"What happens at a Designer Retreat?" you might be asking. Well, I'm here to report back on the Designer Retreat I attended last month in San Francisco hosted by Zephyr. Each Retreat would be different depending on the company organizing it, but I can tell you what a phenomenal job Zephyr did putting together an eclectic group of designers and design bloggers, then keeping us engaged for 2 and half days straight.
The major component was the personalities attending. One of the reasons I wanted to go was to connect with designers and bloggers I had been following for years. Bringing people together from all over the country was genius. Talking about how we run our businesses and what sticks in different regions was invaluable. Spending two days straight made us connect, hard. I also met new designers I didn't know beforehand, but was so glad to get to know. Now I enjoy following all the women regularly. I also want to mention that the two women from the Zephyr marketing team who lead the expedition became my fast favorites. Erica and Sarah were funny, gracious, and dang interesting. I miss them the most.
We all rolled in at different times on Tuesday afternoon to the new boutique Proper Hotel by Kelly Wearstler (a design icon that made us all squeal with pleasure). We were invited to meet at the rooftop bar Charmaine's to kick-off the retreat.
Being welcomed by smiling faces, a cheese board, and signature cocktails set the right mood. Most of us didn't realize what a hot spot it was and were delighted to skip the line to our reserved table. It was really fun to gab about our trips and our expectations for the next few days. We also went out to a nice dinner that night to the trendy and delicious International Smoke for a little flavor of the city.
The next day was intensive. The first stop was the Zephyr showroom in the San Francisco Design District. We learned about the full line of the range hoods (what Zephyr is known for) and the science behind it. Once I understood what the different options offered, I wanted an upgrade so bad from the run of the mill range hoods I am used to.
After the instruction, we were treated to an inspirational talk by Fu-Tung Cheng, one of the Zephyr hood designers as well as a concrete visionary in his own right. He literally wrote the book on concrete design and is an innovator in his field. It was very moving.
The timing of our visit was just right for us to be introduced to the new line of wine and beverage coolers from Zephyr. It makes a lot of sense that a company based in a famous wine growing region would expand to wine coolers. Plus I love wine and the features of their wine coolers are as brilliant as the the features of their range hoods, so yay.
After a beautifully catered lunch at the showroom as well, we left to stretch our feet and visit some of the showrooms in the design district. We saw modern Italian furnishings at NIDO Living, got crafty at the Fireclay Tile showroom, and stretched our design vocabulary at the Coup d'Etat showroom. Every sales team in each show room was beyond welcoming.
After that full day of many sights and much information, it was nice to relax with an intimate dinner. This was actually my favorite meal of the retreat, at Boulettes Larder in the Ferry Building. We had a private room with a beautifully dressed table for the seasonal menu. It felt like a celebratory family dinner and I loved every minute of it.
The last day was devoted to magical Napa Valley. After all that wine talk, how could we not?! The first stop was the Joseph Phelps Vineyards where we had a full wine tasting session with a dedicated wine educator and learned so much.
After the wine tasting we visited Rutherford Hill Winery where we ate lunch in a cave. Imagine that!
After Napa, we headed back to the city and did a tour of the San Francisco Fall Art & Antique Show. By that point we were really pooped. The food, the design, the talking, the learning...it does add up and it was exhausting. Sarah and Erica from Zephyr totally got it and hosted one final evening of light bites and drinks back at Charmaine's roof top bar where we had first met. It was a super fun night letting loose now that we were comfortable with each other. Now that you know what a Designer Retreat entails, what do you think? Would you sign on to do one too?
Post script: after saying our official good byes, the next morning I had a few hours to kill before my flight. It felt like it was our designer duty to visit the Heath Ceramics showroom in the Mission with my new friends Kate Lester and Sarah Gibson. The conversation veered to tattoos and after a drop of liquid courage, both of these rad ladies actually did get a small tattoo to commemorate the trip (a sparrow and moon respectively). I smile every time I think of their sass. Follow them, they will make you smile too.