San Francisco Artist Tina Frey's Bright, White Minimalism at Home
I met artist Tina Frey for the second time last summer, when I joined my friend Leslie—the photographer of this story—for an informal afternoon tour of Tina's newly renovated San Francisco studio. A study in concrete and white, the space functions as office, factory, warehouse, and showroom, punctuated by displays of Tina Frey Designs—tableware, home accessories, and furniture made by hand of smooth, translucent resin.
There was lots to admire in the studio's renovation by architect George Bradley: gray concrete floors in an uber-gloss finish, nonslip rubber floor tiles looking atypically chic, and, up a single stairway, a giant plywood and polycarbonate box that is Tina's floating office. But what charmed me most of all was Ali the standard poodle—both for lovingly following Tina around all afternoon and for serving as a fluffy, brown counterpoint to the minimalist environs.
Ali joins Tina at work in the studio almost every day; when Tina's away on travel (she regularly presents new designs on the trade show circuit), Ali goes to work with Tina's husband, tech consultant Jochen Frey. As the fur child of such stylish parents, I couldn't help but wonder how Ali lives at home. Luckily, Tina invited us in for a tour.
Above: Ali at ease among the living room's modern furnishings. The gray upholstered chairs and stool are from HAY Denmark and the Camp Stool is by Wood & Faulk. The floor lamp is a classic design by Serge Mouille.
Tina and Jochen live in a three-story house built in 1965. It's tall and narrow: The garage, entry, and a spare room are on the bottom floor, the kitchen, living, and dining are on the second, and bedrooms are on top.
Above: The other side of the living room sports a blue lacquered coffee table by Pacific Connections in Portland. The sofa is from Ikea, and the cloud-dotted art is an original work by Tina's friend, Michigan artist Shelly Klein.
Tina's a fan of sheep from Meier Germany, which she's collected over time at various design fairs. More of the flock live in her bedroom and studio. (Jochen was finally forced to issue a loving injunction, admits Tina: "No more sheep.")
Above: Before starting her own company, Tina worked in finance for Levi's, The Gap, and LVMH brands, and her love for fashion is ever apparent.
When Tina and Jochen moved into the house, the entire back wall of the living room was covered in dark wood paneling. They painted it, and the rest of the house, in Benjamin Moore Super White. The marble Round Dining Table is by Eero Saarinen for Knoll and the white Molded Plastic Armchairs are by Charles and Ray Eames for Herman Miller.
Above: The open stairway is Tina and Jochen's favorite architectural detail in the house, since it's fronted by windows and filled with light.
Though we were shooting on a (typically) foggy San Francisco day, Ali sits by the window to catch the sun, should it make an appearance. "She moves all around the house to follow the sunlight," said Tina.
Above: A built-in wall unit in the living room holds both objets d'art and objects of necessity, like an Eames House Bird, Cups and Bowls from Tina Frey Designs, and Ali's collection of well-loved toys.
The first time I met Tina was almost a decade ago, when I worked as a buyer for a home goods store in Philadelphia and was combing the aisles of the NY NOW trade show. I spotted Tina's booth and was struck by the freshness of her offerings; I've been an ardent fan ever since.
Above: Ali's coloring is "red," the standard-poodle terminology for brown. "They give them these fancy names," said Tina. "Our last poodle was 'apricot'—really, she was beige."
Above: The hand-stitched Dog art on the living room wall is also by Shelly Klein.
Some of my Tina Frey favorites past and present: The Small Cheese Board gets a primo display spot in My Kitchen (and gets used regularly). The Champagne Bucket with Leather Handles is on my object bucket-list (no pun intended), and her new black-rimmed collection (including this Serving Tray) is simple and stunning.
Above: Ali eats in the kitchen from a ceramic bowl by UK-based Donna Wilson, another artist friend of Tina's. Her water bowl is a Tina Frey design: the Large Pet Bowl comes in white and gray, and a Small Pet Bowl and placemats in Large and Small are also on offer. (All Tina Frey Designs products are free of lead and BPA and are dishwasher safe.)
Tina and Jochen will soon embark on a renovation of the house, again partnering with architect George Bradley. They'll keep the same footprint but update the windows, some finishes, and move some walls on the main floor to allow more light into the kitchen. "It will still aim to be minimal in the overall look of the place," said Tina.
Above: On the other side of the kitchen, a metal storage container stores Ali's kibble. Built-in drawers, painted white, hold kitchen tools and dog staples like medicines, brushes, and treats from Trader Joe's. The wall art and resin bowls are both by Tina Frey.
Above: Ali lounges on a Swedish sheepskin rug in Tina and Jochen's bedroom. On the Ikea drawers (cleverly sourced from the kids' department): more Meier sheep, plus ashes of Ali's friend and predecessor, Zoe.
Above: Tina dreamed of having a dog as a child and played with stuffed animals as a stand in. When she got Zoe, her first poodle, 13 years ago, Tina remembers thinking, "Oh, my god, I can’t believe the teddy bear has come alive!"