About Noz Nozawa

I'm Noz. I am a San Francisco Interior Designer and seeker of good, smart design. I believe in dark walls, excellent lighting, decanters for everything, good food, wine + scotch, and that if all else fails, spray paint may indeed be the solution. What I do: I'm an interior designer + lifestyle manager. I care a lot about investing in quality at every budget level, making well-informed purchases, and ensuring that my clients are all better at winning at life after I've be summoned.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Color Consultation

So excited to announce this week that I am the official color consultant for Paintzen San Francisco! They’re basically “Uber for painting your home” (pardon the overused *tech analogy* description) – a super turnkey, totally online process, where you pick what you want to have painted, they’ll deliver a fair quote online, and then you can schedule licensed + insured painters to get it done. The thing is, you need to tell them what colors you want to use. And if you can’t decide, I’m your gal (at least in the SF Bay Area).

(And if you’d like some bonus reading, Paintzen featured me as their Designer of the Month – here’s my lil interview on their blog!).

NOZNOZNOZ - Color Consultation - Paint Fan Deck

Just one of several paint chip fan decks from Benjamin Moore! Soooo many colors.

But the world of colors is ridiculously daunting, with wayyy too many colors and brands to choose from. And if you’re hoping to paint your walls just once, or just once in a while, it might feel kind of overwhelming to distill all the options down to a final paint scheme and hope you get it right the first time (if you don’t, though, don’t worry – it’s literally just paint so you can always repaint or paint it back to the previous color). So, unless you have a knack for colors + color theory, getting help via a quick color consultation could be really helpful and save you a lot of time in the process!

Whether you choose to pay an interior designer to help consult on color, or just head to a paint store and talk to the store’s paint expert (some paint stores have in-house color consultants), here are a few tips to make sure you get the most out of your color consultation:


Before diving into paint chips, first figure out your vision for the rooms / walls you want painted. Start on sites like Houzz or Pinterest, find inspiration images, and show your color consultant those images. If your heart is pulling you in different directions for a room, narrow it down to 2 different directions max. 3 is too many.


The truest way for you to be able to see the differences across paint chips in the same color family is to view them in daylight. BUT after you take your paint chips home, it’s also important to take the time to view the paint chips (or paint samples, if you paint larger swatches on your wall) during the times you’ll be home. That means if you are always in the office 9-6pm, make sure to decide if you also like the color in the evenings when you’re home to enjoy your room.

NOZNOZNOZ - Color Consultation - Paintzen Projects by Noz Design

These are 4 rooms I’ve had painted for my clients, all working with Paintzen. One plug for them is they have paint crews with the tools and skills to do wallpaper effects like stripes, herringbone, chevrons, etc.


If you’re doing a consultation in your space, your color consultant will know to assess what direction your sunlight comes from. If you’re headed to a paint store, figure this out ahead of time and make sure to tell the store expert! Especially with whites and light greys, paint colors can look completely different, depending on whether you have indirect north-facing light, western afternoon sunset light, or direct full exposure south-facing light! Your iPhone has a compass app (totally works!), or you can do a Google Maps search for your building to figure it out.


The great thing about paint is, even though it can make a room feel completely different, it’s really just paint (I know I just said this earlier, but it bears repeating!). Which means, even for a rental home, you can always paint it back. If you’re loving a dark or bold color, definitely ask your color consultant to select the right shade of that bold color. It’s likely that the paint chip will feel more muted than the inspiration photo you show, but trust the consultant: photos always deceive the actual color in real life, and end up looking brighter or more saturated in the photo.

NOZNOZNOZ - Color Consultation - Go Bold Even Exteriors

Speaking of BOLD… love that San Francisco has no rules about what color you can paint your house or building. This technicolor art deco fantasy is in the Castro on 17th Street.


With as many paint shades as there are, you might be tempted to keep your options open with 4-5 paint shades that you hang on the wall. That is too many. By the end of your consultation, your consultant should help you land on 3 or fewer final options. Those 3 might be 3 very similar shades, or 2 similar shades and 1 totally different option – doesn’t matter. A max of 3 per room / wall will lead to a much more successful final selection, and less over-thinking. A good color consultation should close with you feeling confident about making a decision for your final paint color!

