Design Reveal! Modern Neutrals in a Tranquil San Francisco Bathroom

Calm, relaxing, warm, peaceful… These words describe the atmosphere inside this newly designed San Francisco bathroom.  As the mother of a 3-year-old, I find even the briefest moment of  bathroom privacy to be an absolute luxury. If I could enjoy a moment of privacy in THIS bathroom I would feel like I was being pampered at a day spa.Heather Zerah modern neutral bathroom-008

Many San Francisco homes appear to be two stories from the outside, with a garage door at the ground level and a set of stairs leading up to the front door. Once inside, you realize that the entire livable home is on the upper level. The ground level is an unfinished garage and storage space. My client undertook the major task of turning the entire back half of her garage into a master suite / den, along with a finished laundry room and interior stairs leading up to the entryway on the main level. My help was enlisted for the bathroom design.

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Having done her homework on Pinterest, my client had a clear idea of what she wanted. She loved the look of clean, modern, large-format porcelain tiles. If you have ever shopped for porcelain tile, you know the range of options is huge. We looked at an assortment of patterns, textures, and geometries (circles, squares, ridges!) in shades of charcoal, beige, and bright white. As we considered various options, my client’s thoughts kept returning to a particular image she had seen during her research: a bold horizontal stripe constructed out of contrasting tiles. Of course, like most trends, a bold design choice can quickly become outdated. She feared that the bold contrast stripe would grow tiresome within a few years. I made it my mission to find the perfect balance of contrast and neutrality. And we did it!

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The solid, matte, mocha-colored tile has a smooth but slip-proof finish and is a lovely complement to the mix of cream and beige tones in the polished “marble look” tile. It stands out without screaming “look at me!”  With the perfect tiles selected, our next challenge was finding the exact sizes we needed. Both tiles were available in the large 12×24″ size that we liked, but they didn’t have many sizes beyond that. Luckily, our skilled contractor was able to cut the porcelain tile down to the dimensions required for our design. He trimmed the solid tile down to 6×24″ for the wall stripe and 6×6″ for better traction on the wet shower floor. He then trimmed the 3×24″ surface bullnose down to a quarter round for the trim, and created baseboard using the through-body matte tile. *Side note: Through-Body means that the color pigment runs through the entire material, rather than just resting on the surface. This allows you to cut and polish the tile yourself and still have a finished, color-matched edge.

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We looked at a variety of paint colors in shades of blue and green, ultimately selecting the tranquil Bali color from Benjamin Moore for the walls. For fixtures, we considered polished nickel and dark, oil-rubbed bronze. Once again, my client looked past the trendier bronze option in favor of the classic, timeless look of brushed nickel. For the shower floor, my client opted for a curbless shower, which slopes down towards a slim drain along the far wall. The curbless entry and bench are fantastic features. Although they are comfortable for people of all ages, they add resale value, particularly among older buyers with decreased mobility.

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This fairly compact bathroom had to be built to fit within a typically narrow San Francisco footprint. But once inside, compact becomes cozy. And this bathroom proves, once again, that small spaces can have big style.

Photo Credits: Frederic Zerah

Design Reveal! Classic Meets Modern in a San Francisco Bathroom

Are you ready for show-and-tell? It’s as fun now as it was when I was 5! Today’s big reveal is a bathroom remodel I recently completed in San Francisco.

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The home, built in the late 1920’s, falls into the classification of “Storybook” architecture prevalent in San Francisco’s Sunset District during the depression era (although it predates the fanciful peak of the Storybook period by a few years). Despite the similarly colorful facades, this period is a notable contrast to the typical Victorian architecture for which San Francisco is famous. My client wanted to incorporate classic period details with respect for the home’s distinct architectural personality. We considered a range of ceramic and marble subway tile options with various accent colors, including black, jade green, and gray. However, this particular client (who was a designer’s dream to work with!) had an eye for unusual shapes, bold colors, and modern details that simply couldn’t be ignored. We followed her instincts, and the design evolved from a traditional subway pattern into a marriage of classic forms, bright colors, and clean, modern fixtures.

