A Berkeley home swimming in light and texture

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

Design details in newly constructed Oakland home

Posted by Lauran

We recently staged a newly built home in Oakland’s NOBE neighborhood (where North Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville intersect) that features some stand-out design details. Take a look and get some ideas for your own home.
pink door

First off—the curb appeal. Check out the great mid-century modern door painted a bright pink, the nice chunky house numbers, and the lovely landscaping—all of these scream “welcome, we’re glad you stopped by!”



original artwork by Harry Gruenert (left) and Mark Petersen (large blue painting)


The main living space features gleaming concrete floors and a comfortable open floor plan. We used navy and yellow-green accents against neutral modern furniture to make the most of the space.


We love the wood ceiling that runs throughout the kitchen and dining rooms. The mix of white upper cabinets and lower wood cabinets is also on-trend.


original artwork by amiguel


original artwork Mark Petersen 



original artwork by amiguel

A bedroom on the main floor is staged as a home office. Note the wood trim around the windows that was left unpainted—a nice modern touch.


original artwork by Mark Petersen

We love the clean, bright stairwell, featuring modern railing, a skylight and window, and a cool light fixture.


original artwork by Harry Gruenert


original artwork by Kristen Jensen (left) and amiguel (center)

The large master suite includes a seating area, a private balcony, and a master bath. The natural fir trim around the doors and windows adds modern warmth to the room.



The guest room and kid’s room were left all-white, making the colorful accents pop and the natural light bounce around the walls.




The backyard is perfect for family living and entertaining. It’s got everything you could want—a grass playground for kids, two seating areas, built-in planters, and . . .



. . . a separate workshed/office/art studio!

The design choices made in this home—such as wood trim, paint colors, light fixtures, skylights, colorful artwork—set it apart from other homes on the market. These are all details that you can incorporate into your own place, even if it’s 50 years old vs. brand new.

Design ideas from Schoolhouse Electric

Posted by Lauran

Have you seen the new Schoolhouse Electric catalog? It is so well done, folks. I thought I’d highlight some of the best ideas shown throughout (and while these ideas may not be new, they are certainly well illustrated here).

The beauty of moveable shelving. I love this Foundry Cart, shown here acting as a bookshelf, media stand, and plant holder in the living room. It could just as easily act as a freestanding pantry in a kitchen or a paint/brush/canvas/glitter holder in an art room. The possibilities are endless.


A couple of other units-on-wheels for you to consider:


Go-Cart Rolling Bookcase from CB2


Colin bookcase from AllModern

One-of-a-kind storage makes the room. I’m in love with this unusual shelving unit shown to the left of the bed. I’m assuming it’s vintage. You wouldn’t expect to see something like this in a kid’s room, which makes it all the more memorable.


To find your own piece, scan sites like eBay, craigslist and etsy. Here are a few I found:


from ScoutandForge on etsy


from BeeHavenHome on etsy


from OurVintageBungalow on etsy

Mix up your art in every way possible. Check out this photo—the art is framed, not framed, leaning, hanging, standing, taped on the wall . . . paintings are mixed with prints, newspaper clippings . . . and it all works. That’s because there are no rules when it comes to displaying your artwork, just as there are no rules about what constitutes “artwork.” If you love it, put it up! Schoolhouse has just announced its own store for one-of-a-kind art; Serena & Lily has a similar shop. Also check out zatista and minted and of course etsy for affordable art options.


Cute hooks work as well as towel bars. In tiny bathrooms there often isn’t room for a full-length towel bar. Using a well-designed multi-hook is a great solution. This is the Mollie Hook from Schoolhouse; I also love their Roswell Hook (both come in an array of fun colors).


Try a bedside shelf instead of a table. A nice little shelf can hold your water glass, a book, your readers and even a plant (and better yet, won’t allow you to stack up piles of stuff like a regular table will!). Shown is the Brake Angle Shelf (in brass) from Schoolhouse—it’s like jewelry for the room.


