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.

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.

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 (

Photography by Open Homes Photography

Making a traditional house modern

Posted by Lauran; fabulous photography by Peter Lyons

Recently we staged two more traditional homes in Berkeley, both with original (unpainted) wood trim. The “to paint or not to paint wood trim” question pops up often in the design world. While white painted trim really brightens up a space, we understand why some people prefer to leave the wood unpainted, especially when it’s in great condition.

The trade-off for the beautiful wood is that it often makes the house feel darker and more traditional. We were brought in specifically to make these homes more modern, lighter and brighter—to show buyers that a home with a lot of traditional wood trim and paneling can still be decorated in a more current way.

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We rely on two primary techniques to “modernize” traditional homes: color and clean lined furniture. In the photo above from the house on Colusa street, you can see how the colorful striped entry rug brings a playful, happy sense to the space as soon as you walk in the door.

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Throughout the lower floor of the home, the bright colors from the entry rug continue in the artwork, pillows, accessories and especially the chartreuse dining room chairs. These carefully placed colors combine with the white painted walls around the trim to lighten the home.

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In addition to the colors, we used iconic mid-century pieces, such as the Egg Chair (above) and the Eames Shell dining chairs, to provide a modern contrast to the wood trim and leaded glass windows.

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Note the simple, clean-lined dining room table we paired with the Eames chairs, as well as the ultra-modern bar stools we used for the kitchen nook.

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In the little sitting room that leads out to the deck we placed a love seat, which features the color and the clean lines, as well as a pair of modern global basket tables. This is a combination you wouldn’t expect to find in this type of home.

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The master and guest rooms had the trim painted white already. We added area rugs to freshen up the wall-to-wall carpeting.

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We also chose modern outdoor furniture to add a hipper vibe to the front porch.

The second traditional home we staged was on 66th street.

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Again, the white painted walls in the entryway helped to set a brighter tone against the wood trim, as did the gold rug, colorful artwork, and pillows.

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A very modern butterfly chair, the iconic Noguchi table and a new CB2 rug bring a fresh perspective to the living room.

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This particular dining room had floor-to-ceiling wood paneling on two walls, so we chose very simple and clean dining room table and chairs to tone down the formality.

These two homes show that modern furniture and accessories can breathe new life into a more traditional space.

Hip new modern home

Posted by Lauran

Over the last couple of months, we’ve staged some cool mid-century modern homes and featured them on the blog. Today I want to share a newly constructed modern home located in West Oakland.


This is one of two side-by-side homes designed by local architect Matt Baran. Both stand next to old Victorians that are prevalent in the area. The curb appeal is stunning due to the yellow door, rustic wood facade and huge palm tree.


When you enter the yellow door, you can see straight through to the back of the house, past the stairwell, a sitting area, the dining area, and the living room.

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The open plan main floor is punctuated by plenty of windows that let light in to bounce off the white walls and wood floors. We brought in color through artwork and accessories.


Downstairs, a large landing leads to the guest room, kid’s room, master suite, and a sweet courtyard.




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The master suite includes a nice bathroom and sliding doors leading to a small yard.

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We loved staging this home—the clean lines and open space allowed us to have fun with accessories, art and furnishings.

Fantastic photography by Peter Lyons

We are proud to feature art from AMiguel, Harry Gruenert, Audrey Kral, Shawn Shawn, and Kristen Jensen throughout this home.

New sources for modern furniture

Posted by Lauran

We are always on the lookout for great places to buy modern furniture. DWR is the top choice if you are looking for authentic, iconic mid-century pieces. But if you’re searching for modern furniture that reflects today’s trends, it can be tricky to find unique items. Here are three sources to try.

First up: Blu Dot. Although Blu Dot is not exactly new on the design scene, they have greatly increased their product assortment to include beds, accessories and lighting.

Blu Dot color

Blu Dot is known for simple lines, cool colors and interesting shapes.

Blu Dot sectional

Their Cleon Sectional Sofa can be situated in many ways so it can change as your needs change.

