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

Original local art highlights a mid-century masterpiece

Posted by Lauran

Perched way up in the Berkeley Hills, 10 Atlas Place is a spectacular mid-century home designed in the 1960s by J.H. Ostwald, featuring his hallmark combination of woodsy and modern elements. We were delighted to stage this spacious home last week, which gave us the opportunity to feature a few local artists on walls and shelves throughout. Allow us to show you around!


You enter the home through this stunning foyer, complete with a huge skylight, wooden mid-century sculpture, and pebbled floor. We hung this painting by Harry Gruenert as a perfect complement to the space.



As you walk through the foyer, you come to the living room, featuring gorgeous wood beams, a brick fireplace and windows looking out onto views of the bay and two bridges! On the shelves on either side of the fireplace we chose soothing abstracts from Audrey Kral, while two more of Harry’s paintings face each other on the living room walls.

We filled the bookshelves with books (of course) and many original ceramic pieces by Deborah Carlin (djc5@comcast.net). We love the organic nature and colors in her work.


The dining room also showcases the million-dollar views!


Next to the dining room is the kitchen, which was updated with new gray porcelain tile flooring and white quartz countertops. We love the original cabinets and built-in shelves and desk area.



From the kitchen you enter a playroom/lounge area, where we showcased more paintings from Audrey.


To the left of this room are a bathroom and two more rooms, staged as a kid’s room and an office.


The playful prints above the kid’s bed are from artist Mati Rose McDonough.


The light green abstract above the desk is by artist Diane McGauley.

Also on the main floor is the master suite, tucked away for privacy and separation from the rest of the home.


That’s an original piece by artist AMiguel hanging over the master bed. And check out the built-in library shelves!


Directly outside of the master suite is one of several decks that overlook the hills and the bay.


Back in the dining room, you go down a very cool circular staircase to the lower floor of the home, where a huge family room, guest suite, and wine cellar await you.


In the guest suite, we hung two more colorful paintings by AMiguel.



Next to the guest suite, the family room features a groovy built-in bar area that leads out to the lower decks.


Don’t you love the super-mod built-in sofa in the family room? Two more abstract paintings from Harry were just the right match for the vibe and the colors in the room.



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This wouldn’t be a complete tour if we didn’t show you the outside of the home too. It includes several levels for lounging, a fire pit, and a pool!



We had fun staging the cabana as a boho-lounge.

If you want to see this one-of-a-kind home in person (and who wouldn’t?), it’s open this weekend (4/9 & 4/10). For more information check out the video or contact agent Linnette Edwards!

Spectacular photography by Peter Lyons

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 lilreddotfolks.com

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 mintedArt.com 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.

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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!

Speed decorating: beach house edition

Posted by Lauran

A couple of months ago we got a call from one of our favorite clients. We’ve worked with him twice before (on his SF home and his office lounge) and we couldn’t wait to hear about his latest project. Turns out he purchased a home in Malibu, and was in the process of renovating every room in the house. He planned to use it as a vacation home and an airbnb rental. It would be ready in a month . . . could we have it decorated in time for a family party one week later?

That meant sourcing, installing and styling all the big stuff (furniture, accessories, artwork) and the small stuff (towels, sheets, kitchenware, etc.) in a matter of five weeks. Without seeing the place (working from photos, videos and drawings). And finding items that were in stock and ready to ship—and that fit within the client’s budget. And then Jill and Lauren spending Memorial Day weekend in Malibu to install and style. A challenge for sure, but nothing we couldn’t handle.

Our client told us he wanted “a comfortable California modern feel, with colors inspired by the beach.” We (and the client!) are pretty darn happy with how it turned out . . .

The palette of white, navy, and aqua combined with citrus brights and natural wood sets a relaxed, beachy vibe.

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IMG_3503 copy

White leather on the generous sofa (a floor sample from Ana Furniture in SF) and Eames-inspired chair is surprisingly easy to clean. Lauren highly recommends this Transit Bench from Gus Modern—”it is beautiful and very easy to put together!”


The Pines indoor/outdoor rug from CB2 picks up the gray in the kitchen cabinets and is simple to maintain.


The dining room features the Vines Wool rug from West Elm, the Boerum table and bench from West Elm, and Modway Flare chairs from AllModern.



The pattern on the rug and chair backs give the illusion of flowing water, like the nearby ocean. Artist amiguel (a Visual Jill favorite) hit it out of the park with the commissioned pieces he painted for the house.

malibu mirror

Touches of driftwood (like on this amazing Seaside mirror from AllModern) were a natural fit.

