At Home: Victorian in Mission evokes natural world

Sean Quigley has lived in the same 1890s Stick Victorian flat in the Mission district for about 15 years, but he says it’s still a work in progress.

“In fact, it’s not even the Golden Gate Bridge scenario because I haven’t got back to the beginning and finished what I started!” Quigley says.

A carpenter by training, he’s the proprietor of Paxton Gate, a veritable Valencia Street design institution filled with curious cabinets of animal and botanical ephemera, such as neat rows of rodent skulls and cases of mounted insects, along with plants and books.

Quigley also operates a landscape design business and a children’s store. The kids’ store sells toys, but also has quirkier pieces like wall-mounted heads of brightly colored plush toys, which are a gentle imitation of the hunting lodge-gothic feel of the taxidermy pieces in Paxton Gate.

His signature style imbues both stores and embraces the natural world in all its minute details and decay — and it materializes in his home, although to a lesser degree.

The home is filled with vignettes — little groups of objects arranged together — and prints that are reminiscent of some of the natural-sciences curiosities in Paxton Gate.

“My taste and the store evolve together,” Quigley says. “You shouldn’t have a room in your house that’s a kids’ room that doesn’t fit the decor that the parents like.”

The arrival of daughter Fiona this year meant Quigley and his wife, elementary school teacher Whitney Rowe, had to give up their guest room.

“Probably one of the toughest things about the older Victorians is that the rooms are just so small,” he says.

To make up for the lost space, Quigley installed a rope and pulley system in the only hallway in the house to create a storage space for a futon that he can bring down and hoist up as needed.

Bold colors dominate the flat.

“I’m not afraid to use color, certainly,” he says. “I’ve always been attracted to color.”

The parlor is olive with a purple trim and includes a striking Victorian hand-carved pink marble table. In the nursery, pale walls are edged with a slate-colored trim. The kitchen’s cream walls are offset by a dark greenish brown wainscotting and a latte-colored ceiling.

One bathroom wall is almost blood red; the hue was a color risk but can easily be fixed, Quigley says.

“It’s paint,” he says. “It’s like getting a haircut.”

 

Style keys

Design style: Rustic modern, Victorian thrift
Favorite colors: Greens and browns
Favorite places to shop: The Apartment, Monument, X21 Modern, flea markets
Favorite room in his home: The parlor, which includes built-in cabinets

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