If you have any other questions or want advice on other parts of the color selection process, let me know anytime!

The 2 Best Things IKEA Sells

As a designer who cares a lot about the environment and minimizing waste by keeping or updating existing furniture, I’m usually at odds with everything IKEA represents. While I can appreciate their mission to bring affordable modern design to the masses, the reality is that they sell disposable furniture, built to last only a while, and priced to keep the disposers from feeling too guilty about wasting money if they’re too busy to try to resell their IKEA remains.

But there ARE two amazing, shockingly quality items that IKEA carries, that I need to celebrate them for, because they’re such high value items. And they’re both mirrors / mirrored.


NOZNOZNOZ - My IKEA Hovet Mirror

At a towering 6’6” tall, the Hovet mirror is the most fantastic thing IKEA sells, the most fantastic IKEA thing I’ve ever bought on Craigslist, and the only IKEA thing I recommend to all my clients. For anyone who’s ever been frustrated by “skinny” mirrors and ‘fatty” mirrors in dressing rooms, the Hovet mirror is sturdy and manufactured really well to return an accurate reflection of you in front of it. The frame is a brushed aluminum, which is maybe a little more modern than some folks are into, but to me, the frame is so thin that it mostly disappears.

Plus, most mirrors at any other reasonably priced retailer like West Elm, Room & Board, etc. sell framed mirrors anywhere from $400 to $900 – I find that for a bedroom / closet dressing mirror, a nicer frame isn’t worth the additional cost.

NOZNOZNOZ - IKEA Hovet vs West Elm search ads.png

I just noticed that when you do a google search for “ikea hovet mirror,” a WEST ELM mirror ad pops up – that’s how popular this mirror is?! 

While several of my clients and I have just leaned our mirrors against a wall, with the base of the mirror on the floor (pro tip: having a slight angle by resting a mirror on the floor can make you feel a little slimmer in the mirror!), this client of mine has the mirror hanging down the hallway from the front door (the Hovet comes with mounting hardware).

NOZNOZNOZ - Nob Hill Kitchen - Breakfast 4

My pro tip would be that if you live in an area where Craigslist is a thing, check there first! Since mirrors are seldom moved around or handled, a used one is likely to look great or like-new, and you won’t have to deal with the ridiculous amounts of cardboard packaging that come with buying a new one.

OTHER BEST THING: IKEA’s Godmorgon Medicine Cabinet ($150-240)

NOZNOZNOZ - IKEA Godmorgon 2 door medicine cabinetNOZNOZNOZ - IKEA Godmorgon 2 door medicine cabinet - sides

While I’ve not used this product in a project yet, the IKEA Godmorgon medicine cabinet is a steal for an inside-and-outside mirrored unit – my go-to brand for medicine cabinets, Robern, offers interior mirrored cabinets for anywhere from $500 to $2,500 retail (granted, the Robern units offer lots of bells & whistles); but if you are renovating your bathroom on a budget, the Godmorgon unit would be a great value, and will look much more expensive than its price. Plus the interior of the Godmorgon, on top of being mirrored, includes 4 tempered glass shelves – so you could add your own DIY lighting at the top of this unit, and it would cast light all the way through!

The only downside to the Godmorgon is its dimensions. Whether you go with the one-door or the two-door unit, the widest single pane mirror you’ll get is 20”, which is a bit of a bummer if you were hoping for a more luxe look (I’m not a big fan of the seam down the middle). And the 1-door only comes in a 15ish-inch-wide option, which is VERY limiting.

Also, I haven’t been able to confirm based on the instruction / install guides whether you can recess these cabinets into the wall, or if they have to be surface-mounted. Despite the limitations of this unit, though, it’s still one of the best things IKEA offers.

And besides these two mirrored value-spectaculars, I’ll go back to having a bone to pick about IKEA.

Event Design: Observations for 2016

2016 is going to be the Year of The Event. At least for me. Outside of my usual house parties, I’ll be planning my wedding this year, an anniversary celebration for my lil design business, and at least a couple major BBQs.

I’ve also recently partnered up with Peerspace – a rad marketplace for venues (a lot of which are really unique and not otherwise easily findable online) where you can peep space photos and rent them for whatever activity you’re into – to develop a guide they’re publishing about how to select the right venue for your event. And so, lately I’ve been giving a LOT of thought to event venues, and how interior design + decorating trends are influencing event design.

