Posted by Lauran
One of the first questions we ask new design clients is “what are you inspired by?” Sometimes the answer is a color, or a fabric, or a piece of artwork. Usually this inspiration serves as a jumping off point—a source of direction that is interpreted loosely as we build the design.
But in the case of this gorgeous Berkeley home that was just remodeled, our client’s love of swimming and the water was more than just inspiration—it was the overall design mandate. “I wanted my home to radiate a sense of calm, not unlike the feeling you get when walking along a tranquil beach, or when you hear the rushing sounds of waves at the ocean,” she explains.
Our client swims daily, logging almost 700 miles total in 2016. Furthermore, she happens to be a three-time cancer survivor, and is deeply connected to a national non-profit called Swim Across America, or SAA. SAA raises money for cancer research by hosting open water and pool swims throughout the United States. Therefore, her passion for the water—and what it represents—runs deep.
She also loves to entertain and wanted a kitchen that was full of light and room for guests to gather around a large island. Combining her style, desires and her passion for water into the new design required deliberate and thoughtful decisions by the overall design team (the homeowner, Jill and Lauren from our Berkeley-based Visual Jill team, and designer/builder Gary Johnson).
For example, Jill and Lauren carefully selected a beach-inspired color palette of pale gray, bright white, and watery blues—with just a pop of yellow. The walls are all painted Gray Owl or Coventry Gray, with all trim work in White Dove (all Benjamin Moore paint colors). And when it came to textiles, the fabrics on the chairs, sofas, pillows and rugs were chosen to represent the beach.
In the living room, Lauren and Jill advised our client to keep her chairs, console, and coffee table, and then chose a new modern sofa from Room & Board to give the existing items a fresh new perspective. “We went with a lighter sofa fabric in a durable performance velvet fabric so that it will be easy to clean but will keep the airy feeling of the room,” explains Jill.
In the sitting room right off the kitchen, “we transformed our client’s older loveseat with a lovely Serena & Lily fabric,” explains designer Lauren. “We paired it with some pillows and a large striped rug, and now it makes for a great little seating area when our client is entertaining a large group of guests.”
The striped rug, loveseat and pillows bring to mind the stripes you might see on a pool house awning, or on a beach umbrella.
For the additional eating/working area next to the sitting room, Lauren and Jill found chairs from Pottery Barn, while Gary’s team stained a small dining table found on Overstock. The lighting fixture above the table was custom-made by Berkeley-based Metro Lighting, using handblown colored glassware. “This luminous fixture looks like hanging sea glass,” says Lauren.
“Gary was such a visionary in creating the trim work for this gorgeous kitchen, sitting room, and the ceilings,” says Jill. To complement the beautiful bones Gary created, Jill and Lauren picked the stunning Dual Glaze backsplash tiles from Heath to add texture and depth to the all-white kitchen. The tiles catch the light like a white-sanded beach sparkling with sea glass. (This same tile was applied to the living room fireplace and paired with a square tile also from Heath.)
The texture continues in the marble used on the countertops, with pattern reminiscent of lapping waves.
The sea-inspired décor can also be found on the deck that is right off the kitchen, where deep blue cushions and nautical striped pillows welcome guests to relax and stay a while.
But nowhere does our client’s love of the ocean show more than in her artwork. She has long been a collector of swimming-related art that is displayed around her home . . .
. . . and even in her laundry room!
Last year, she found her art collection growing tremendously when she met a photographer named Eugene Tan while traveling in Sydney, Australia. Eugene owns a gallery called Aquabumps in Bondi Beach, and our client and her husband visited the gallery daily on their trip, combing through the thousands of images to select just the right ones for their home that they just happened to be in the midst of remodeling. “It was the perfect gallery for me—every piece had to do with water, beaches or swimming.” Eugene’s photos are now displayed throughout the home, in the downstairs living room/sitting room as well as the upstairs hallway.
Our client is proud that during the past 30 years, SAA has raised over $60 million nationally, and in the SF Bay Area her own efforts have helped to raise over $3 million for UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals in Oakland and SF. Her battles with her own health inspired her to become a wellness coach as well, operating from an office on the second floor of her gorgeous home.
It’s clear that our client’s passion for swimming, water and wellness has truly become her life’s work. Now her home surrounds her in serenity that matches her peace of mind. “I feel as comfortable in my home as I do in the water,” she tells us. “And that’s saying a lot.”
Photography by Lauren Hosmer and Justin Lopez