Local hero: Neeko boutique

Posted by Lauran

A fresh and one-of-a-kind boutique has opened just two blocks from our office. Neeko (“named for my alter ego” says owner Ash Ford) offers just the right mix of affordable fashion, unique handmade jewelry, and other fun goodies.



Ash carefully collects unique items from across the country, sourcing from etsy sellers and other independent designers/artists. The jewelry selection is unbelievable, completely on trend while also feeling exclusive. You can also find cute pillows, plants and ceramics for your home.





The clothing is hip yet accessible, with styles to fit just about any age and body type.



Neeko was just included in Racked.com’s “Best of East Bay Shopping” feature, and we can see why! It’s a pleasant shop where you are sure to find a new party dress, your best friend’s birthday present, or a housewarming gift.


Stop by Neeko at 2505 San Pablo in Berkeley, and tell Ash (that’s her, above) that Visual Jill sent you! You’ll be happy you did.

Flora Grubb—flowers, foliage and fantasy!

One of our favorite places to gather inspiration is Flora Grubb Gardens, located in the BayView neighborhood of San Francisco. Not just a garden center, this place is a wonderland of fantastic foliage, creative plant displays, and comfortable gathering zones.

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If you want a vertical garden, this is the place to go! They have a wide variety of shapes and sizes—including wild unmanicured rectangles, neat succulent squares, and even letters.

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And oh, the color you’ll see here! From the citron painted wall to the bright pots and saturated Fermob furniture, it’s a kaleidoscope of color.

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flora blue pots

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We especially like Flora Grubb’s ideas for incorporating plants in rather unusual places. Got an old car hanging out in your yard? Turn it into a garden!
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Here’s an idea that’s more realistic for most of us: remove the board at the center of your table and replace it with a tray of succulents. It’s a permanent centerpiece.

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Speaking of succulents, you won’t find a better selection of them (and their close cousins, the cactus) anywhere in the Bay Area.

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flora cactus

Flora Grubb Gardens is a not-to-be-missed destination for gardening enthusiasts as well as brown-thumbed design lovers. Did I forget to mention the coffee bar inside too?

Photographs by Lauren Hosmer

Art by Harry Gruenert in new formats!

Great news for art lovers everywhere: One of our favorite local artists, Harry Gruenert, is now making his art available in new formats.

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We have been lucky to showcase Harry’s original paintings in many of our staged houses over the past two years, as seen in this dining room below.

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Harry’s abstract paintings feature amazing textured layers and color blends that complement most interior styles—especially modern.


Now clients can purchase Harry’s work in several different formats:

• Gallery wrapped canvas prints (UV laminated and mounted, ready to hang). Prices start at $228 for an 8″x12″ canvas.

• Museum quality archival inkjet prints on fine art rag and baryta papers. Prices vary depending on type of paper and size.

• Museum quality archival inkjet prints on resin-coated and enhanced matte papers. Prices vary depending on type of paper and size.

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Custom mounting and framing is also available. We have samples of the canvas and paper prints to share with our clients. For more information and to see the great selection of abstracts and photography, please visit harrysprints.

Cool store: LeKube in Rockridge

When you walk in LeKube on College Avenue, the first thing that hits you is all the color. Then you notice all the shapes and textures.



Bold paintings by Mark Petersen

 Le Kube is described as “a home design store with a unique collection of French modern and American mid-century vintage pieces to enhance any home decor”. The owner, Romain Saide, is a French designer and entrepreneur who recently relocated from Paris to San Francisco. The studio is also home to furniture design team Sobu, who sell their handmade teak furniture and artwork there.



LeKube Studio represents a collective of European designers specializing in unique interior furnishings and one-of-a-kind home items, inspired by mixing dramatic focal pieces with simple lines and bold colors, and combining vintage items with French contemporary designs.

Pillows . . . vases . . . tables . . . paintings . . . furniture . . . you’ll find it all here!


This Vertigo lamp by Constance Guisset is a standout piece. A smaller version of it is available at  MOMA store in New York.

The next time you’re in Rockridge, stop by Le Kube, say hi to Romain, and look around at the wonderful wares. It’s a treat for design lovers. 5451 College Avenue, Oakland

Fab finds on Fourth street

Whenever we need a creativity boost (or a cute new necklace!), we head over to Fourth street, which is just 1/2 mile from our offices in Berkeley. Fourth street is filled with cool stores that offer every kind of inspiration—from unique shoes, to paper craft accessories, to vivid pillows, to DIY books, to Indian block-printed tunics . . . you’ll find it all here.

