An original 1905 church in the Mission district of San Francisco is now a place to put down your phone or laptop for a while (only if you want to), maybe write (with pen and paper), read (from a physical book), rest (without guilt), and physically push yourself to strength (and tears). It’s a place to feel something. It’s called The Assembly, a social club with a focus on wellness. Last year, the founders of the Assembly reached out asking us to design this space, a request we immediately said yes to.
We were drawn to the idea of creating a space for real life connection, as well as connecting movement and creativity. While downstairs there are rotating fitness classes, upstairs is a space to create and rest with a kombucha bar, workshop table, and various cozy spots to hang out. As soon as we began designing, we reached out to all of our favorite Bay Area artists and designers to create custom pieces for the space. It only felt right to have this 7,000 sq. ft. building become a giant collaboration piece as a reflection of the community it would be for.
Above is what we call the main club room, a place to rest, create, and play. While the building had terrific bones when we started the project, our first focus was to warm up the space by allowing more sunlight to stream in. One of the first things we did was replace the blue tie dye fiberglass windows with stained glass, a material that would have been used in the church’s original era. We modernized it by including various solid colored glass panels in ambers, soft pinks, and blues.
We also replaced the boring gray carpeting with white washed wood flooring, and began dividing this large room into cozy spaces. We wanted the Assembly to feel like a shared dream home, so we thought of this main space in terms of ordinary experiences that would take place at home—a place to eat, to read, to rest, and to create.
We’re particularly proud of the kombucha and tea bar below, a collaboration with woodworker Aleksandra Zee, and design workshop Fire on the Mesa. Aleksandra created the artwork for the front of the bar, and Anthony from Fire on the Mesa built the custom cabinetry and menu above the bar. We also absolutely loved working with FireClay tile, who creates recycled tile local to San Francisco. The bar backsplash is by them, as well as other tiled areas throughout the Assembly.
The weaving above is by SF local artist, Grace Wilcox.
We worked with woodworker Katie Gong to create custom furniture throughout the space—the live edge bar in the dining area, the round dining tables throughout the space, the incredible bookshelf at the back of the club room, and custom standing tables in the kitchen. Next to Katie’s bookshelf, two weavings by Meghan Shimek incorporate the Assembly color palette while making the ‘living room’ areas warm and cozy.
We felt that the bathrooms throughout the Assembly should be thoughtfully considered as well, as the potential beginning or end to a powerful fitness class, workshop, or work session. We call the bathroom below the Crystal Bathroom, a mini geology museum of sorts. We worked with Marissa Lacer of Light Love and Lace to curate a selection of crystals for this room that were meaningful to the goals of the Assembly as a place to create, sweat, and play.
In order to add warmth and energy to the main entry, we immediately thought of Meryl Pataky‘s neon work. She created an incredible abstract mural of neon surrounding the doorway surrounding the fitness studio, suggesting the creative energy of the community that would soon be taking part in the classes there. At the back of the studio, we had our good friend Jen Mussari letter “Put your hair up, Let your hair down, Do whatever you want with your hair”, serving as a reminder that above all else, this is a place to be yourself.
Throughout the space, Chase McBride lettered inspirational notes and subtle directions to guide members. We used custom FireClay tiles in the entryway as well, an incredible improvement from the large black square tiles that were there previously. We chose their Paseo tile in Tusk and Sunflower—the Sunflower color reminding us both of the aged brass used throughout the space, as well as the warm light flowing in through the amber glass panels we put in upstairs.
As one of the ultimate gathering spaces at the Assembly, we put a lot of focus into the redesign of the kitchen. The kitchen cabinetry that we removed had no drawers or shelving for storage, so we reached out to Fire on the Mesa to build out a white oak kitchen that added both warmth and functionality to the room.
We also had Heather Day come in to paint on site in the kitchen while taking in the colors, sounds, and the energy of members. She documented those elements into two custom paintings, which were then framed by Framebridge.
The back stairwell was a blank canvas, so we had Jen letter “Make Mischief”, a perfect representation of what the Assembly is all about.
This project was a total dream to work on, the biggest collaboration we’ve worked on yet. We’re so excited to have members now enjoying the space!
All photos are by Margaret Austin Photography