Lives of Style: Riva Berelson

Riva Berelson stands out in a crowd. Petite, blonde, striking, with a killer figure and a great smile, she’s stunning. But that’s only a small portion of the dynamo that’s bigger than life: Riva. She’s a force of nature. Energetic, bright, cogent, creative, she’s a woman in action — she lives a full life.

It’s easy to like her — her warmth is palpable and her look both au courant and uniquely hers. This is not a woman who follows the crowd. She leads.

She’s also gamine, feminine, smart and has a great sense of humor.

Born in New York City, (her family owns and manages real estate) she was graduated from SUNY Stonybrook, received her M.A. in Urban Planning from Hunter College.

Riva’s first job, on a number of publicly funded projects for HUD (“it was the era of accountability”), brought her mentors who had worked with legendary Felix Rohatyn, widely credited with New York City’s economic turnaround. She became one of the first residents on Roosevelt Island, taking a cable car to work in Manhattan.

She met her husband, David, on a blind date (“He stole my heart”) and soon moved to San Francisco to be with him. They have one son, Serj, almost 18.

Riva soon segued into David’s food business, learning the industry from him. Their stellar success, in launching “Sea Legs” imitation crab — which is now ubiquitous, highlighted 18 years of professional camaraderie.

Riva’s a longtime member of the Opera Guild, on the board of Child Abuse Prevention, serving on the National Executive Committee of the Anti-Defamation League. She went to Oslo for the peace process; met with Jacques Chirac, King Abdullah, Queen Rania, and recently, the pope, in a small, private audience.

Her Marin County home is a modern masterpiece. Designed by Terry Hunziker, the curved, multi-story entryway anent tall, wide windows that soak in the sun and receive filtered light from upper floors delights the eye right from the start. Urbane neutrals in cool synergy interact with metal and wood railings that are an artistic tour de force. Riva’s collection of world-class sculpture and art, along with her husband’s books, photographs and music, intermingle with innovative use of texture, design and furnishings. Of particular note are the elegant, square dining tables that can conjoin to form a concomitant rectangle, the day-in-a-life triptych in the dining room and the living room featuring the Judith Shea and Robert Graham sculptures.

Riva’s beauty and ebullience are aptly concordant with her wisdom, sophistication and dedication to making a difference.

There are those who make a statement, even before saying a word. Such is Riva Berelson.

elaurence@examiner.com

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