Haute Hardware

Words by Christina Chahal

Every year, when cooler winter days brighten into the warm, sunnier days of spring, homeowners crack open their windows and doors and begin looking for fresh inspiration. From tending to bulbs to changing up front door paint, design lovers welcome the opportunity to make things feel crisp and new.    

It’s no surprise that cities across the country plan their annual home showcases for spring. Showcase homes are meticulously redesigned, room by room, by the area’s most talented, innovative designers who compete for the opportunity to design a space in the home, transforming previously bare rooms into stunning works of art.

One local designer pushing the boundaries of design is Krista Hoffman of Menlo Park-based Hoffman Hardware. For a third year, Krista’s luxe, handcrafted hardware will be featured from April 25-May 25 in the San Francisco Decorator Showcase, one of the most prestigious showcase homes in the country.

Photography Courtesy of Nicole Scarborough

“In January, I walked through this year’s venue, a beautiful Mediterranean-style home located in the West Clay Park neighborhood near Seacliff and the Presidio. It has it all—great bones, great views, great layout—a beautiful canvas for Bay Area’s designers to work their magic,” says Krista.

While the rigorous timeline leaves little time for reflection, the San Francisco Decorator Showcase will always hold special significance for Krista because it serendipitously launched her design career in a new direction.

Back in 2017, despite it being her first time applying to the Showcase, Krista was selected to design a small space that she transformed into one of the home’s biggest hits. “I imagined this space where a homeowner would display all of the unique, one-of-a-kind objects they’ve curated while traveling,” Krista recounts. “The room itself would be a conversation piece where friends could enjoy a nightcap while sharing stories. I called it the Curio Closet.”

The process required Krista to capture the room’s essence and specific details. “Part of the creative process is displaying all of the elements of your design. I was getting to the end of the whole project and pulling all of the materials together,” she says, “but the hardware was just a big missing link. I couldn’t find anything substantial or chic enough for the cabinet pulls—and the cabinets were the most prominent element of my design. Without the right hardware, they were just flat cabinets.”

Photography Courtesy of Aubrie Pick

Inspiration struck when Krista placed handcrafted, perforated metal light fixtures by Robert Long Lighting in the space. “It occurred to me that the perforated brass could be made into pulls by rolling the metal into a cuff shape,” she says. “I started working with a metal artisan to create shapes that we could touch and feel, to see how they worked as cabinetry hardware. I had to be sure that in addition to being beautiful, they were useful, practical, and ‘felt right.’ The prototypes were made on a whim—we focused on creativity and tested the limits of the metal, but those first pieces turned out to be among the best we created.”

Krista installed four of her custom creations on the cabinets in the Decorator Showcase. “I stood back and thought, ‘That looks really cool. I’m really happy with that!’ And then I didn’t really think much more about it. I was more excited about the whole room and how it came together. I felt like the hardware was the jewelry of the cabinetry.”

Then came Opening Night.

“The first night is a big gala, with everyone celebrating their hard work and getting their first looks at the final spaces,” Krista recalls. “Within 24 hours, dozens of designers were asking, ‘Where did you find those pulls?’ Who makes those? Where can I get them?’ After a while, I began thinking, ‘This is something special.’ I started answering, ‘You can buy them from me.’”

Photography Courtesy of Brad Knipstein

For Krista, it was a timely idea that made sense: “There is so much new and exciting with lighting right now. Artists are creating new shapes, pushing boundaries of what can be done and using LEDs, but there was really nothing new coming out in hardware.”

In response to the many inquiries, Krista quickly launched her first product in September 2017. In a fortuitous twist of fate, she already had a metals expert in the family. Krista’s father-in-law owned a manufacturing company in Michigan that produced brass parts for home, garden and construction. “I’ve always been fascinated by his business and was already familiar with the machinery, materials and tools he used,” she says.

The first thing Krista did to expand the collection was recreate the cuff shape in different sizes and finishes: blackened brass, nickel, satin nickel, copper and hand-rubbed bronze. She then began experimenting with new shapes and materials, eventually offering squares and rectangular pieces in perforated and hammered metals.

“I’ve been lucky to know the metal artisans well enough to spend time learning exactly how the hardware is made,” she says. “I’m always thinking about the engineering behind the designs—how is this going to be made and what pieces are we going to need?”

Krista’s career in interior design isn’t her first. After graduating from the University of Michigan with a math education degree, she was a computer programmer with Accenture for five years and a project manager for a smaller consulting firm for a few more after that. Then she fully switched gears—and decided to attend design school. “I never went back into math or tech,” she says, “but it is the foundation of my business.”

Krista credits that foundation for the unique perspective she brings to each project. “I approach design based on numbers, proportions and scale first, like a puzzle,” she explains. “I always look at things geometrically and spatially, and I think that’s one of my strengths: walking through a space and visualizing how things are going to work and feel. Once I get that spatial sense, I can apply the fine art skills to the fabrics and textures and finishes that make it timeless and beautiful.”

Photography Courtesy of Aubrie Pick

Hoffman Hardware will launch new designs this spring, including a tab pull shaped from a new decorative metal, leathered brass. “The brass takes on the texture of a beautiful pebbled leather, which we shaped into minimal tab pulls,” says Krista. In addition to the new designs, she is working on introducing leather to her hardware and creating custom pulls for high-end appliances. As with all of her designs, Krista finds inspiration in vintage jewelry and antique metal work.

“I like to study things that have stood the test of time, whether in a museum, a gallery or antique market, so I spend a lot of time in those places,” she notes. “I recently visited The Met and saw a set of 8th-century gold drinking bowls with really beautifully shaped handles that I can’t stop thinking about. There was also a pair of gold earrings with round studs that got me thinking about brass rivets.”

Other influences include mid-century female designers like Ray Eames, Charlotte Perriand and Greta Magnusson. “They were incredible pioneers in design,” Krista says. “A more contemporary favorite is Ruth Asawa, and her fluid organic metal sculptures. They are absolutely stunning.”

Hoffman Hardware can be ordered through hoffmanhardware.com. Pricing varies from $150 to $210 per piece. Her target customer? Someone who wants something they haven’t seen before.

“Everyone is always looking for something special and new,” Krista says. “Why not make it the hardware?”