A couple of other options:


Acrylic Wall Shelf from CB2


Brooklyn Bridge shelving from West Elm


Architectural masterpiece in Berkeley Hills

Posted by Lauran

Once in a while we get to stage a house that is truly unique—that really challenges us to make the most of the one-of-a-kind details and unusual layout. This Berkeley Hills home, designed by renowned architect J.H. Ostwald, is such a place.


The most stunning features of this home can be summed up in two words: wood and windows.



The wood paneling, floors and ceilings bring a warmth to the modern design and complement the fantastic views of nature surrounding the home.




Look at that amazing detail on the front door, below.




This main floor room (staged as an office/guest room) gets incredible light through the french doors that lead out to a charming patio.



This room (staged as the kid’s room) is an unusual combination of paneled and sheet rocked walls. We brought in bright colors to make it playful.


The wood ceilings, beams and floors add so much character to this white bedroom.



This bedroom is a bit different—the only wood feature here is the ceiling beam. We chose to paint the feature wall a soft blue to match the sky.


The outdoor spaces are also spectacular—a combination of decks and patios with plenty of little nooks for seating, dining and relaxing.






This home is open this weekend—stop by if you’re in the East Bay!

Our staging features original artwork by amiguelHarry Gruenert and Mark Petersen, and ceramics by Deborah Carlin (djc5@comcast.net).

Photography by Open Homes Photography

A colorful, soulful artist’s home

Posted by Lauran

Once in a while we are hired to do a “partial” staging, where we style and stage a home for sale using primarily the homeowner’s own furniture and accessories, and supplement with our  inventory as needed. Partial stagings are tricky to get right, because it’s usually hard to make our stuff blend seamlessly with the client’s.

However, this week we had a very successful partial staging at an artist’s home in Oakland—a bright, happy space filled with her art and artifacts.



The eclectic zen vibe of the house is set the minute you see the front gate. As you walk up the stairs toward the house you pass a carefully landscaped garden and walk under a charming vine-covered trellis.


The front door leads into an entry hall, where several of the homeowner’s bird collage paintings are on display. It feels like a bright, friendly art gallery.


To the right of the entry, this first-floor room was used as the artist’s studio, but we moved in furniture from other rooms to create more of a family space vibe. Everything we used belongs to the homeowner; we just put it all together in a new way (and showcased two of her larger pieces on either side of the fireplace).


From the first floor you ascend a white stairway and are greeted by the bright second floor landing, painted a vibrant orange by the artist.

into LR

To the right of the landing you gaze into the bright and colorful living room, featuring walls painted two different shades of green, a copper fireplace, and built-ins full of the artist’s treasures.




It was fun to style these shelves with her incredible selection of accessories, art and books.


The dining room walls were hand-stenciled by the homeowner and pick up the flowers in her painting.



The kitchen was remodeled recently. The modern flat front cabinets and marble countertops are complemented by quirky artwork and details . . .

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. . . like these shelves on either side of the sink.



More stenciling is found on the master bedroom wall, offset by more artwork and a luscious teal feature wall.

meditation room3

A spring green bedroom acted as the artist’s meditation space.

meditation room

We added a daybed to show buyers that the room is spacious enough for multiple uses.

This home also includes a huge detached studio, which was empty when we came onto the project. We moved the owner’s easel, art cart and desks into the space, then brought in a sofa, chair, rug, supplemental artwork, and bed.



studio bed

We were able to create four different zones (sleeping, painting, living and working) to show the potential of the space.

This is truly a special home, and if you’d like to see it before it’s snapped up be sure to visit the open house this Sunday.

Original artwork by Jennifer Bain; additional artwork in bottom three photos by amiguel and Harry Gruenert.

Hip new modern home

Posted by Lauran

Over the last couple of months, we’ve staged some cool mid-century modern homes and featured them on the blog. Today I want to share a newly constructed modern home located in West Oakland.


This is one of two side-by-side homes designed by local architect Matt Baran. Both stand next to old Victorians that are prevalent in the area. The curb appeal is stunning due to the yellow door, rustic wood facade and huge palm tree.


When you enter the yellow door, you can see straight through to the back of the house, past the stairwell, a sitting area, the dining area, and the living room.

862 Wood St 11



The open plan main floor is punctuated by plenty of windows that let light in to bounce off the white walls and wood floors. We brought in color through artwork and accessories.


