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Jay Jeffers’s New Book Shows Off His Most Daring Interiors

The designer’s bold moves made him a star early in his career. Fifteen years later, his work is as sassy and swaggering as ever.

SLIDESHOW

Jay Jeffers created a lounge-worthy, pillow-lined library inside a San Francisco high-rise.

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­Jeffers’s new book, Be Bold, features 14 of his stunning projects.

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Jeffers.

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Projects featured in the book include a Manhattan prewar duplex washed in pastels.

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A San Francisco apartment with ethereal cloud wallpaper.

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Jeffers’s own home in Healdsburg.

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An Upper East Side residence with a bejeweled bath.

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Jeffers's home in San Francisco.

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They say you never forget your first. For me, it’s been true. I remember the encounter like it was yesterday: all the little details, like the pure-white sheepskin on the floor, the vintage cabinet with two little apple-shaped mirrors on its doors, and that wallpaper—hot damn, that wallpaper. I was a fledgling design writer, and it was the first interior design project that I ever truly loved.

It was 2003, in a little Sherman Oaks, California, house designed by San Francisco’s Jay Jeffers for pro skateboarder Reese Forbes. There were outdoor chairs in the living room, antique sideboards painted red and blue, and many wildly diverse patterns (zebra! herringbone! floral! stripes!), all successfully coexisting in the same space. It was different, it was fun, and it was scrappy. “I would literally glue trim to all the corners of the room, because it was a cheap way to make a statement,” the ­interior designer recalls. It was signature Jeffers: taking an otherwise modest project and making it unforgettable through attention-grabbing details and unexpected pairings.

That was then. Fifteen years later, Jeffers no longer has to make his statements on the cheap. But that doesn’t mean he’s got less to say. His new book, Be Bold (Gibbs Smith), features 14 projects executed within the past four years—a highly prolific period that, Jeffers says, he considers something of a new chapter in his nearly two-decade design story, one in which the ethos of “being bold has transcended my career in a different way.”

Jeffers moved to San Francisco at age 23 armed with a marketing degree and eager to chase down big advertising and fashion firms in the area, and to leave behind the Texas hometown that hadn’t always been kind to its young gay men. He initially found marketing work at the Gap, but after enrolling in a night class in interior design, he realized that he had tapped into his true passion. He jumped at any design job he could get, making a name for himself one project at a time. “In the early days, I questioned if I had gone out on my own too quickly,” he says. “I didn’t have the pedigree of going to a serious design school or of working for the Wiseman Groups or Suzanne Tuckers of the world.”

While daring aesthetic declarations are a through line in Jeffers’s portfolio, their form has shifted in the latter part of his career. These days, instead of painting eye-catching (and inexpensive) stripes on a wall, he’ll commission an artist like Willem Racké to execute a custom mural or cover a surface in richly dyed hair-on-hide. For one recent project, he collaborated with the international design house de Gournay to create bespoke hand-painted silk wallpaper. The ambition remains the same; it’s the scope of the work that’s expanded.

In the meantime, Jeffers’s work has kick-started national design trends (his pattern mixing and penchant for plaids have spread far and wide), and he’s launched his own product line for Arteriors. Both his 17-person firm and his eponymous showroom—which features exceptional pieces handpicked by Jeffers and his globe-trotting husband, Michael Purdy—are housed in a former industrial building that he purchased in the Tenderloin, another bold early choice that paid off handsomely.

Today, Jeffers describes his clientele sweet spot as young, successful families who are ready to up their domestic design game but don’t want anything too stuffy or precious. Of the 14 houses featured in Be Bold, 12 are home to young kids—something one wouldn’t immediately guess by glimpsing the jaw-dropping interiors. “Just because you have a family doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style,” he says. The book offers Jeffers, who’s nearing 20 years in the business, an opportunity to meditate on the trajectory of his career. “I’m turning 50 this year,” he says. “I have 10 more years of hard work and then more years after that of not-so-hard work. What will that look like for me?” Considering his track record, it promises to be bold.

 

Originally published in the October issue of San Francisco

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