“I will say, Francis is not my typical client,” says , the decorator behind art dealer Francis Mill’s new loft in San Francisco. The pair met 15 years ago, when Jones was looking for midcentury Bay Area Figurative Movement artworks for a project.

That just happens to be a specialty of Mill’s, a partner in the gallery, which recently moved to the same block as the . The two men instantly realized they were kindred spirits (both were trained as visual artists — Mill also has a degree in architecture) and became friends.

So when Mill bought a space in the South of Market neighborhood, a former warehouse district that has evolved into an enclave of loft conversions and tech start-ups, Jones was his natural choice for collaborator.

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William Abranowicz

Mill, wearing a bespoke suit, in his living room.

“Francis is so creative in his own right,” the decorator says. “He is very much a thinker, a collage artist, a creator.”

The 1,200-square-foot space is located in a former pharmaceuticals warehouse built in 1937. Mill loved the 11-foot ceilings and raw wooden door frames. But the previous tenants had left behind anonymous fittings and a conventional floor plan.

Mill and Jones set out to embrace the space’s idiosyncrasies while creating an environment that was stylish, flexible and functional — one that would serve as both living space and artist’s studio.

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William Abranowicz

The living room’s bookcase is a custom design, the sculpture on the floor is by and the floors are polished concrete.

What had been a series of rooms is now a sequence of uninterrupted vistas, often punctuated dramatically by sculptures and demarcated by curtains. Features like the original Y-shaped concrete columns were beautiful but needed to be artfully incorporated.

Because his client is prone to 1 A.M. rearrangements of art and furniture, Jones designed many of the elements in the loft to be modular and flexible.

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William Abranowicz

A vintage desk in the studio holds a sculpture by , the curtain fabric is by and the lamp was made from automobile air filters.

For balance, he created “anchor zones” — groupings of stationary furniture — such as a living room niche outfitted with a minimalist wooden banquette and daybed. Pieces are low to the floor to keep sight lines clear.

A pivoting blackened-steel door serves as both a focal point and a space divider. A built-in steel bookcase holds staggered wooden boxes that have been painted black — an homage to sculptor Louise Nevelson.

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William Abranowicz

A sofa inspired by has cushions covered in a , the steel cocktail and side tables are custom designs, the vintage floor lamp is , the paintings, from left, are by and .

The former owners had tried to polish the loft’s pitted concrete walls; Mill and Jones chiseled them further to give them back their industrial, dynamite-blasted texture.

“I wanted a more soulful space,” explains Mill. He and Jones both know that you can’t design a space around everchanging artworks: The trick is to provide a versatile setting. This dynamism is not just crucial to Mill’s aesthetic, but also to his philosophy of living with art.

Too often, he says, “We design our space and don’t look at it anymore. I never want to stop looking.”

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William Abranowicz

The cabinetry in the art studio is topped with a counter by , the lounge chair is vintage, the sculptures are by and the painting is by .

The large, open kitchen became a discreet galley. When Mill initially balked at the idea of adding a dropped ceiling, he and Jones reached a compromise: a partial ceiling that gives way to reveal a structural pillar and plenty of concrete.

The solution emphasizes the beauty of the building’s original texture while helping to delineate the space within the loft’s more or less open plan. The kitchen’s lack of natural light became an asset: Not only can Mill display delicate works on paper, he can also lower a projection screen.

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William Abranowicz

The kitchen’s cabinetry is by , the countertops are , the
faucet is by , the stools are by and the wall sculpture is by .

In the master bedroom, he was disappointed by the “regular, boring sliding-door closet.” To energize the space, he came up with an unusual art-inspired concept for storing his colorful wardrobe. “It’s like a Donald Judd–style plywood box came crashing into the bedroom,” he says. “I usually keep it open.” The cube is fitted with steel shelving to hold his shoes.

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William Abranowicz

In the master bedroom, the headboard is covered in a fabric, the bed linens are by , the bedspread is antique Belgian linen, the walls are painted in ’s , and the artwork is by .

Although art takes pride of place, Mill also delights in unexpected details. Open the flat files in the art studio’s cabinets, and rather than pencils and erasers you will find a set of white Legos, a feather collection and a drawer filled with sand (he calls it his “urban sandbox”). Thanks to the human-sized proportions of the space, even massive works like a floor-to-ceiling black steel sculpture by the English Minimalist offer up small charms.

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William Abranowicz

A closet door in the hallway is fitted with steel shelves to hold Mill’s collection of sunglasses, the artworks are by, from top, , and .

“You have a whole new intimacy with it,” Mill says. “You see the weld marks, it’s at eye level, it’s constantly in motion. That’s very exciting to me. When people ask me if I am done with the renovation, I cringe. I never see it as finished. I treat this space as a big work in progress. It’s what I live and breathe.”

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William Abranowicz

In the dining area the vintage furnishings include an Italian wing chair upholstered in a tweed, leather armchairs, a travertine pedestal table, the banquette cushions are covered in a silk, the artworks include a large painting, a white pillar sculpture by and a steel sculpture by .

these ideas for later!

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American Artist

This story was originally published in the March 2017 issue of Siweb.