Walking home from A & G Merch last week, feeling pretty content with a job well done, I strolled languidly up Market Street thinking I’d take the long way home back to my apartment in the Mission. The air had a nice hush to it, people were quietly bustling about, the sky was an infinite blue. It was a perfect moment to window shop. One store in particular, however, rather thoroughly pulled me from the sidewalk and landed me on the other side of its aperture and inside of Kenneth Wingard. The previous store I’d visited already had the wheels of my mind turning, and I had been impressed with the care and selection of the product they carried. Good owners do this, and, thankfully, San Francisco has more than a few of them. But my unplanned visit to Kenneth Wingard revealed an entirely different revelation – that of the local, independent business owner who not only stocks his shelves and walls handsomely and artfully, but goes even further and fills it with his or her own work. Wingard, originally from Georgia and a San Francisco resident for the last 25 years, does just that.
There is more to Kenneth’s shop than his own line of accessories and home decor. There are crisp button-ups, a nicely tailored line of edgy t-shirts by Badcock Apparel and hand woven fedoras by Newhattan. The small world pillow, in beige and in the shape of a globe was also pretty great. There’s even a vintage typewriter, which the writer in me thought was a nice touch. But the real stars in the skyline of this shop are Kenneth’s. As I was told by J.M. Gonzalez, a photographer who helps Kenneth work the floor, “anything you see hanging from the ceiling or on a wall are his, and all the lamps too.” Except for that one.” But who’s counting when you realize you are standing inside a gallery as much as a brick and mortar. I loved his modernist take on a bamboo floor plant, as well as the steel sunburst clock which was both elegant and modern, yet had a striking vintage, almost baroque, effect as well. The same was true of the small capri mirror, with painstakingly rendered sqaures of mirror loosely reassembled to create luminous movement of form.
All of this becomes less surprising when you take into consideration Kenneth’s background. Years before working his way up to become director of the accessories division at Pottery Barn, Kenneth studied architecture at Princeton University with renowned architect Michael Graves as his mentor. From all appearances, Kenneth never forgot what he learned there and ultimately, taking his own long road home, manifested what he learned many years later by creating visually astounding pieces that he could showcase in his very own store (two, actually, when you include the Los Angeles location) as well as develop his own brand and company. This is reflected beautifully in two interestingly titled pieces, both in eye catching ivory white – his shiny Open Mobilio Grand SQ, and the Op Art wall hanging, the former resembling an otherworldly, geometrical wall hanging straight out of Kubrick’s “2012″. Stunning. And even more affecting to think that the owner himself was the mind and hands behind it. So next time you set out with the intention of buying local, you may want to consider Kenneth Wingard. Because this wonderful stuff is his, and he actually lives here among us.