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.

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.

862 Wood St 11



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.




862 Wood St 05

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

862 Wood 22

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.

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.

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!

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.

IMG_3498 copy

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.


Lighten up! (Your home, that is)

We recently worked with a couple who were putting their house on the market. Following advice from their wise real estate agent and their own good design instincts, they made several key changes that transformed the house from “dark 1960s”  to “bright mid-century”.

Eastwood LR2

Eastwood LR1

Hard to believe this light and bright living room once looked like this:

LR before

The key differences here?

1. Covering the outdated flagstone fireplace and hearth with plaster and concrete.

2. Lots of white paint.

3. Replacing wall-to-wall carpets with gleaming light hardwood floors.

These investments in the home completely altered this room. The owners also painted the ceiling beams white, calling attention to the beautiful pitched roofline.

Eastwood LR to DR

The Dining Room also benefitted from a fresh coat of pale gray paint and the same hardwood floors — plus a new classic Nelson bubble pendant!

Eastwood DR

The house already had a gourmet kitchen, but a few touches (refinishing the floor and the butcher block counters) made a big difference.

Eastwood kitchen

Light and bright paint colors freshened up the bedrooms too. We chose Breath of Fresh Air (Benjamin Moore’s 2014 color of the year) for the kid’s room . . .

Eastwood kids

… and Pale Sea Mist for the office.

Eastwood office

In the master bedroom, the couple had struggled to find the right paint color, as evidenced by the paint patches in this “before” photo.

master before

We chose Van Alen Green for the accent wall, White Dove for the other walls, and removed the heavy window coverings to shed more light into this spacious room.

Eastwood master1 Eastwood master2

The homeowners had recently landscaped the multi-tiered backyard to create different zones for dining, play and relaxing. A good power wash, new plants and mulch, and bright pillows were the finishing touches it needed to really shine.

Eastwood backyard

Needless to say, this house (which is now on the market) has received a ton of interest and the owners are expecting multiple offers.

Love how this house looks? You don’t have to wait until selling to lighten up your space! The changes the owners made—painting walls in white and other light colors, adding/refinishing wood floors in a lighter finish—have lasting value. Why not enjoy them while you live in your home?

Photography by Peter Lyons

Interested in this home? Contact Deidre Joyner.