Design Rules: Follow the Golden Gate (a contemporary classic)

Describing a place as touristy conjures up images of senior citizens on tour buses and camera-toting oblivions holding up traffic. The Golden Gate Bridge is definitely touristy. I was the camera idiot, and there were loads of senior citizens and everybody else too. The word ‘throngs’ seems apt. But the landmark’s also spectacular and even more impressively, it holds up under the scrutiny of repeated viewing. After all, the suspension bridge, which was completed in 1937, is the perfect accoutrement to the hilly city on the bay. And if you think about San Francisco as a giant, very eclectic house, the Golden Gate is the piece de resistance. Putting it in design / decor terms, it’s the original Rosewood Eames lounge chair between the oversized brick fireplace and the floor to ceiling frameless windows that reveal sparkling city lights in the distance.

Like many of Eames’ classic designs, the Golden Gate offers both function and form. Its cables echo the surrounding hills, and the bold but serious shade of orange looks like ripened California sunshine. But its art deco design would be pretty damn spectacular left gray as the day it was made. It was consulting architect Irving Morrow who decided to paint it and even chose the ‘international orange’ color. And that made all the difference. But can you imagine the outcry if somebody suggested painting Hoover Damn, the Statue of Liberty or the White House something like international pink? But why not be bold if there’s even a glimmer of hope that the results will be San Francisco fab? I’d rather have a city full of gaudy than a vacation destination with nothing san-frantastic.

So when decorating your home, channel your inner Irving Morrow (or see my upcoming new blog, Channeling Your Inner Irving) and paint your most prized piece an unexpected hue. It doesn’t have to be international orange, but if you’re partial to that color and the potentially kitschy result, the Golden Gate Bridge official website has the color formula (the PMS code is 173 or the CMYK colors are: C= Cyan: 0%, M =Magenta: 69%, Y =Yellow: 100%, K = Black: 6%). Take a classic piece with great lines, for example the armoire your great grandfather handcrafted before leaving the Amish to marry your pragmatic but lively grandmother, and lacquer it royal blue, lemon yellow or kelly green. Take a chance with something precious (see disclaimer below) to create your own pot of design gold.

Disclaimer: There is a pretty good chance you’re going to screw it up. In many cases, finding the perfect shade proves frustrating so the piece remains permanently assigned to life in the basement atop an old newspaper and next to a dry brush.

This place had a remarkably good pesto pasta salad, and the people who worked there were very friendly.

Perhaps best exemplified by this portable outhouse, San Francisco’s very thorough when it comes to the paint. But this reminds me of the too sloppily painted outlet cover. I prefer to leave outlet covers white, but if they must be painted, no drips please. So . . . close but no cigar.

Almost, but no quite, huh J?

Hmm, it’s just my opinion, but I think they should stick with the orange. But it’s really hard to picture the final result based on a paint swatch, so maybe they should try it?

I realize that was jarring, and I’m sorry if you were frightened.


Strange Closets once again tries to shoehorn design into what read to me like a “what I did last summer” post. Does the “writer” actually expect us to follow these rules? I’ll go out on a limb and say he’s sunk to a new low. –

Painting grand papa’s armoire? Outrageous! – Anonymous

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8 Responses to “Design Rules: Follow the Golden Gate (a contemporary classic)”

  1. Decorating advice ? Not so helpful.
    Photos ? F’ing inspiring.
    Stop making me discontent with Chicago.

  2. Hi, thanks for the gorgeous photos, to which you wisely applied no CGI, so we could enjoy the glorious blue sky, landscape colours, and sunshine which warmed us right through our monitors. Keep in touch, I for one enjoy travelling with you very much.

  3. Your ‘almost-as-good-as-being-there’ photos take me back to SF and what I felt when I first saw the bridge. But why is it called the Golden Gate Bridge? Did they mean to paint it yellow? About the orange – I would love to laquer a few pieces that color and bring a little SF to my place.

  4. Ouch! (from the critique)

    I think it’s a perfect valid point to use the Bridge as inspiration for a pop-out piece in the house. The color’s great for it. I’m actually contemplating doing it, especially since the blue of my living room would create the same background context as the sea and the sky . . .

  5. Tasha! I agree, Jan was far too critical. If you do it, please send photos. I may paint a piece Golden Gate international orange myself.

  6. You are cracking me up with the reviews…

    Considering re-painting the basement floor with PMS 173.

  7. I have re- read the post and I stick with my original comment. I will not “paint my most prized piece an unexpected hue”. Even though I don’t have a most prized piece. Maybe the new flatscreen.

    MB, is there really a color that starts with PMS ?

  8. Paint it Janis. Confront your fears!