Must-have lighting: modern sconces

Posted by Lauran

Several years ago, the word “sconce” would conjure up an old-fashioned dark brass lighting fixture befitting a Victorian library or a masculine cigar-smoker’s den. But today there are so many modern choices that it’s easy to incorporate this versatile lighting source into your home, whether you want to stick with brass or go for color.


Just feast your eyes on these bright choices! Clockwise from top right:  1. Isaac Sconce from Schoolhouse Electric, $130, available in three colors; 2.Radar Sconce from Schoolhouse Electric, $169, available in six colors; 3. Signal One-Arm Wall Sconce from Horne, $387, available in over 20 colors; 4. Industrial Wall Lamp from onefortythree, $225, available in four colors; 5. Colored Wall Sconce from onefortythree, $65, available in six new colors; 6. The Downtown Minimalist Sconce from Barnlight Electric, $124, available in over 20 colors!

This week Design*Sponge (one of our favorite blogs!) featured Kelley’s home tour, where she hung a blue sconce from onefortythree next to her bed for easy reading!

onefortythree from designsponge

If you prefer a more subdued yet modern look, we love these updated brass fixtures, all from my favorite new-ish lighting company Cedar and Moss.


Sources, from top: 1. Branch sconce, $159, available in three finishes; 2. Alto Sconce, $179, available in three finishes; 3. Cedar and Moss Tilt Cone, $169, available in three finishes.

Can’t you just picture these on either side of an entryway, or alongside a modern (or brick) fireplace?

Re-creating a cool Oakland loft

Posted by Lauran

“When Carol and Andre first contacted us, they had just purchased a loft in Jack London Square,” says Visual Jill Designer Lauren. “It was difficult for them to envision how this one large space could be broken up into functional areas they needed, while also being stylish and inviting.”  They also inherited worn carpet on the floors and multiple paint colors on the walls, making the space feel cluttered and confused.

Flash forward a few months . . . after a bit of design magic, Carol and Andre now have this beautiful space!

2nd loft LR into DR lo res

2nd st. loft LR lo res

Lauren and Jill began the project by defining what their clients needed within the large open space: They wanted a designated area for their guests to sleep, an office for Carol, a TV room, dining room, and master bedroom.

Question: How do you create “guest quarters” without any walls?  Lauren’s answer was to place this CB2 Flex Frost Sleeper Sofa in the entryway! It’s extra seating on most days, but easily converts into a bed when guests arrive. We love the texture added by the branch “wall partitions” from Furniture Envy.

2nd futon lo res

The master bedroom is divided from the main space with curtains hung from a ceiling track. It’s a sanctuary for relaxation, with a custom upholstered headboard from AlexAlinDesign on etsy, nightstands and lamps from West Elm, and rug from CB2. The carefully chosen textures are a great contrast to the rough loft ceilings.

2nd loft Bdrm lo res

Lauren and Jill also helped their clients choose new hardwood flooring and paint colors to brighten up and modernize the space.  They chose White Dove for the majority of the walls and Kiwi for the pop of color in the living room and kitchen (both Benjamin Moore).

2nd loft lounge lo res

2nd loft lo-res

Lighting was also an issue, since the cement ceiling made adding recessed lights impossible.  “We added unique fixtures to designate the dining room, master bedroom, and living room,” explains Lauren. “We also added floor lamps to fill the 14′ height of the loft.”

2nd loft LR 2 lo res

The raw wood coffee table from HD Buttercup brings extra warmth to the living room, which also features a custom sectional from EQ3 and Celeste Swivel chairs from Room & Board.

Lauren and Jill loved this project, both because of the space and the clients! “Carol and Andre  had a clear idea of what they needed and trusted us as designers to find the items they loved and make sure they would be functional for their lifestyle”, says Lauren.  “They were very involved from the get-go with a positive attitude and ready to make an amazing change to their space.”

Photography by Peter Lyons

Outdoor entertaining on a tiny budget, in a tiny space

It’s easy to get lost in all the catalogs, blogs and Pinboards that show amazing outdoor entertaining spaces. Perfectly manicured gardens, outdoor kitchens, cool fire pits surrounded by nice teak furniture, long farmhouse tables with Tolix chairs . . . we all love these scenarios. Unfortunately, many of us don’t have the space — or the money — to create them in our own homes.

But guess what? You can set up an outdoor cooking and eating area, that will fit in a space as small balcony, for less than $175! Here are two options for you:

Ikea combo: $ 163.98

For grilling

lillon grill

 The Lillon charcoal grill sells for $99, is only 18″ wide, and sports adjustable legs.

For dining


The Tarno bistro set is the perfect size for two, and the perfect price ($49.99)!

To set the mood


The 23-foot Solvinden light strand is just $14.99 — and it’s solar powered.

