The Bull


When my client’s artwork arrived with a few dings in the frame, I had the opportunity to snatch this piece up for my own home. 🐮 

The blank wall above the dining table (which I am NOT showing you because it’s an IKEA just-gonna-use-this-for-a-few-years-now-we’ve-had-it-for-15-years-table) is its new home. 

I wonder about this bull’s life every time I gaze into its soulful eyes. Where was this photo taken? Was the animal killed? Was it on a sanctuary? Did it know love? Or only fear? 

Also, being vegan, I’ve wondered if it’s weird to have in my house, and especially in my dining area. If I don’t know if this animal was exploited or not, is it still ok to have in my home?

I’ve landed on this: it is ok. It’s more than ok. I am honoring the animal now. His beauty. His  strength. His spirit. When I look at him, I see all animals. He reminds me that we are all connected. And he’s a daily reminder of my pledge to continue to honor and respect all creatures in the best ways I know how, for the rest of my days here on earth. 

So thank you, Bull. And bless your spirit, wherever you are. 

(artwork: Trowbridge Gallery; photo Ben Woods)


When to Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets

Here's my latest kitchen remodel project. Isn't she pretty?

And the before. Quite a transformation, huh? 

My client contacted me about a year ago. She was getting ready to undertake her kitchen remodel, but needed guidance on materials, colors and overall design. Her first question to me was "Do I replace my cabinets? Or paint them?" 

I answered her question with a couple more questions. Did the kitchen function well for her? Did it have enough storage and was it easy for her to get around? Yes. It had plenty of storage and she was happy with the overall layout. 

Then I asked her what problem she was trying to solve? And would replacing her cabinetry solve that problem?

This was a bit of an "aha" moment for her. And it is for most of us. Before we proceed with any design project it is important to identity the problem we are trying to solve. If we don't know what the problem is, then we don't know what to fix...or how to fix it. 

We identified the problem as an aesthetic one. She just didn't like the way her kitchen looked...or felt. I suggested she save herself thousands of dollars and paint the cabinets as opposed to replacing them. They were in excellent condition, and although the door style wasn't exactly what she would have chosen if she was buying new, they weren't bad at all. And with a coat of paint and new hardware, they would take on an entirely different character. Replacing the cabinetry would have solved the problem in some regards. It would have given her a new look and feel, but it wasn't necessary for her to fix the problem. Painting the cabinetry was a much simpler and less costly solution. 

My client knew she wanted white cabinetry. She had already pulled some inspiration images of kitchens she liked when we first met. Over the next couple of months I helped guide her on countertop materials, hardware and fixture finishes and style, lighting, paint color and custom tile design. We collaborated through the process with my client playing the role of project manager - my favorite way to work! 

For those of you drooling over the gorgeous backsplash, the tile is from Oceanside Glass Tile. We did a custom blend in Facets 1/2" x 1/2" mosaic. They have a super cool online tool to play with proportions of colors, so you can get very specific about your blend. 

And...for those of you drooling over the wood island countertop, it is a beautiful piece of reclaimed walnut from Heritage Salvage in Petaluma. I love the warmth and patina that it brings into the space. 

The end result is a stunning space that truly reflects the energy of my client. I'd take this kitchen, wouldn't you?

What is a "Soothing" Space? And How Do You Get one?

Ah. The elusive "soothing" space. We all talk about it. Usually when referencing the ideal bedroom, but sometimes another space in the house. And it is usually characterized by the color blue...maybe green...or, most likely, "neutrals." Or even white. We like our soothing spaces to be clean, uncluttered, not fussy. We don't want bold colors and we don't want it "too dark". We want to feel calm and relaxed in the space, hence the descriptor "soothing". 

Sometimes, however, in an effort to create soothing we end up with boring. We often have the tendency to strip everything out of a space that makes it interesting in an effort to make it calm. We become so entrapped by the idea that a soothing space needs to be completely unstimulating that we can easily end up with a room that causes a sense of unease...because it's not stimulating enough. How's that for ironic design? As humans we need a certain level of stimulation in our environments. We thrive off it. Some of us can handle more stimulation that others - we don't all want a home designed to Liberace standards -  but most of us would benefit by more stimulation than what we think we need when we are aiming to create a soothing space. 