Our latest treasures:


Neon kicks from Rabat Shoes, one of our favorite shops for special, funky and fun shoes.


Woven baskets and a new design book from Anthropologie (a great source for all kinds of craft, cooking and decorating books).



Beautiful hand loomed blankets at Nest, a magical emporium of jewelry, homewares and trinkets from around the world.



More treasures from Nest!

Other stores to be sure to check out on Fourth: Castle in the Air, which offers magical crafting classes and materials; Convert, selling cool clothes and shoes for men and women; and The Gardener, the number-one source for organic home decor and rustic lifestyle items in the Bay Area. And don’t forget to stop off for some blueberry pancakes from Bette’s Ocean View Diner!



Saying goodbye to Zoe

We are sad to report that Jill’s best canine friend, Zoe, has passed away. Jill gave Zoe to her daughter as a gift for her fifth birthday—15 years ago.


Over the last couple of years, Zoe served as Visual Jill’s unofficial mascot and appeared in a few of our marketing shots!

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 Zoe lived a long and happy life and we will miss her.

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.

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 An old birdcage becomes a pendant light!

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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.

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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.

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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!

It’s all about the ART

One of the best parts of our job is finding just the right art for each space within a home. From large statement pieces that hang over a sofa or bed, to smaller prints that perk up a bathroom, art is what makes a home feel special and complete.

We are lucky enough to be associated with some great local artists who supply us with gorgeous original pieces for our staging projects. In return, their art is showcased to potential home, and art, buyers. We call this partnership “Home is Where the Art Is”, and we are pretty excited about it. Here are five artists that have participated in the last year.

The first artist we worked with is Oakland-based Amiguel. This multi-talented man is also an accomplished jazz musician and a father of two. We love his use of vibrant use of color, and every house we stage features at least one piece of his art. Check out some of his stunning work . . .

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West bedroom

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We were also lucky to partner with Kristen Jensen, a Berkeley-based painter who is also an attorney and mother of three! (What is it with all these uber-talented people?) We showcased many of Kristen’s paintings in a modern Berkeley home we staged.


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Fairview master

Angela Baker is another Oakland-based super talent — a working artist and art teacher. Her bold paintings were just what we needed when we staged an upscale Berkeley hills home.

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Sometimes when we stage a home with a detached studio or cottage in back, we set it up as an art studio. It’s fun for potential buyers to imagine new uses for extra space. In a recent Berkeley home we featured art by Mill Valley artist Diane McGauley in the garden “art studio” we created.

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And we love to feature art by our studio-mate Mati Rose McDonough, who is a published author, creativity teacher, and of course a fabulous artist. We have used her whimsical pieces to lighten up  kids’ rooms and a breakfast nook.

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Mati's art

We always tell our clients that original art does not have to cost a fortune. Many of the pieces shown here are quite affordable. And the best part about owning original art? No one else will have it!

Local hero: Marisa Haskell

The Temescal neighborhood of Oakland has received a bunch of press in the last year, and for good reason. Temescal is home to plenty of 4-star restaurants (Dona Tomas, Pizzaiolo, Burma Supertstar to name a few), and the funky little Temescal alley offers a unique assortment of services and shops. Our very favorite is Marisa Haskell Jewelry.

Marisa actually works in her shop, so you can watch her create her beautiful pieces while you peruse the jewelry on display.



Jill and Lauran covet Marisa’s jewelry — you could almost say we are collectors. And we’re not the only ones — women all over the Bay have discovered these cool and affordable pieces, most featuring handcrafted metal, chains, and leather.


Here Jill is modeling Marisa’s earrings and scarf pin, while Lauran is wearing her favorite necklace. And perhaps the best thing about Marisa’s jewelry? It’s meant for layering . . . so one is never enough!

Fabulous Flowers at Birch in SF

One of the best places in San Francisco to discover cool home decor is Hayes Street, where you’ll find a little treasure shop called Birch. Birch offers two of our favorite things, flowers and magazines, in a beautifully designed space.

The matte black walls showcase the white ceramics and bright flowers, and you can find letterpress cards and design books tucked in between floral displays.

A wall of shelves house a great selection of design and art periodicals, including the international editions of Elle Decor and Anthology.

There’s even some cool jewelry hanging from manzanita branches, and a well-curated selection of candles, journals, and other goodies on the shelves.

The next time your eyes need a special treat, stop by Birch, take in the loveliness, and take home some Spring blooms.