Spring Is the New New-Year’s (and It’s Not Over Yet!)

May 16th, 2017|

Spring is here in the Bay Area, with its cold gray days that send us back into our sweaters, and bright sunshiny days that make it feel like summer is already upon us, even though, technically-speaking, that season starts in late June, after the solstice.

Did you know that in certain cultures and traditions, Spring, not New Year’s Day, is the time of year for making resolutions?

Behind closed doors: It’s so beautiful, you’ll want to keep them open! Organization by Blisshaus. Photo credit: Wiebke Liu

If you think about it, this makes so much sense. In winter, we are really, on a biological level, drawn to hibernation. We snuggle up by the fire, layer ourselves in warm blankets, or possibly even a few extra, delicious holiday-food pounds. Our metabolism slows. The days are at their shortest.

In the winter, seeds lay dormant. Plants deepen their roots.

So, it’s hard to get up and go to the gym when your circadian rhythms are telling you to stay in bed and nurture yourself.

As the season turns to spring, the days lengthen, our spirits are bolstered by the sunlight. The seeds begin to sprout. Trees show off new growth, branches, leaves, flowers. We are ready to reach our tender selves towards the sky.

Plus, we get three months to create the change that we desire, rather than just one day.

Can you feel the lift of energy? What would you like to shift in your life?

Beautifully minimalist. Organization by Blisshaus. Photo credit: Vivian Johnson

Well, this is in part where the idea of Spring Cleaning comes from.

Before you default to the image of grabbing a bottle of spray cleaner and a rag, let’s enlarge, deepen, totally revise our definition of cleaning.

In fact, let’s go a little “woo.” I’m not going to recommend Feng Shui and candles. Unless you want me to. I’ve been accused of being a hippie in the past for having an interest in how energy moves in a space, and how that affects us. And, I’d like to state for the record that if you wish, you may call me the organic love-child of Coco Chanel and Marianne Williamson, with a dash of Dixie Chicks.

But, back to the “woo.”

The energy of winter is heavy, weighty. If we use the momentum of spring to move things around in our home, our furniture, art, objects, if we let go of what is no longer serving us or our spaces, we get UNBOUND.

Unbound energy is kinetic! Vibrant! It fuels us. That’s what we want, right? More resources to be and do and become our best selves.

When you think about it, there’s a parallel from self-care resolutions to your home’s health and wellbeing.

If you haven’t worked out, and aren’t being mindful about what you are putting into your body, well… imagine that your house feels the same way. From the big things, like deferring maintenance on the paint, windows, foundation, pipes, wiring, to the little old things that linger in back of a closet where they are not being used; these habits lead to stagnation.

If you were to treat your home like a temple (as our body as temple is the exalted state), ask yourself, what is my house calling for?

The Pinks of Spring: Does your home or your soul call for adoration and adornment? We love this vibrant bouquet from Wisteria Rockridge (as captured at The Wolf). Photo credit: Laura Martin Bovard

And in your living spaces, are there places that could lose some weight? I believe that less is more. Having higher quality items, and in most cases, fewer of them, gives us literally more room in our homes and in our heads.

Are you ready to do some home organizing and decluttering? Can you get rid of five things a week?

If you would like help, I highly recommend hiring an organizer. We have two that our firm collaborates with for our clients: Jen DiPrisco (ommmhome.com) mindfully and beautifully handles individual rooms and whole homes; and the amazing artful-storage genius, Wiebke Liu (blisshaus.com) will turn your kitchen cabinets, shelves, and pantries into galleries of creative and efficient containerization. NOTE: Both of these women were in high demand for decorator showcase (decoratorshowcase.org) this year, which continues through May 29, so you’d do well to call them now to get on their schedules.

What rituals of self-care and home care are you called to, this Spring? Share your thoughts with me at laura@lmbinteriors.com, or/and share photos of your #springresolution #resolutionrevolution #myhomeisatemple results on Instagram and tag @LMBInteriors.

A version of this article appeared in the Piedmont Post.

Designer VIP Tours Are a Thing (Part 1): The Ann Sacks Tile Experience

April 28th, 2017|

One of my favorite games to play is “If you really knew me, you would know…” with each person in a group revealing a piece of themselves. It’s a game we can play over and over, with new answers emerging each time.

If you really knew me, you would know that I am obsessed with things made by hand, or that show the hand of the maker.

