July 3, 2019

Fresh flowers and wicker furniture aside, how does one bring the outdoors in? San Francisco designer Eche Martinez  shed light on that question at this years SF Decorator’s Showcase, creating a verdant breakfast room that radiates alfresco appeal (with nary a wicker chair in sight). Ahead, discover the inspiration behind Martinez’s elevated breakfast room and learn his insider tricks for bringing a dose of the great outdoors into your own space.

The Inspiration

From the get-go, southeastern-facing windows led Martinez to liken the room to a greenhouse. “When I first walked into the room, the thing that really spoke to me was the light of the morning sun streaming in through the windows,” says Martinez. “It felt only natural that we explore the notion of an indoor-outdoor space that revolved around the rituals of the morning.” With his concept pinned down, Martinez made the decision to steer away from the stereotypically sunny breakfast rooms hues and patterns (think yellow and ginghams). Instead, he selected a lush emerald green as the room’s keystone color.  

The Layout

Because the room isn’t large in size, there aren’t many options when it comes to the room’s layout. Still, Martinez elected to keep things interesting by going with table that might be larger than what you’d expect in a traditional breakfast room. He also made a wild card move when it came to selecting the room’s rug. “We partnered with Stark Carpet to produce the custom rug,” says Martinez of the sweeping, asymmetrical rug. “When drawing the plan for this room and placing the furniture, the shape of the rug just came organically. It felt natural to have a more organic shape in our imagined garden room. We knew it would create a sense of flow in the space.”

The Furniture

It’s nearly impossible to talk about Martinez’s room without first addressing the malachite-colored chairs. An undeniable tone-setter, the chairs, designed by Richard Wrightman, combine an air of refined elegance with more rugged campaign details. “I had been following Richard’s work for a long time and had always been inspired by his campaign-style designs,” says Martinez. “These chairs convey the allure of travel and adventure and were the perfect jumping-off point for the room’s composition.” Playing off the chairs’ geometrics, Martinez selected a marble-leg table and two custom-produced iron benches to offset the chairs. Trestle-style legs tie both the dining table and benches together, while belt buckle details unite the benches and dining chairs.

The Art

Eschewing the notion that breakfast room art be limited to fruit pictorials and landscapes, Martinez chose an untraditional portrait and abstract to adorn his space. The portrait, in particular, holds a special place in Martinez’s heart given that it features his mother. “The painting was done by an illustrator she commissioned work from in the early 1970’s when she worked in advertising,” Martinez explains. “Grateful for the multiple commissions from my mother, the artist asked her to sit for him. Once he was done with the portrait, he prophetically warned her:  ‘Be careful Ana, the first man who sees this portrait of you will become your husband.’” The quirkiness of a portrait in the breakfast room feels like just the right break with tradition to complement the rest of the room’s unorthodox-ness.  

How to Get the Indoor-Outdoor Look

Martinez lets us in on six ways to make your indoor space feel more like a garden oasis.

Try an Exterior Wall Treatment

Although Martinez originally had his team restore the room’s exisiting paneling, the result was too dark and made the room look “dated and uninviting.” To make the room feel more in line with his vision, Martinez ended up commissioning decorative artist Willem Racké and his team to create a trompe l’oeil effect on the walls. Rather than go with an effect traditionally used indoors like plaster, Martinez elected to mimick the look of a limestone-clad veranda.

Weather-Proof the Floor

To complement the paved-looking walls, Martinez decided to swap out the existing parquet flooring for a polished terrazzo tile in a colorway known as “Spearmint.” With an effect similar to concrete, the terrazzo both refreshes the room and brings to mind an outdoor patio or grandly-paved poolside.

Eliminate Fabric Lighting

For Martinez, lighting presented another place to reinstate outdoor principles. “I wanted all of our lighting items, starting with the pendant above the dining table by The Urban Electric Co., to feel like they could be hanging outside in a pavilion,” says Martinez. “That’s why we stayed away from paper or fabric shades in any of our decorative lighting components. The hand-forged quality of the metal and translucency of the naturally variegated milk glass helped reinforce the veranda atmosphere.”

Select an Indoor-Outdoor Fabric

While opting for an outdoor fabric isn’t a must for evoking an outdoor space, it can underscore a feeling of casualness that feels more in line with a garden than, say, velvet or leather. “We selected  an emerald green Perennials indoor-outdoor fabric for the upholstery on the dining chairs,” notes Martinez.

Plant Literal Roots

Obviously few things will do more to establish your space as an outdoorsy oasis than actual live greenery. Before you begin lamenting about your lack of a green thumb, consider the fact that Martinez’s breakfast room gets its ambience from only three plants. His trick was to select palms, which have a wide canopy. “The palms evoke the grand tradition of ‘Palm Courts’ built in Palace Hotels throughout the world at the turn of the century,” says Martinez.

Choose a Utilitarian Motif

Functionality demands that outdoor spaces swap out the bells and whistles for utilitarian details like snaps, clips, and buckles. Seeing as how buckles also align with campaign styling, Martinez opted to repeat a buckle detail throughout the room. In addition to the chair backs you’ll also find buckles on the window coverings and benches (worth noting: the belts on the benches are literally green leather belts Martinez picked up while on an accessory run for the room).

All photos by Christopher Stark