It's hard to miss St. Frank's flagship store in Presidio Heights. The shop's bright colors cut through San Francisco's trademark opaque fog, emanating the thrill of finding something special on the cobblestone streets of Oaxaca or in downtown Delhi.
A warm, West Coast aesthetic highlights how easily each traveled treasure feels right at home. Indigo pillows from Burkina Faso happily nestle into armchairs while a Día de los Muertos skull grins from a bar cart. This interior-design daydream-come-true was founded four years ago by Christina Bryant. From living in Rwanda and studying art history at UVA to starting her career at New York's MoMa and receiving an MBA from Stanford, Bryant seems uniquely suited to create a luxury lifestyle brand.
Her apartment in Pacific Heights is no exception, blending St. Frank's modern bohemian vibe with fun touches from personal travel (bonjour, Cap du Roc towels!) and antique pieces rich in family history.
This exotic combination creates an inviting air for the founder whose love of hosting is only matched her passion for globetrotting. We recently visited Bryant's abode, a prime example of how to make a city apartment feel unforgettably chic.
How would you describe your interior design style?
"We describe the St. Frank aesthetic as 'modern bohemian luxury.' I think my home reflects that point of view, but also my belief that every home should tell the story of its inhabitant.
St. Frank founder Christina Bryant.
(Photographed by Ashley Batz for Lonny)
I come from a very traditional family, for example, so you'll see antique hand-me-downs from them mixed with items from my travels. The approach to layering that I use consistently also reflects that storied aspect. I love unusual, unexpected combinations, so I think my aesthetic mixes styles and is transitional in that way."
What are your tips for livening up a small space and giving it a high-end look on a budget?
"First, investing in a couple of high-impact pieces — like wallpaper or a large piece of art or a beautiful, noticeable light fixture — can really set the tone and anchor the space as someplace special.
Next, don't be afraid to mix high and low. There's no reason a thoughtful piece from CB2 or a flea market find can't sit next to an antique. Finally, keep it personal. Spaces that sing do not feel overly decorated, but rather specific and meaningful to the person living there. That's what distinguishes an interesting home from a hotel lobby. Make sure to incorporate things that tell your story — items from your travels, personal photographs, books you love."
You studied Art History in college. Were you always drawn to design and how did your studies influence your career path?
"I've always cared about and enjoyed art and design. I love beautiful products. Studying art history, however, showed me the power that art has to tell incredibly rich, multifaceted cultural and historical stories.
That aspect of working in art and design is what I find most interesting and fulfilling. I hope that St. Frank pieces — combining traditional artisan-made authentic aspects, and modern design, curation and finishing — gives a look into one of the most beautiful aspects of the culture of my generation.
I think that story is one of a generation that is curious about the world, desires and dares to travel off the beaten bath and get to know people different from them, values authentic pieces with rich stories, demands ethical sourcing, and invests in creating a beautiful, storied space that is all their own."
Antique decor on the coffee table.
A plush and cozy living room detail.
Gorgeous glass beads from Ghana.
What's the best item you've ever collected on the road?
"I think I need to say the Indian textile that I bought and later framed — the precursor to St. Frank."
When did you decide to start St. Frank?
Was it born out of a passion for design or to meet a need for a market you felt wasn't being catered to?"I certainly have had a life-long passion for art and design and also a deep devotion to supporting folks living in under-resourced settings.
Those are the cornerstones of what we do, but I started St. Frank really out of a personal shopping pain point. I realized that, beyond the collected treasures I picked up on my travels, it was difficult for me to find beautiful pieces that spoke to my values as a 'global citizen.' And I wanted my home to tell the story of who I am. And that desire is the foundation on which I began to build St. Frank."
What's the story behind the 'Vineyard Hill for Sale' sign?
"My parents saw this sign on a property in St. Helena back in the '80s. They called that phone number and bought the land that would become Bryant Family Vineyard. I like this sign because it reminds me of my childhood. It's nostalgic."
The Rebecca Atwood covered chairs are truly stunning. Tell us more about creating this impact in your living room.
"I had two sets of antique chairs from my mom — these arm chairs and the dining chairs. I love the pieces, but the upholstery was straight out of 1988 — sorry mom, I know it was totally chic then!
I knew I wanted to recover them, so I needed to buy fabric by the yard. I chose Rebecca Atwood's Speckled Smoke for the armchairs and Zak + Fox's Yamato for the dining chairs. I am friends with both designers and love their lines. I'm in the process of recovering my desk chair in our Kuba Cloth at the moment. Recovering furniture can make all the difference to transform a piece you're tired of into something you suddenly see as spectacular."
Antique chairs inherited from Bryant's mom get a fresh look in Rebecca Atwood fabric, and a vintage sign as a bit of personal nostalgia in the living room.
(Photographed by Ashley Batz for Lonny)
The bedroom is moody and serene at once with St. Frank's Indigo Arrows wallpaper, from the brand's first wallpaper collection, and Huipil pillow on the bed.
(Photographed by Ashley Batz for Lonny)
What's your advice for someone who is hesitant to introduce brights into a space?
"I'm a believer that you should combine multiple colors and patterns. Don't overthink it, just do it. That said, what you'll see in my space in an undertone pallet of blue and black and white. And then smaller pops of pink and red and purple and green. So I guess what I do is pick a 'lead" color if you will and then add smaller pops of complimentary colors."
How did you first approach this space when you decided to rent it?
"I see my home as a sanctuary — a special space for me to come home to and feel calm and protected. So, I approached the space primarily with the focus on taking care of myself, enjoying my personal time, celebrating my independence. Within my space, I think my bedroom epitomizes this. It's cozy and perched looking out on the world. I also love to use my space to entertain and bring people together. So, even though my space is a studio, I also focused on making sure I could fit a decent size dining table and sitting area for lingering with guests."
How did you decide which St. Frank pieces to put in your home?
"Some of them were my favorites, like the Huipil pillow on my bed. These are the items I don't need, but yet have to have. And others I got because I needed them and they made sense in the space—like the Biddew Noir Sublime in the family room. Maybe all purchases fall into these two categories? At least for me."
A gallery wall.
Collections of trinkets and books.
Tell us about the the wallpaper you have in your bedroom.
"This is our Indigo Arrows wallpaper from our first wallpaper collection. I absolutely love the paper and the way it transformed my bedroom space. Even though the wallpaper is so dark, it actually made the room and the apartment feel bigger. Laying in this blue room at night is the best feeling! So cozy. Installing the paper was my major home improvement investment this year and I shared it on our blog."
I'm sure you get asked for shopping tips all the time. What do you tell friends about how to track down special and authentic items when they're traveling?
"Find vendors who demonstrate knowledge. Good vintage dealers, for example, will have rich product knowledge. They'll be able to tell you about this history of the craft their selling and how to know the age of the piece, the origin, etc. Similarly, the best contemporary groups can teach you about technique and materials and often demonstrate the process. Within that, buy what you love!"