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.

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.

Bringing the beach home: the details

Posted by Lauran

Inspired by last week’s story about a beach house we decorated, this week I rounded up some accessories and small furnishings that will bring a sense of summer to your everyday house. You might be miles from the water, but you can still have that “beach house feel” by adding a few well-chosen items.

First off, try changing out your dining room or kitchen table lighting to one of these options that use white, straw or rattan for a summery vibe.

Lighting1) Roxas pendant light from CB2; 2) Laika large pendant light from Blu Dot (comes in other shapes and sizes as well); 3) Santa Cruz Diamond Pendant from Serena & Lily; 4) Helg pendant lamp from Ikea

If that’s too complicated, pillows are an easy way to bring the beach to your sofa!


1) Salt Water Cure pillow by Tina Crespo via Society 6 (we used this in our beach house project); 2) Surf Van pillow by The Rustic Throw on etsy; 3) Turquoise pillow by DesignbyJulia on etsy; 4) Water Ripple pillow by NewCreatioNZ on etsy

Or you can rotate your coffee table books for the season. If you need some beachy ideas, here are some good reads:

coffee table books

1) Coastal Style by Sally Hayden & Alice Whately; 2) The History of Surfing by Matt Warshaw (we used this in our beach house project); 3) Surf: 100 Greatest Waves by Casey Koteen; 4) Seashells by Josie Iselin

And don’t forget the all-important artwork. You can splurge on an original painting, but there are more affordable options as well!


1) When Sky Meets Ocean by ArtbyHeroux on etsy; 2) Beach Chat by Paul Norwood via Serena & Lily; 3) Driftwood by Ian Cumming via; 4) Lifeguard Stand II by Stephanie Sherman via Serena & Lily; 5) Blue Day by Julie Hansen via Serena & Lily

Other touches that can turn your house into a “summer vacation home” . . .

Our design assistant Natacha created these fun painted driftwood pieces for our client’s Malibu beach house. An easy DIY!

painted driftwood

Introduce linen to your life. These breezy panels add the right color and weight to lighten up a room .


CB2 French-Belgian linen panel

And who wouldn’t want to snuggle up under this linen bedding?

belgian linen copy

West Elm Belgian Linen Duvet & Shams

Even your bathroom towels can be lightened up for summer!

coyuchi copy

Coyuchi Mediterranean Turkish bath towel



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

Fall 2014 decorating trends & inspiration

It sure doesn’t feel like Fall here in Berkeley, but the reality is that school starts in less than 2 weeks! The home stores are introducing their new Fall lines, and on the newsstand you’ll see  “Fall fashion” on almost every magazine cover. We thought it would be fun to go through it all and present the trends that we see for Fall 2014. You can see more of our inspiration on the Visual Jill Fall Decorating Trends pinboard, too.

1. The Naturals: Colors from nature (soft grays, whites and creams); leather; rattan; live plants; wood. Items that are noticeable for their texture and detail, rather than color.


Naturals LR1

image via Apartment Therapy

avenue lifestyle bedroom

via Avenue Lifestyle

Nate Berkus DR

Designed by Nate Berkus, via Garrison Hullinger

comfy wood

via Wooninspiratie 

2. Color: A surprise for Fall — soft blues and greens! Clean brights (like orange), neutrals, and black and white are still strong too.


we blueswest elm blue LR

 Two images above via West Elm


via Remodelista, via boligcious

orange pillow

peggy sofa

 Two images above via West Elm

cb2 fall pillows

cb2 bandw

Two images above via CB2

3. Creative Collections: Personal artifacts hung next to art in gallery walls; mixing one-of-a-kind mementos alongside books on shelves.


kitchen shelves collected

via The Grit and Polish


via Because I’m Addicted, via One King’s Lane


via Batixa.tumblr

4. Abstracts: Artwork, pillows and textiles in unusual graphics.


abstract art, Apt. Therapy

via Apartment Therapy

steve alan pillow

via West Elm

5. Geometric: Symmetrical patterns covering rugs, pillows and textiles.


dot & bo rug copy

Via Dot and Bo

geometric CB2


6. Round rugs: A new shape that’s surprisingly versatile.


round Jute rug

West Elm

round SL jute rug

Serena & Lily (note that this combines two trends: round and natural!

7. Mixed metals: Brass, copper and bronze are staying strong for Fall, outshining chrome and nickel.


swivel bar stool

West Elm

vega 5 chandelier

Schoolhouse Electric






What is “comfortable modern”?

Here at Visual Jill, we call our decorating style “comfortable modern”. We thought we’d elaborate on the elements that we believe are important in creating a “comfortable modern” room.

Neutral backgrounds: White and/or Light Gray


We like to use white or a pale gray walls as the backdrop to the room. To keep the space from feeling cold, we add colors and textures that make it feel more cozy and approachable.

Wood for warmth

41 DR 2

Bringing some wood into your room will immediately make it feel more warm and less sterile. You can do it via a piece of furniture, like this dining room table, through architectural details such as beams or trim, or even just through accessories and artifacts. A few wooden bowls, a vase of branches, or a mirror with a raw wood frame will all work to bring “wood warmth” to your room.

Bright-colored accents

41 LR2

West bedroom

As you can see in these photos, you can bring in a bold color with an accent wall or upholstered chairs. If you’d rather keep the walls and furniture more neutral, try a fun patterned rug, great pop pillows, artwork, and throws to add the color that makes the room feel fresh, instead of sterile.

