Above image: The Brutalist rug and fabric (on chairs) from the new Fulk x Frey collection. Photos courtesy of Pierre Frey.
The sumptuous combinations of fabrics, wallcoverings, artwork, and furniture designer Ken Fulk features in the homes, cafés, private clubs, restaurants, wineries, and summer compounds he designs defy neat description. Case in point: two recent San Francisco projects where glamour is defined in very different ways: The newly relaunched Boulevard restaurant, where peacocks are a major leitmotif, and chef Tyler Florence’s new space, Miller & Lux—all channeled banquettes and fluted columns. A new collaboration with French design house Pierre Frey, launched this month, makes Fulk’s exuberant style available to all.
A trio of graphic wallcoverings: Surrealist Ball, Stoned Romans, and A Thousand Redwoods.
The Cult of Beauty and the Surreal World, a dual collection of wallpapers, fabrics, and rugs that earns its cohesiveness from its diversity, references many of Fulk’s favorite people and things. The broad range of inspiration for his patterns includes folklore, brutalism, surrealism, beloved dogs, flowers, redwood forests, ancient Rome, and Georgian and Neoclassical architecture. He simultaneously pays tribute to a number of esoteric creative spirits, including the English landscape designer Capability Brown, Joseph Albers, Salvador Dalí— whose legendary 1941 masked ball inspired the “Surrealist Ball” and “Surrealist Banquet” wallcoverings—and American painter Maynard Dixon, the spirit of whose vibrant landscapes of the west is conjured in the panoramic wallcovering “Sheltering Sky.”
Fulk’s belief in a life well lived was instilled in him as he grew up in Virginia. Throughout his childhood, he was encouraged to let his imagination run wild and, over the last two decades, as he taught himself his craft and set up bi-coastal offices in SOMA and Tribeca, he obviously felt no need to rein it in. His friend, movie director, media icon, and humorist John Waters, also known for his astute ruminations on both good bad taste and bad bad taste, has a theory about Fulk’s aesthetic. “Ken gives good bad taste a good name because he celebrates both sides,” he says. “He has this amazing reach, and he’s like Switzerland, the only country that knows how to be rich correctly— they know it’s bad taste to show it and so does Ken. My mother would love how Ken decorates but he also understands the opposite – insane, crazy and funny – and he treads both of those worlds with confidence, with a capital C.”
Fulk is also a community-minded preservationist. He funded the faithful restoration of the 18th-century house formerly owned by the activist Mary Heaton Vorse, which sits opposite his Provincetown summer home, and subsequently offered it up as a cultural center. He revived a decrepit Romanesque cathedral in SOMA, which is now Saint Joseph’s Arts Society, a spectacular performance/exhibition/retail space-cum-arts incubator. His refurbished version of the Soniat House in New Orleans, which he recently purchased, will be unveiled next year, and the design community at large is wondering how he’ll meet the challenge of updating this late 19th-century grande dame while preserving its gracious, French Quarter shabbiness and charm.
In all of Fulk’s endeavors he’s a risk taker, one whose talent for being visually fearless can be compared to the legendary maximalist designer Tony Duquette, while his dapper appearance and entrepreneurial smarts recall the late English decorator, David Hicks. “It’s a strong, confident introduction which is why we call it ‘Theatrical Extravagance,’” says Pierre Frey, Communications Director of Maison Pierre Frey. “He truly is one-of-a-kind, formidable talent.”
The Fulk x Frey collection is available through Kneedler Fauchère.