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Here I go again – raving about the wonders of all-neutral interiors. But, seriously, this house (by Neuhaus Architecture and JP Warren Interiors) would persuade even the most vocal of the anti-beige crowd that pale is, indeed, interesting. The house, which was apparently decorated by the owner – the Jessica in JP Warren – was covered by Desire to Inspire back in June but it’s so beautiful I had to revisit it again here.

The architectural details of this house are extraordinary. All that molding, the fireplace, the pilasters. In my opinion, a brighter color scheme would be overwhelming. Instead, the muted palette just emphasizes all this lovely detail.

The floor is particularly attention-grabbing. I’ve no idea if this is original marquetry or whether it was installed, but it emphasizes and defines the shape of the space beautifully.

This is evidence that neutral interiors work best when there are unusual natural textures and materials. The combination of the vintage metal sinks with the stone wall is spectacular.

Then there’s this much more feminine bathroom. I can’t really say enough good things about this bathroom. I usually like my bathrooms to be more, well, bathroom-y. But, with its custom wallpaper and elegant furniture, this room might persuade me to change my opinion.

This is a less formal library space. The shelves cleverly fill an alcove and the diagonal furniture arrangement is a good way to fill such an enormous room without over-cluttering.

More natural stone at work here. Waterfall countertops really elevate the design of a kitchen and this is no exception. It is an usual space for a kitchen. With the bay window, it looks more like a living room. The designer has addressed this by keeping the cabinetry very simple and more like furniture.

This is my favorite view of the whole house. A simple cube-shaped set of shelves (but obviously completely custom) with an artfully arranged collection of white ceramics. Very pleasing to the eye.

What I like most about this home overall, is that each room has its unique personality, and yet the whole scheme is cohesive. Do you have a favorite room?

Photo credit: Peter Margonelli

As part of our kitchen renovation, we are redoing a powder room. It’s a tiny space, so I’m keeping it neutral and simple, with a little Indian-inspired detailing. Here’s a sneak preview…

White+gray+bathroom+decorating

My starting point was the Rajapur wallpaper from Cole and Son. I’ve been dying to use this somewhere and decided this was just the space. Tiny rooms always seem larger with wallpaper, and this is subtle enough that we won’t tire of it.

The perfect mirror with this wallpaper is a white pearl inlay design. This particular one is from Serena and Lily, but it may be a little large for the space so I am still on the hunt for something similar. With all this pattern, I wanted simple white glass tiles, white paint and modern fixtures.

Here’s hoping we get started on the work soon so I don’t change my mind again…

1. Wisp White paint, Benjamin Moore; 2. Orbit lamp; 3. Mirror by Serena and Lily; 4. Dish (for soap) by John Robshaw; 5. Vessel sink by Porcelanosa; 6. Cabinet door pull in nickel; 7. Floating walnut vanity; 8. Kohler wall-mounted faucet; 9. White glass tile backsplash; 10. Flint floor tile; 11. Rajapur wallpaper by Cole and Son.

Today, I’m speaking with Jennifer from Niche Interiors, an up and coming interior design firm in San Francisco. What I like about Jennifer and her team’s work is the fact it’s so accessible, and yet inventive and unique. It’s great inspiration for anyone wanting to give their home a more polished, pulled-together look: Jennifer combines pattern and color effortlessly, mixes custom upholstery with off-the-shelf pieces, and brings a refreshingly youthful vibe to the San Francisco design scene.


Four Walls and a Roof: What do you consider your big break in interior design so far?
Niche Interiors: I’m grateful for all of the “little breaks” I’ve had along the way, but I would have to say my big break was the first clients that hired me when I went out on my own. They trusted me with their beautiful new home in West Portal, despite the fact that I had a very small portfolio at that time. Luckily, they were the most down-to-earth and fun clients to work with! The project reflected this and our collaboration resulted in a stunning dining room that is still one of my favorite images in our portfolio.


FWR: How do you keep every project fresh and unique to the client, but without losing your own aesthetic? Is it important to have your own ‘stamp’ on a design?
NI: Our philosophy at Niche Interiors is that each home should be as unique as its inhabitant. We focus on creating spaces that reflect our clients’ lifestyles, tastes, and hobbies — not our own. The one thing that we do bring to all our projects is a clean aesthetic. Whether it’s a traditional or contemporary space we always try to keep the design concept very focused.