Downstairs, a large landing leads to the guest room, kid’s room, master suite, and a sweet courtyard.




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The master suite includes a nice bathroom and sliding doors leading to a small yard.

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We loved staging this home—the clean lines and open space allowed us to have fun with accessories, art and furnishings.

Fantastic photography by Peter Lyons

We are proud to feature art from AMiguel, Harry Gruenert, Audrey Kral, Shawn Shawn, and Kristen Jensen throughout this home.

Original local art highlights a mid-century masterpiece

Posted by Lauran

Perched way up in the Berkeley Hills, 10 Atlas Place is a spectacular mid-century home designed in the 1960s by J.H. Ostwald, featuring his hallmark combination of woodsy and modern elements. We were delighted to stage this spacious home last week, which gave us the opportunity to feature a few local artists on walls and shelves throughout. Allow us to show you around!


You enter the home through this stunning foyer, complete with a huge skylight, wooden mid-century sculpture, and pebbled floor. We hung this painting by Harry Gruenert as a perfect complement to the space.



As you walk through the foyer, you come to the living room, featuring gorgeous wood beams, a brick fireplace and windows looking out onto views of the bay and two bridges! On the shelves on either side of the fireplace we chose soothing abstracts from Audrey Kral, while two more of Harry’s paintings face each other on the living room walls.

We filled the bookshelves with books (of course) and many original ceramic pieces by Deborah Carlin (djc5@comcast.net). We love the organic nature and colors in her work.


The dining room also showcases the million-dollar views!


Next to the dining room is the kitchen, which was updated with new gray porcelain tile flooring and white quartz countertops. We love the original cabinets and built-in shelves and desk area.



From the kitchen you enter a playroom/lounge area, where we showcased more paintings from Audrey.


To the left of this room are a bathroom and two more rooms, staged as a kid’s room and an office.


The playful prints above the kid’s bed are from artist Mati Rose McDonough.


The light green abstract above the desk is by artist Diane McGauley.

Also on the main floor is the master suite, tucked away for privacy and separation from the rest of the home.


That’s an original piece by artist AMiguel hanging over the master bed. And check out the built-in library shelves!


Directly outside of the master suite is one of several decks that overlook the hills and the bay.


Back in the dining room, you go down a very cool circular staircase to the lower floor of the home, where a huge family room, guest suite, and wine cellar await you.


In the guest suite, we hung two more colorful paintings by AMiguel.



Next to the guest suite, the family room features a groovy built-in bar area that leads out to the lower decks.


Don’t you love the super-mod built-in sofa in the family room? Two more abstract paintings from Harry were just the right match for the vibe and the colors in the room.



Atlas FR1 small

This wouldn’t be a complete tour if we didn’t show you the outside of the home too. It includes several levels for lounging, a fire pit, and a pool!



We had fun staging the cabana as a boho-lounge.

If you want to see this one-of-a-kind home in person (and who wouldn’t?), it’s open this weekend (4/9 & 4/10). For more information check out the video or contact agent Linnette Edwards!

Spectacular photography by Peter Lyons

The colors of Costa Rica

Posted by Lauran

There’s nothing like a vacation to get your creative juices flowing. I just returned from a wonderful retreat in Costa Rica, where I was inspired by the color all around me. I was especially struck by the houses and stores painted bright and happy tones.

CR pink

CR peach/pink

Vibrant color combinations were everywhere, not only on the buildings but also in the fresh fruit, the gorgeous beads and baskets sold on the beach, and the breathtaking sunsets.

CR beads

CR fruit

CR green

CR sunset

CR flowers

Craving some of this bright tropical feeling for your own home? Here are some ideas to capture these colors (without transporting yourself to Central America).

Buy a new rug

florpink copy

Heaven Sent in Pink by flor

lotus rug

Lotus Rug at CB2

Paint a door

blue door copy

DKOR Interiors

yellow door

Apartment Therapy, via fastightesbryan

Hang something on the wall

pink clock copy

Wake Up Call clock at DENY Designs


Shana Bearden

Put up some wallpaper

JB wallpaper

Nana (Pink) Wallpaper by Justina Blakeney

Paint a wall

coral room

Danielle Oakey Interiors

Vicente kids

Visual Jill Interior Decorating

If you’re ready to paint, these colors are sure to put you in a Costa Rican state of mind (all Benjamin Moore):Paint Colors CollageTry one of these on your front door, an accent wall, or a beat-up piece of furniture.

