Exquisite taste, an impeccable eye, and an army of dedicated designers are just a few of the essential elements that make up a world-class interior design team. Such is the case at Ann Getty and Associates’, where Senior Design member, Maria Quiros, is a most vital part of the firm’s success.
Quiros has worked side-by-side with Ann Getty and Associates for over two decades on magical projects that span from San Francisco to Shanghi. Founded in 1995 by interior designer and philanthropist, Ann Getty, the San Francisco-based firm has created some of the most lavish interiors for homes of the world’s elite. The firm’s unmistakable aesthetic transcends time, weaving historical treasures from around the world with rich textural elements.
Although she’s never truly away from work, Quiros took a pause from her busy world to reveal details on the design process, her inspiration, and the most important lessons she’s learned from Mrs. Getty herself.
Tell us about your background, and how you became involved in the world of interior design.
I was born in San Francisco and grew up in Marin, where I attended San Domenico High School. I received my BS in cultural anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley, where I balanced scholastics and philanthropy and was so honored at graduation for my extensive involvement in campus support groups. Following Berkeley, I enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York receiving a degree in Fashion Design. There, I was named as an up-and coming designer in New York and was showcased in a video documentary.
From a young age I enjoyed exploring flea markets and antique fairs to find treasures that I used to personalize my childhood. My favorite finds were textiles, trims and vintage clothing, which I still love to look for today. I regularly poured through subscriptions of Connoisseur, Art and Antiques, Travel and Leisure, Town and Country, WWD and Bon Appetite in order to explore all elements of lifestyle.
How did you become senior member of the Ann Getty and Associates design team?
I am very lucky, although my path to Ann Getty and Associates was a bit circuitous. When I graduated FIT, I worked in the fashion industry in New York and San Francisco in the design rooms of Bill Blass Sportswear, Morton Myles, Jessica McClintock and Lilli Ann Corporation.
After I left Lilli Ann I began to work as a freelance illustrator and I was referred to Mrs. Getty by one of her closest friends to assist with an art project. I worked with Mrs. Getty to create countless miniature portraits of her friends in costumes typical to the time of the Broadway house’s original construction. Mrs. Getty and I share an interest in anthropology and once the art project was completed, while she was traveling, I would sit in on some of the anthropology classes she was taking at Berkeley and take notes. On one of her digs in Ethiopia she discovered a primate phalange and subsequently based one of her papers on their comparative morphology. Some of my very fondest memories are working with her to measure different species of primate phalanges from the collection of natural history museums in Europe in order to identify her discovery.
At this time, Mrs. Getty was reworking the Broadway residence and I was asked to assist in the procurement of period textiles and furnishings to decorate the new addition. This included quite a bit of travel as much of our great finds came from London and the Continent. When the residence was completed, Mrs. Getty’s friends started asking for her design advice and Ann Getty and Associates just evolved from there beginning in 1995. Commissions first came in from friends and later from clients who saw the published results. Now we have projects worldwide.
During my time at Ann Getty and Associates I grew from design assistant to the senior designer, and now I oversee the production of the Ann Getty Furniture Line.
How would you characterize the design style of Ann Getty and Associates?
Mrs. Getty has an incredible eye and love for textiles, furniture and furnishings. We design dramatic confident rooms, blending luxurious fabrics, fine finishes and beautiful furnishings. The final effect is comfortable elegance, which transcends time. Many of our projects today have a modern bent, which we layer in subtle luxury. So there is no predominant look, but there is an organic refinement to all of our rooms. What also links all of our projects together is a keen attention to detail and a hands-on approach. When fashioning interiors we treat each project as an extension of the unique personality of the client.
Walk us through the design process.
We like to begin a project with an introductory meeting to review the client’s goals and vision. Most clients come prepared with images of their dream interior or with an idea of the look they have in mind.
After we have some direction we tailor our design to meet the clients needs and source pieces that will work to make their vision a reality. We try to learn as much about them, their history, and how they want to use the space. A good design experience should be a collaborative effort and our clients enjoy being involved. There has only been one project where we were given carte blanche but this was the exception.What are some of the most intriguing projects you’ve worked on in the Ann Getty Portfolio?
Some of my favorite projects have been recorded in Diane Dorrans Saeks book entitled, “Ann Getty: Interior Style One of these is the Getty residence, the collections of art, furniture and decorative arts are museum quality and it really has been a privilege to be able to work with such precious masterpieces. Everything is treated with great attention to detail. For instance, whenever possible an 18th century chair is upholstered in a fabric from the same period. It is not immediately apparent, but the placement and relationship of the décor can be quite esoteric. As an example, in the dining room the painted panels on the walls were originally commissioned by Augustus the Strong, the Elector of Saxony. He was obsessed with bringing the production of porcelain into Dresden and so locked his artisans away until they could discover the missing ingredient, which turned out to be Kaolin. This story is in a book titled “The Arcanum”. All over the walls are examples of Chinese export the porcelain Augustus loved. So there is a real historical relationship.
