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.

Pantone’s 2017 color picks: bright and optimistic

Posted by Lauran

The color gurus at the Pantone Color Institute have selected their 2017 Color of the Year: Greenery—part of an overall uplifting palette for 2017.

According to Executive Director Leatrice Eiseman, “Greenery bursts forth in 2017 to provide us with the reassurance we yearn for amid a tumultuous social and political environment. Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate and revitalize, Greenery symbolizes the connections we seek with nature, one another, and a larger purpose.”

I find it fascinating that this palette is missing the dark, murky colors that paint companies are calling out for 2017. It is also missing a gray, which is in interesting departure from a trend that’s been dominant for so long.

Here are some ideas for how to use these optimistic colors in your home, in small and bigger ways.

Chilewich offers placemats, runners and coasters in Dill, a close match for Pantone’s Greenery.

The Verdure pillow from anthropologie offers a nice combination of Pantone’s cheerful tones.

Head over to West Elm for great products that match the Pantone palette, including the Muratto Cork Wall covering in Cobalt Blue (like Lapis Blue); Radiating Ovals Rug in Light Pool (similar to Island Paradise); the Leon Woodframe Loveseat in Cayenne (similar to Flame); and the Roar + Rabbit Patterned Cachepots which combine several of the Pantone colors.

The classic Eames Molded Plastic chairs are available in a wide range of colors, including Aqua Sky (a close match for Island Paradise), Peacock Blue (similar to Niagara), and Blush (much like Pale Dogwood). You could surround your dining room table with the Pantone palette!

If you’re inspired to paint an entire room or even just an accent wall, here are some good paint matches for some colors in the palette (all from Benjamin Moore).

And here’s some extreme painting inspiration for you . . .

This room pairs a color very similar to Kale with Pale Dogwood ceilings. Image via Real Simple, photo by Gentl & Hyers

What about combining Greenery, Pink Yarrow, and Flame on the walls, while using Niagara on the ceiling? Image via abookabouthearchive on Pinterest, photo by Richard Bryant

What do you think about Pantone’s picks? Will you incorporate some Greenery in your home in the coming year? Let us know in the comments.

Modern holiday decorating

Holiday decorating doesn’t have to mean overstuffed Santas and green-and-red everything . . . for those of us who like to keep our Holiday scenes a bit more understated, here’s a roundup of some of the best modern holiday decorating out there.


Simple wreaths hung from a branch, via Simone Plehn on Pinterest


One giant wreath in the home of Tricia Foley, via Remodelista (photo by Marili Forastieri)


Bare lighted trees, via popsugar


Black, white and green centerpiece, via roomofkarma


Minimalist tree, via decor dots

Of course, Holiday decor does not need to be limited to black, white, and silver to be considered modern. Here are some more colorful ideas.


Bright modern decor, via poppytalk, via InsideOut magazine


Christmas ornaments arranged by color, via uotoronto’s instagram


A sweet modern mini-tree DIY via sugar and cloth


Neon colors bring holiday cheer, via Apartment Therapy

However you decorate, and whatever you celebrate, we hope your season is filled with peace and joy.

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.

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.

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.

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

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?