When my firm completes a project, sometimes we photograph it.

What you may or may not know is that a lot goes into these shoots. They usually take place a few months after the project is completed. Which is a great opportunity for us to see how our clients have grown into the environment we designed for them.

We pride ourselves on creating beautiful and liveable spaces for our clients. The after photos we are sharing with you in today’s column are of a home-office that we love, and that our client loves.

And, of course, no one lives in a magazine-perfect world.

So, for example, in this photo shoot, we did stage the scene, removing a just few objects, both functional and beloved. What’s missing from the photo: this busy and successful boss-lady CEO’s short-stack of in-boxes, a few hand-drawn cards from her kids, a tray where she keeps her laptop, and the functional yet not fashionable printer.

But that’s cheating! You might be thinking.

I suggest that it’s like wedding photography. Usually, there are lovely, perfectly lit shots of the bride, taken before the ceremony, staged with her train fanned out behind her in a smooth arc, her veil and hair set just-so, her make-up fresh. The photographer may also have great shots of her at dancing with her guests near end of the night, cheeks flushed, hair askew, arms in the air. Both are beautiful and true.

Whether or not we decide to schedule a photo shoot, dressing a room, i.e.: accessorizing, is possibly the most important stage of an interior design project.

We find we often have to work with clients to stay the course, to not stop with the structural work and the furnishings. Because the finishing touches are key to creating the full picture of beauty. This client, in fact, was on board with us all the way. The items you see in these photos were all either already in her collection or sourced during our work together (see photo captions for details).

In this photo, small sprays of fresh flowers punctuate and accent the clean, modern space.

For the shoot, we mainly moved a few things around, including that starburst sculpture on the desk, which enjoyed about 20 different locations before coming to rest on her desk.

Some things we do to finish and stage a room, you might also use as tips for freshening up your own home, if you like.

So, moving objects to new locations. And bringing in fresh flowers, of course.

And books! As our world goes more digital, we may be out of the habit of buying books, high-quality books from museum exhibits we’ve enjoyed, memorializing places we’ve traveled, big photographic “coffee table” books on subjects close to our hearts, hobbies we enjoy.

Client’s books and photos, intermingled with interesting items including an antique wooden shoe form we sourced for her from the Alameda Antiques Fair. A few older objects placed throughout the room tied this modern design to the old-world spirit and dark toned details of our client’s majestic Tudor home.

If you look at the photos in my portfolios, you may catch me re-using a few favorite books, objects, and strands of beads, in different projects; I have two beloved books that my staff has now banned me from ever bringing to a shoot again: a book of Richard Avedon’s photographs (especially in combination with giant red or amber beads) and Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi.

You may also notice a little watercolor by local artist Tracey Kessler, from my own personal collection. I just love the shape of it, the pop of color. (It shows up in a bookcase at one client’s portfolio shoot, in a kitchen in another’s.)

Sculptural pieces are the perfect accent, much like earrings to the perfect dress for a special night out that can make the outfit sing. I have a crystal ball on a stand that I have used a few times. There is something so contemplative about a crystal ball. I like the weight in my hand, the way it catches light; the circle, infinity, depth, dimension, height.

And while I don’t use crystal balls to read the future, I have been accused of a being a hippie because I have a spiritual practice. So let’s pause here and touch on the art of altars and how to be glam about gods and gurus. My advice: keep your crystals and tarot deck on a discrete altar; don’t let your blessed objets “scope creep” across the home. One elegant white buddha statue on your desk is divine, 108 of them around the apartment is — probably — too much.


A version of this article originally appeared in the Piedmont Post

Photos by Mo Saito

View the complete portfolio of this project, here.

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