My Place: Chip Conley's Urban Sanctuary
"Eclectic, soulful, rejuvenating, creative, and idiosyncratic." Those are the five words Chip Conley, the 48-year-old founder of Joie de Vivre Hotels in San Francisco, uses to describe his two-story townhouse. When designing a hotel, he typically draws inspiration from a particular magazine -- Wired, The New Yorker, and Rolling Stone have all been muses -- and five words that describe it. Although he didn't have a specific publication in mind when he set out to remodel this 1906 Victorian house he bought eight years ago, he says it probably falls somewhere between Travel + Leisure and What Is Enlightenment?, a magazine about spirituality and culture.
Conley purchased the 2,500-square-foot home, located in the Potrero Hill neighborhood, from an architect who had lived there 35 years. "It was in need of a major renovation," says Conley. "It basically looked like someone had lived there for 35 years: old-fashioned." Conley hired architect Lawson Willard and the design firm De Lisle, Philpotts & Staub Interiors to help him bring the three-bedroom house up to date and convert it to a one-bedroom.
Conley travels frequently -- what with business trips and speaking engagements for Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo From Maslow, the book he recently wrote about his company, he is out of town about four days a week -- so he wanted his home to feel like a "spiritual refuge." As soon as you cross the threshold, you enter the meditation shrine, with a trickling indoor pond, Buddhas, and candles. The serene foyer, which used to be a bedroom, opens out to one of the home's four terraces and a backyard filled with bamboo, ferns, and tulip magnolia trees. Conley decorated most of the rooms with photographs, art, and furnishings from places such as Japan, India, Morocco, and Indonesia. "I travel to Asia about once a year," he says. "Bali is one of my favorite places in the world. In one of my past lives, I believe I was living on the island of Bali."
When he is home, Chip Conley heads to this terrace with his Hungarian bird dog, Sugar Ray. Conley also uses the space as an outdoor home office. "It's a good place to think big thoughts," he says.
"Every five years, I like to do a big birthday party. I had my 45th birthday with 75 friends in Marrakesh, Morocco. One of my friends took this photo in Marrakesh and made this frame for me."
"The dining room chairs are from India. They're from a temple, and they're 100 years old. My designer and I picked them out from an antique dealer. They're very comfortable -- well, the seats are, not the backs."
"The dining room chandelier was actually in the house when I bought it. The former owner had an amazing collection of Mexican folk art. This is one of two pieces I got to keep. It's ceramic, and it can hold candles."
The Meditation Shrine
"I do meditation and yoga in here three days a week. It clears out my mind. Like an eraser on a whiteboard. The big Buddha is from Thailand. It's made of wood with gold leaf painting."
The Indoor Pond
"The pond was actually a bit difficult to install. Underneath the house, there's a major structural concrete bunker to make sure that it doesn't do any damage."
"My life is scattered and busy. I think of my home as a resort. When I step through the door, I feel relaxed. I almost feel like I've taken a vacation."
"In the morning, after I take the dog for a walk and do a walking meditation, I come back here and feed the dog and myself. The chandelier and tabletop are Moroccan. I think the chairs are from Pottery Barn."