San Francisco Nautical by Susan Diana Harris

A few weeks ago, I spent a long day with Susan Diana Harris, a San Francisco-based interior designer known for her bold use of color. Where anyone else might think ‘accent color’, Susie thinks ‘primary’. The colors become as important a factor in the space as the architecture itself. In this Noe Valley residence, she was involved in nearly every aspect of the house.

Needless to say, this was a fun and challenging project for me. Having shot my fair share of beige-on-beige interiors, I’m always glad to get some powerful material in front of my camera, and this place didn’t disappoint.

A blue runner leads all the way from the front door to the back door, providing a continuous thread past alternating, vibrant, blue and green rooms. Susie designed custom shelving for the living room (above) that extends beyond the crown molding; that’s echoed in the coffee table, also custom-designed, in the family room (see lead photo).

Even the art on the walls follows the plan – in addition to being color-correct, it’s really interesting stuff. The “painting” above, and the one above the sectional sofa in the family room, are not actually paintings at all, but photographs, done by my friend Klaus Lange. Klaus, in addition to being a photographer, is a chef aboard a San Francisco Pilot Boat. I met Klaus several years ago when I was stringing for local newspapers and was assigned a story about him. When he’s not cooking Jamaican Jerk Fish Tacos for the lucky crew, random harbor pilots, and Sea Marshalls that rotate through his boat, Klaus photographs the wonderfully complex sides of the freighters as they pull alongside for the crew transfer. His work is simply amazing!

The bedroom gets a deeper shade of blue.

The dining room features glass artwork by Sabine Zimmerhansl. Susie doubled down on the blue runner to maneuver through the offset door leading to the kitchen and rear door, which only helps accentuate the lines in this room.

Here in the kitchen, the transition to the outdoors begins. The hanging light fixture appears again, on the deck directly behind the camera position. But before we go out there, notice the custom cabinetry handles, which match the stove. Details!

We loved the way the daylight streaming in from upper right creates a comet tail for the angular pendant light! Notice how the color scheme extends even out here, and blends into the surrounding garden. I’m hoping to have more from Susan in the near future!

7 responses to “San Francisco Nautical by Susan Diana Harris

  1. Beautiful work here, Scott.
    Your POV in the bedroom is really high–and with the closet open! And I can see why you did it, too. It works.
    Love all the vertical comps.
    And the design work is fabulous. I love seeing a home where color is used so effectively.
    I’ve seen Klaus’ work before too… what a great concept!
    Looks like a really rewarding shoot.

    • Peter, yeah, the camera is way up high in that bedroom shot — we were working hard to show some floor, particularly the round woven rug.
      Interestingly, I think every single piece of furniture in this room has been moved – and not just a few inches, either. We pretty much completely flipped the layout of the room around in order to get all the elements we wanted into a single shot. During the walkthrough, a week or two ahead of the actual shoot, Susie and I spent almost 30 minutes in there, handing the camera back and forth, until we found what we thought would be a good composition…..which got tossed out the window the morning of the shoot in favor of this angle.

  2. Beautiful as always. Two favorites are the dining room and the porch…And I love the kitchen shot, too!

  3. Scott, impeccable! Your lighting videos have reduced my production time by about 30 minutes – 1 hour per shoot (I spend a long time….). For such bold colours, by placing the Colour Passport in the usual foreground room, would the colours in the far rooms naturally become accurate also? Or did you have to do multiple balances for security? Colour is critical for an interior design shoot, but all the more so here!


  4. Really excellent work Scott. Shows off the ambiance of the home beautifully, and with all those colours just jumping off the page at you. The compositions are excellent and really give you a sense of being in the property. Was this shoot done primarily with speedlights or were bigger lighting units involved ?
    I’ll also echo Leo’s comment above about your lighting videos helping to reduce my time on site, but also reducing the time I need to spend in post-processing too! I’m looking forward to seeing the announced next episode!

  5. Love the photos. The design and color compliment each other perfectly. Nice balance. This post on color is timely. I’ve shot more than I can recall red or orange kitchens, all with dark cabinetry and sparse ambient light. Your videos have been extremely helpful. Can’t wait for you to do a red or orange kitchen!