Modern in-the-mix

LR copy

arlington entry

We believe that exclusively modern rooms, from the walls to the furniture to the accessories, run the risk of feeling stark and unwelcoming. We play with mixing different types of furniture within a room, and/or bringing modern into traditional older homes, to make the space interesting and friendly. In the photos above, we mixed current modern pieces and mid-century modern classics within a century-old home filled with traditional woodwork. Try placing  an overstuffed upholstered chair or a rustic wood coffee table next to a sleek modern sofa to make your room feel fresh and comfortable.

Bold artwork

Neill DR2 smaller

 Artwork by AMiguel

25th BR

Bright colorful paintings or photos can be a focal point for a room, or placed strategically to give a room an extra kick. Remember to mix in other textures and colors to keep your room from looking like an art gallery! Unless, of course, that is the look you’re going for.

A bright breakfast nook

We are pretty excited about a breakfast nook that we just created for a client. She had the brilliant idea of converting an ugly and awkward utility room next to her kitchen into a cozy eating area. After she had wood floors installed and a custom bench built in, we took over.


bright breakfast nook1

Mati's art

We created a bold palette of yellow and aqua and ran with it! It was tricky to find the right size table that could withstand the wear and tear of grandkids, but after much searching we ended up discovering one meant for commercial use. The fact that it was offered in yellow showed us that it was meant to be!

As usual, artwork features significantly in the space. We ordered the two pieces above the bench from Serena & Lily (they have a well curated art selection!). The bright bird and boat paintings are by our studio mate, Mati Rose McDonough.

This nook reiterates an important lesson: don’t overlook forgotten spaces in your home. You never know what they can become!

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!

Home is where the ART is

One of Visual Jill’s fundamental decorating tips: don’t overlook the importance of artwork. Displaying just the right artwork can take your space from nice to extraordinary. This week we had the pleasure of proving this point in a home we staged.

In this Uptown home, we incorporated many original paintings, mixed media pieces and photographs from Oakland-based artist a.miguel (Alan Hall). When we hung this vibrant painting over the sofa, we literally jumped up and down because it looked so fantastic.

25th downstairs LR


In the bedroom, we hung a grouping of Alan’s photography instead of one large piece over the bed. The colors really stand out against the fresh yellow-green wall, and just happen to match the pillow perfectly!

This more muted painting is a great match for the kitchen, especially since the vertical lines complement the lines in the zebra-wood cabinets.

The already colorful family room receives another burst of energy from Alan’s orange-and-blue piece over the sofa.

25th FR copy

Maybe the best thing about this home is the separate “art barn” on the back of the property. Yes, a barn in the middle of downtown Oakland! The developers painted the inside, and we staged it as an artist’s studio — showcasing more of Alan’s work.

We love Alan’s art and are thankful we were able to use it to add the extra “WOW” factor to the space.

Some tips for choosing the right artwork for your space:

  • Consider size — if you have an entirely open wall, one small or medium-sized piece won’t have the impact you need. Try one or two larger pieces, or a grouping of smaller ones.
  • Consider color — the art doesn’t have to completely match the other pieces in the room, but it should include at least a touch of one or two colors being used. Artwork is a great way to pick up the accent colors throughout the home.
  • Consider texture — use art as a way to introduce contrasting textures. If the room includes glass or mirrors, try hanging a rougher mixed media piece. If the room showcases natural materials such as jute, leather or linen, a sleek black-and-white photo would be a great complement.
  • Consider personal meaning — when you can, choose pieces that are meaningful to you (created by someone you know, purchased on a trip, representative of a different culture, etc.). This guarantees that your space will be one-of-a-kind.

(all photos courtesy of Lisa Ratner)


Visual Jill’s top 5 tips for unique style

We’re really excited about the house we just completed. It showcases the top 5 ingredients that we always include in our projects to make them shine.

1. Modern in the mix — Our designs always include at least a few mid-century modern pieces, mixed in with more transitional styles. In this living room, note the iconic Nelson bench paired with the upholstered green armchairs and white couch.

And in the library, we used our favorite Eames lounge chair with a colorful rug from Joss and Main.

2. Color — We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again. An amazing accent wall can bring a completely new energy to a room. In the guest room we chose Benjamin Moore’s Million Dollar Red, which complemented the rich woodwork in the house.

3. Artwork — We search high and low for unusual pieces of art for our projects. Some of our best come from flea markets and street fairs. For example, Jill found the fun painting above the child’s bed at the Temescal Street Fair. We mix these one-of-a-kind pieces with basics from Ikea and other retailers.

4. Global influence — Our designs usually include a touch of the exotic — a painting from Bali, fabric from Tahiti, or a pouf from Morocco, as seen below.

5. Unique accessories — We look for inspiration pieces that set the tone and/or color scheme for a room. These can be paintings, pillows, vases, or even a funky lamp. In the dining room, for example, the centerpiece vase from Anthropologies filled with succulents is just the right touch for the room.

In the master bedroom, you can see all five of our ingredients working together: modern in the mix (orange ottoman); color (accent wall in Benjamin Moore’s Wisteria AF-585); unusual artwork (a painting from Mexican artist Javier Fernandez); global influence (pareu from Tahiti on bed), and unique accessories (Anthropologie pillow).