Clarellen Adams

Galleria Image-MMDSOriginally I visited San Francisco in the summer of 1977 as a young gay man in search of a happier place to live. At that time, the design district was located in the Ice House and in Jackson Square. They were wonderful and so was the city. I dreamed of living here one day and of having a design office in wonderfully sophisticated  Jackson Square. It certainly was a world apart from Austin, Texas.

As it turns out, the shift was premature for me. When I did finally make it here for good, in the summer of 1987, Clarellen and Henry Adams had turned the design industry on its ear – moving the entire district South of Market to the site it now occupies 30 plus years later. Henry Adams had already passed away, but certainly his memory and his accomplishments had not. 

Clarellen – well that is another story. She was as vibrant and alive as anyone I have ever known. We worked on many projects together and she was always there supporting every part of the industry. On the occasion of her 90th birthday party – beautifully hosted by Applegatge Tran Interiors – I remarked that I hoped that as many people would attend my funeral as were at her birthday party. Clarellen replied, ” Don’t worry honey, I will be there!”That is the kind of dear woman our Clarellen was.

Clarellen and  Michael Resto

Clarellen will be in our hearts & memories forever!


Lighting Design

When lighting a residence, it is important first to have a detailed plan of where each piece of furniture and art will be placed, along with accurate dimensions. In many cases, but not all, we are trying to light the room unevenly. We hope to highlight certain elements of the room and let others fall back into roles of less visual importance.

Our goal is to light the architecture as well as the furnishings. We must be mindful of how the occupants of the space will look as well. Cross lighting is important when lighting a mirror in a bathroom. No one wants to look 20 years older than they are due to heavy down lighting and insufficient cross lighting.

Lighting Design - Michael Merrill Design StudioAperture brightness and size are two other important considerations. We want the smallest sized openings in the ceiling that will allow for the effects we are trying to produce. We also want the finish on the aperture to not draw undue attention to it.

There are so many options now for high efficacy lighting. LED technology is starting to be broadly available and it is becoming more and more affordable. This is an outstanding choice for under cabinet lighting in a kitchen.

Ultimately, it is always best for the interior designer to work with a lighting consultant who will be up on all the latest products and have the most experience to draw on in creating solutions for your lighting needs.

The image above is from the Icons of Design Showcase, located in the Millennium Tower. We worked in conjunction with San Francisco based Randall Whitehead to develop the lighting design. You can read more about this project on his website: