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

Trend toward lighter, natural wood showcased in new home

Posted by Lauran

Trends come and go, and each new year it’s fun to see what experts predict will be “in” for 2017. One trend we’ve noticed, and appreciated, is toward lighter and more natural finishes in wood—on floors, doors and trim. This newly built house that we just staged is clean and crisp, largely because of the white walls and the light wood used throughout.

original artwork by Mark Petersen

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Dark woods like mahogany and ebony are going out of style because they look a little heavy,” said New York-based designer Aamir Khandwala. “Woods such as oak, pear-wood and birch feel more modern, as they are lighter in color and more uniform in grain.”  Studio McGee says: “We’re excited by the comeback of natural wood in 2017. By adding natural wood in finishes and furniture, you create warmth and texture while achieving a classic look that’s cozy and inviting.”

When your home base is all neutrals as in this space (white walls and light wood floors), it’s important to add elements such as color and texture to keep it feeling fresh and interesting.

In the living room, we used pops of yellow as our key accent color. The choice of the iconic Bertoia chairs, with their metal grid pattern, adds an element of texture to the space, as does the fur throw.

original artwork by Harry Gruenert

We loved how the light pours in through the abundant windows to highlight this great example of Scandinavian modern design.

In the master bedroom, we highlighted shades of blue in the rug, artwork and accessories. Blue and white is a classic, always successful color combination.

original artwork by amiguel

original artwork by Harry Gruenert

Orange was the pop color of choice for the loft office. Also note all the texture added through the “fur” rug. And the natural grain on these loft office doors almost acts like artwork on the walls.

When you look down from that loft office, here’s what you see . . .

And here are more shots of the beautiful natural wood interior and closet doors.

In the kid’s room, we mixed multiple bright colors to bring more energy into the otherwise neutral space.

And in the guest room, we turned to a gorgeous blue/green shade in artwork, pillows and even the book and mug on the night stand. The metallic gold lumbar pillow adds a little textural zing.

While the inside of the home is pure comfortable, Scandinavian modern, the outside of the house reads a bit more industrial.

The corrugated metal siding on the front part of the building offers an interesting contrast to the wood stairs and panels, and the painted gray siding.

This home represents everything you’d want for the new year: it’s clean, fresh, and a wonderfully modern blank slate. We just added color and texture to make the most of its natural beauty.

You can see this house in person! Learn more details about it here.

Photography by Open Homes Photography.

A condo transformation surprise for Berkeley roommates

Posted by Lauran

In early October, Jill got a call from Pam Ferguson, who lives in Michigan and found us via Google. This generous mom gave us a challenge: to re-design her daughter’s Berkeley condo as a surprise for her and her roommate, and to have it done by Thanksgiving. Pam’s daughter is a law student at UC Berkeley, and her roommate is the Assistant Manager of the Claremont Hotel. Needless to say, these two young women have not had a lot of time to put into decorating their home.

Because this was to be a surprise, Jill and senior designer Lauren could not actually see the apartment in person. Instead, Pam sent them a video of the space and a floor plan of the condo. Working from these, Lauren chose just the right furniture and accessories for their living room, dining room, and entryway, exchanging many emails, photos and ideas with Pam along the way. Check out these amazing results!



When Lauren and Jill started, this is what the place looked like:



It wasn’t horrible; just a little boring, and it didn’t reflect the energy and personality of the two friends who lived there.

Lauren changed all that by ordering furniture from CB2 and accessories from CB2, West Elm, Urban Outfitters, Allmodern, and Society6. She even got a custom doggie bed from Etsy for the roommates’ boxer, Pablo, and made a special sign to designate his corner of the room!


Lauren had all the accessories and furnishings shipped to her own home so she could consolidate the packaging and store it until they were ready for installation. Once all the items were in, Pam found a day when the roommates would both be out, scheduled with Jill and Lauren, and sent them a set of keys.

On move-in day, Dave and Nick from the Visual Jill staging team arrived to move out the previous sofa and to assemble all the new furniture. Then it was up to Jill and Lauren to hang artwork, style the shelves and other accessories, and make everything perfect.





As you might expect, the hardworking roommates were amazed by the transformation, and by Pam’s generosity. Lauren received texts from both of them, raving about the new decor and how happy they are.

Do you (or someone you know) need some design help? As you just read, Visual Jill can help—even from afar! Call us to get started.

Items purchased include (all from CB2): District II sofa, Puli Natural Rug, Stairway White Bookcase, Smart Marble Coffee Table, Odyssey White Dining Table, Roya Slate Blue chairs, Alexa Copper Vase Planter, Peacock Hearts Pillow, Rainbow Snake Pillow, Rove pillow, Fortune vase, Woven Wall Decor.

2017 color trends: dark and moody

Posted by Lauran

Benjamin Moore, Sherwin-Williams and PPG Paints have all released their 2017 Colors of the Year, and they are a significant departure from last year’s designated colors.


Benjamin Moore has selected “Shadow” as its 2017 color of the year. Creative Director Ellen O’Neill describes the color: “It ebbs and flows with its surroundings, and light brings it to life. Rich, royal amethyst can fade into the soft lilac-grey of distant mountains or morph into lustrous coal. Indulge your mysterious side. Let Shadow set the mood.”


I would call the entire Benjamin Moore 2017 palette moody. Even the lighter colors are a bit murky, and not as bright.



PPG Paints has also chosen a purple, called “Violet Verbena”, as its 2017 color of the year. Their website describes it as “a gray-purple hue that idealizes the popular bohemian, ‘gypset’ lifestyle. This nuanced update on a classic shade adds depth, luxury and pampering to every space, making it the perfect backdrop for consumers looking to blend the masculine, the feminine, the mystic and the modern. Violet Verbena is a moody purple with a chameleon-like presence.”


Over at Sherwin-Williams, they’ve landed on “Poised Taupe” as their 2017 color of the year. “This color creates a cozy lifestyle and brings a sense of sanctuary into our homes. It diffuses the stresses of the world outside our doors — so much so that we feel restored and in balance when we walk across our threshold,” states the Sherwin-Williams website. “Our story of taupe is simple. Earthen brown combines with conservative grey and the result is a weathered, woodsy and complex neutral that celebrates the imperfections and authenticity of a well-lived life.”


The rest of the 2017 palette features darker tones as well.

When you look at the words these companies have used to describe these colors . . . mysterious, rich, moody, mystic, cozy, woodsy. . . you get a sense that we’re entering a trend away from the bright, light and optimistic colors of the past several years.

Beyond paint colors, I’ve seen home decor in general taking a turn in this direction. More photos in my Pinterest feed are featuring walls and textiles in black, dark hunter green and yes, purple.



The two spreads above, emphasizing deep purples and maroons, are from the November issue of Better Homes and Gardens. And Apartment Therapy observed this trend back in April, in a story called “Trending: Dark & Stormy Jewel Tone Paint Colors” written by Adrienne Breaux.

Personally, I might add some deeper-colored accessories to my home, and would consider one accent wall in a darker color, but at my heart I’m still a “light and bright” gal. What do you think of these moody and mysterious colors? Do you see them as cozy and comforting, or dark and depressing? Let us know in the comments below.

Trim trends

Posted by Lauran

In the world of interior decorating, paint color is a constant topic of conversation, speculation and new trends. While attention has typically been given to choosing the right wall color, I’ve noticed a shift toward a new focus on trim color. Here’s a look at some of the trim trends we’re seeing.

Trim in same color as walls


In this spread from HGTV Magazine, the owners chose to paint their walls and trim a statement-making blue. Imagine how different the space would feel if the window trim had been white instead.


In this page from the latest Serena & Lily catalog, the entire wall paneling is painted one light blue tone.


This living room designed by Thom Felicia features a deep blue covering the walls, wall paneling and window trim to create a moody atmosphere. (via Remodelaholic, via House & Home magazine)


In this traditional home, the walls, trim, and baseboards share this gorgeous green. (Image via  havesomedecorum, via Veranda magazine.)

Black trim


This homeowner chose to paint all the window trim, door frames, and baseboards black (image via Remodelaholic, via Apartment Therapy).


This image from Serena & Lily shows the power of black trim against an otherwise all-white room.

Bright colored trim


This bright yellow window trim adds just the right punch of energy to this room.

The New Farmhouse
Another happy example of yellow trim in a farmhouse dining room.
Wow! This almost-neon green is a great match for all these house plants. (Image via housethatlarsbuilt, via The New Bohemians book.)
What do you think? If you’re afraid to paint an entire wall a different color, why not try just the trim?

Fall color trends

Posted by Lauran

Pantone Color Institute has officially released its Fall 2016 Fashion Color Report — calling the collection “a unity of strength, confidence and complexity.”

fall-2016 pantone colors

Pantone’s Executive Director further explains, “The desire for tranquility, strength, and optimism have inspired a Fall 2016 color palette that is led by the Blue family. . . Blue skies represent constancy as they are always above us. Grays give a feeling of stability, Red tones invite confidence and warmth, while the hot Pinkish Purples and Spicy Mustard Yellows suggest a touch of the exotic.”

It’s always fun to find new Fall merchandise in our favorite home stores that feature these colors. Here are some ideas for you . . .


crewel pillow

The Watercolor Tapestry Pillow and Crewel Linked Tiles Pillow from West Elm both blend the red and blue tones from the palette.

rei chair

Room and Board’s Lola chair comes stocked in the Rei fabric, a good blend of the two Pantone blues.


Over at CB2, the Cleo Rug has a modern southwestern vibe that really showcases the Sharkskin Gray, Dusty Cedar and Potter’s Clay from Pantone’s collection.


CB2’s new Cupro Counter Table has dark gray legs and a copper top that perfectly reflect the fall palette as well.


Ikea’s new Vallentuna modular sectional is available in different color combinations—including this one that picks up Pantone’s Fall colors.


Ikea also has a new line of mix-and-match cabinets I really like called Lixhult, available in a variety of colors including this gold that matches Pantone’s Spicy Mustard.

If you’re looking for paint colors that reflect Pantone’s collection, may I suggest these matches from Benjamin Moore:

Old Glory811



Have some fun with paint

Posted by Lauran

Looking for a way to transform your space without committing to new furniture, rugs or artwork? If you’re willing to buy just one can of paint you can make a big impact, even without painting the entire room. Here are some ideas.


You can add color and character by painting just one wall—or even one part of one wall—a different color than the rest of the room. All three of these great examples are from Benjamin Moore‘s Ben paint catalog, available at your local Benjamin Moore store.

ben orange blue copy

green white colorblocking

ben yellow copy


Horizontal or vertical, wide or narrow, stripes bring graphic interest to a room.

ben red stripes copy

Benjamin Moore

bhg family stripes

Better Homes and Gardens

downstairs bath

Visual Jill Interior Design


Designers call the ceiling “the fifth wall” . . . don’t overlook it when decorating and painting your home!

pink ceiling

Rain on a Tin Roof, via SG Style

light blue ceiling

My Old Country House

DS blue tops

Design*Sponge, photography by Sandy Soohoo

Interior doors

If your walls are white, why not paint your doors a bright happy color?

turq doors

Airows, photography by Bailey McCarthy

DS orange door

Design*Sponge, photography by Amy Mokris

blue interior door

Keltainen talo Rannalla

Highlighting with painted shapes

These examples are especially fun. It would take no time at all to tape off a small section of a wall and paint it to highlight a specific display area.

painted square

Mobel Pobel

jungalow yellow circle

Justina Blakeney, The Jungalow


Making a traditional house modern

Posted by Lauran; fabulous photography by Peter Lyons

Recently we staged two more traditional homes in Berkeley, both with original (unpainted) wood trim. The “to paint or not to paint wood trim” question pops up often in the design world. While white painted trim really brightens up a space, we understand why some people prefer to leave the wood unpainted, especially when it’s in great condition.