Ann Sacks Tile: Details cut by hand. Photo by Rick McCormack via Instagram

And, I used to be a potter.

I started in college, throwing my own bowls. I used to bring sets of my handmade bowls to dinner parties as hostess gifts. In fact, when my sister Rebekah Martin got married to Rich Wood, I made the small, glazed pots, planted with succulents, that we gave as favors to each of the guests.

(I continue to love succulents, and beautiful pots for them, as you can see in these detail shots from our Tahoe Vacation Home project, below.)

So, you can imagine how deeply I enjoyed my recent factory tour with Ann Sacks tile, in Portland, Oregon.

Seeing how the tile was made, being around all that clay which is harvested and processed locally, spoke to my heart. The factory tour was part of a three-day event, with a group of designers flown in from all over the country and Canada.

Day 1: We were whisked to the Ann Sacks to-the-trade showroom, where we feasted our eyes on the gorgeous tiles and nibbled on small bites and sipped wine, as the president of the company, Ted Chappell, spoke about the brand and his vision.

The care and attention to detail that the company applies to the creation of its tile lines, from the higher-end hand-pressed and glazed (at $150 per square foot), to the thoughtfully-produced and curated more-affordable options, was similarly applied to the care and feeding of our group. Should you find yourself in Portland, I highly recommend everywhere we visited and ate, including the Green-certified hotel, the Nines, where we stayed, and the hotel restaurant, Departures, where we dined on our first night.

(The Nines was also hosting another important group; you may have heard of the Warriors? And yes, I did bump into Steve Kerr in the elevator. #FanGirl #KerrKrush #HellaHeartOakland.)

Day 2: We spent the day being educated — and entertained — at the architecturally-inspiring Sokol Blosser winery. Meals catered by Hunt and Gather. Dinner featured a course of octopus terrine, elegantly plated on a hexagonal, black marble tile.

The talks included a presentation on the trends to watch in 2017, including metal joints, mixing metals, graphic tile floors (like what LMB Interiors recently installed on the patio at The Wolf), and strong horizontal or vertical lines on tile walls.

I particularly love this movement towards replacing traditional grout with metal tile edging, used with reasonable restraint. For example, choosing to use it in a bathroom or in the kitchen, rather than throughout the whole house. It’s a great opportunity to add just the right amount of bling! We also attended a roundtable discussion, where the company asked us for feedback on their products, and how they could serve us and our clients better.

And, it goes without saying, we tasted the Sokol Blosser wines.

Day 3: We toured the factory. Seeing the clay being stamped, designs laser cut, glazes applied, visiting the robust and imposing giant kilns, including one named “Duane” for a beloved 30-year employee, gave us yet another perspective into the process.

Our parting gift? We hand-pressed and glazed our own coasters. #FullCircle.

All photos by Laura Martin Bovard unless otherwise noted.

A version of this article appeared in the Piedmont Post

Designing for Millennials: Striving to Slow Down and Connect

April 3rd, 2017|

In February, I had the opportunity to speak on a panel about the subject of Designing for Millennials, hosted by Artistic Tile. Part of a daylong event celebrating the design industry at the San Francisco Design Center, the panel included myself and my colleagues, Lizette Marie Bruckstein and Regan Baker. Moderated by Traditional Home magazine’s Senior Designer and Lifestyle Editor, Jenny Bradley Pfeffer. (Photo by Nikki Richter)

Because inquiring minds want to know: How do Millennials shop? What are their spending habits? And what elements or aspects of design intrigue them?

The trending definition of Millennials is anyone born in or after 1984. (For a succinct and entertaining, if also somewhat daunting discussion of the M-generation, see Simon Sinek’s popular talk, “The Millennial Question” on YouTube.)

As Sinek describes, this is a generation that has grown up with the concept that things happen quickly. Everything from conversations to shopping and shipping online. They are quite used to instant gratification. Their challenge is to slow down. Their achilles heels are patience, and depth of connection.

Regan Baker and Laura Martin Bovard connecting about millennials and design. (Photo credit: Nikki Richter)

Regarding their buying habits, what they are drawn to, this is a generation that wants things to be unique; they don’t care about brand names. This is the age of maker culture, by-hand, locally-sourced. And they care about the environment.

They make great clients for us for all these reasons; they have the same value system I do.

