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.


Trend report: best 2015-2016 design ideas

Posted by Lauran

As 2015 draws to a close, we take a look at our favorite design ideas and trends that are leading us into 2016.

Black metal

Matte black metal is showing up everywhere, from black stainless steel kitchen appliances to black cabinet hardware. A good example: Ikea’s new Sinnerlig collection combines black metal legs with cork for a cool modern look.


Elaborate decorative tile

Encaustic and/or cement tile, often from Morocco and Cuba, took center stage on attention-grabbing floors and backsplashes.

tile backsplash

image via apartment therapy

bathroom tile floor

image via

Closer to home, the Bay Area’s own Heath tile offers a robust collection of textural and dimensional handmade tile that is anything but ordinary.


Fireplace designed by Visual Jill, using Heath’s Crease tile

Quartz products that look like marble

People love the look of marble in the kitchen, but the upkeep is a chore. Enter a new product that combines the look of marble with the easy maintenance of quartz. It’s a great way to add a little interest to an otherwise all-white kitchen.


Caesarstone’s Statuario Nuvo

 Accessible artwork

I believe in buying the best art you can afford. Luckily, it’s now easier than ever to find high-quality artwork (original or reproductions) to fit any budget.

zatista copy

Zatista is a wonderful resource for original art. You can search by price, color, medium, and style.

Of course, etsy is always a great place to look for handmade paintings, photography and other artwork. Other good bets are and Society 6. Most of these resources offer custom framing services as well.


White is seeing a major resurgence as the freshest neutral around. Whether layered with other soft colors such as light gray or blush, or color blocked against brights such as orange or navy, white is right—right now.

Benjamin Moore has chosen Simply White OC-117 as their 2016 Color of the Year.

BM white

image via Benjamin Moore

According to the paint company, “. . . the interplay of whites and light creates nuance and subtle beauty.” We couldn’t agree more.

Blues and pinks

Medium-tone blues and blush pinks are also hot on the color spectrum, as evidenced by Pantone’s colors of the year.

mag guest room

In a recent staging project (pictured above),  we combined blue walls (Benjamin Moore’s Winter Lake) with touches of pink, black and white for a modern take on this color trend.

Otomi prints

This whimsical Mexican pattern is showing up in pillows, table textiles and wallpaper.

otomi copy

Otomi wallpaper from Hygge & West


Move over, cute little Donkey’s Tail succulents. Your prickly relative the cactus has become the favorite design plant of late. Cactus are high style and low maintenance—the ideal combination.


image from The Jungalow

Decorating with a conscience

While global decor has been popular for a few years (think moroccan rugs, African baskets, textiles from Latin America, etc.), a number of online shops have emerged that give a portion of their profits from the sale of these goods back to the countries (and people) that made them. All Across Africa sells baskets made in rural African communities, allowing artisans to gain a permanent income. And Connected Goods sells artisanal Fair Trade items from developing countries, such as this Kantha Stitch Butterfly chair made by artisans in Kashmir, India.


Tidying up for peace of mind

This was the year of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up“, a book and philosophy that focuses on keeping and living with only what you love, and letting go of everything else.


We see this as a design trend as well as a lifestyle choice. While it might seem that decorating your house will lead to buying more stuff and adding clutter, we believe the opposite is true. Once you’ve eliminated everything unnecessary in your home, good design will showcase the treasures you kept via well-styled shelves, properly hung artwork, etc.

diamond bookshelves

For example, in this decorating project, we helped our clients curate and display their beloved books and mementos from their world travels.

What trends did you love in 2015? What do you hope for in 2016? Tell us in the comments below. Oh, and Happy New Year!

Flexible furniture: modern puzzle pieces

Posted by Lauran

This week Jill and Lauren visited the Arkitektura showroom in San Francisco, and were struck by the many examples of flexible, modular furniture pieces.

mod 2

These pieces blur the lines between tables and seating, and sofas and lounges.

mod 4

The large flat ottoman shown here can be used alone as a table, or it can be tucked under the smaller metal table to offer different levels and textures. And the sectional itself is completely flexible—the pieces can be taken apart and put back together to form just the right configuration for each use or space.

mod 5

Here again, a smaller ottoman is partnered with a round glass table. The ottoman can be pulled up to the table as extra seating, or moved closer to the sofa for a footrest (and the two together just look cool!). Note also the different levels of side tables next to the sectional.

mod 1

Another example of the ottoman/table combo, with a small, moveable and useful side table perfect for holding a snack or a laptop!

Most of the items shown here are from European designers, but I’ve noticed this trend of multi-functional furniture from US retailers as well.


The new SAIC Deep Dish Table from CB2 also comes with two cushions that fit under the table. It’s a coffee table, extra seating, and a stand-alone casual dining set all in one!


Lovesac offers what they call “sactionals”, made up of base pieces and side pieces that can be combined into hundreds of different configurations. Not only are they flexible, but convenient—easy to move up stairs or around tight corners, and they require no tools to assemble!

We like this trend of furniture that can change as your life changes, or even as your week changes! What do you think?

Artisan-made Mother’s Day gift guide

Posted by Lauran

News flash: Mother’s Day is next Sunday, May 10. Need a well-designed gift that’s just as special as your Mom? Look no further—we’ve put together a gift guide exclusively featuring items sold on etsy, the online marketplace for independent artists.


