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Where Design Meets Dinner

We talk San Diego décor with Tracy Borkum


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Tracy Borkum's home

On a hot summer night, the team behind Urban Kitchen Group gather at owner Tracy Borkum’s home to toast the opening of Cucina Enoteca Del Mar, a spinoff of Cucina Urbana. We score an invite, and talk décor with one of San Diego’s most stylish restaurateurs.

Garden Party

At her condo in Cortez Hill, restaurant maven Tracy Borkum (her roster includes Cucina Urbana in Bankers Hill and the new Fish Public in Kensington) recently upgraded the patio, adding an outdoor dining area and organic garden. The latter is thanks in huge part to Urban Plantations, a local company that designed the garden and maintains it on a biweekly basis. (Dining table by Jennifer Luce, made by Vincent Designs; mustard Kartell chairs from Mixture; host and hostess wicker wingback chairs from Pottery Barn.)

Mix and Match

Borkum (below, in green) has a penchant for the eclectic—blending old and new. In San Diego, she was a pioneer of the reclaimed wood and L.A. flea market movement. Because customers often asked where they could buy the items in her restaurants (porcelain planters, burlap dining chairs, etc.), she and longtime design collaborator Monika Crawford started the Urban Kitchen Shop, where said chairs and one-of-a-kind vintage treasures are sold online. That same aesthetic has seeped its way into Borkum’s home. (Plates from Anthropologie, napkins from Leaping Lotus on Cedros, and napkin rings from Urban Kitchen Shop)

Urban Kitchen

When Borkum purchased the condo in 2005, it had stock woodwork and fixtures. She eventually tore down the wall between the living room and kitchen, adding wenge veneers to the cabinetry and an island-cum-dining table with white lacquer cabinets from Ikea. Borkum also chose barstools by English company Koi with sleek leather saddle seats and an Eiffel Tower-like base. For color, fresh apricots, figs, and plums line a Lucite votive holder. But the not-to-be-missed detail is the red goat in the corner, one of two life-sized goats in her home (the other is a papier-mâché version on the patio). “The goats are definitely a big favorite,” she says. “They’ve been with me a long time.”

Chop House

On the kitchen island, two different countertops stylishly separate the workspace from the dining area (see above). Here Joe Magnanelli, executive chef of Cucina Urbana and Cucina Enoteca in Irvine and Del Mar, and Bachelier prepare the meal with ingredients from Borkum’s garden and other local farms.

Effortless Style

The home Borkum shares with her dogs, Barley and Dudley, is humble and unassuming. She shops at Anthropologie, Pottery Barn, and Ikea. But in that same vein, there’s something extraordinary about her style—the way she organizes a stack of books like a work of art. (She has a whole pile dedicated solely to Jewish delis!) It’s the kind of thing that can’t be taught. Her living room, with blended leathers and metals, is Texas chic meets mid-century modern. “It’s definitely not meant to be a massive statement in design,” Borkum says. “It’s small and comfortable.” (Glass bowl by Ligne Roset, large wall lamp is FLOS model 265 by Paolo Rizzatto, and suede bucket chair from Urban Kitchen Shop).

Storied Shelves

Borkum’s personal office is a collection of artfully curated photos and keepsakes from her travels. Nearly everything has a story. The boxes contain La Familia Tequila and are all part of a special artist series. Borkum has collected one every year since 1996. The large box on her custom zebrawood desk was given to her by a bartender at Las Ventanas in Cabo, one of her favorite vacation spots. “Those boxes are difficult to come by,” she says. “By the way, I don’t drink tequila!” (Desk chair is an Eames replica from Hold It Contemporary Home.)

See more photos from the shoot here

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