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Classic white subway tile covers the walls in keeping with the original concept. We took a more playful approach with the floor, choosing an Ann Sacks arabesque pattern in custom handmade-to-order Robin’s Egg Blue, with glossy blue liners to match. We wrapped the liner around the perimeter of the entire room, so that wherever you turn you get a glimpse of the lovely shade.

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My client took her unique taste one step further with the fixture and furniture selection. Although we looked at more traditional options of the Restoration Hardware variety, she ultimately settled on clean, crisp, angular pieces from Duravit in a dark walnut finish. They serve as an unexpected, yet surprisingly pleasing, contrast to the curvy floor tile. The walls are painted a subtle, barely-there blue that changes with the light and keeps the room from feeling too stark or overwhelmingly saturated.

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Last but not least, you may be wondering where the toilet is located. In keeping with the time period, the bathroom layout features a separate water closet. We kept the original toilet, but refreshed the small room with the same floor and wall tile as the main bathroom.

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The bathroom feels fresh, bright, and contemporary with just a cheerful nod towards the home’s historic roots. Most importantly, it brings my client’s unique design style to life.

Photo Credits: Frederic Zerah

Design Trend: Home Libraries

My very first Home Style post, seen here, featured a beautiful display of color coordinated bookshelves in a casual chic living room. I created that post on November 3, 2013. In the year since then, that post has become the single most popular post on my blog. It has traveled all over Pinterest and been picked up by other blogs where it continues to attract attention. The enthusiasm surrounding those color coordinated bookshelves suggests that, despite the transition to e-books, blogs, and e-zines, our deep-rooted love for actual paper books remains. Personally, I have always been enamored with libraries and the history and possibility contained within. With that in mind, I’m highlighting a few of my favorite bookshelf trends.

black bookshelf yellow sofa

Bookshelf Trend #1: Dark Shelves, Bright Furniture

I’m clearly not the only person who loves this particular trend. Black or dark bookshelves contrasted by chartreuse sofas and chairs (not just any color – it always seems to be chartreuse) are taking home libraries by storm. The refinement of dark shelves pays tribute to traditional library style, while the bright furniture jolts the room with energy and modernity. The colorful mix of books pops against the contrast of the dark paint for a look that is far from old-fashioned.

dark bookshelves

black bookshelves chartreuse sofa

Bookshelf Trend #2: Artwork on Bookshelves

Look at the images above and below and you will notice artwork in every one. Framed paintings, prints, and photographs are either inserted into the shelf cubbies themselves, or hung on the front edge of the shelves. The art serves as a visual respite from the continuity of books, allowing your eyes to rest and relax. Do you have less attractive items that you’d like to store on the shelves, but you don’t want to disturb the beauty of the display? Hide them behind the hanging art! That beautiful painting takes on the role of cabinet door, concealing the contents behind it.

art in bookshelf nook

art in bookshelf cubby

art hanging on bookshelf

Bookshelf Trend #3: Shelves Built into Passageways

Space is limited. A wonderful (and practical) way to display your collection of books is by utilizing empty space in doorways, entryways, and hallways. By sacrificing one or two feet against an otherwise unused wall, you gain organization, storage, and a decorative display. A few of my favorite uses of space include this bookshelf built around a wide passageway…

doorway bookshelf

these bookshelves lining both sides of a long hallway…

hallway bookshelves

these bookshelves built into the pony wall at the top of this stair landing…

stair landing bookshelves

and this recessed wall of shelves alongside a banquette and stairway.

entryway bookshelf

Bookshelf Trend #4: Library Ladders

What bookshelf review would be complete without the mention of library ladders!? These tall sliding ladders are both beautiful and functional, allowing you to maximize wall space from floor to ceiling and still access books on the highest shelves.

library ladder white bookshelves

chartreuse bookshelves

The range of options when designing a home library or simply styling a bookshelf are seemingly endless. It would be impossible to cover them all in one blog post. Built-in, free-standing, metal, wood, low, high, colorfully painted, back-painted, organized for a rainbow effect… One thing is certain: the more we turn towards tablets for our everyday reading, the more valuable our old books become. They are pieces of history: tangible, entertaining, and lovely to look at.

