Main Content

A San Francisco Mansion With its Own Nightclub

Todd and Katie Traina’s classic mansion in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights has a surprise in its basement.

There, in a cavernous space that was once an indoor swimming pool, is a re-creation of the now-defunct Manhattan night club El Morocco—down to its white plaster palm trees and banquettes covered in dark blue zebra stripes. A disco ball hangs from the ceiling.

They inherited the custom-built nightclub from Mr. Traina’s father, the late cruise-ship executive and San Francisco society fixture John Traina, who died in 2011. These days, the space hosts birthday bashes for Todd and Katie Traina’s 9-year-old daughter, Daisy, film screenings and philanthropic events that have attracted filmmakers Woody Allen and Michael Moore. The parties there are “always legendary,” said Chris James, founder of hedge-fund Partner Fund Management and a frequent guest.

The zebra-striped sensibility doesn’t end with the basement. The Trainas incorporated much of the elder Mr. Traina’s style—animal-skin rugs, family heirlooms and souvenirs brought back from Africa, Asia and the South Pacific—into a modern, brightly colored, high-gloss background. The duality reflects their desire to maintain the traditions of his family while embracing the positives that come from this quickly changing city.

“The house is an homage to my father. He always blended a sense of fun and life-of-the-party vibes into serious houses with important furniture,” said Mr. Traina, 46. At the same time, Mr. Traina and his wife are also part of the new San Francisco: He counts Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer and Zynga founder Mark Pincus as friends, and plays tennis with Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman.

A film producer and filmmaker, Mr. Traina is a fifth-generation San Franciscan. His mother, Dede Wilsey, is a leading philanthropist; his former stepmother is best-selling author Danielle Steel. Mrs. Traina, 44, is the daughter of Nina Carroll, a socialite and philanthropist who is friends with Mrs. Wilsey.

The couple bought their 13,500-square-foot Pacific Heights home for $11 million in 2007, when they were living in Los Angeles. They spent a year renovating it from there, using Los Angeles-based designer Marjorie Skouras for much of the furniture and fabrics. Then in 2008 they moved to San Francisco, where they wanted to raise their daughter and be near family. At that point, they brought in San Francisco society stalwart and family friend Ann Getty, who also designed Mr. Traina’s brother Trevor’s house in the same neighborhood. Total renovations cost over $5 million.

The most striking element of the Trainas’ house is the color scheme. The living room has a purple-and-blue Chinese deco rug, purple curtains, a tufted blue velvet curved banquette and a blue piano. A den has lipstick-red, high-gloss walls with a black sofa, red curtains and gold table lamps; the dining room walls are apple-green velvet; a sitting room has a bright orange rug and a pink feathered lamp.

Then there are the animal prints, many of them from Mr. Traina’s father. In a small room near the living room, there’s a zebra skin-covered bar originally made for a yacht, with furry zebra bar stools and a zebra ottoman. The front entry hall has two zebra rugs; there are leopard print chairs in the living room. The powder room has red Scalamandre wallpaper with leaping zebras. There’s an Ira Yeager painting of a tiger over the living room sofa.

A glass cabinet holds the extensive inherited cache of Fabergé cigarette cases and a spear from the Han Dynasty. Tables are topped with tribal remnants of the elder Mr. Traina’s travels.

Mrs. Traina, a Princeton-educated former actress, said her influence can be seen in the earthy touches. She points to the white goatskin rug in the bar, rock crystals that top numerous tables and the large potted plants in almost every room. She describes her late father-in-law’s taste as a “decorative Italian aesthetic” and her husband’s as simply “over the top.”

“Todd is the icing; I am the cake,” she adds. Over cocktails at the annual San Francisco Film Society Gala, Mr. Traina’s mother, Mrs. Wilsey, notes her son wore purple for two years when he was around four or five years old. (He also went through a phase where all he wanted to eat was tuna fish, she said.)

Mrs. Wilsey calls the house “very L.A.” President of the board of trustees of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, she gave her son and daughter-in-law the four David Hockney black-and-white drawings of dachshunds that hang in the living room (the Trainas have two dachshunds: Pretzel and Zipper). Mr. Traina responds that his mom’s style tends toward needlepoint and pinks and greens.

The couple vaguely knew each other growing up: Mr. Traina attended his wife’s debutante party. They re-met in 2000 in New York, where Mrs. Traina was studying acting and Mr. Traina was in for a film shooting. They got married in 2003 and lived in Los Angeles, where Mr. Traina produced more than 15 films (“Tallulah”, “What Maisie Knew”) and founded Red Rover Films.

Moving El Morocco into the new home was an easy decision. The couple moved back to San Francisco in 2008, just as Mr. Traina’s father was selling his Pacific Heights mansion. The elder Mr. Traina commissioned El Morocco around 1999 and moved it into every house he lived in, but his last apartment had too little room. It was “perfect kismet,” said Mrs. Traina

This summer, Todd Traina will begin work on a movie for which he wrote the screenplay called “I Hate Kids,” executive produced by John Landis. He is also working with actor James Franco on a movie based on the novel “Naked,” by Mr. Franco’s mother, Betsy. Mr. Traina, who is on the board of the San Francisco Film Society, said he is also focused on getting high-net-worth investors in San Francisco involved in producing films.

Mr. Traina said he agrees with some members of San Francisco’s high-society old guard, who feel the city’s traditions are dying. He hopes that when she is old enough, daughter Daisy will go to the Cotillion and make her debut. At the same time, a lot of the people he grew up with are still living in the city, and he sees the opportunity and benefits that come from the new high-tech community. “It’s fun to watch the integration,” he said.

May 11, 2016 10:11 a.m. ET

Skip to content