However, based on their experience of growing up with the Internet and instant-gratification technologies, they may need a fair amount of education about working with designers. They are accustomed to want-it-quick-and-now. Because they have access to everything — or at least they think they do — they may not realize that the design process, to be done well, takes time. And they may not know that higher-quality bespoke pieces are only available through the trade.

It takes time to infuse soul into an environment, a beautiful, welcoming space is created over time, with multiple layers that communicate well with each other.

Eco-Chic and Unique: A Sofa a Millennial — or anyone — might adore: Exemplifying the desires Millennials express, to be unique, to make a difference in the world, and also according to Sinek, to be comfortable, this custom-designed sofa in a condominium we designed in San Francisco’s Dogpatch District is made from eco-friendly materials including a cozy gray flannel cover that invites snuggling and napping. Photo credit: Ramona d’Viola.

Evidence of their buying habits: They want their homes to look different; they don’t want to see same thing in their house as in their friends’ houses, which is why retail design giants like Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware are currently struggling.

So, from an industry perspective, we are challenged to educate them about the practices of artisanal production, and the value of patience.

The good news about this generation is that they are eco-conscious; they are curious to learn the best way to “go green” with their purchases and choices. And they deeply care about the impact they have, in their careers and in their personal lives.

As Sinek points out, Facebook and Instagram have taught us all how to put on filters and present our best selves, but a deeply felt, soulful life is messy; and even online dating has taken away the risk humans used to take to be awkward with each other, to walk up to someone and say, “Hello.”

There is a desire, no matter what year you were born, to feel connected; to be authentic.

Ultimately, designing your home and designing your life is about creating and living from your heart. Because of the era of technology (and a few other things Sinek blames, including overly-praise-filled parenting, the concept of “participation medals,” and a corporate culture that prioritizes productivity over humanity) Millennials may need additional help navigating the necessarily meandering path to satisfaction in job, life and home.

Family room we designed for a Millennial-generation couple and their growing family, featuring eco-conscious and beautiful materials and colors, layered textures. From our portfolio, Hillsborough Haven. Photo by Eric Rorer.

As designers, we help with the home part. And that creates the haven from which all other tasks are possible, and to which we can retire to restore ourselves after a long, messy day of taking risks to become our best selves.

Laura, Queen of Walls: A Links Compendium

March 2nd, 2017|

We’ve been featuring walls in our conversations with you on our blog, and we’ve been featured other places regarding this topic as well.

A few thoughts on walls, and how to adorn them:

Our feelings about Gallery Walls and other design trends were captured in a recent interview for Frameology, an online framing service. Click here to read more: http://www.frameology.com/blog/7-interior-designers-on-investing-in-furniture-design-trends-and-wall-dcor

The above image from our client’s glam remodel shows how a gallery wall can be the best thing to happen to your kitchen.

Our opinion on painting your walls gray was featured in this article by Mary Jo Bolling, in Curbedhttp://www.curbed.com/2016/11/30/13769630/best-gray-paint

Just one post ago, we schooled you on decorative wall finishes (as we were schooled, a.k.a. from skeptics to believers): https://www.lmbinteriors.com/restaurant-design/decorative-wall-finishes-revelation-sponge-paint-stencil/

And rolling back through our archives, the info we gave you about wall coverings once upon a time is still relevant: https://www.lmbinteriors.com/interior-design/modern-wall-treatments-not-your-moms-wallpaper/

Decorative Wall Finishes: A Revelation in Sponge-Paint and Stencil

February 24th, 2017|

When we think of decorative wall painting, most of us will recall, with a shudder, the sponge-painting craze of the 1980s, or frustrating struggles with mis-aligned stencils.

But decorative finish work is so much more than that.


Decorative wall finish, mid-process: Applying layers of materials to the walls of The Wolf’s main dining room (photo by Annie May Johnston)

Up until my firm’s recent work designing for The Wolf, I have been very reluctant to suggest what might be called “faux” wall finishes to a client. I’ve seen enough of that type of work gone-badly in my early years as a designer, in both “before” and “after” scenarios, that I was nearly scarred for life.

To be sure, there are many options for creating texture and pattern on wall. Wallpapers, tile, etc. However, The Wolf project called for something different, something artisanal, that has the feel of by-hand — yet definitely not DIY.

Enter Charles Leonard.

