard to create a special place to live for my clients that they are willing to take care of. I don’t want to make history, I don’t know if people will remember me but my hope is that when they are going to see a piece of furniture I designed they will recognize the quality and the solid value of that particular product.