FWR: It seems that appointing an interior designer is no longer something only celebrities and millionaires do! Who is your typical client?
NI: Very true. Interior design has become much more accessible. Our typical client is a 30-something couple (or family), living in San Francisco, who needs help creating a stylish and comfortable home. Niche Interiors is usually hired with a life change such as moving or expanding the family, and the budgets that we work with vary widely.


FWR: Tell us a bit about your design process. How do you get from vague concept to a concrete design?
NI: We create customized image books for each project. Client feedback on visual images is an invaluable tool that helps us create the design concept. We actually make lists of specific things that clients do or don’t like in the image books. For example, dislikes might be: Stripes, velvet, tufting. ‘Loves’ might be: Contrast, organic shapes, uneven textures. This helps in the creation of a specific design concept.


FWR: You’re obviously not afraid of pattern. What are your tips for using pattern in a home?
NI: Be bold and go for it! Mix patterns in similar tones and in contrasting scales. Small repeat prints mix well with medium or large repeats.


FWR: Do you have any tips for homeowners on a budget? How do they create a great look without spending a fortune?
NI: Start with a clear design concept and specific color scheme and don’t stray! Invest your money in good quality upholstery, rugs, and quality contractors. You can go low-end on things like side tables, lamps, pillows and occasional furniture.


FWR: I’m a big believer in the power of design to change the dynamics of life in a home – do you ever get feedback on whether your designs have impacted the lives of your clients?
NI: Yes, I do — and the feedback I get from clients is the most rewarding part of my job. Not only do we get comments about how beautiful the spaces look, but how much more comfortable and functional the spaces are for our clients. One of my favorite comments was: “We now sit in our living room every night because we love it so much — it’s very us but way better.”


FWR: What’s the biggest design challenge you’ve ever faced and how did you overcome it?
NI: That’s a tough one! I would have to say the TINY bathroom remodel we tackled in Bernal Heights last year. It was just under 6′ x 6′ and the only full bathroom in the house.  We needed to keep the tub since the couple was expecting a baby. The 14″ deep wall-mounted sink saved the day. The glass tiles made the room feel a little bigger, and the skylight brought in much-needed natural light.

FWR: For those of us in San Francisco, what are your favorite design stores in the city?
NI: Monument and Past Perfect remain go-to sources for vintage finds. Kneedler-Fauchere in the design center has a beautiful array of furnishings and lighting. A quirky shop that I like to stop in once in a while is The Apartment on 18th Street — you never know what you will find there.


FWR: What do you think are the big interiors trends for 2011?
NI: Lighter woods, brass, traditional shapes, and tufting are all on their way back. I also think there is a shift away from the eclectic “anything goes” look towards more polished, put-together spaces.


FWR: Couldn’t agree more! So, what looks are you dying to try in an upcoming design?
NI: I’m dying to create a huge octagonal ottoman in a bold print. I also would love to switch gears and work on a really masculine tailored space with menswear details such as pinstripes, herringbone etc.


FWR: Sounds intriguing. I hope you get the chance. So, one more question on a topic close to my heart: You’re a great example of how interior designers can use social media to build their business. What does social media mean for you and how do you find time to stay engaged with it?
NI: Social media allows us to connect with potential and current clients and other trade professionals in a more informal setting. We love being able to instantly share the progress of a custom piece of furniture or before and after photos of projects. It’s fun, collaborative and gets people engaged. I will admit that it can be a challenge to keep up with everything — but our goals aren’t too lofty. We try to write one blog post per week — my junior designer Kerry and I take turns writing to keep the content fresh.

Thanks so much, Jennifer!

Credits: Photos 4 and 6 credited to Hale Photography. Other photos via Niche Interiors.

I’m not usually a huge fan of wallpaper or fabric geared entirely to kids, but the Zagazoo collection from Osborne & Little is utterly charming. It’s designed by Quentin Blake, the children’s book author and illustrator. His books have such a distinctive style that this range is bound to transport you to your own childhood (well, certainly if you grew up in England). My older son now has a couple of his books, including Cockatoos, which inspired this wallpaper – one of my favorites in the collection.

By the way, doesn’t this look like a humorous, kid-friendly riff on this rather more grown-up wallpaper?