Charlie is an artist. Not just in regards to decorative finishes, including applications that trick the eye like “faux bois” (fake wood), faux marble, and stencil work, but also quite literally. An art school graduate with a degree in painting and drawing, he actively pursues his passion, spending time in his studio daily, creating representational, figurative works.

Charles Leonard Studio

Image from the studio of the artist: Charles Leonard’s inspirations and work samples

Charlie started doing decorative painting for interiors 20 years ago, just after art school, as a way to earn a living as an artist. And, it was more than that.

The genius behind ALL the #decorativefinishes @thewolfoakland @charlesleonardfinishes thank you for the BEAUTIFUL work!!!

A post shared by Laura Martin Bovard (@lmbinteriors) on

In his own words:

“I come from a long line of decorative artists. My maternal grandfather, and his father, this is what they did for a living; and my grandfather’s brothers — some were decorative painters and some were interior designers. Also, my mother changed the decor of our house completely every two years. So I grew up around interior design and craftsmanship. After art school I was fortunate to work with amazing people in this field, both in Los Angeles and New York; that’s really where I ‘cut my teeth.’”

(Predatory animal pun not intended.)

When I first walked into The Wolf during the time that the walls were between the first two layers of decorative treatment, I had to take a deep breath. I wondered, had we gone awry? But I knew I had to trust the process, and I am so glad I did!

Because the walls, now — they draw you in. Like a fine art painting: ethereal, mesmerizing, luxe; it feels rich; there is depth, movement and soul.

Layering is the key.

As Charlie explains: “The process involves three ‘passes,’ with two layers of material on each ‘pass,’ so generally six layers are applied, to get it to look dimensional, to give it depth.” Layers may include paint and  glazes, applied using brushes, rags, and the dreaded sponges. (Charlie’s specialties also include custom design work, Venetian Plaster, and handmade wallpapers.)

The end result:

Decorative glaze painting @thewolfoakland #lmbinteriors #restaurantdesign #decorative painting Oakland

A post shared by Charles Leonard (@charlesleonardfinishes) on

In addition to the walls of the restaurant, we also had him execute art-deco inspired stenciling in the bathrooms. Which he did, with laser lines and the artist’s eye that such that the patterns to come together seamlessly, especially in the corners, in a way most of us could not achieve on our own; it is as if The Divine did it.

To see more of Charles Leonard’s work, come visit The Wolf in person and/or follow him on Instagram at @charlesleonardfinishes; to see behind the scenes pics of the LMBI team at work and play, follow our Instagram at @lmbinteriors.

A version of this article appeared in the Piedmont Post


Hillsborough Haven Before-and-After: Green Interior Design

January 23rd, 2017|

The before-and-after I am sharing with you in today’s blog post is not just about making a house into a home, or about making over a home into something infinitely more beautiful, welcoming, and authentic to the family that purchased it.

Although all those things are true.

This story is also about choosing to “go green.”

Family Room, BEFORE:

Family Room, AFTER:


These new sofas are 100% green, with cushions filled with toxin-free natural latex instead of foam, covers made from organic cotton linen, and frames built with only real wood, and nails; no engineered wood products or adhesives.

The BEFORE  images in this post primarily feature retail furnishings that are considered good quality. But what we generally don’t realize, when faced with these choices in the marketplace, is that mass-produced items are commonly built with materials that are not good for our health. Particle board, plywood, and MDF, a.k.a. Medium Density Fiberboard, are all made with adhesives, and these adhesives often contain high levels of formaldehyde, which off-gasses into the indoor environment and is believed by many to be a health hazard.

Well-insulated homes with double-pane windows suffer the effects of this more intensely than older homes that have not been updated, and are drafty. In addition, many mass-produced sofas still contain hazardous flame retardant chemicals, although a newer law, TB 117-2013, which went into effect in California in January 2014, allows manufacturers the option to not inject foam with cancer-causing chemicals. According to a survey conducted by the National Resources Defense Council, only a small percentage of retailers have adopted the new standards as of January 2015. Plus, these items are generally manufactured in countries where labor is cheap, and thus the carbon footprint to get them shipped from overseas is profound.

Master Bedroom, BEFORE:


Master Bedroom, AFTER:

Bed frame and side tables fabricated by a local artisan with all natural materials and no adhesives. Mattress from McCroskey in San Francisco, a family-owned business; they use wool filling which is naturally-flame retardant.

