Kenneth Wingard lets eclectic spirit be his guide
Monday, June 25, 2012
Purveyor of affordable chic. World traveler. Star of the Oprah Winfrey Network's "Home Made Simple." Kenneth Wingard is all of these. Yet at heart he's a devoted family man who lives a small-town life in the big city.
In his eponymous, midcentury-inspired shop on Market Street in the Castro, he waxes sentimental about his adopted hometown. "San Francisco has everything that I love. You know the bread baker, you see the farmer ... yet you can hop on the train and go three stops and be at Macy's."
Growing up in an Army family, Wingard saw much of the world before leaving home to study architecture at Princeton. San Francisco was his last stop after a postcollegiate adventure that took him from Europe to Africa, Moscow to the Himalayas. Arriving here in 1989, he worked his way up at Pottery Barn to become the company's director, then went freelance, designing products for high-profile clients like W Hotels and Martha Stewart.
Along the way, his point of view became crystal clear. "One's design aesthetic has to come from within. It's about that eclecticness that creates a very distinctive individual style and feel." Wingard stocks his store s with everything from sleek aluminum vases to vintage wooden bowls and snarky T-shirts. And he emphasizes affordability, because "there's no reason design should cost a fortune."
Wingard spends several weeks of the year in Los Angeles, dispensing decor advice on the show. But his heart remains in San Francisco, where he lives with his husband, Michael Gotham, and their daughter, Coco.
"I feel so fortunate to be in San Francisco," he says. "You can feel like you're in Mayberry, but Mayberry that has drag queens." Then he adds, with one of his trademark hearty laughs, "It's not your grandmother's Mayberry!"
Wingard's favorite hangouts
Children play on the new playground structure during "Love Your Parks Day" at Duboce Park on Saturday, May 19th, 2012 in San Francisco, Calif. Photo: Jill Schneider, The Chronicle / SF
Duboce Park, Duboce Avenue and Noe Street. "You've got the dog runs, you've got the children's play area, the Harvey Milk Rec Center. There are picnics, birthday parties, people playing Frisbee. It is a microcosm of San Francisco - every race, age, color, all in the park, all loving each other."
Castro Farmers' Market, Noe and Market streets. Wednesdays 4-8 p.m. "I close the shop on Wednesday evenings and stroll through the market and see amazing produce, and orchids, and there's an amazing ice cream vendor. I often pick up grass-fed lamb chops."
Lauren's, 14211 Hwy. 128, Boonville. "Boonville is the kind of place where you can show up for dinner in your jeans, mud on your boots, and no one looks at you funny. Our favorite restaurant there is Lauren's. Great meat loaf and chicken pot pie. She's also the resident jazz singer; she sang at our wedding."
Some of the accessories offered at Sui Generis Illa Boutique are seen on Friday, April 15, 2011 in San Francisco, Calif. Photo: Russell Yip, The Chronicle / SF
Sui Generis, 2265 Market St. "It's all secondhand designer, like vintage Gucci, Prada, funky '70s stuff. The staff look like they stepped out of the pages of Vogue, and it's all from the store."
Starbelly Restaurant, 3583 16th St. "During the summer they have a BLT that is to die for - farm-raised bacon, big heirloom tomatoes, on toast. They have a back patio for lunch with carafes of wine."
L'ardoise Bistro, 151 Noe St. "It's like a trip to the Left Bank. Crowded little tables, dark, candles, amazing French wines and wonderful staff. The menu changes every week. It's all very traditional French, but not French fancy - hearty, beautiful soups and terrines."
Randall Museum, 199 Museum Way. "It's a hidden gem, especially if you have kids. It's open every day, and it's free. They have a petting zoo with animals they've rescued and nursed back to health. It's a great way to teach your kids about the environment and taking care of animals."
The Ark Toy Store, 3325 Sacramento St. "It's huge! You turn into a kid when you walk in. Beautiful, great educational toys."
Velvet Cantina, 3349 23rd St. "It's this amazing mix of people and music you only find in the Mission. On a Friday or Saturday night, you get a booth, you get six or seven friends, your order a pitcher of margaritas and quesadillas."
Claudia Bauer is a San Francisco freelance writer. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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