Target combo: $ 139.98

For grilling

smokey joe

The Weber Smokey Joe is $29.99 online.

For dining

target bistro

The Folding Metal Bistro Set comes in four fun colors and is on sale right now for $95.

To set the mood

target lights

Room Essentials Frosted Globe lights give you 25 feet of light for just $14.99.

You don’t have to be rich or have a big yard to entertain outdoors — you just have to know where to look!

How to make a big room work for you

We just finished a project for a couple who called us with an interesting problem: their “great room” wasn’t as great as it could be. Their large rectangular space had a fireplace on one end and a sliding glass door along one wall, and they just weren’t sure what furniture to buy, or how to place it in the room. Their existing configuration (two large sofas pushed against the walls) looked awkward, and didn’t work well for entertaining or watching TV.

Our first step was to find out how the family wanted to use the space. In addition to reading, watching TV and entertaining, their son needed to practice his keyboard and do his homework in the living room too. Our solution was to divide the room into a few functional “zones” that flow together.

entire LR

The middle of the room is the entertaining/relaxing/reading space. The comfortable Metro sectional is paired with two bright Grayson chairs that can easily be moved into different configurations for conversations or TV watching. Behind the sectional is a small table and chairs that offer a more casual alternative to the dining room table next door. This is a great little nook for homework, playing games, etc.

wooden crates

The unique bookshelves next to the table are actually wooden crates ordered from Etsy, which we stacked and layered to fit the corner space.

tv keyboard

The TV works well above the fireplace, and the keyboard finds a perfect spot next to it.

gallery wallWe moved an antique piece they already had against the wall, and created a gallery for them showcasing family photos and artwork. The Aero tables add a rustic touch to the room.

We also decorated their dining room, which was a blank slate. The clean simple lines of the table, chairs and bench make the magnificent Foucault’s Iron Orb Chandelier the focal point of the room. The clients chose to forego a rug in order to show off their beautiful floors.

dining room 2

If you’re perplexed by how to furnish and decorate your own “great room”, keep these tips in mind:

  • Don’t push your furniture against the walls. Bring it out into the center of the room and create a living room/conversation area.
  • Use a rug to ground the living area and visually separate it from the rest of the room.
  • Try to buy furniture that is easy to move around for increased flexibility.
  • Furnish the rest of the room according to your specific needs. If you are a book collector, put bookshelves and a separate comfy chair in the corner to create a mini-library. If you work at home, put a table up against the back of the sofa to create a desk.
  • Make sure your room has a good traffic flow—can you walk through it easily without bumping into anything?

Let us know how you use your great room—tell us in the comments below.


West Berkeley’s “hip strip”: a design destination

We love our office–it’s light, bright, and filled with our fellow creative colleagues. But the best thing about our space might just be the surrounding neighborhood (especially for those of us in the design world). We are just 4 blocks from San Pablo Avenue, which offers an unusual mix of cafes, international markets, bars, and . . . great places to find unique items for your home.

If you’re looking for one-of-a-kind lighting, there are two stores that should be musts on your shopping list. Omega Lighting Design offers a great selection of historical fixtures just right for the Bay Area’s Arts & Crafts bungalows and Victorians. But my favorite fixtures are the ones they create, combining old industrial parts and household objects with modern globes and light bulbs.

birdcage light

 An old birdcage becomes a pendant light!

license plate light

A license plate transformed into a sconce!

A bit further down the street is Metro Lighting, which offers original designs inspired and informed by Arts Nouveau and Craftsman aesthetics–but with a modern edge.

metro chandelier

The Acorn 4-Arm Chandelier from Metro

Keep going down San Pablo and you’ll see Ohmega Salvage, which occupies space on both sides of the street. This place is a treasure-hunter’s fantasy. If you have the patience and a good eye, you can find just the right tub, sink or cabinet for your renovation. You might also discover an old street sign or wrought iron gate–you never know!

To discover one-of-a-kind upholstered chairs and fun refurbished furniture, check out Mignonne Decor. The team at Mignonne sells their unique designs and will also help you reimagine an old table, desk or sofa.

mignonne sofa mignonne table

Just a sampling of the colorful furniture you can find at Mignonne.

Your trip down San Pablo cannot end without visiting Ecohome Improvement. Everything you find here–from flooring, to kitchen cabinets, to paint, to tile, has a green bent to it. We love it for one-stop shopping, since you can literally renovate your entire home through Ecohome. They have a design showroom next to the retail store so you can see all the beautiful materials for yourself.


We could keep going–there are other treasures to be found on San Pablo and the surrounding streets. And of course, 4th Street is just blocks away. We feel lucky to be working among all this design greatness!