By choosing to acquire furnishings made from solid wood and other natural or eco-friendly materials, as well as hand-hewn, locally-made, small-business and artisan-produced pieces, you not only avoid toxins, but your choice also supports independent manufacturers and artists, reduces your carbon footprint, and you get the pleasure of living in a heart-ful, soul-ful, beauty-filled environment, that is custom-designed to match your lifestyle, your tribe, and you.

Once you’ve seen, touched, sat on, held, used these items, you can feel the difference.

Master Bedroom TV, Cabinet and Dog Crate, BEFORE:


Master Bedroom TV, Cabinet and Dog Crate, AFTER:


11 Hillsborough_After_BR cabinet w dog Web-16
Locally-made, from all natural and eco-friendly materials, including sustainably-farmed hardwood, no glues, low-VOC paint; and this space-saving custom-built cabinet doubles as a dog bed.

When we choose to go green, we are choosing to live healthier and lower our impact on the environment. We are choosing to live more authentically. And as many parents and parents-to-be are aware, we are choosing to create a non-toxic environment for our children, including our canine children, to grow up in.

Living Room, BEFORE:


This photo was taken mid-install, after the dining room had been furnished. Interim living room was functioning as a temporary play area.

Living Room, AFTER:


Kitchen, BEFORE:


Kitchen, AFTER:



We kept our carbon footprint light, reusing and refinishing the cabinets with low-VOC paint and adding new pulls, and refinishing the existing hardwood floors in a durable and fast-drying water-based low-VOC sealant. Floor runner acquired at the Alameda Flea Market.

To view the entire portfolio of AFTER photos from this Hillsborough interior design project in our portfolio, click here.

AFTER photo credits: Eric Rorer

BEFORE photo credits: Ramona d’Viola

Portions of this blog post were originally published as a column in the Piedmont Post

Mid-Century Modern Eichler as the Perfect Blank Canvas: Before and After

January 3rd, 2017|

We recently completed a project with a client in San Rafael. An Eichler. Eichler and Marin County are practically synonymous. Words like development, basic, and cookie-cutter might come to mind but are quickly replaced by the pleasures of simplicity, spaciousness, and lightness that an Eichler, especially a thoughtfully-updated Eichler, can have.

The floor-to-ceiling windows emphasize connection between indoors and out, a seamless flow. The clean lines create a blank canvas, so that the smallest touches, in furnishing and fixture choices, can have big impact.

Is Mid-Century Modern right for you? If you tend towards restraint, if you have Nordic/Danish roots, then of course. But even if that is not you on first glance, this is an aesthetic that plays well with individual tastes. When you bring in your finds, your beloved objects become the things that create the energy in the space.

Opportunities abound to imprint your personality.

For our client in San Rafael, we wanted her sparkling personality and her loves of travel and gardening to be the focus.

Structurally, we removed the wall between the kitchen and the living room. This wall is characteristic of Eichlers and is often a decision point for homeowners, whether to keep the wall and stay true to the classic floor plan, or take out the wall to increase the flow of light and connection between the two areas.

Kitchen, Before:


The wall on the left side of this image is the one that we had removed

Kitchen, After:


A lighter and brighter kitchen!

Living Room, Before:


Living Room, After:


Removing the wall between the kitchen and living room and changing the orientation of the sofa created a cozy area around the fireplace while opening up the flow of light.

Taking out the wall served to bring more attention to the views, highlighting the gardens that the homeowner had planted herself.

Another non-traditional choice we made that updates the home while staying true to the mid-century feeling was the custom-stained concrete, installed with in-floor heating. (Previous owners had already replaced the original floor with a low-quality bamboo flooring that was yellowing by the time our client purchased the house.)

The concrete is the perfect canvas for fluffy, toe-warming wool rugs as well as the colorful carpets from the international bazaars of our client’s travels.

In another update that is arguably an improvement to the original plan, we replaced traditional Formica kitchen countertops with engineered quartz (Caesarstone). We also improved the work height of the counters which felt exceptionally low, at 29”, relative to our client’s height (5’10”). New counters are 36”. We updated the island with a wider top and waterfall sides, and a walnut veneer inside — innovations that harmonize with the mid-century aesthetic.