Blu Dot sofa

Blu Dot is famous for their metal Hot Mesh collection , but they also offer beautiful solid wood pieces, such as the Turn Coffee Table and Turn Low Side table, shown above.

Next: Modify Furniture, a new product line of powder-coated aluminum-frame pieces.

mod cabinets 1

Modify’s furniture features removable sliding panel doors that are offered in any combination of colors that are easily swappable. They can even produce a custom piece for you using your own original artwork.

modify 2

I could see this piece being used as an entertainment console in a living room or a cool credenza in a dining room. They also make a desk and small storage carts. For more information about Modify, check out their site.

And, if you live in the Bay Area, I encourage you to check out the new store SOBU in Rockridge.

sobu front

The Oakland-based designers and owners of SOBU dreamed of designing “modern, heirloom-quality furniture and accessories with personality and warmth”.

sobu bookshelves

A recent visit showed us that they are doing just that. We loved the pillows and accessories, as well as the cool original furniture.

sobu credenza

sobu shelves

If you’re not in the Bay Area, don’t fret! You can shop Sobu online too! Check out the Reclaimed Teak Rocker and the Indio Lounge and Ottoman—two of my personal favorites.

Where do you like to buy furniture? Leave a comment and let us know.

Mid-century living in the Berkeley Hills

We recently had the opportunity to stage a special home in the Berkeley Hills. It is a true mid-century gem, and we furnished and styled it accordingly.






Note the wood panel walls, ceiling beams, and brick fireplace—details indicative of a home from this era.


The family room (shown above) also features grasscloth wallpaper—which is back in style!



This home has spectacular views of the Bay and Golden Gate Bridge from the living room and front bedroom, which we staged as an office.



A sweet outdoor patio is great for entertaining, and a raised grass area is a nice place to take in the view.


Click here for more information on this house.

Photography by Open Homes Photography

A modern soon-to-be-teen room

Posted by Lauran

One lucky 12-year-old named Aidan recently got to work with our senior designer Lauren to revamp his entire bedroom. The result? A sophisticated, modern space that is more befitting a soon-to-be-teen.

Aiden after 1

Aidan’s previous decor—light blue walls, a bunk bed, and a white Ikea storage unit—worked well for him during elementary school.

Aiden before 2

Aiden before 4

But Aidan was ready for something new. “He had just outgrown his current space,” says Lauren.

Lauren’s first goal for the design was to make sure it fit Aidan’s specific needs and interests. “This kid is a mini-genius and an architect of some sort in the making,” Lauren explained. He loves to build models and complicated Lego creations, and he also has a massive Hot Wheels collection. Aidan’s parents’ goals were pretty simple:  “to just make sure his room looked tidy, modern, and was functional for all of Aidan’s interests, using long-lasting furniture that will grow with him.” Lauren’s solution was to make one designated area for model making and a separate designated area for homework.

Aiden after 2

Here we see Aidan’s model-making table and bookshelves from Room and Board. His Hot Wheels collection is displayed on the walls, while his other models and creations have plenty of room to live comfortably on the shelves.

Aiden after 3

His homework space is over in a “quieter” corner of the room, featuring a desk and file cabinet from CB2 and a cool chair from All Modern.

The color palette may be a bit unusual, but it works for the room, especially because it receives lots of natural light. “Black is modern and masculine,” explains Lauren. “And I knew his maple furniture and colorful collections would really pop against the black.” The medium gray on the coved ceiling accentuates this architectural detail.

Aiden after 4

Aidan’s new upholstered storage bed from Room and Board gives him more room to stash his stuff, as does the tall dresser. A few of his model airplanes are fun decor for the room.

Lauren especially enjoyed styling the room after all the furniture had been delivered. ” One day while Aidan was at school, I came in and sorted through all of his collections (Hot Wheels, Lego models—airplanes, cars, buildings, ships & people, and Papertoy Monsters),” says Lauren.  “I organized the Hot Wheels by labels, then by TV series and Movies on the floor, measured the distances around his desk, and hung them on the black wall.”

Aiden collections before

The Hot Wheels organization in progress!