I also love the adorably-named Butterfly Meadow:

And the delightful Menagerie design:

For something truly original, how about ‘All Join In’, which is described on supplier Fabrics and Papers‘ site as depicting ‘children and flustered adults playing with instruments in a musical mayhem of all colors’? (Definitely been there!)

There’s even an alphabet and numbers design which looks great with its chalkboard-like black background:

All of the designs are available as wallpaper and fabric and in various colors.

So, which story from your childhood would you like to see rendered as wallpaper? Presumably not ‘Where the Wild Things are’? Not sure I could handle the colors in ‘Goodnight Moon’ either! Any suggestions?

As you might have guessed from my absence the past week or so, baby number two finally arrived! He’s a gorgeous, healthy little boy. We’re back home, getting into a routine and just getting used to being a family of four. In honor of the occasion, I thought I’d show you how the nursery turned out – having got it finished just in time.

If you recall from my earlier post, I really wanted to introduce wallpaper into this room. It had to be appropriate for a baby but last through his toddler years or possibly serve for an adult guest room or office one day (if we switch the rooms around). I settled on this Hick’s Hexagon by Cole and Son, thinking a geometric pattern would serve all those needs. I especially love the color – a really pure, clear, summery blue, which tones well with the paint (Polar Sky by Benjamin Moore).

Because I went with this classic baby boy blue, I felt the other elements in the room didn’t need to be overly childish. The wall decal above the dresser/changing table is child-friendly enough, without being cartoony. The rug is a gray safari pattern from West Elm and, again, will hopefully work for a more grown up room down the line.

Ok, now I know this rocker is pretty hideous. We bought it cheaply when my first son was born and it’s not exactly a style centerpiece. But it’s comfortable, which I know from experience is all that matters in those long, dark, sleepless nights! We looked everywhere for an alternative that we liked but cost less than $1,000. They are few and far between. We decided to keep it for a few months until the baby is sleeping through the night, then we’ll swap it for an ordinary chair, which is likely to be cheaper but infinitely more stylish. Much better than spending a fortune on a replacement rocker.

I’ve coveted this bamboo mobile for a while. You can find it online at various stores like Giggle or Branch. I found one in our local baby boutique. I don’t expect it to work as the main source of entertainment for a newborn – we have a musical mobile for that – but it’s something to look at while he’s feeding.

I also found this wicker ottoman at Pier 1 Imports for $30. I had considered a Moroccan pouf and found some stunning ones in tan leather. But, unfortunately, the smell of goat leather is just too pungent for a small, south-facing room – and way too off-putting considering the time we’ll be spending in here. Amazing the things you have to think of when furnishing a nursery! Who’d have thought smell would be a factor?

The elephant is from Restoration Hardware, the lamp from Lamps Plus and the clock was a gift from my parents.

The bedding is from Target. And no nursery would be complete without the plush toy shot! I know, you’re going to tell me I shouldn’t have anything in the crib. Don’t worry, the quilt and toys live elsewhere when the baby’s in the crib. I just couldn’t resist including them in the photo.

So, now that both kids’ rooms have been done, I’ll be able to get back to grown-up decorating only. Between feeding and tummy time, that is…

As usual, the latest issue of Lonny magazine is jam-packed full of rooms I just want to step into and soak up. If I could repost every single image here, I would, but I guess that would be, well, a little unimaginative.

But one thing stood out to me as a flipped through Lonny’s virtual pages: zigzags. They’re everywhere in this issue. Yup, we’ve been obsessed with zigzag rugs for a while but here they are on curtains, pillows, wallpaper, and even furniture! I can’t think of a better way to add a burst of energy to a room.

Yellow zigzag curtains are cheeky without being OTT – just like the ostrich wallpaper in this room.

What is that piece of furniture at the end of this stylish living room? A two-toned mirrored sideboard? Who cares – I want one!

Then there’s this almost-zigzag wallpaper, used to great effect in this master bedroom…

Doesn’t it look fabulous with the dark floors and white bedding?

Ah, the appeal of a flame stitch pillow in an otherwise calm and neutral room…

I love this room (first spotted on Bromeliad). I have the West Elm rug, so am of course already a fan. But it looks great here with the teal Louis chair. I have a Louis chair in our living room which needs reupholstering. I’m planning to do it in turquoise and so am heartened to see how great the combination could look.