For more bookshelf inspiration visit my Pinterest page:

Photo Credits: Style Carrot, Sketch 42, Jessica Helgerson Interior Design, The Decorista, Daniel Farmer for House & Garden, Sadie and Stella, Style at Home, Most Beautiful Things, Ryann Ford Photography for FAB Architecture, Wendy Haworth Design, Little Green Notebook, Ciave Design

Design Trends: Monochromatic Walls and Trim

Take a moment to imagine traditional architectural details like baseboards, crown moulding, and chair rails. Now stop. Did your mind automatically default to a white paint color? White trim is classic. It’s bright, it’s fresh, and it coordinates with every other paint color imaginable. In essence, it’s foolproof.  However, opting for “foolproof” can lead to rather dull experiences, both in life and in home decor. While looking back on a post I wrote several months ago, Design Trends: Saturated Paint Colors, I noticed another trend hidden among the photos. Many of those bold, beautiful paint colors were featured not only on the walls, but on the trim as well. I saw that monochromatic paint schemes can breathe contemporary new life into decidedly traditional rooms. Now that the seed of matching-walls-and-trim has been planted in my mind, I notice it everywhere.

navy walls and trim

Your main reason for choosing a monochromatic look should be style. However, among the benefits of using the same paint color on the walls and trim is that your room will look taller. Contrast makes a room look smaller. By carrying one color all the way from floor to ceiling without contrasting baseboards or moulding, you are adding inches, or even feet, to the visual wall height. Another benefit is ease of painting. If you have ever painted your own home, you know the tedious hassle of applying painter’s tape to every edge and later peeling it off again, only to find uneven edges and drips. With a monochromatic look, you don’t have to worry about the borders between wall and trim. Even if you go the traditional route of using matte paint on walls and semi-gloss on the trim, overlap will blend easily into the background.

black walls and trim

charcoal walls and trim

martha stewarts guesthouse


A popular embellishment to not only the monochromatic look, but to the saturated color trend in general, is to use high-gloss or lacquered paint for the entire wall.  The high sheen adds instant glamour to any space. Keep in mind that high-gloss paint will show even the tiniest bump or flaw, thus requiring extensive wall prep. Application is best left to the professionals. Check with local painters to find one with lacquer experience. The process can be more expensive than standard painting, as as it requires special equipment (lacquer must be sprayed onto walls, creating toxic fumes). Even if you opt for the manual application of several layers of high-gloss paint to approximate the lacquer look, quality high-gloss paint can be pricey.

glossy blue walls and trim

glossy gray walls and trim

Another variation on the monochromatic color scheme is to carry the same paint color all the way up onto the ceiling. This bold and unexpected look is sure to add energy to the room. It works beautifully in rooms with sloped spaces, as shown here:

2011 Idea House, EscondidoHorseshoe Bay, TX 78657

monochromatic red paint

Yet another variation is to paint trim just slightly darker or lighter than the walls, so that the look remains monochromatic, but with added depth and detail.

pale green walls and trim

Matching walls and trim is most often seen in traditional spaces, as they are inherently more likely to have elaborate trim in the first place. However, the look can be applied to modern spaces, too, particularly those with beams or varied ceiling heights. The modernity of the style comes from the act of extending color beyond the “expected” boundaries, not from the trim itself.

modern pink walls and ceiling

This design trend really isn’t about what’s hot right now. Rather, it’s the result of individuals thinking and decorating outside of the box to create spaces that reflect their unique style and personality. Classic white trim can look fabulously chic or charmingly simple, but it is not the only option.  Don’t be afraid to experiment with color!