Taking advantage of how the clean lines highlight well-crafted materials, we selected furnishings and finishes with highly-defined textures. We chose to work with walnut, not only inside the waterfall countertop, but also for the built-in media cabinet, and the Maxwell sideboard in the living room. To add subtle tones, we applied texture within a quieter color palette. Nubby fabrics play well with natural woven wall coverings. Neutral-toned sofa and chairs host pillows in bright colors that uplift without overpowering. Choosing accent objects in white, like the feathered African headdress over the fireplace and the baskets beside the hearth, emphasizes the lightness in the room, and adds to the rhythmic interplay of the varied surfaces.

Sideboard Wall, Before:


This image also more clearly shows the opposite side of the wall we removed between the living room and kitchen areas

Sideboard Wall, After:


The interplay of textures is highlighted here, with grasscloth wall covering, nubby fabrics, and a unique geometric facing on the handcrafted Maxwell sideboard in solid walnut 

A version of this article originally appeared in the Piedmont Post

Before photos, credit: Ramona D’Viola

After photos, credit: Suzanna Scott

Spanish Mediterranean in Piedmont: Before and After

December 12th, 2016|

This magical Spanish Mediterranean Piedmont estate had been in the same family for nearly a century, with few changes made to the interior. (An “update” to the kitchen appliances in the 1970s is better left unmentioned, although photographic evidence is provided, below.)

The original owners had the house built in 1927, having moved from San Francisco to Oakland after the Big Quake, as many couples and families did at that time. Their children and grandchildren grew up and lived their whole lives in the 3200 square-foot home, designed by noted local architect Charles McCall.

For this first phase of the project, we redesigned the living room, sunroom, dining room, kitchen, and powder room, in our favorite modern-tradish style, maintaining gorgeous original details like the ceilings (coved in the dining room, coffered in the living room), tile floors, and selected fixtures, and bringing in new furniture, art, fixtures, and finishes that convey both the classical aesthetic of the original home, and the fresh modern lifestyle of the young, vibrant family that lives here.

Bigger changes and modernizations included converting what used to be a tiny kitchen with butler’s pantry into a welcoming and spacious kitchen with wide-open food preparation area and island, and featuring a large refrigerator and six-burner range.

For the next phase, currently in progress, we are collaborating with architect Jack Backus to design and build a media/family room with kitchenette,  guest bedroom, guest bathroom, office, and storage in what once was the original basement. Our colleagues at McCutcheon Construction dug out the space to create a blank canvas, with soaring 10-foot ceilings and lots of natural light, and two sets of French doors opening out onto the gardens from both the guest room and the media room.

Before and After, Phase One (Complete):

Dining Room Before:


Dining Room, After:

Dining Room

Living Room Before:


Living Room, After:

Living Room

Living Room, Side View, Before:


Living Room, Side View, After:

Living Room art wall

Kitchen, Before (2 images):



Kitchen, After:


Sunroom, Before:


Sunroom, After:

Sitting Area

To view more “After” images of this project, click here

Basement, (Phase Two) Before:


To be continued…. 

“Before” images by Ramona d’Viola

“After” images by Eric Rorer

5 Amazing Things to Help Gather Your Tribe And Have Them Love Coming to Your Home

November 23rd, 2016|

As we prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. There’s so much pressure to produce all of this food, creating the perfect meal; worry over who’s coming, who will sit next to whom or who won’t; how will the house look?


Shake a Tailfeather: Turkey feathers, rosemary sprig, cloves, walnuts, handwritten table card. Photo and design credit: Kara Rosenlund, via kararosenlund.com

While all of the details need attention, we can also take a wider view and ask ourselves: How do we create the memory of what we want this experience of Thanksgiving to be for our tribe?

Tribe, because family is not the only way we create community. Our tribe, the people we bond with and celebrate with, because our connection to each other is about unity, care, protection, shared purpose, and love. Here are a few ideas for how to make this Thanksgiving energy-rich, joy-filled, and beautiful for the group of people you are choosing to celebrate with, whose many hands make this life lighter work.

Five Amazing Things to Help Gather Your Tribe And Have Them Love Coming to Your Home

Set the table first thing in the morning

I always set my table first, even before I start cooking the food. Doing this allows me to linger on the process, expand my enjoyment in creating the experience. Also, allowing the house to be beautiful long before my guests arrive nourishes me as I work on bringing the other elements together over the course of the day.