Book Review: Home by Novogratz

We just picked up the new design book Home by Novogratz, and boy are we glad we did! This book is chock-full of great ideas, tips and photos — providing a feast for your right brain as well as practical information for your left side.

You gotta love the cover photo — complete with the dimpled smirks of Cortney and Robert and all seven of their kids! For those of you not familiar with this dynamic design duo, the Novogratzes host their own HGTV show, Home by Novogratz, and also have a line of furniture and accessories right now in CB2. Their signature style is a modern/vintage mix, with bold accents — most often in lighting and artwork.

I love how this book is organized. Each chapter is dedicated to one design project, and they share the budget, the goal and the client’s wish list so you can really understand why they do what they do. They begin with a large photo of “Where we started” (i.e., the “Before”) and end with a “Where we ended” (“After”) photo. Cortney and Robert take readers through the major steps of each project, complete with photos and snappy little tips.

Each chapter also includes user-friendly info graphics like the one below.

And you even get a line-by-line breakdown of exactly how they spent the client’s budget. This is a great added bonus that most designers don’t share.

Here are some more treats from the book. Check out this fireplace transformation!

In this photo you see one of the Novogratzes’ signature tricks: mismatching the dining room chairs — choosing highly contrasting armchairs vs. side chairs.

How amazing is this room, created for triplets? Playful wall art (custom wall paper) and colorful lighting are also a sure sign that this room was Novogratzed.

This may be my favorite of all the excellent design books that have rolled out this past year. It has just the right balance of photography and information, and it’s organized and easy to follow. If you want to be inspired and informed without being overwhelmed, this book is for you!

Branching out in your decor

I was browsing through the May issue of Martha Stewart magazine when this “Good Thing” caught my eye.

I love the simplicity of this sculptural branch hanging from the white shelf. This small touch of rusticity enhances any kind of decor — modern, cottage, country, traditional. I’ve rounded up some other great examples of branches-with-function here.

(from Pinterest, via Shannon Doyle, originally from Chic & Cheap Nursery)
(from Pinterest, via Tammy Maloney, originally from Design*Sponge)
(from Pinterest, via Erin Lepperd)
(available from urbanplusforest for $120 )

What can you do with a lovely branch? Tell us your ideas, below.

Color at the Flea Market!

Bay Area decorators, collectors (and shoppers) hit the jackpot last weekend — the Oakland Museum’s White Elephant Sale was on Saturday, and Sunday was the monthly Alameda Flea Market. We scored some great stuff at both events . . . and most of it was, of course, colorful.

We are always on the lookout for unusual lighting fixtures, and the Alameda Flea did not disappoint. Jill picked up two cheerful vintage orange table lamps — $100 for the pair.

She also scored this groovy wooden multi-layered spherical lamp for just $175 — a great investment for such a unique item.
We loved (but resisted) these bright glass and ceramic plates and trays.
Of course, the color wasn’t limited to just home decor items. Jill picked up two vintage purses in the season’s hottest fashion color — bright yellow — for less than $20 each.
At the White Elephant sale, we found two vibrant paintings that we’ve already hung in our space.
Flea markets and rummage sales are excellent places to find unique art, and much of it is very affordable. It doesn’t matter if you have no idea who the artist is; in fact, it’s fun to imagine who might have created each piece, and when. Feel free to mix up high art and vintage “anonymous” finds on your walls — as long as you love it, it doesn’t matter.
What treasures and deals have you discovered at the flea market lately? Let us know in the comments below!

New Lighting from Old Junk

Never before have there been more eclectic choices in pendant lighting. We’re especially excited about the trend toward creating fixtures from vintage or cast-off materials. Check out this Jupiter Scrap Light from Graypants (featured in this month’s Dwell), made from upcycled cardboard boxes:

Another cool creation: the Mixer Ceiling Pendant (made from — you guessed it — a repurposed industrial stainless mixer) from local favorite Omega Too:

And the Workstead 3-Arm Industrial Chandelier is made from repurposed industrial joints and vintage brass sockets (found via Remodelista).

Have an old wire basket or stainless bucket hanging around? Instead of banishing it to your basement, bring it to your local lighting store. Many can turn it into a one-of-a-kind fixture for you.

Seaweed Lamp by Sarah Foote

We bought a new lamp!! We found this item at the Lolahome store located on College Ave.  The seaweed lamp is a great addition to our entry way. It adds a whimsy, natural and organic element in the space.  Since its such a unique piece it can also serve as a conversational feature.  With its twisted and tangled white maple wood veneer strips it is reminiscent of a hanging nest.  Sarah Foote, the creator of the lamp, is originally from the bay area, but she now resides in Brooklyn.  She has been creating lamps for 10 years.  You can go to her website and check out her other artistic home products.

                                                                                Here it is in our entry way!