Opening in January, the Assembly is San Francisco’s first ladies-only clubhouse focused on wellness, offering its members fitness classes, casual co-working spaces, networking and mentorship opportunities, and comfortable areas to be creative or just unwind.
“We wanted the space to be a sanctuary in the middle of the city, a safe place where women could get away,” said Goodson, 35, formerly vice president of content at PopSugar. “We loved that the building had always been about community —in the past, for religious reasons, and now, in a different form.”
To bring their vision to life, Goodson and co-founder Carnet Williams enlisted the help of interior design gurus Sara and Rich Combs — a stylish husband-and-wife duo best known for their work renovating a series of Airbnbs in the Mojave Desert, including the Joshua Tree House. The couple, over the past several months, has transformed the 7,000 square feet of the aging church into a dreamy, modern space—where every corner is Instagram-worthy—that reflects their warm, eclectic style and intense attention to detail.
The Combses have an affinity for natural materials (such as wood, linen, wool, marble, and leather) as well as warm, neutral tones that play to Joshua Tree’s desert landscape. They layer all of this with richly colored Moroccan and Turkish rugs, a bounty of lush greenery, and small meaningful treasures sprinkled throughout. In this project, the couple cast an impressive line-up of local female artists to contribute to the design. The Assembly acts as an exhibit of some of the best makers in the bay, from custom woodwork to fine art and large-scale weavings.
“Given the building’s history, it felt incredibly appropriate to involve the San Francisco art and design community in creating pieces for this space,” said Sara Combs. “We love building off of a space’s original story—maintaining that character while updating it to feel warm, welcoming, and reflective of its new purpose.”
The church, originally built in 1905, burned down just one year later in the big quake. The structure got its second chance when neighbors rebuilt it between 1907-1913.
Years later, major renovations, like plumbing and electric, had already been completed by the landlords, but the space still felt drab and dark. Gray carpeting and dark blue plastic panes covering the large upstairs windows gave off a hazy hue and corporate office-like vibe.
But it also had magnificent bones that any designer would kill to work with: dramatic ceilings and windows, an entryway with original wood stairways, a sunny (albeit overgrown) backyard patio, and an enormous amount of space.
Walking through the building’s arched doors is a striking prelude to the rest of the Assembly. Original wood floors and stairways are contrasted by modern, yellow tile and a large, neon bent-glass art piece crafted by local artist Meryl Pataky.
“We love the energy Meryl’s piece brings; it sets the tone for the space,” said Sara Combs.
The spacious fitness studio sits just behind the entrance, the room that needed the least amount of work, just some personality. Plants jut out among weights and resistance bands, and a delicate string of eucalyptus and olive branches sourced from Ampersand SF are fastened under bold, cursive lettering—produced by Brooklyn-based artist Jen Mussari—that reads: “Put your hair up, let your hair down, do whatever you want with you hair.”
“Molly came up with that phrase, and we thought it represented the vibe well—do whatever you want, be yourself, and enjoy your your time here,” said Sara Combs.
A pristine, custom-built kitchen, an area where members can grab a snack or drink after class, is also on the ground floor. Gutted and rebuilt from scratch, white-oak cabinets, crafted by Joshua Tree-based Fire on the Mesa, are accented by white-tile backsplash from San Francisco’s Fireclay Tile. The vintage marble countertops, found at Ohmega Salvage in Berkeley, were recovered from bathrooms at Mission High School.
“Those marble counters may be my favorite find for this space,” said Rich Combs. “We love that we were able to bring the material back to its neighborhood.”
The room is centered by a crisp white CB2 table atop a Turkish rug (found on Etsy). Nearby, two paintings by celebrated San Francisco artist Heather Day hover prominently, both crafted specifically for the Assembly as part of her “Junk Yard” series, which she describes as a “conversation between lines and color.” Day considers her work visual storytelling, and brought her creative process inside the clubhouse for these two pieces, pulling from colors around her.
“It was fantastic to be part of a project that so many talents contributed to,” said Day. “I typically work alone in my Dogpatch studio, so it was a nice change of pace to have other artists’ energy around me.”
The kitchen opens up to a backyard patio lined with white tables and chairs nestled among various fruit trees.
“I mean, a backyard like this in San Francisco, it’s a dream,” said Goodson.
The second level holds the Assembly’s main space—an expansive, A-frame room with exposed wood beams running along the 30-feet ceilings. To make approaching such a large space less daunting, the Combses chose to view it as seven or eight different living spaces broken up by experience.
“We always imagined the Assembly as a shared dream home, and we wanted it to feel cozy,” said Sara Combs. “When we thought about it like a house, it all made sense—an area for coffee, to work, to eat, to read a book, to be creative.”
The most challenging project of the entire building—its gorgeous but subdued arch windows—also proved to be the most important. Once the dark blue plastic panes (assumed to have been installed in the ’60s or ’70s) were removed, warm light immediately flooded the room.
“I don’t think you can design a space without great light, so those windows were a game changer,” said Sara Combs.
To add back some color, they installed a mismatched pattern of new yellow and light blue stained glass in the windows.
Oakland woodworker Katie Gong crafted each of the wood tables along the sides of the room (in addition to bookshelves, coffee tables, and a bar top) in what is considered the main co-working space. Gong’s pieces are paired with Mexican equipale leather chairs and benches sourced directly from Mexico and an assortment of Turkish kilim pillows. In the center of the room, a workshop table equipped with art supplies encourages drawing, painting, or writing with your hands.
“In such a tech-focused city, we hope this will be a tactile experience for people, a place to create something,” said Sara Combs.
The corner bar, serving Lady Falcon Coffee Club, is a collaboration between Aleksandra Zee, an Oakland-based woodworker, and Fire on la Mesa. Together they crafted an intricately-designed piece to fit into cabinetry topped with salvaged marble and a vintage bar tap.
“Mini-living rooms” take up the rest of the room, made to feel cozy with more rugs and pillows sourced from Turkey, weavings from Oakland-based fiber artist Meghan Shimek, blankets, board games, and vintage books with San Francisco ties found at flea markets.
The Combses’ almost obsessive attention to detail and a desire to “surprise and delight” are clear in each nook and cranny, including “secret bathrooms” that make a design statement.
“We want people to be able to walk through many times and continue to notice something new,” said Rich Combs, noting the small, gold words of affirmation painted in random locations by San Francisco visual artist and songwriter Chase McBride.
The Assembly is already bustling with over 100 members and is still accepting applications. In addition to member guest passes and public events, they also have plans to offer day passes in the future.
For Goodson, who first came up with the idea when she started to work from home and found herself shuffling from studio to coffee shop to wine bar, she’s excited to see how the space will grow.