At Home: Bishop's Burlingame home a tranquil oasis 

Rt. Rev. William E. Swing, former bishop at Grace Cathedral, is an icon — not only in San Francisco and California, but also around the globe.

For 26 years, from 1980 to 2006, he was the Episcopal Bishop of California. He met with numerous spiritual leaders from countless faiths all over the world, from several popes to the Dalai Lama, Bishop Desmond Tutu to Mother Teresa, the Shankaracharya of Kanchipuram and Islam’s Grand Mufti in Cairo to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

One of the first spiritual leaders to publicly and vocally embrace the cause of fighting AIDS, Bishop Swing served on the board of directors of the American Foundation for AIDS Research from 1985-2004.

Ten years ago, Swing founded United Religions Initiative ( to promote “interfaith cooperation” and to end religiously motivated violence. URI’s thousands of members represent more than 100 religions in 65 countries.

Bishop Swing’s home for these past three years of his retirement is a tranquil, peaceful oasis in Burlingame.

“I’ve lived through a lot of history,” Swing says. “I was catapulted into events.”

Swing’s calm repose can be credited to his wife, Mary, and the atmosphere of their home to the Virginia antiques passed down to her. 

“I married a girl from Richmond, Virginia. There’s a little bit of Virginia here,” he says.

The home features stellar English and French mahogany pieces, including tables, chairs and a stunning breakfront.

The walls are light, except in the dining room, which is russet with ivory molding and forms a perfect backdrop for period dining room furniture, a splendid crystal chandelier and a finely patterned, beige oriental rug. The ceiling in the living room is barreled.

The house features multiple light sources, from the oversized arched front windows to the large side panes. It welcomes the outdoors in.

“I’m a golfer,” Swing says — he once came in fifth at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am — and the residence is close to a golf course.
Various family heirlooms, including a portrait of his wife’s ancestor on one wall, add to the ambiance. Colorful hand-blown Blenko glass punctuates the neutral palette and is another family reminder, as Swing’s grandfather was involved in the craft.

Interesting accents hint at Swing’s persona: the painted “icon” of him when he was visiting abroad, and a statue outdoors with a plaque that reads “Blessed are the peacemakers.”


Style Keys

William E. Swing

Style: Traditional, classic
Colors: Neutrals
Favorite items: Icon depicting him on his wall
Design theme: Antiques, heirlooms from wife’s family
Design publications: “We trusted our own taste.”

About The Author

Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
Pin It

Speaking of Entertainment

More by Staff Report

Latest in Other Arts

© 2019 The San Francisco Examiner

Website powered by Foundation