Meet Noreen Gallagher

Location: San Francisco, CA
Age: 61
Marital Status: Married
Education: BS from San Francisco State

Today, Noreen’s determination and passion for personal improvement endures. She worked “10 hours a day” directing the marketing and sales for three major real estate developers in the San Francisco Bay area. Married for almost 25 years, she and her husband, “a creative soul and closet intellectual” love to travel, explore San Francisco and gather with “an eclectic group of friends” for their indie movie club.

In short: this stunning redhead makes 61 look pretty darn fun.

Tell me about your favorite place in San Francisco.

The Sherman House, a beautiful Victorian mansion built in 1876 by Leander Sherman, founder of the Sherman Clay Music Company. In 1980, new owners restored it and turned it into am exquisite boutique hotel with gardens and a private restaruant. It was so special, I got married there! Now it’s a private residence owned by the Gettys and no longer open to the public.

Oh, no! Well, what’s your second favorite place?

The Marina area in San Francisco. It has one of the most beautiful views in the world–the Golden Gate Bridge and The Palace of Fine Arts. I have a lot of fond memories from my years living there.

How would you define your personal style?

Classically simple–with a tweak here and there. I love strong, uncomplicated color schemes: wine tones, olive tones, brown, chartreuse and of course black.

What has influenced your style?

Being a businesswoman. I like items that are visually simple and can be worn several ways. I love a great coat that you can wear over a dress or pants as opposed to a suit.

What designers do you love?

I’ll never forget the day I walked into Bergdorf Goodman and saw a mannequin wearing a straight navy blue dress and a turban. It was such a classicly strong silhouette–by a new designer named Donna Karan. She knew how to fit to a woman’s body. DK introduced me to black. Now I’ve become an Etro fan. Great coats, great fabric, great color palette.

What’s your biggest indulgence?

My hair. You wear your hair every day.

Where do you have it cut?

Di Pietro Todd Salon. I have short hair and they are especially good at precision haircuts. The stylists are well trained and experienced. The salon is light, airy, upbeat and professional. The other thing I love: they have big plasma screens playing all the fashion shows.


Tell me about a book you love.

I work so much that unfortunately I rarely find time to read a book. However, I always keep a little pile of reading materials next to my bed that I can pick and choose from depending on my mood. I love my magazines and newspapers, especially the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. I was so sad to see Gourmet fold.

Where do you like to shop?

For clothes, I like smaller stores because I like how they merchandise and the personal attention. A favorite is Diana Slavin on Claud Lane. Diana been designing for 25 years. She uses muted colors and her shop does all the alterations—which are impeccable–at no charge. Her clothes possess a standard of quality that stands the test of time.

Do you have a signature perfume?

Caleche Eau Delicate by Hermes. It’s a very warm, delicate combination of woodsy and floral.

What about a signature accessory?

My five-row pave wedding band from De Beers. I love it as much today as much as the day my husband slipped it on my finger almost 25 years ago. It’s beautiful and understated. On my other hand, a handmade ring by Melanie Deluca. It’s a copy of a 2000-year-old coin. It was my first piece of really ethnic jewelry. You know it’s trying to tell a story.

What’s your favorite restaurant in San Francisco?

Spruce in Lauren Heights. It’s New American cuisine served in an intimate, cozy setting, located on a charming street lined with Victoria homes. I love the spring onions with caramelized beets. And Bay Wolf in Oakland, which my husband likes to call the “poor man’s” Chez Panisse.

Favorite wine?

A smooth Napa Valley Pinot Noir or Merlot, or a crisp Chardonnay like a Rombauer from the Carneros region of California.

ImageWho inspires you?

My mother inspired me. She had a joy for life, a love of family and a strong relationship with God. And a sense of humor that was second to none! My parents owned a bar and restaurant in Philadelphia, and sometimes she worked in the bar. She always said, ‘if you’re in the public eye you have to look your best.” And she always did!

What’s your beauty routine?

I cleanse with Nutrabiotics. It’s fragrance free and I buy it by the gallon at Whole Foods. My dermatologist recommended Skinceuticals sunblock, which is great because it has zinc oxide. I use La Mer underneath for more moisture. My mother’s favorite beauty routine was Oil of Olay, which she applied faithfully every morning and night for as long as I can remember.

What makeup do you use?

Minimal. I like a brand called 29 Cosmetics (named after highway 29 in the Napa Valley), which was started by Lydia Mondavi of the Mondavi wine family. All the products are infused with grape seed extracts and sun protection.

How do you rejuvenate?

The Monterey Peninsula, Carmel and Big Sur. I was raised partly on the Jersey Shore, and the people there have a saying: Once you get sand in your shoes, it’s hard to get it out.

What’s your passion project?

I’ve been supporting fundraising bike rides for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Diabetes Foundation for years. My sister has MS and I have 4 cousins who at a young age were all diagnosed with juvenile onset diabetes. I am also an advocate of hospice. I became aware of its mission and the importance of its work during my years as a pharmaceutical rep. When my mom passed away last year, my family was on the receiving side of its generosity, support and compassion.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your career?

Be honest and stay true to yourself. In this day and age, if you don’t know what your core values are, you will lose yourself. And once you veer away for your values, it’s very difficult to ever come back.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about money?

You need to start investing as early and as much as you can. The years fly by, and if you’re not disciplined, you can get surprised–especially in today’s market where people are losing their jobs. Financial advisers used to say “save up six months in the bank,” but now it’s really more like two years.

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