Designer Jonathan Rachman Shares His Haute Secrets

Jonathan Rachman at the 2016 San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show
Jonathan Rachman at the 2016 San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer Photography

Jonathan Rachman is one of San Francisco’s most talented interior designers. He has a namesake boutique—across the street from Zuni Cafe—that is filled with vintage treasures, bespoke artwork, and hand-painted china. He’s designed properties all over the world and frequently travels the globe—if you follow him on Instagram, you’ll know he’s currently in Bali—searching for the perfect statue or ancient artifact. Rachman is also a whiz with flowers and has created some of the most beautiful arrangements we’ve ever seen. Since we are huge fans of the charming designer we wanted to find out which places in SF inspire and delight him. Here, in his own words, Rachman shares his haute secrets for the good life in the city by the Bay.

Where were you born: I was born on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia, in the Lampung Province to be exact, known for its coffee and amazing beaches as well as the notorious Krakatoa volcano.

How long in San Francisco: Off and on about 30 years!  I tried to move three times but I always came back.

Neighborhood: I am wedged between Mid-Market and Hayes Valley.

Occupation: Besides being an interior designer, I am also a floral designer, a purveyor of old school goods, a collector, and a self-proclaimed romantic hoarder.

Favorite restaurant: Hand’s down, our best neighbor, Zuni Cafe—a San Francisco institution for almost 40 years!  Besides the food, yes, the famous chicken, it is the staff I love the most. They are the sweetest kindest people.

Best sushi: Call me neurotic, I go to Palo Alto for Sushi. It’s a tradition for my husband and I—Fuki Sushi—we are creatures of habit.

Best Italian: Our favorite family from Lucca owns Baonecci Restaurant on Green Street in North Beach. Don’t expect American Italian food, but true Lucchese specialties. Our favorite American Italian is Original Joe’s of course…and always Tosca for a fun time!

A spread of dessert at Boulevard
A spread of dessert at Boulevard

Photo Credit: Boulevard

Best dessert: Anything on the menu from Boulevard and butterscotch pudding at Original Joe’s will surely get your sweet tooth happy.

Best place for a romantic date: For real: San Francisco International Airport! On our way to an island or London, we canoodle in the lounge and on the plane before take off, preferable on Singapore Airlines or Cathay Pacific. In between trips, Carmel is our hot spot.

Best Sunday brunch:  Stephen’s kitchen, that’s my husband’s kitchen when we are at home, otherwise dim sum at Yank Sink.

Best place for a power business meeting: Spruce:  between lunch and dinner service in the lounge or bar area—it’s practical.

If you have out of town guests, which hotel would you recommend? The Loews for its stunning view, book a room above the 40th floor facing the Golden Gate, Coit Tower and Alcatraz. It used to be the Mandarin Oriental, same staff and I love their service. While the Taj Campton might be a bit dated in design, it is still one of our faves also: discreet and great bar and resto.

Inside Rachman's store
Inside Rachman’s store

Favorite shopping venue/boutique: Is it wrong to say J.Rachman, my store, is my favorite? Besides the setting and our collections, our Manager Scott Chaffin came from Saks and Neiman Marcus and was my personal shopper. If you look for an attentive old school service, J. Rachman is it. Plus we rarely or don’t carry anything that’s carried by any other retailers in San Francisco, that’s almost a guarantee.  For clothing I go to the Hound Gentlemen’s Clothiers and Cable Car Clothiers on Sutter. Yes, you guessed it: old school!

Favorite place to buy jewelry/watches:  I rarely buy any jewelry for myself, but if I do, it’s usually from my travels around the world or if it’s in the Bay Area, I go for the estate sales and antique and vintage dealers. My faves for antique is Keith and Howard from Antique & Art Exchange and for vintage my go-to dealer is the one and only Susie Hoimes of MDVII. For a trustworthy precious jeweler Amir H. Mozaffarian on Post Street. I don’t buy watches. They are always gifted to me, generously by my parents, family members, and generous clients.

Best spa: I go for the classic: the Nob Hill Spa. I lounge by the pool and finish with a cocktail at the Big Four.

Favorite charity event:  Big Brothers Big Sisters. What they do is amazing and I always cry during the events, plus Tom Keiser who invited us at our first event is a handsome lad with the biggest heart along with his wife, Paige, who is beautiful inside and out!

Favorite cultural event: The Gay Pride Parade, every Summer, last Sunday in June. It’s close to our heart. This is a time we pay homage to the people who have paved the way as well as for all lovers of equality and humanity.

Rachman designed this gorgeous room for the 2016 SF Decorator Showcase
Rachman designed this gorgeous room for the 2017 SF Decorator Showcase

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Favorite cultural institution: San Francisco Decorator Showcase without whose support and trust, my design firm and I would not be here, plus you get inspired.

Best steakhouse: I turned 21 at House of Prime Rib so it’s sentimental to me. While I know it is not a steakhouse, for the traditional steaks, we go to Harris’, which is next door practically.

Best pizza: I enjoy Piccino in the Dogpatch hood—our old design studio was nearby. I always order one simple pizza and one with the most complex ingredients they have. Be sure to drizzle some olive oil on each slice.

Best lunch:  Zuni again!  Reason number gazillions why I can never loose weight, but besides our design office extension, it’s the best spot for people watching. Or Boulevard—they remember our preference to a T.

Best gym/athletic facility:  Pahahaha what Gym?  How about Academy of Ballet on Market Street and Church? They have adult classes, that’s my ‘gym.’

Best massage:  Kate Jones of Body Mind Movement Therapeutics, tucked in the most adorable garden in the midst of Union Street, behind Chronicle Books. It’s a sanctuary while you wait for your massage and Kate is a serious therapist who has perfected her method for decades.

Best limousine/driving service:  I grew up with drivers. It’s a fact of my life, not a fancy thing for me—something I still love, so our driver is the best person and someone we trust and love.

The Urs Fischer exhibit at the Legion of Honor
The Urs Fischer exhibit at the Legion of Honor

Photo Credit: Ando Caulfield for Drew Altizer Photography

Best museum/exhibit:  Anything the Legion of Honor shows, even their permanent collections as well as the Asian Art Museum when I miss visiting artifacts in Asia in person.

Describe your city in three words: Romantic, loving and forgiving.

Favorite historic/legendary place to see or explore: I always like to tell visitors about the Castro Neighborhood and educate them about Harvey Milk, as it is close to my heart, as well as the Castro Theater.  I also like to brag about Mayor Mascone.  Even without visitors, we like to stroll along the Castro for old time’s sake as well as the City Hall—a classical architecture building which is so glorious and it holds so much history to our city.

All-around favorite spot in San Francisco: I love North Beach with its old San Francisco charms and history. Think Carol Doda, Allen Ginsburg, and Jack Kerouac. A visit to City Lights is a must and going through China Town from North Beach to the gate is my preferred route. Stop at Li Po, the hole in the wall bar for a Chinese Mai Tai (or more if you are not a light weight), and continue to Nob Hill and Russian Hill and appreciate the view, the architecture and don’t miss the Tonga Room, yes it’s cheeseball, but at times, cheeseball is good and fun!

Best aspect of San Francisco: It welcomes and loves everyone!  Why I feel so at home and after I tried to move out three times, I always came back.