Lives of Style: Diane Rubin 

‘I did it!" Diane Rubin proclaims, a Julia Roberts smile lighting up her stunning, blue-eyed face. "These are my prized possessions — my favorite jewelry!" She pulls out two Oreo-cookie-sized shiny medals: one from the New York Marathon; the other, a brightly painted number from the San Diego Marathon. "I earned them," she beams, "I finished."

A woman who seems to accomplish a whole panoply of things — with a surfeit of talent and flair, she’s the kind of tall, slender, sylph-like blonde who leaves stereotypes like Elle Woods and all the "Legally Blonde" acolytes in the dust.

Diane’s a "girly-girl"— ("I love clothes … and Manolo Blahniks!") — who’s also an accountant, "a bean counter." She’s a brainiac who last year was voted one of the 100 most influential accountants in America (one of only 13 women), the only female partner in the San Francisco office of her firm, Novogradac & Co. (49th in the U.S.), who’s just come off the chairmanship of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy. She’s a devoted wife to husband Asher (former California assistant attorney general) and mother to daughter Shaina, 19, who’s at Columbia, and son Jacob, 23, an investment banker at J.P. Morgan. She’s an athlete: runner, tennis player, skier, hiker ("I hike eight miles up and down the hills here"); she’s also the kind of warm, wonderful, conversational girl you feel you’ve known for ages.

Now, Rubin and Chandra Friese are co-chairing the annual San Francisco Opera Guild Designer Fete: Ode to the Goddess — a fashion show and luncheon being held on April 17 at the Westin St. Francis. The show, by Nordstrom, features cocktail dresses and gowns by Azzaro, Badgley Mischka, Carmen Marc Valvo Couture, Monique Lhuillier, Naeem Khan, Pamella Roland, Robert Danes, Redux Charles Chang-Lima, Stephen Yearick, Zang Toi — and has a fun kicker: a 10:30 a.m. champagne Fete Boutique preview, where attendees can try on gowns and meet designers. Money raised goes toward Opera education for schools. Last year the Opera Guild conducted special make-an-opera performances for 50,000 school children in the Bay Area.

Born and raised in Seattle, armed with an MBA from the University of Washington, Diane scored her first job in Manhattan, working for Price Waterhouse. "I lived in Greenwich Village — such a close neighborhood. You know every square inch of your block. We’d see John Belushi — those people were neighbors."

Transferring to San Francisco ("At heart, I’m a West Coast-first person. I’m more outdoors. I love San Francisco physically — reminds me of Seattle, with water, steep hills, vistas,") she met Asher when both were members of the After Work Tennis Club, which "has been around for 100 years." With 30 single men and single women who play tennis at Golden Gate Park, the club worked as well for romance as for athletics. "There’s a rush. They watch you and score you. Many people have met and married from here."

Living for years in Marin County, the couple recently relocated to a new home after their children left for college. Empty nest syndrome? "I know. It’s kind of the reverse of what people do. I told my husband I wanted a bigger house, with lots of land. A private place. Just for us."

Diane’s spacious residence sits on an acre of well-tended, park-like grounds, amid the rolling hills of central Marin.You hear leaves rustling. And fountains gurgling. There’s even a grove of redwoods. Nestled on a hummock and featuring a killer panorama, from the back deck there’s nary a neighbor in sight.

The home is master-bedroom-centric, with first-floor windows standing like stanchions as they welcome bucolic vistas that add to the symphony of buttercup yellow walls; sage and russet accents in the living and dining rooms blend with pale ivory walls in the entry. The expansive, second-floor master bedroom, with its vaulted 25-foot ceilings and panes of windows to the upper roofline peak, is a chapel in the sky. A showstopper.

Diane, who’s taking a two-week sojourn in Italy this fall to immerse herself in things Italian — language, culture, cooking lessons — is excited about the prospect of travel. "People are coming up to me and saying they’re so glad I’m doing this. But anyone can. We just have to put out the effort and do it."

STYLE PHILOSOPHY:I think the key is to be yourself. Don’t try to be someone in an ad. Don’t try to be someone who you think other people would think is fashionable. Style should reflect what’s inside your heart, and inside your mind. I’m the only woman partner in my firm. The way I dress — the women look at me every day. It’s very important for women to dress like women — to show their feminine side. I’m very feminine. I love the feminine side of me.

STYLE SECRET: I think my style secret is really a reflection of what I do. To make sure I get enough exercise and that I’m very healthy. It shows in the skin and hair. And buying the best fabrics you can buy sort of goes with it.

GOT STYLE FROM: It just evolved. I certainly think that living in New York was a tremendous influence. You see everything. I had the opportunity to do interesting engagements — Emmy Awards and counting the ballots (Price Waterhouse does some awards show ballots), go to screenings, great places. You’re in your early 20s and just soaking it up like a sponge.

STYLE VS. COMFORT: I definitely want both. I want to be comfortable, even in a gown. I want to be able to eat dinner. I don’t want to suffer through a wonderful evening not being able to move. And I want my gown to look gorgeous.

COLOR VS. TEXTURE: Yes, I would go for fabric and tailoring before color. I have a yellow leather jacket I love (she’s wearing a blue leather Akris — and Manolos). You may see me and see color. But I feel the texture. That’s more important to me.

MOST PRECIOUS OBJECT: My children. No question. My family.

SECRET CACHE: Collection of music, piano music, sheet music, CDs. Two pianos, a grand piano, and a smaller piano. I’m always buying sheet music. And now, taking Italian lessons.

WHAT PEOPLE WOULD NOT KNOW ABOUT ME: Time magazine did a story about baby boomer women and their children who are gone and now they are going back to get Ph.Ds and trekking around the world. I just booked a flight to Florence, enrolled in university, rented an apartment in Florence. I’m going to study Italian, get immersed in Italian.

WOULD NOT DO: One of the very important things taught by my mother was that once I accepted an invitation to a function, even if the president called and invited me to the White House, to keep the original invitation. Because your word is so important. Once you say you will do something, never accept a better offer to do something else.

FAVORITE DESIGNERS: Armani, Italian designers, Oscar de la Renta, exquisite tailoring, Akris.

STYLE TIP: Wear things that are tailored for your body, that fit your body well, that are well constructed.

If it doesn’t fit, I don’t haveit altered. Find a designer who works with your body type.

LIFE ADVICE: Life is not a dress rehearsal. And you should seize the moment and follow your passion.

Will Rogers said, "Even though you’re on the right trail, you’ll get run over if you just sit there." You can’t just sit there. You need to put in effort. Practice. Practice. And a smile is your best accessory.

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