So what does this all mean? Is it really possible to create a space that is both stimulating and soothing at the same time? Yes, it is. And not only is it possible, it's necessary to create a space you love. But how, exactly, do you find the balance? How do you know what works for you?

The answer is not quick and it's not easy. It takes a little work and a little trial and error. The design journey involved in creating a space that is soothing to you may at times even feel overwhelming. How do you know where to start? And how do you know when enough is enough? Or when it's not enough at all?

I'm not going to give you the all the "right" answers here.  I could tell you that you always need three decorative pillows on your bed, and that you should always have an area rug under your bed that covers approximately 2/3 of the floor. But that would be arbitrary design advice and I don't think that helps you at all.

What I do think helps is asking the right questions. So let's start there:

  • How do you define the word "soothing"?

  • Are there any other words you can use to define your ideal space?

  • What don't you want in your space and why?

  • Are there any fears coming up around decorating your space? Are you afraid it will be "too dark", "too trendy" or "too busy"?

  • What don't you like about your current space? What do you like?

  • Why is "soothing" so important to you? Are you trying to escape from anything in your life?

The last question is a big one. Maybe you aren't trying to escape anything. But maybe you are. There is a reason many of us are drawn to soothing spaces. We want a place to unwind from all the crazy. And sometimes crazy is inevitable. But sometimes our need for soothing can be indicative of what's going on in the rest of our lives. It can be a clue that something else needs to change. Just something the chew on...

Regarding the physical design of your "soothing" space, there are a few guidelines to follow:

  • Do not, under any circumstances, have anything in your space that you don't love. If you don't love it, it won't soothe you. I don't care if it was a gift or it used to belong to your grandmother. Get. It. Out.

  • Fix anything that's broken. Broken things are not soothing. They create stress because they are a reminder of just "one more thing" you have to do.

  • Bring in your favorite colors. Not the ones everyone else is using - the colors that you love. Don't worry about if they are "in" or not.

  • Keep it tidy. Not necessarily Konmari tidy, but put your stuff away and organize it. Have a place for everything.

  • Leave some of the good stuff out. Like a pile of favorite books on the coffee table. Or a coaster for your teacup. Things that make you feel good or allow you to use the space with ease.

  • Keep it clean. Duh.

  • Make room to do what makes you happy. If it's playing the guitar, make a space to sit or stand and play comfortably and room for your instrument and music. If it's reading, have a proper reading light and a comfy chair.

  • Have at least one thing in the space that makes you smile. Maybe it's a goofy figurine...of Goofy. Maybe a quirky piece of artwork. Something that doesn't take itself too seriously.

And last but not least...

  • Bring in your authentic self. When you are in the space, you will feel most soothed if it truly lives and breathes your essence. In fact, isn't this is the very definition of a soothing space? A space that is so "you" that you are one with it? And you, my friend, are a very interesting being. For you to be one with your space means that your space needs to be interesting, too.

So, go ahead. Get to work on your soothing space. You might very well end up painting it blue. And that's ok. As long as blue is a color you love. 

How to Create a Mood Board


The design process can get overwhelming - even the smaller projects. By creating a mood board, you are creating a reference you can return to again and again so you won’t lose sight of your intended design goals.


Hey, everyone. Just wanted to let you know that the latest issue of Marin Home Magazine is out. My article, "In the Mood", has some great tips on how to create an inspirational mood board. Hope you'll pop on over and read the FREE digital edition on issuu! Lots of great stuff in there, including an article on Frank Lloyd Wright's Civic Center design. (I can see the gold spire from my backyard - cool, huh?)

I know I haven't posted for awhile, but I'm still here. :)  For those of you who have wondered whether or not I'm still taking on clients - yes, I am! Please don't hesitate to reach out to me. I'd love to talk to you about your upcoming color and design projects.

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The Deets on My Apartment Therapy Room For Color Contest Entry

It's time for Apartment Therapy's Room for Color contest again. I entered last year and was one of the finalists in the "Dark" category. (I wish they didn't use that word, "dark". It sounds so scary! I much prefer "deep." Because a space with deep colored walls can have lots of light and therefore not technically be "dark". But I digress...)

Here's a collage of my living room entry from last year, "Kelly's Deep Teal with a Funky Vintage Vibe":

This year I almost didn't enter. Honestly, my "Mystical Atelier" wasn't done done. There are a lot of things that are kind of wacky and unfinished, but I figured what the hell. It was a good kick in the pants to spend a little time cleaning up and styling and taking some decent photos of a space that is how it is. It's a real living space, not a perfect one. At that is a good thing to share.