For the Mom who loves her kitchen, may we suggest 1) Whale Shaped Cutting Board from Manchester Woodcraft, $27.50; 2) Aqua Pot Holder from TwiggyandOpal, $29; 3) Floral Melody Watercolor Tea Towel from YaoChengDesign, $32.


If your Mom loves the great outdoors, one of these gifts might be just right for her: 1) From the Garden Canvas Chart from littlelow, $52; 2) Modern Faux Grain Birdhouse from Hubler Furniture, $34; 3) Boxcar Succulent Planter from Revolution DH, $70.

techsavvyMaybe your Mom is up on all the new gadgets and apps. For her, try one of these: 1) Wood Flash Drive from sonofasailorSupply, $36; 2) iPhone Acoustic Speaker Dock from SpeakerBlock, $34; 3) iPad Mini Sleeve from byrdandbelle; $52.

organizedAnd for the Mom whose favorite motto is “a place for everything and everything in its place”: 1) Small Light Rainy Day Bucket from jennarosehandmade, $38.63; 2) Pair of Small White African Baskets from Swahili Modern, $32; 3) Waxed Canvas Wallet by Red House Inc., $28.

Modern organizing for the new year

Posted by Lauran

I have to admit that I totally buy-in to all the hype around the New Year. I love making resolutions, taking stock of the past year, and starting fresh. And nothing says “starting fresh” like re-organizing! I thought I’d share some of the coolest products and ideas I’ve found that can help solve your organization problems—with modern style.

If your closets are too small . . .

coat rack

This coat rack is beautiful enough to leave out in your bedroom, entryway, or anywhere else you need more hanging space. Toj Coatrack from All Modern Outlet, $374, found via Remodelista


With this unique rod, any corner of any room can become additional hanging space! I love the color combo too. CB2 Corner Hanging Rod, $39.99

If you have stacks of paper laying around . . .

file cab copy

Filing those bills and invoices away will be much more fun when you put them in this bright cabinet! It also comes in many other smile-inducing colors. Poppin West 18th File Cabinet, $229

If you’re tired of you Ikea bookcases . . . (not that there’s anything wrong with Ikea!) . . .


I’m in love with this happy new Colorblock Bookcase from CB2. It would raise the style quotient of anything you choose to display on it.

If  little kitchen or office stuff is driving you crazy . . .

painted brackets

Move your jars, canisters or plants off of your counters and onto some out-of-the-ordinary shelves. Try this simple idea from Apartment Therapy: spray paint plain old hardware store brackets to bring color and personality to your room.

modern peg board

Or, if your New Year’s resolutions include upping your DYI skills, try making this modern peg board system, also from Apartment Therapy.

What are you planning to re-organize in 2015? Tell us in the comments below!



Hip hostess gifts for design lovers

It’s that time of year! For the next several weeks, people open their doors to friends and family—chances are you’ll be invited to at least one get-together. Your mom taught you to never arrive at a party empty-handed, so this season think beyond a bottle of wine or a bouquet of flowers. Here are some fun ideas to give your hostess, no matter what type of entertainer she or he is.

For the Gourmet Cook


fall spoons copy

This set of spoons will make stirring her ingredients so much more colorful! From World Market, $14.97 for three.

For the Tea Party-Giver


These are coated with silicon and will look great on an open shelf. From CB2, $9.95-$24.95.

For the Hostess with a Black Thumb


Give her this cool vase filled with an indestructible air plant. From CorPottery on etsy, $30.

For the Cocktail Party Specialist

burlap coaster

These monogrammed jute coasters come in their own little bag. From World Market, $9.99.

For the Design-Savvy Hostess


These gorgeous napkins show off the geometric print trend. From Avrilloreti on etsy, $25 for two.

For the Baker

baking molds

Who wouldn’t love these hot pink baker molds coming out of their oven? From Ikea, $9.99 for the pair.

For the Newlywed Hosts

bamboo coaster

These personalized bamboo coasters will help them spread the love when they entertain. From Woodbemine on etsy, $24 for four.

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!



Decorating ideas using Easter-egg colors

One of my favorite Spring rituals is dying and decorating Easter eggs. (Another favorite is hiding them and watching the joy on kids’ faces as they find them!) Even if you don’t celebrate Easter or the bunny, you can’t help but love the soft pastels of the season. Here are some ideas for incorporating these colors into your home.

Minimum commitment: Pillows & Accessories

Crewel circlet pillowCrewel Circlet Pillow: West Elm

mini planters

 Mini Planters by WindandWillowHome 

pastel triangle pillow

Pastel Triangle Pillow by Geometric Electric

intermingle art

Intermingle Print by Lindsay Megahed

Medium commitment: Small home furnishings


Pony Up Aqua Pouf: CB2


Magic Carpet: Land of Nod


Vettre Nightstand: Ikea


Precious Metal Nightstand: Land of Nod

Medium Commitment: Accent Wall


BM Light Pistachio


BM Wisteria

Bigger commitment: Furniture

club-spray-sofaClub Spray Sofa: CB2


Acapulco Chair: CB2