Many of the pieces of the furniture in the collection are the only examples in private hands and in 2003 the furniture line was launched in order to share some of these unattainable pieces with others.
You work with clients all over the world – In what ways, if any, has your client base changed over the years?
Our clients have always been varied ranging from young families, executives to commercial businesses.
Initially many of our clients were friends of Mrs. Getty and then more projects came through their referrals. Most of the early projects were located in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, and now we work worldwide. After a trip to Shanghai in 2002, we were commissioned to design a penthouse in Pudong and we have been in Asia ever since.
How are you catering to the tech market?
Ann Getty and Associates works with a number of clients in the tech industry. Like much of today’s world, they find their design inspiration online. It is truly a virtual shopping experience, but some things don’t always work once seen in person. I still encourage a client to sit in a chair to see how comfortable it is and to understand what the proportions are really like. There is no substitute for reality. Our tech clientele love the convenience of a smart home and we give them this. This can be their favorite aspect of the design process are they revel in discovering the next new evolution in this field that we can then incorporate into their project.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
When a client is truly happy with the result that is the best reward. I also find it gratifying to be able to work in a creative field and see one’s design become a reality. Of course, we also have some long-standing clients with whom we have developed a close relationship. It is always a joy to work with these clients as you have a history and are well-versed in their aesthetic. It is also wonderful to see the original project evolve over time.
And the most challenging part?
It can be challenging coordinating the supply chain. If a favorite fabric has a long lead-time this can hold up the production on an upholstered chair. You then need to work with the client to see if it is worth the wait or if it is time to source an alternative.
What are the most magical places in the world that you’ve traveled, and what did you find inspiring about them?
I have always loved Venice for it’s sheer beauty and the timeless grandeur of its architecture. It is so enchanting. Every time I visit I still find it hard to believe that it is real. And of course, it is home to Bevilacqua, which is one of the few remaining textile companies that still produce hand loomed textiles. This family owned company has produced fabrics since the 1700’s. I can spend all day at Bevilacqua looking at and touching the lush velvets, the luxe damasks and the gorgeous brocades. It’s a visual and tactile feast!
I also adore London. It is really the world’s center for art and design. I love attending the Sothebys auctions and acquiring pieces for our projects. Of course the theatre, ballet and opera are amazing as are all the activities and traditions. I feel so comfortable there and if I weren’t living in San Francisco I would make that my home.
But I can’t forget Burma, which is such a spiritual place. I went there in 2002 before it was really open to westerners. It was so unspoiled and the people were so welcoming. On each visit I was transported into a simpler time where the chaos of the modern word fell into the background. One of my fondest memories is boating on a tributary of Inle Lake on our way to visit a temple; my good friend who was our guide began singing in Burmese as we drifted by the clay banks. I long to return but am worried now that everything has changed and the innocence and what made it so unique is gone.
What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned working side-by-side with Mrs. Getty?
Years of association with Mrs. Getty have had an efficacious influence on my design aesthetic. I have benefited from her incredible knowledge of antiques and textiles as well as her style and wit. She always thinks out of the box and comes up with creative and unique ways to solve a difficult design dilemma. We work very well together as she takes in the big picture while I am more detail oriented. My keen eye for detail is a proven asset when creating made to order pieces for clients or reproductions for the Ann Getty House furniture line. “Good enough is never good enough” when you want to provide the best for your client.
What items around your home provide inspiration and positive energy?
My own style evolved through years of travel and sourcing for projects. I particularly love the Anglo-Indian aesthetic to which Mrs. Getty first introduced me and my home reflects this. I have a number of aesthetic movement faux bamboo pieces mixed with inlaid furniture from Syria and view prints of India from the 19th Century. I bring all of these items together with custom embroidered fabrics with motifs taken from antique Indian paisley shawls.
In addition the treasures that I have accumulated on all my travels have a positive influence on my surroundings. Each one brings back a wonderful memory. Some of my favorite pieces came from my trips to Burma, India and China. I can look at them and re-live an adventure.
What do you enjoy in your spare time, away from work?
I suppose I should admit that I am never really “away” from work. But I do adore the San Francisco Symphony, Opera and the Ballet. And in my free time I also enjoy supporting the communities of San Francisco, Napa and Silicon Valley.
And then I’m always up for a good estate sale. You never know what kind of treasure you might discover. Most of the time I leave empty handed but the hunt is always fun! I still love vintage clothing, accessories and textiles and I have a tendency to buy the things that need a bit of attention and restoration. It is very satisfying to bring them back to their former glory and sewing beads back onto a 1920’s dress can be so rewarding.
In the summers and during the holidays I spend a great deal of my spare time at a weekend home in the Napa Valley, where I indulge in cooking for my friends and family. As a self-confessed foodie I make a point to try the new highly reviewed restaurants here in San Francisco and on my travels. I balance this with exercise, which always makes me feel grounded. At Equinox I can take yoga, cardio, Barre and Pilates classes. Mixing it up keeps it interesting.