Bring the outside, in

When setting the table, using elements from the outdoors for centerpieces is always a great strategy; a tree branch, with fruit or seed pods, dried leaves; whatever my daughter finds when she goes outside to forage.

Try Tradish with a Modern twist

When a table is set beautifully, it makes people feel special. In my crafty period, I once took photographs of each prospective guest and made them into napkin rings, with something about them I was grateful for written on the inside of each one. The rings doubled as Christmas Tree decorations. Frankly, in my life today, I don’t have time or interest in that type of handicraft anymore. Still, a dramatic table can be thrilling. And I love to thrill and be thrilled.

Here’s a fun, easy way to play with the traditional tablescape that gives your dinner a Global-Chic vibe: Start with a white tablecloth. Get a roll of black paper to place down the center as your runner. Decorate with white pumpkins, deer antlers, and turkey feathers.


Bold in Black, White, and Green: Artichokes, pears and branches that grace both the centerpieces and the plates. Photo and design credit: Sarah Sherman Samuel, via sarahshermansamuel.com

Set an extra seat for a mystery guest

Setting an extra seat is like welcoming a surprise, telling the universe you are open and flexible, allowing for spontaneity. Or simply allow for the spirit of spontaneity… Is there someone new you could invite? Someone on your list whom you could encourage to bring a friend?

Ask a question

Creating community through beauty is one of my favorite acts, connecting through thoughtful questions over a beautiful meal is another. Thanksgiving is the perfect time, of course, to ask your guests what they are thankful for.

Another tablescape idea: put out those rustic carved-wood pencils that look like twigs with beautiful cards for writing answers. Collect the cards in a large glass bowl or vase and then take turns passing the vase, picking and reading cards out loud during dessert.


Twist on Tradish: Antlers, succulents, air plants, eucalyptus branch, cards for writing out gratitudes. Image from craftandcouture.com.
Sourced via beckiowens.com. Design credit: Therese Brady; photo credit: Jeremy Brady.

Bonus Tip: Break your own rules — or mine

I used to think I had to make every single thing, from the food to the napkin rings (see above), set every flower with my own hands.

Today, I don’t exert as much control, and I like it that way. I let it be what it’s going to be. It’s like giving a speech: you can write it, you practice, you’ve got it all down, and sometimes, it’s just not as soulful as if you scrap it and talk from your heart.

Whatever you do, what your guests will remember is the love you put into welcoming them into your home.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Piedmont Post

Modern Eichler Makeover in San Rafael: Thoughtful Details

November 3rd, 2016|

We had so much fun working with the well-traveled and witty homeowner of this beautiful Eichler in San Rafael. Applying minimal structural changes (we removed a wall between the kitchen and dining areas) and strategic choices regarding high-quality design elements, we created a space that is serene and inspiring, bright and varied; elegantly spare with accents of fresh, vibrant colors.

Our plan for the home emphasized layering textures and creating an overall experience of luxury by selectively focusing on high-end furnishings, lighting, and finishes that would have the most impact.

Maxwell cabinet in solid walnut, custom-sized and fabricated by Seventh & 7th in San Diego. Adorned with art  from Slate Art Gallery by Elise Morris

Modern Eichler Redesign San Rafael

Recalling the international bazaars of our client’s travels, we dressed the fireplace with a white Traditional African Headdress, sourced at a local flea market, and baskets and vases from West Elm and CB2. Solid walnut built-in media cabinet below the TV adds function, grounding, and warmth to the color scheme. Khrome Studios Della Robbia “sectional”  was created using a stock-size sofa in graded-in (stock) fabric, paired with an ottoman. Coffee table from Etsy. Rug by Feizy.

Modern Eichler Redesign San Rafael

Gubi “grasshopper” reading lamps complete the modern-with-a-dash-of-fun look

Modern Eichler Redesign San Rafael

In the kitchen, tractor seat barstools welcome guests to perch next to the new waterfall counter, paneled in solid walnut. For the Heath tile backsplash,  we created visual interest by installing in a herringbone pattern. Pendant lights from Design Within Reach.

Modern Eichler Redesign San Rafael

Our client’s beloved grandmother’s dining room set, with chairs recovered in a warm, visually-textured fabric we selected to harmonize with the open-plan living-dining area; supported from below with a custom-sized wool rug (Stark) and a “sculptural luminary” from above (by David Trubridge).

View more images of this project, here.

Photos by Suzanne Scott