Who knew the zigzag could be so versatile? How do you use the zigzag effect?

After the florals and frills of the last few posts, I’m feeling the need to highlight some rooms with a more edgy aesthetic. (Maybe it’s the nesting instinct that’s drawing me to clean-lined, minimal spaces!?) Luckily, I came across this stunning house by designer Nacho Polo on Vintage + Chic, which fits the bill entirely. Cool, calm, collected and utterly stylish. Not sure I could live in it, but I sure wish I had the discipline to create something this stunning.

This is my favorite room. I love those dining chairs.

Interesting use of contrasting shapes here. It makes the simple color scheme more exciting.

Clever to use the all-white frames as a form of art in itself.

Love that black chandelier and rococo wallpaper in an otherwise modern minimalist bathroom.

Even if you can’t handle black and white in every room, I think it’s perfect for making the most of a small bathroom.

What do you think? Could you live here? And even if not, wouldn’t you love to visit?

I’ve neglected to post here for a while because I’ve been so busy trying to wrap up work and get everything organized before the baby comes. The due date is Sunday and I finally feel like everything is under control. There’s just time to show you one of the decorating projects we’ve been working on at home – the guest room.

As you know, the arrival of baby number two means we needed to convert our top floor office into a multi-function office and guest room. It’s a bit of a squeeze: there’s no actual closet in this room so we needed some clothes storage space for guests. And, given that our families and friends come all the way from England, we wanted a proper bed for them to rest their jetlagged selves! Plus, as we already had a lot of the furniture, we couldn’t go out and buy new mini-sized pieces to fit.

The solution was to keep the whole room as uncluttered as possible with just a few pieces of essential furniture and a very calming color scheme of white, green and taupe. I also really wanted to blend the decor with the view outside, since there are four windows in this tiny space. The wallpaper, which is Sweet Bay by Sanderson, is supposed to echo the flowering trees and vines in the gardens visible from this room. It’s much more traditional than I intended, but it does have a beautiful painterly effect. It even seems to make the room bigger. We already had the bedside tables, found in an antiques store in San Francisco, Past Perfect. The mirror is from another SF junk store, sadly closed now. The bed and bedside lamps are IKEA. I considered using task lights to balance the floral wallpaper with a more industrial look. But the angular lines clashed with the pattern, so it was back to my trusty IKEA lamps…

Here’s a close up of the wallpaper. As it’s pretty much the only exciting feature we had space for in this room, I thought I’d better make the most of it!

The other end of the room is the business end, so to speak. As this space has to function as an office, we needed lots of storage space. The dresser is actually a very cheap filing cabinet bought online. The top drawer can be reserved for guests. I used lots of boxes and magazine holders on the shelving to keep it from looking too cluttered or busy. The desk fits here too, along the window, but we decided to take it out for now as we have various family members staying for a while and wanted to give them as much room as possible.

I used light filtering roller blinds to keep the sun out on summer days and for privacy. The thicker roman shades from The Shade Store keep the heat in at night.

What would we do without West Elm for finishing touches like lacquer trays?!

Here’s part of the view from the window. When the desk is here, it’ll be a relaxing place for working and thinking. (By the way, can you spot the photographer??)

The ceiling light fixture is from EQlight. They have fantastically intricate shades in different sizes. When the light is switched on you can really see all the detail – the shape almost mirrors the blooms on the wallpaper.

So, there it is, a little oasis of calm for our guests in the hectic mania that is our home (soon to be even more hectic, no doubt!)

As you know, we’re redecorating our guest bedroom at the moment. Well, to be precise, we’re in the midst of a pre-baby decorating frenzy which involves swapping the functions of three different rooms. It’s proving to be a bit of a nightmare as we have to shuffle pieces of furniture, stepladders and tools from one room to another so we can get tasks done as the required items arrive through the mail (as I have zero time for furniture shopping everything has to be ordered online). Anyway, the guestroom is now where the study once was and, in fact, will serve a dual purpose as both office and bedroom.

It’s not ready to show yet, but I thought I’d share some of the bedroom images that have provided inspiration (or caused design confusion, as the case may be – read on and you’ll see why!)

First, let’s talk about color. If you recall, when I blogged about it here, this room has four windows on three walls so, although it’s lovely and light, can be subject to extremes of temperature, depending on the time of year. I needed to choose a color that wouldn’t exaggerate the heat or cold. So, a while ago we painted it green and I decided to leave it that way since it really is the best shade for such a space.

