Designers to Watch

This San Francisco Designer Left the Tech World to Pursue Her Passion for Interiors

blue living room with grand piano by Tineke Triggs
Tineke Triggs
Tineke Triggs started out in high-tech sales but left to pursue a more fulfilling career in interior design, founding her firm in 2002 (portrait courtesy of Triggs). Top: The sitting room of an 1898 residence in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights includes custom walnut bookcases that showcase the homeowner’s many treasures from traveling abroad. The Emperor pendant is by Moooi, and the lounge chairs are by HBF (photo by Aubrie Pick).

Tineke Triggs didn’t take a traditional path to becoming a successful interior designer. Her parents came to the U.S. in the 1960s, her mother from Scotland and her father from the Netherlands, and like many first-generation Americans, Triggs felt the pressure to be financially successful. “I was always an art kid and thought about becoming a medical illustrator. But we were an immigrant family, and we didn’t have money for that,” she says. Instead, with a scholarship and a lot of hard work, she put herself through college and went into high-tech sales. “It had great financial rewards, but I was missing the creative life.”

In 1995, a move from Chicago back to California — she grew up in Redwood City — gave her the chance to buy and fix up her first apartment. Triggs combined her tech and art skills and taught herself basic drafting programs. With that newly acquired skill, she was able to pull her own permits. In design, she soon found a three-dimensional outlet for her talents. By 2002, she had enough experience renovating her own properties to found her interior design business, Tineke Triggs Artistic Designs for Living

Known for imaginative interiors, Triggs continues to flex her creative muscles — she has participated in six San Francisco Decorator Showcases — but she loves the business and client aspects of design as well. Introspective sat down with her to learn more about her artistic side and her drive to push boundaries.

navy living room with teal chandelier by Tineke Triggs
Conceived as a playfully sophisticated space for after-dinner drinks with family and friends, this salon in an Edwardian San Francisco home features deep blue high-gloss lacquer walls and a 1940s Italian sputnik chandelier. To soften the space, Triggs chose fabrics in muted tones, including rose-colored swivel chairs by Holly HunT. The feathered table lamp is by Goldwood Interiors. Photo by Brad Knipstien

What’s your design process?

Designing a room is like composing a painting. Every project is a fresh canvas. I study my subject before I put paint to brush. It’s that approach that makes my job fun and ever changing. Once I start, then it’s all about the layering. I look at the walls, the art, the ceiling. The furniture adds texture, or pillows bring a pop of color. I’m not a minimalist. I also don’t clutter things, but I want a room to feel complete. If I have a room that doesn’t have a lot of architectural features, I find that wallpaper helps finish the room. We’re doing tons of wallpaper right now.

Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

Travel and nature are important sources. I was just thinking about the sunsets in Santa Barbara — I’m currently working on two projects there — and how incredibly colorful they are this time of year, with either bright pinks combining with dark blues or gray mixing with a rusty pink. Those are inspiring color combinations.

Who’s your favorite furniture designer?

I’m drawn to vintage Dutch and Belgian design — it’s going back to my Dutch roots. I love the minimalism. For current designers, I love Thomas Hayes’s work. I’m in awe of Hellman-Chang and how they blend together metals and woods — it’s so refined and elegant. I also love the chairs that Richard Wrightman has recently done. 

Colorful office with green couch and zebra rug by Tineke Triggs
Triggs wanted the STUDY to be energetic and uplifting. An Iona Crawford paper covers the ceiling, from which hangs a vintage chandelier by  Gaetano Sciolari. The desk chairs are from Mondo Collection. Photo by Brad Knipstien

Tell us about your favorite artists.

Artists who speak to me are doing things that I can’t do myself. Fares Micue is a photographer who does self-portraits with flowers — they’re so feminine and gorgeous. I’m also into digital art right now. Daniel Canogar digitizes historic paintings, then he uses a mathematical algorithm to melt them into a beautiful liquid state.

How does architecture inspire you?

San Francisco is known for its Edwardians and Victorians. What makes the city so beautiful is that people are willing to work with the architecture and either stay traditional and true to the house or completely blow it up and turn it into something contemporary. I’m a little bit old school when it comes to the value of historic architecture: If it’s holding true, I want to maintain it, even if I use furniture to blur it into something more contemporary.

You seem pretty rooted in San Francisco. Would you consider living anywhere else? 

My business is doing really well, so I don’t want to change anything right now. But at some point, I will live in Europe for a year, probably France or Spain. And I would love to have a beach house in Santa Barbara. 

white and blue minimalist living room by Tineke Triggs
For this living room in a Sausalito home, Triggs chose angular seating reminiscent of the high-end sports cars the homeowner loves to drive. She accompanied these with an Ondine wingback chair by Vladimir Kagan and vintage side chairs by Alex Fradin, along with a Dillon cabinet by Kelly Wearstler and a Luca drinks table by Currey & Co. Photo by Jose Manuel Alorda

What’s a design principle you live by?

Art makes a home feel alive. I spend a lot of time curating art for my clients. I try to find pieces that speak to where they come from and what they’re drawn to. If the art speaks to the client, then they’ll feel the value of what they’re purchasing. 

How do you continue to challenge yourself?

I’m working with clients who came to the Bay Area from London, and they love bright, poppy colors. Their living room has twenty-foot ceilings, and it was dark yellow with heavy drapes. I wanted to brighten it up and make it represent them. I did a rainbow rug and bright blue curved sofa and drippy drapery. The walls are bright white, and I installed a huge vintage pink chandelier. It’s outside of my comfort zone, but it’s so fun and fresh, and it will speak to the client. 

Do you have an accomplishment you’re most proud of?

Last year’s San Francisco Decorator Showcase got me a lot of attention. I did a media room that was very experiential, so it wasn’t about watching TV. I used a lot of digital artists and the forms of the Memphis movement. A showhouse is the height of creativity because I don’t have to answer to anyone else — except my budget. Another year, I used David Bowie and Iman’s love story as human beings — not as a rock star and a model — for my inspiration.

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