Now . . . time for another margarita!

Fresh and fun family bathroom

Posted by Lauran

Rub-a-dub-dub, what a great tub! And shower. And vanity! We recently turned a drab and dated bathroom into a functional, fun and family-friendly space featuring modern fixtures and bold color.




To really appreciate the change, you need to see how the bathroom looked before . . .




Goodbye to the fleshy-pink tile, and hello to bright white ceramic and green glass mosaic! Because this bathroom is used by a family of four (mom, dad, a little girl and her brand-new baby brother), designer Lauren knew keeping the perfect kid-sized bathtub was essential. “But we also needed to raise the shower ceiling height for dad, who is over 6-feet tall,” she explains. “It really transformed the shower space. Then we accentuated the height by using our fantastic green mosaic as a centerline from the shower-head wall up and over to the other side.  Putting a little green mosaic rim in the niche was a nice alternative to putting it on the back of the niche.  The glass shower door keeps the room open and you really get to enjoy the shower tile design more.”

Lauren’s renderings show how she planned and presented the redesign to the clients:



The new modern floating vanity gives the family plenty more counter space, while allowing room underneath to store the all-important training potty and step stool!


“Our client actually suggested the bright green accent color, so I ran with it,” says Lauren. She kept the modern, fun feeling going with the artwork. “I’m always impressed by Society6 (where I bought the palm tree and fish prints) —they have awesome modern art that comes in a variety of sizes, framed in quite a few different finishes, and for such a reasonable price,” she continues. She scooped up the “Get Naked” print from etsy.



Now this young family has a bathroom as colorful and modern as they are.

Noe Valley home with spectacular SF views

Posted by Lauran

Lauren and Jill recently completed a decorating project for a delightful couple, Tom and Lisa, who purchased an incredible modern home in SF’s Noe Valley at the end of last year.

Tom and Lisa

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The living room features the Camber sofa in white leather from DWR, as well as Otis swivel chairs, Union cocktail table, and Float wall shelves, all from Room and Board. “The fireplace was  covered in a very cool, but dark, tile,” explains Lauren. “We chose to hang a large original painting from Harry Gruenert to brighten up this focal point of the room.”

“One of the best parts of this project was styling their floating shelves, credenzas and bookshelves with artifacts and mementos Tom and Lisa have collected over the years,” says Jill. “People don’t realize how fabulous their own collectibles can look until they are grouped together and styled to highlight color, size and texture.”

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In the large master bedroom, the couple’s bed is topped with a duvet cover from Restoration Hardware and a John Robshaw lumbar pillow (purchased from Anthropologie). The Sivas rug from Room and Board picks up the teal from the two Crate and Barrel pillows.

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Tom and Lisa hired California Closets to build custom storage along one wall. We chose the Jasper Studio Sofa from Room and Board as a luxurious place for the couple to sit while they put on their shoes!

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In the home office, the Mason Glasstop Desk from William Sonoma reflects the light from outside, and the West Elm safari rug (no longer available) adds just the right touch of whimsy to the room. The built-in bookshelves offer plenty of storage and opportunity for showing off more artwork and artifacts. (I just have to wonder, though—with views like this, who could get any work done?)

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The home office features this sitting area in addition to the work area, both of which include sliding glass doors that lead out to the spacious outdoor deck.

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This stunning wrap-around outdoor entertaining space features clear railings for an unobstructed view of the City. The Dockside Dining table (no longer available) and Rex chairs, Acapulco Lounge Chairs, and Java Sectional, chairs and ottoman, outdoor pillows, and green Wire coffee table are all from CB2.

“This was such a fun project, and we’re sorry to see it end,” concludes Lauren. “Tom and Lisa have great taste and weren’t afraid of color—just two of the things we loved about working with them!”