This room wasn't much to start with. It's a 1950s box with zero detail. The glass in the window is broken, there is a hole in the floor where an outlet used to be, the door doesn't close properly, and it has a silly central vacuuming plug that we have yet to remove from the wall. (I'm sure you can spot it if you look carefully!) The furniture is mostly hodge-podgey leftovers - pieces that didn't fit in the rest of the house - and the area rug (from Overstock) was a quick fix. We needed something for the pup to lie down on so he didn't bang up his bony little elbows. Oh - and it desperately needs window treatments. But, like I said, it is what it is. And hopefully there is some inspiration in that.

After (or rather, "in-progress")

As I wrote in my entry, I was "looking to create a masculine, intellectual, artistic space for reading and playing music. Charcoal gray on the walls was the right color to help lay that character foundation. To keep the space from getting too moody, however, I came back in and painted the bookshelves in a bright red."

The walls are painted in Sherwin Williams Sealskin, a deliciously warm and deep charcoal gray. The bookshelves got leftover front door paint in Sherwin Williams Real Red. (You can see the same color on the front door in the living room pics.)

And just for fun, here's a before of the bookshelves, which we purchased from an estate sale just across the street. Keepin' it in the hood.

As most of you know, I love vintage. The chair was a find at an antique store a number of years ago. It looks pretty, but being a real Victorian piece, it desperately needs to be re-stuffed. Someday.

The mirror is also vintage from an estate sale. I stole it from the living room to fill up the wall space for the photos. But it looks so good there, I'm going to leave it. 

The armoire - which is HUGE - was made by my dad to house our gargantuan TV back in the day before flat screens. This is literally the only room in the house where it fits. It holds a lot of junk, which is good. And not so good.  

I had fun with this gallery wall. My husband has a strange collection of "anthropological" things, and one day I curated this small gallery for him. Yes, that is an actual coat of arms from his family's lineage. The desk below the display was my grandmother's.

I found the green lamp - which I love! - at a garage sale for $3. And the mid-mod end table? Free on the side of the road.

The fern was another item I stole from a different room. But, again, it looks too good in here to move back. I'll just have to buy another one.

The day bed was a recent purchase from Cost Plus World Market. It's not super fancy, and I hope to replace it with some cool vintage velvet find at some point, but for now it does its job well. And I love how the cream color brings lightness to the space. Oh- and the pillows and throws? Some are from Ross Dress for Less (I am not ashamed!) and some are vintage. 

So, now you know all the dirty little secrets behind this room. Hopefully it endears you so much that you feel an overwhelming urge to head over to Apartment Therapy right this second and give it your vote! Voting ends October 3rd. I'd be much appreciative if you can share the love. I promise to send it right back atcha. 

Small Bath Remodel: Before and After


Last week I popped over to a client's home to take photos of her recently completed bath remodel. Turned out pretty cute, right?

We had a VERY small space to work with, which is pretty common for older homes in San Francisco. We ended up keeping the existing toilet and tub to keep costs down, and it worked just fine. Not all bathroom remodels need to begin with a complete gutting.

Finding a vanity to fit in the small space was tough. The original pedestal sink looked cute, but had no storage. And with this being the only bath for two young kids to share it needed some sort of storage. Fortunately, I found this great piece, only 21" wide, with a bit of a rustic style, and sink included, by Fairmont Designs.

We kept the tile design pretty simple, using a basic white subway field tile in the shower surround, and accenting with some gorgeous marble mosaics by AKDO purchased through Ceramic Tile Design in San Rafael.

The client wanted to add a niche - a great storage option when you have none! - so we took the opportunity to highlight it with more decorative tile. The same tile, in fact, that was used on the floor. Isn't it gorgeous?

The ironic thing is, as soon as the bath remodel was completed my client bought a new house. So, the lucky new owners of this property will get to enjoy the redesigned bath more than my client ever did. Not a loss, though, as we all know that updated kitchens and baths help sell real estate properties and have a high return on investment. 

If you need help with your kitchen of bath design, give me a call or send me an email to discuss your project. Even the smallest remodels can benefit with an hour or two of design guidance.