This is almost the exact same shade (via Decorology) and, like this room, I’m mixing it with a lot of white (except for the roman shades which arrived yesterday and turned out to be more cream than white. Disaster. They’re up and I’m trying not to get upset every time I look at them because they’re really very nice otherwise, honestly. And also because I made my husband paint the ceiling from cream to white so it would work better with the supposedly white blinds…. say no more).

Here’s another green and white bedroom, this time via This is Glamorous. We have bedside tables a bit like this and I really like the contrast of crisp white bedding with more sumptuous wallpaper.

On the other hand, I also like the vibrancy of this room. The greens are much fresher and more modern – perhaps more in keeping with the rest of our house. Photo by Polly Wreford, Sarah Kaye Represents.

I also have a ‘thing’ for white bedrooms so am trying to keep as much of the room color-free as possible. This also helps to unify the two functions of office and bedroom. I still need to find something to anchor the space, like the pearl-inlaid trunk does in this room. Via Decorology.

Ok, now moving on from color, let’s talk about pattern. Although the room is small, I really like the idea of introducing some pattern that echoes the views outside. With so many windows, the room really does feel like it’s up in the treetops, so I want to reflect some of that in the design. I immediately thought of adding some floral or trailing wallpaper to one wall, and then remembered this stunning bedroom by Miles Redd featured in Domino. Via Style Redux.

A chinoiserie-style floral would also work beautifully and I love this turquoise wallpaper because it’s so vibrant and modern, despite its very traditional pattern. Via Automatism.

More traditional chinoiserie, like the example here via Apartment Therapy, would also work well. Unfortunately an original De Gournay is out of budget!

Although I’d like to introduce some pattern, I don’t want the space to be too traditional or girly. I like the way the rooms above and below balance feminine textiles or wallpapers with much more utilitarian and industrial elements such as task lights. Via Fondly Seen.

And this one from stylist Lucyina Moodie‘s portfolio.

Then again, I am attracted to the tailored elegance of a bedroom like this one from Canadian House and Home. A simple, calming color scheme, glammed up with the chandelier and plush bedlinens is so inviting.

So, as you can see, this one little room has a lot to achieve! It’s starting to take shape but has a long way to go before I feel it meets all these criteria. But, we’ll get there eventually!

Purple is supposed to be one of the hot colors of 2010 – and, as such, has been the center of some discussion in the blogosphere. It’s one of those colors that inspires strong feelings: people either love it or hate it. Personally, it’s one of my favorites. Whether aubergine, plum or lilac, I’m a huge fan. Unfortunately, I rather over-used purple in my student and rental days so have steered clear of it in interiors ever since. But this year’s resurgence of the color has me thinking again…

This French home, via Vintage + Chic, has contributed to my revived interest in purple in a major way. Against the backdrop of muted grays, this lilac tablecloth looks pretty but unpretentious. Photos are by Jordi Canosa.

The palest lavender and gray-toned purple create a restful, vintage feel.

Even the bathroom is all purple.

This next home uses purple to completely different effect. The combination of aubergine and gold is almost ecclesiastical, but the space still manages to be comfortable and eclectic. Via Automatism.

Used with pinks and reds, purple is also the perfect hue for giving your home that English country appeal. Via Peacock Feathers.

Or, mix it with metallics for the sugar plum fairy look. From Living Etc via Beauty Comma.

It even works with earth tones and natural textures like wood and hide rugs. Via Little Green Notebook.

This is one of my all-time favorite images, via Decor8, and shows how great pale lavender looks in a mostly white scheme.

More lilac and gray, this time combined with a sophisticated chinoiserie. If you’re going to indulge in a fanciful wallpaper like this, you may as well go the whole hog and choose an other-worldly purple for your colors. Via Simplified Bee, via Laura Casey Interiors.

Or, just to show that purple can be completely modern too, how about combining it with a fresh turquoise? Via My Scandinavian Retreat.

Still not sure about purple? Well consider some of its benefits: purple is meant to encourage creativity, flatter most skin tones and is also a perfect transitional color because it works in winter and summer. Or just take some inspiration from nature and see just how stunning and powerful purple can be…

Via this Flickr feed.

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