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

A sweet Oakland bungalow

This week we staged a sweet bungalow in the Mills College area of Oakland. We used a palette of soft blues, greens and grays to bring out the best in the home.

5721 Roberts Ave (14)-X3

The entryway is painted Yarmouth Blue, which shows off the charming white trim and hall closets.

5721 Roberts Ave (6)-X3

The living room features bold artwork and bright pillows.

5721 Roberts Ave (10)-X3

5721 Roberts Ave (12)-X3

In the photo above you can see into the dining room, painted Coventry Gray, which picks up the grays in the living room’s furniture, artwork and rug.

5721 Roberts Ave (18)-X3

The dining room flows into the cottage kitchen.

5721 Roberts Ave (38)-X3

We staged the breakfast nook as an office, painted a fresh green (Nob Hill Sage) to blend in with the existing floor.

5721 Roberts Ave (39)-X3

The office looks out to the charming backyard.

5721 Roberts Ave (43)-X3

The master bedroom is also Yarmouth Blue—a restful, peaceful color.

5721 Roberts Ave (27)-X3

The second bedroom is staged as a kid’s room. We added colorful accents to contrast against the gray and white walls.

5721 Roberts Ave (23)-X3

Although the home is small, it is loaded with charm and character. We predict it will sell right away! For information, contact Lesly Flynn.

Photography by Christian Klugmann.

New living room—and fireplace—for SF couple

Rosemary and David are a fun-loving, interesting San Francisco couple who have traveled the world. They called us last Fall when they decided that their home, which had not been updated in many years, no longer reflected their tastes and style. Oh, and they recently added a family member—Mojo the poodle—who needed to be included in the design plan.

The biggest changes were in their living room—here is how it turned out, complete with new fireplace and furniture.

IMG_1627 new

And here’s how the living room looked when Jill and Lauren first saw it. The colors and style definitely needed to be freshened up.

before 2

Luckily, Rosemary and David had a few key pieces to work with (a mid-century bench and credenza from David’s parents, side tables, a cool dining room pendant light, media cabinet and lamps). We took our color inspiration from their amazing artwork that they collected during their travels, bringing out the rich blues and oranges mixed with neutrals.

IMG_1614 new

IMG_1634 new

We love how the new American Leather sectional from Ironhorse Design Center emphasizes the home’s gorgeous corner window. Check out that view! The new gray leather Eames-inspired lounge chair and Noguchi reproduction coffee table are from RoveConcepts. We chose leather for both pieces because it wears well and cleans easily—very important with Mojo in the mix.

In the dining room, it was time to “get the red out” and bring in a more soothing palette. Here’s the “before”:

before 3

And the “after.” We again emphasized the cobalt blue in the existing pendant through the blue zebra striped West Elm rug. We also helped Rosemary and David choose new fabric covers for their existing chairs—a great way to “neutralize” what they already had.

after_dining room 2

Now let’s talk about the fireplace. Using some of our favorite Heath tiles (Crease In/Crease Out), Lauren designed a simple, modern fireplace surround, hearth and custom wood mantle.

Here’s her original drawing and rendering:

Fireplace_3x3 Hearth 1

FIREPLACE 3 rendered

And the final outcome!


The couple were thrilled that they got exactly what they expected!

Lauren and Jill had fun styling the mid-century credenza and West Elm bar cart and shelf. They took special care in hanging and arranging Rosemary and David’s  eclectic artwork so that it is all showcased appropriately.

IMG_1654 new

IMG_1623 new

Additional sources: Pillows, West Elm and All Modern; Living Room rug, Crate & Barrel.

Blues, grays and . . . orange!

We recently staged a lovely renovated home that reminds us of a Scandinavian farmhouse. From the all-white/cream exterior, to the barn wood porch, to the soft colors used inside, it feels like it could be located on a rural farm in Sweden—instead of on an urban street in Oakland!



46 DR

The walls in the living room and dining room are painted a soft gray called Moonshine (I love that name!). We stuck to blues, whites and grays in our decor for these rooms. The master bedroom, office and guest rooms also feature light blues, from aqua to more of a periwinkle blue.

46 master

46 office

46 guest

But when we moved into the family room, we had a little fun by adding something unexpected—orange!

46 FR

We carried the orange accent color into the stairway and the finished attic, which we dubbed “the playroom.”


46 attic

It’s always a good idea to inject one bold color into your home’s palette. Orange is the perfect complement to blue (they are opposites on the color wheel), and is especially relevant during autumn months. What’s your favorite bold accent color? Let us know in the comments below.

All photography courtesy of John Hayes