The color palette carried through into the master, the guest, and the bunkbed room.




Upon arriving to style the house, Jill and Lauren’s first priorities were to assemble the beds so they had somewhere to sleep that night! The bunkbed from Amazon sleeps three (a twin on top and double on the bottom)—ideal for a vacation rental.

Sure, there were a few snafus along the way . . . items that didn’t ship on time, bed slats that didn’t arrive (thanks to our client’s construction crew for helping us with that one!) . . . but in the end it all came together.


Two stunning historical lofts

Posted by Lauran

I’ve always dreamed of living “the loft life”—tons of open space, big windows, and light. Lucky for me, we get to stage and decorate a fair number of them so I can get my fix.

In April we staged two cool East Bay lofts—each with a unique history. First up, a unit in Oak Park Studios,  formerly the Oakland Edison Elementary School built in 1926. It was converted to condos in the late 1980s.

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schoolhouse LR2 smaller

We love that the original first grade chalkboard was left in tact.

schoolhouse chalkboard smaller

schoolhouse DR smaller

The bedroom suite is located down a fun spiral staircase . . .

schoolhouse bedroom smaller

. . . and it’s much more than a bedroom. It includes a sitting area, office space, and a dressing room area (not to mention a fabulous custom bathroom).

schoolhouse lounge smaller

schoolhouse dressing room smaller

The unit includes a charming outdoor patio right off the living room, as well as a detached workshop with high ceilings.

schoolhouse outdoor smaller

This schoolhouse loft went into contract just two weeks after the first open house!

The second loft we staged is open this Sunday, May 10. It’s in the Besler Building in Emeryville, one of the very first live/work loft projects in the Bay Area.

Harlan loft LR Loft3

Harlan loft bedroom

As you can see, this is more of a “New York” style loft, with visible pipes and columns and tall steel windows.

Loft7 Loft13

We separated the open floor plan into several different spaces (living room, dining room, bedroom, office, dressing room), using rugs and artwork to anchor each one.

Harlan loft office

Lofts are some of our favorite spaces to decorate, because you can completely change the feel and layout by simply moving furniture around. The flexibility means you’ll never get tired of your home. What do you think of lofts? Tell us in the comments section.

Photography credits:

Schoolhouse loft photos by Natacha Nay

Emeryville loft photos by Liz Rusby

Super-cool modern house

We are in love with a brand new house we staged last week. Located in the hip NOBE area of Oakland, this beautiful blue modern masterpiece has a great floor plan and a covetable roof deck.

41st exterior

41st LR alt

DR to LR

DR to kitchen




The house features two great areas to relax outdoors . . . a backyard complete with folding glass doors from the living space . . .

back yard

And a roof deck perfect for sipping a cocktail and watching the sunset!

roof deck

Photography by Mitchell Webb

Developed by BloomHomes

Contact Robin Donovan from Marvin Gardens for more information! 


Adding color to all-white rooms

We just finished staging a renovated Oakland home. Unlike many of the homes we stage and decorate, every single room in this house has white walls. Because the agent selling the home is a “color minimalist”, there was not a single green, blue or yellow accent wall to be seen. Our challenge was to bring in color through accessories, artwork, and even some furniture. Here’s what we did.

Montell LR-Mel O.-©

The beautiful painting by Amiguel set the orange and blue color scheme for the living room.

montell DR-Mel O.-©

Because the living room with its orange and blue highlights flows directly into the dining space, we chose to stick to neutrals with our table, chairs, rug and artwork in this room.

Montell FR-Mel O.-©

But in the downstairs family room, it’s all about the turquoise on the Ikea sofa trim and CB2 rug. Hits of yellow also brighten the space.

Montell office-Mel O.-©

We had fun with multiple colors in the office, inspired by the variation in the vibrant original diptych by artist Mel.O. Note how the solid pillow and white desk keeps the room from being too frenetic.

Montell master-Mel O.-©

We chose to use a simple white duvet in the master bedroom so we could feature the orange, blue and orchid colors in the rest of the room.

IMG_9086-Mel O.-©

The cooler tones of green and blue in the guest room furnishings are also well-represented in the mixed-media piece by Amiguel.

The great thing about neutral walls (white and light gray are our favorites) is that you can completely alter the feeling of the room with a simple change of the rug or bedding.

All photography by Mel O.