The trade-off for the beautiful wood is that it often makes the house feel darker and more traditional. We were brought in specifically to make these homes more modern, lighter and brighter—to show buyers that a home with a lot of traditional wood trim and paneling can still be decorated in a more current way.

671 Colusa 08

We rely on two primary techniques to “modernize” traditional homes: color and clean lined furniture. In the photo above from the house on Colusa street, you can see how the colorful striped entry rug brings a playful, happy sense to the space as soon as you walk in the door.

671 Colusa 11

671 Colusa 13

Throughout the lower floor of the home, the bright colors from the entry rug continue in the artwork, pillows, accessories and especially the chartreuse dining room chairs. These carefully placed colors combine with the white painted walls around the trim to lighten the home.

671 Colusa 09

In addition to the colors, we used iconic mid-century pieces, such as the Egg Chair (above) and the Eames Shell dining chairs, to provide a modern contrast to the wood trim and leaded glass windows.

671 Colusa 15

Note the simple, clean-lined dining room table we paired with the Eames chairs, as well as the ultra-modern bar stools we used for the kitchen nook.

671 Colusa 14

In the little sitting room that leads out to the deck we placed a love seat, which features the color and the clean lines, as well as a pair of modern global basket tables. This is a combination you wouldn’t expect to find in this type of home.

671 Colusa 04

671 Colusa 02

The master and guest rooms had the trim painted white already. We added area rugs to freshen up the wall-to-wall carpeting.

671 Colusa 24

We also chose modern outdoor furniture to add a hipper vibe to the front porch.

The second traditional home we staged was on 66th street.

1079 66th 11

Again, the white painted walls in the entryway helped to set a brighter tone against the wood trim, as did the gold rug, colorful artwork, and pillows.

1079 66th 08

1079 66th 09

A very modern butterfly chair, the iconic Noguchi table and a new CB2 rug bring a fresh perspective to the living room.

1079 66th 10

This particular dining room had floor-to-ceiling wood paneling on two walls, so we chose very simple and clean dining room table and chairs to tone down the formality.

These two homes show that modern furniture and accessories can breathe new life into a more traditional space.

Decorating superstars

Posted by Lauran

Whether we’re staging a home for sale or decorating a client’s space, there are certain items we choose to use again and again. I call these “decorating superstars” because they are timeless and versatile—you can use them in almost any room, and they never go out of style. The following four are guaranteed good investments!

a graphic rug

You can’t go wrong with a graphic black-and-white or blue-and-white rug. The Stockholm rug from Ikea and Tile Wool Kilim from West Elm are both winners.

aitken office

mag master

They work especially well in bedrooms and offices, giving a nice pop of color and texture without competing too much with artwork and pillows.

Harlan loft office

5721 Roberts Ave (27)-X3

Our next superstar is a simple modern wood stool, which can be used a thousand ways.

a wood stool

We love the iconic  Aalto stool and Serena and Lily’s Dipped Dyed Stools. They can be extra seating, a side table in the living room, or a bedside table in a tiny bedroom.

staging 1


aalto stool bedroom

Mirror mirror on the wall, you’re the best decor of all . . .


That’s right, our next superstar is a mirror—specifically, a round, uncomplicated mirror. We love Ikea’s Stockholm mirror and CB2’s Tork Brass mirror for their simplicity. A round mirror always looks great above a mantle . . .

stockholm in LR

. . . and in a bedroom to bounce light around and open up the space.

46 guest

09 Din detail

A round mirror is also a great way to welcome guests in an entryway.

Our final decorating superstar is the stool’s bigger cousin: the bench.

a bench

The iconic Nelson Platform bench is a classic for a reason. We also love our vintage sliding slat bench found at the Alameda flea market and our orange upholstered bench from AllModern.


4458 Pampas 06 small

mag guest room

These benches serve as entryway seating, coffee tables, window seat benches, and shelving/seating in home offices.

What are your decorating superstars? Tell us in the comments below.


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 . . .

IMG_7726 IMG_7727

. . . 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.