For more gallery wall inspiration visit my Pinterest page:

Image Sources: Thom Filicia, Atlanta Homes Magazine, Veranda, Martha Stewart Moments, Beach Studios, House & Home, Steven Gambrel, Houzz, Love is Speed, Martha Stewart, House Beautiful

Design Trends: White Tile with Dark Grout

As the saying goes, what’s old is new again.  White tile with dark grout is a simple, classic look that has been around for decades, but it’s popularity has been making a steady comeback in recent years.  The combination of white tile and dark grout has both aesthetic and practical appeal.  White subway tile is timelessly stylish, easy to find, and available in a range of prices from cheap to expensive (factory made versus handmade).  Likewise, black grout is readily available and inexpensive, but more importantly, the unexpected color contrast adds instant oomph to an otherwise basic tile layout. And the added bonus? Dark grout hides unsightly stains and discoloration that appear over time in even the cleanest bathrooms and kitchens.  The key to this look is getting the right shade of dark grout.  A too-light shade of gray falls short of intentional contrast, while stark black grout shocks the senses and draws too much attention away from the tiles themselves.  The ideal shade is a deep charcoal, which has a natural subtlety and softness despite being a dark color.

white tile dark grout brass hood

White tile and dark grout blend seamlessly into kitchens and bathrooms with classic black and white color schemes.  The look is enhanced even more by the added contrast of dark floors, dark window trim, and black appliances.  I love the way the black claw foot tub, shown below, pops in the white-and-wood bathroom!  To keep the look fresh and current incorporate open shelving against the tile backdrop.  Brass hardware with traditional detailing adds a dash of glamour and shine.

white tile dark grout wood and trim

white tile dark grout black and white cabinets

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white tile dark grout black bathtub

white tile dark grout bathroom

Whether your taste runs modern, rustic, industrial, bohemian, or retro, white tile with dark grout can work for you.  Subway tile is the standard choice, but white tile can be found in a wide variety of shapes and sizes for a more unique design.  The one rule that applies to all design styles: carry the tile all the way up to the ceiling.  You won’t see any wimpy partial backslashes in the photos here!

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white tile dark grout modern bath

white tile dark grout modern rustic

The best thing about white tile with dark grout?  Well, the low-maintenance cleaning schedule is pretty great, but more importantly, black and white is a classic color combination that is sure to maintain it’s beauty and style even after the “trend” has passed.

For more kitchen and bathroom inspiration visit my Pinterest page:

Photo Credits: Domino, Domino, Chatelaine, Little Green Notebook, Domino, Chic Design, Steven Gambrel, The Design Files, Paper Blog

Design Trends: Gallery Wall

I’ve had an aversion to gallery walls for as long as I can remember.  As a child I would see displays of school photos and stiff family portraits in bland frames lining the halls and stairways of my friends’ homes, and I simply didn’t like them.  Even to my untrained 12-year-old eye, the rows of photos felt generic, monotonous and uninspired.  Well, I’m happy to announce that gallery walls have come a long way.  In fact, the creative and artistic gallery walls popping up all over Pinterest and in design magazines and blogs have inspired me so much that I’m working on one for my own home.

Emily Henderson gallery wall

Topping my list of fabulous gallery walls are designs by two of my current interior design crushes.  I absolutely love the work of Emily Henderson (above) and Angie Hranowsky (below).  The way they have used the entire wall, the array of bright colors, the contrast of scale and uneven layout, the perfectly imperfect mix of frames – the overall effect is splendid.  And of course their taste (or their client’s taste, as it may be) in art doesn’t hurt either.

Angie Hranowsky gallery wall

Of course, one need not be a regular on the contemporary art scene to have a beautiful gallery wall.  Take a look at the two images below.  One is polished, the other rustic, but they both share characteristics of having casually mismatched appeal, as if the homeowner gathered all the frames, photos, and artwork over the course of years and then grouped them together.

