On Wednesday, we featured San Francisco-based HighBoy dealer Fatto a Mano, whose name and shop honor beautiful things that are “made by hand.” (That’s the English translation of the shop’s Italian name.) Inspired by their hometown and approach to beauty, we created this list of San Francisco’s hidden gems—with help from Fatto a Mano co-owner Heather Dempsey. It’s for any design lover lucky enough to spend a few days in the City by the Bay.
The Nuova Porziuncola: Take a moment to reflect and pay homage to Fatto a Mano’s patron saint at La Porziuncola Nuova, a scaled replica of Saint Francis’s Porziuncola in Assisi, Italy. A feat of Italian craftsmanship and artistry, the Porziuncola is found inside the National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi, an oasis where Chinatown meets North Beach.
Palace of Fine Arts: Stroll around the building’s iconic architecture and consider that this year marks its 100th birthday. The Palace owes its existence to San Franciscans’ determination to rise from the ashes of the 1906 earthquake and fire. So the city raised money in 1910 to host the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition—the century’s first illustrious world’s fair. The Palace, designed by architect Bernard Maybeck, was destined to come down at the end of the fair; However, a forward-looking league of preservationists (headed up by Phoebe Apperson Hearst, mother to William Randolph Hearst) saved it from destruction—much to our delight today.
Haas-Lilienthal House Museum: San Francisco is rich with Victorian homes, and this Queen Anne-style Victorian is an exceptional example of the era’s architectural and design hallmarks. Completed in 1886, it’s the only intact private home from the period that’s open regularly to the public. Warning: True fans of Victorian style might be so enamored, they’ll have to actually use the fainting couches.
Drum (or Moon) Bridge: Of course, you should cross the Golden Gate Bridge as part of your visit to San Francisco, but give yourself a double treat by visiting this breathtaking structure in Golden Gate Park’s Japanese Tea Garden. The wooden bridge with the striking curve was commissioned for the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894 and became part of the Japanese Village exhibit. Its dramatic arch serves double duty: Not only does it allow boats to pass easily underneath, but its steepness causes visitors to slow down and reflect on their surroundings—a near-perfect design, we say.
16th Avenue Tiled Steps: Proof that beauty and function go hand-in-hand, these 163 boldly colored mosaic steps have a pleasantly dizzying effect on visitors. Designed by a pair of local artists and installed by a team of volunteers, these steps are found at 16th Avenue and Moraga Street.
San Francisco Art Institute: Feel like an insider when you travel to this private art school’s gorgeous rooftop, which is open to the public. In a gallery off the courtyard, you’ll discover one of three of San Francisco’s murals by Diego Rivera, renowned Mexican painter, occasional troublemaker, and husband of Frida Kahlo. Stay and enjoy the views of Coit Tower, Alcatraz, Angel Island, and the spires of Saints Peter and Paul Church. It’s art and architecture, all in one perfect vista.