Aidan and his parents are thrilled with the end result. As Aidan puts it, “My old bedroom was such a clutter of random ‘nik-naks’ and furniture that didn’t match. I love my two new chairs, my new hobby workbench, and overall I just love my beautiful new bedroom so, so, so very much!”

Now that’s the kind of customer feedback we love so, so, so very much!

Noe Valley home with spectacular SF views

Posted by Lauran

Lauren and Jill recently completed a decorating project for a delightful couple, Tom and Lisa, who purchased an incredible modern home in SF’s Noe Valley at the end of last year.

Tom and Lisa

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The living room features the Camber sofa in white leather from DWR, as well as Otis swivel chairs, Union cocktail table, and Float wall shelves, all from Room and Board. “The fireplace was  covered in a very cool, but dark, tile,” explains Lauren. “We chose to hang a large original painting from Harry Gruenert to brighten up this focal point of the room.”

“One of the best parts of this project was styling their floating shelves, credenzas and bookshelves with artifacts and mementos Tom and Lisa have collected over the years,” says Jill. “People don’t realize how fabulous their own collectibles can look until they are grouped together and styled to highlight color, size and texture.”

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In the large master bedroom, the couple’s bed is topped with a duvet cover from Restoration Hardware and a John Robshaw lumbar pillow (purchased from Anthropologie). The Sivas rug from Room and Board picks up the teal from the two Crate and Barrel pillows.

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Tom and Lisa hired California Closets to build custom storage along one wall. We chose the Jasper Studio Sofa from Room and Board as a luxurious place for the couple to sit while they put on their shoes!

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In the home office, the Mason Glasstop Desk from William Sonoma reflects the light from outside, and the West Elm safari rug (no longer available) adds just the right touch of whimsy to the room. The built-in bookshelves offer plenty of storage and opportunity for showing off more artwork and artifacts. (I just have to wonder, though—with views like this, who could get any work done?)

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The home office features this sitting area in addition to the work area, both of which include sliding glass doors that lead out to the spacious outdoor deck.

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This stunning wrap-around outdoor entertaining space features clear railings for an unobstructed view of the City. The Dockside Dining table (no longer available) and Rex chairs, Acapulco Lounge Chairs, and Java Sectional, chairs and ottoman, outdoor pillows, and green Wire coffee table are all from CB2.

“This was such a fun project, and we’re sorry to see it end,” concludes Lauren. “Tom and Lisa have great taste and weren’t afraid of color—just two of the things we loved about working with them!”

5 fresh design ideas from a West Oakland Victorian

A renovated Victorian in West Oakland that we just staged offers some out-of-the-ordinary design choices. Read on for inspiration . . .

Vivid color palette

Victorian gold door

We used bold colors in paint and accessories, from the vibrant gold front door . . .

mag entry

. . . to the bright striped entry rug and colorful paintings by Kristen Jensen . . .

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. . . to the bright pops of purple, orange, pink and royal blue used in our pillows, poufs and artwork throughout the rest of the house.

mag guest room

painting on left by amiguel; painting on right by Kristen Jensen

Living room accents

artwork by Harry Gruenert

White brick backsplash

modern white kitchen

white brick backsplash

Instead of the typical white subway tile you see everywhere, the developer chose to use white brick tile. We love the mix of the rustic-feeling “painted brick” with the sleek stainless appliances and marble countertops.

Black kitchen hardware

black kitchen hardware

black faucet

Another unique touch in the kitchen is the use of black pulls, knobs and faucet. The matte black is a welcome alternative to nickel, chrome or brass.

Mixed seating in dining room

mixed dining room seating

We chose to feature a mix of white chairs and two of the new Sinnerlig stools from Ikea. The interesting blend of white, wood, gray, black and cork is echoed in the adjoining kitchen materials.

Dimensional bathroom vanity mirrors

mag round mirror

mag master bath

In all three of the bathrooms, the developer installed vanity mirrors that have dimensional depth to them. The bottom of the rectangular version seen above can also function as a shelf.

When decorating your home, don’t overlook the details (like hardware, mirrors and bold color combinations) that can make your space look and feel uniquely yours.

This house is for sale! Contact Daniel Winkler for more information!