Elle Decoration gallery wall polished gallery wall

If you are thinking of creating a gallery wall in your own home, don’t be afraid to think outside the box, as with the gallery created in the entryway below.  Diverse artwork covers opposing walls from floor to ceiling, the range of color enhanced by the lavender door at the end of the hall.  The collection is unique and eclectic, far from match-matchy, and yet every piece of art looks as if it belongs exactly there.

artwork gallery hallway

If the mismatched look is not for you, consider a more formal approach.  A gallery is simply a collection of artwork, photos, or objects.  Don’t over think it by trying to be more “eclectic” than you really are.  A haphazard layout may be the trend of the day, but a series of cohesive images perfectly centered and aligned can be just as nice.  I love the modern look of the linear gallery below, with the largest frame peeking up an inch or two above the rest.

linear gallery wall

Despite my distaste for the stiff portrait displays of my childhood, I do love a gallery of personal photos.  Family portraits, travel photos, and casual snapshots capture your history, your story, and your fondest memories.  The key to using personal photos is to select images with spontaneity, energy, and emotion.  If your iPhone pics capture the best moments of your life, print them out and put them in frames.  Likewise, if you don’t have any art, print and frame some of your favorite quotes.  Let your personality shine through.  I especially like a gallery wall with a few old baby photos mixed in.  They always lead to a good game of “guess who that is” when friends come to visit.

family photos gallery wall

Gallery walls are such a trend right now that you can even buy prepackaged sets.  A couple of options worth noting are the Gallery In a Box Frame Set (starting at $99 for an assortment of 4 matching frames that vary in size) from West Elm, and the the foolproof wall gallery sets from Red Envelope (starting around $60), which feature an assortment of frames already arranged on a ready-to-hang rod.  For an inexpensive DIY layout, I love the range of sizes and shapes in the Ikea Ribba series.  Although a bit more expensive, Pottery Barn has a great selection of frames in luxurious neutrals like linen and gilt, as well as another Gallery in a Box option ($149 for a set of 6 frames, $199 for a set of 10).

quotes gallery wall

Once your images and frames are chosen, do a trial run before attempting to nail them to the wall.  I suggest placing all of your frames on the floor in front of the wall so that you can easily rearrange the layout until it feels just right.  If you are a perfectionist, you can take your planning one step further by cutting paper templates the exact sizes of each of your frames and using double sided tape to test the layout directly on the wall.  As you can see from the images above, an eclectic display doesn’t require precise measurements and spacing.  Have fun with the process, knowing that whether it is a collection of art, personal photos, or both, it is uniquely yours.

For more gallery wall inspiration visit my Pinterest page:

Photo Credits: Style by Emily Henderson, Angie Hranowsky, Elle Decoration, Pretty & Fun, Fauxology,  Quirky Gastro, Better Homes & Gardens, Bloomingville

Design Trends: Saturated Paint Colors

I recently noticed that more and more of my clients were expressing a desire for deep, saturated wall color.  A trend tends to start small, gradually growing as the idea gains exposure, until one day you realize that it is all around you.   I knew this trend had gone mainstream when I received the Crate & Barrel catalog last month.  I flipped the catalog open to an image of a living room with charcoal gray walls, chartreuse furniture, and teal accents.  Nothing drab there!  As a designer, I love to see people experimenting with color.  Whites and neutrals can be absolutely gorgeous, but they all too often become the safe (a.k.a. plain, boring…) choice for those who simply don’t know what else to choose.  Contrary to common fears, dark paint can actually open up a space, adding depth and visual impact.

Photo Credit: A Beautiful Mess

There has been a lot of buzz about gray being the “new neutral” as taupe and beige fall out of favor.  Gray can be found in a wide range of shades from light to dark, but charcoal seems to be especially popular.  Charcoal is a sophisticated color that complements a variety of styles from modern to traditional and acts as a rich backdrop for bold pops of color, such as the spicy oranges, warm whites, and vibrant yellow-greens in the images below.

Photo Credit: Ann Lowengart Interiors LLC
Photo Credit: Rue Magazine

While gray is establishing itself as a modern classic, blue stands out as a popular choice for those with a more adventurous approach to home design.  Blue has long been a staple of fashion and design, but the rich royal blues and teals arriving on the paint scene today signal a turn towards the dramatic.  Like charcoal, saturated blues allow white and vibrant colors like mustard and coral to pop.

