Art and design converge in a B&B Italia-outfitted model apartment designed by AubreyMaxwell
In one of San Francisco’s tallest mixed-use buildings, 181 Fremont, the intersection of art and design is on full display. From its array of engineering awards—the most of any U.S. building so far—to its remarkable fine art collection procured by art advisor Holly Baxter, to its out-of-this-world interiors with jaw-dropping views, 181 Fremont is an amalgamation of beauty in various forms. AubreyMaxwell, an interior design and art advisory firm co-founded by Robbie McMillan and Marcus Keller, was the perfect choice to design a model apartment that lives up to the building’s soaring ideals.
AubreyMaxwell’s two-fold concept first involved outfitting the three-bedroom apartment in only one iconic brand or “design house” that would mirror the luxury and engineering standards of the building. The second part, notably pitched at the end of 2019, was to line the walls with artwork by women of color. When the pandemic hit and logistical problems ensued, the latter part of the concept changed to include all artists of color, regardless of gender—an idea that became especially poignant with the succeeding events of 2020.
“We’re always looking for pieces that have a reverence in the space and a meaningful dynamic all their own, but also leave room for the experience of art,” McMillan explains. To create a charismatic, elevated look, each piece of B&B Italia furniture and the complementary artworks were meticulously chosen for their aesthetic and functionality, and in the case of the art, for the underlying discourse they encourage and the issues they address. In the dining room, the sculptural Tobi-Ishi dining table’s bright white form pops against the black cerused-oak wall original to the space, enhanced by a mesmerizing artwork by Ghanaian artist Serge Attukwei Clottey. Jens dining chairs in a light oak frame and embossed leather add balance.
“We’re always looking to maximize the amount of seating we can get in a living or lounge space without interrupting the flow,” says McMillan. In the living room, an Antonio Citterio-designed sectional in a wool-and-linen fabric showcases gorgeous broad stitching along the seams and provides an incredibly comfortable spot to curl up and relax. Above it, Erica Deeman’s large-scale, black-and-white appearing color silhouette portraits of Black women invite contemplation.
A triangular-patterned rug beneath the linear Surface coffee table appears to direct the viewer to engage with the art.
A nearby hallway features compelling works by Moffat Takadiwa, Tavares Strachan, and Shaina McCoy—artists whose multifaceted creations infuse the space with a powerful, energizing presence and narrative. In the sleek, clean-lined kitchen, the duo added a pop of color with a reflective work by Isaac Julien, while an inviting seating area outfitted with a Pablo armchair and a plum-hued side table, offers an inviting perch to take in a view of the bay. The aerodynamic Terminal 1 Chaise Longue follows the lines of the Bay Bridge and offers another chic spot from which to enjoy the vistas.
In the bedroom, warm, dusty desert hues breathe life into the room, grounded by luxurious blue bedding on B&B Italia’s sister brand, Maxalto’s Richard bed, as well as the dark tones of the Hypnos nightstands. A photograph by Chanell Stone sits beautifully amongst the riot of color. “From a design standpoint, we loved the problem-solving challenge of using only one design house’s furniture throughout to execute a full vision,” says McMillan.
“B&B Italia, since its inception in 1966, has been known for its prowess in industrial engineering with their furniture manufacturing, so that was our hook and connection.” As for the art curation? McMillan adds, “It was one of my proudest moments in design.”