Photo Credit: Ashley Whittaker Design
Farrow & Ball Stiffkey Blue
Photo Credit: Farrow & Ball
Photo Credit: Eric Cohler Design

Still unsure of whether this trend will work for you?  It should be a safe bet if your room has large windows and a lot of natural light.  To emphasize the bright natural light, contrast the dark paint with bright white window and door trim or wainscoting, white accessories and fixtures, and sheer window treatments.

Photo Credit: House Beautiful
Photo Credit: Traditional Home
Photo Credit: House Beautiful

The entryway is one of the easiest places to experiment with color.  Although it literally makes the first impression for anyone entering your home, it is not an area where people linger for long periods of time and thus doesn’t have to follow the same rules as other rooms.  Have fun with it.  Choose a color you love, that you want to see when you leave for work every morning and when you come home every night.

Photo Credit: House Beautiful
Photo Credit: Punt
Photo Credit: Sheila Bridges

Deep, saturated color may be a growing trend, but that doesn’t mean that you have to follow anyone else’s lead.  The beauty of color lies in the variety of options.  Trust your instincts and create a mood that feels fresh and new.  And remember, the best thing about paint is that you can always paint over it again if you don’t love the results!

Photo Credit: Traditional Home
Photo Credit: Steven Gambrel
Photo Credit: William-Christopher Design

To see more paint colors, wallpapers, and murals, visit my Winsome Walls board on Pinterest:

Design Trends: Paint-Dipped Furniture

I have been noticing paint-dipped furniture and decor in catalogs and design magazines for a while now, and the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down.  Perhaps the main appeal of paint-dipped furniture (also called dip-dye furniture) is that you can easily do it yourself and the possibilities are endless.  Whether your piece of furniture is a brand new unfinished dresser from Ikea or an old chair gathering dust in your garage, you can add personalized color and pizzazz suited exactly to your style and color scheme.  There are literally thousands of colors to choose from with one quick visit to your local hardware store.  Of course, not everyone has time or energy for DIY projects.  Luckily, many major retailers have caught on to this trend and are offering paint-dipped items at reasonable prices.  Here are a few images for inspiration:

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:
Photo Credit: The Inspired Room
Photo Credit: The Inspired Room
Photo Credit: House & Home Magazine
Photo Credit: House & Home Magazine
Photo Credit: Serena & Lily
Photo Credit: Serena & Lily
Photo Credit: Little Bit Funky
Photo Credit: Little Bit Funky
Photo Credit: CB2
Photo Credit: CB2
Photo Credit: Anthropologie
Photo Credit: Anthropologie
Photo Credit: Um Project
Photo Credit: Um Project
Photo Credit: Anthropologie
Photo Credit: Anthropologie

If these images have enticed you, don’t be afraid to try out this technique at home.

For furniture:

1) Simply select your item to be painted.

2) Sand it down to remove existing color or finish and to ensure that new paint adheres smoothly.

3) Mark the line where you want color to start (or stop) by wrapping it with painters tape (also found at your local hardware store).  For added protection and a clean line, put a plastic bag or other such item over the rest of the furniture and tape the edges so that it won’t accidentally get splashed with color.

4) Paint it!  For best results, use one coat of primer and two coats of your selected color.

Don’t be afraid to try out bold colors.  After all, you can always paint over it again if you don’t like the result!  Or if you are wary of starting out with an actual piece of furniture, try painting small objects like wooden spoons (shown above), old glass jars (which can be used as votive candle holders or vases), plant pots, or a wicker basket.  For more inspiration images, check out my pinterest board as I continue to track this design trend:

References for retail items:

Submergent Ladder from Anthropologie, $448,

Dip-Dyed Stools from Serena & Lily, $58-$68,

Discus Aqua Side Table from CB2, $79.95,