UPDATE: Peerspace published their “How to choose a venue” guide and it is AWESOME.

NOZNOZNOZ - Event Design 2016 - Industrial Warehouse Wedding

Here are two observations on where I see event design heading this year:


Since early 2015, I’ve noticed that event hosts have increasingly wanted to make their celebrations + parties a true reflection of them, and are less concerned about checking all the boxes on traditional event details. I LOVE this trend – if you’re going to invest $$$$ in an event, why should you feel like you have to spend on XYZ just because it’s the “appropriate” thing to do?

I should caveat, though, that I’m talking about true personalization of event details + design, NOT DIY / handmade events. Nothing against pinning, but for a few years, a lot of weddings and birthday parties started to display what felt like the same / similar DIY decorations made popular and discoverable by Pinterest – which is fine; I’m just much more excited about hosts altogether eschewing ideas they’ve seen and instead prioritizing details that feel really authentic.

Some examples:

  • Foregoing the formal sit-down dinner at a wedding and opting instead for super casual food stations that serve ice cream and fried chicken, with no assigned seating!
  • Creating + commissioning art as venue decor, which is meant to live on after the event as artwork in the hosts’ home or office
  • Mismatched event furnishings for an eclectic vibe, OR very specific styles of rental furniture. I’m seeing more and more vintage furniture rental companies pop up, which is fantastic because I’m so over the white-tablecloth-with-bamboo-chair look.
Found Rentals - farm-table-slider

Photo courtesy of Found Rentals

The kinds of venues that I find are most conducive to this movement toward personalized, reflective-of-self events are industrial warehouses and spaces that seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor spaces.

Warehouses, for all their industrial-chic appeal, are basically giant, high-ceiling shells, so they’re ideal blank canvases to put your mark on the venue. Also, because their interiors often have exposed + easily accessible structural elements like ceiling I-beams, it’s likelier that if you have an ambitious decor installation vision (like hanging artwork on walls, installing your own chandeliers, or ziplining through your own party – seriously, I’ve seen this!), the venue will have the capacity to accommodate, whereas a venue with a fully finished interior would be rather leery of nails going into walls or anything.



Something I recommend to all my interior design clients is that, whatever rules they’ve been told in the past about *appropriate seating* for a space, forget it“You should have 2 matching accent chairs in your living room?” Nope, you are free to be more eclectic. I could rattle off countless age-old decorating rules that I don’t believe in, but it goes without saying that no one’s ever accused me of being a traditionalist.

But as for EVENTS, traditional seating has stuck around, in part because there are often functional reasons for having, say, tables + chairs at a team offsite. What I’ve seen a bit of, and would love to see more of in 2016, are events that have been planned with thoughtful consideration to how seats + seating arrangements influence the vibe of an event. An example:

Let’s take a company offsite of about 20 people, with the noble goals of “brainstorming product ideas” and “team-building.” The standard environment that coworkers would expect to walk into is a room with desk-height tables and chairs, and either they sit wherever, or are assigned to a table. Such an offsite would give off the vibe of “this day is about productivity and getting some work done,” right? At least that’s how it felt when I was a corporate butterfly. But imagine if the offsite were instead set in a bohemian-chic space, where the tables were coffee table height, and the seats were low-slung sofas, poufs, and floor pillows: that setting changes employees’ expectations about the offsite: it gets them out of the mindset that it’s just another workday, it’s casual and encourages relaxed conversation, and it is a gesture to imply that conventional office rules need not apply in this space.

NOZNOZNOZ - Event Design 2016 - Bohemian loft

It may sound a little hippie-dippie, but the way a space invites its guests to be seated (or not) on arrival can completely transform, elevate, and inform the mood and energy of a group of people. I’ve spent a ton of time observing this at parties, and at events I’ve hosted in my own home: the furniture arrangement influences whether a guest reclines into a sofa, or stands at the entrance waiting to be invited to have a seat. And consider cocktail parties: no chairs, just high-boy tables. They’re designed that way to keep guests standing, encouraging them to move about the space and mingle / network.

I’m excited to think that more people will feel liberated to consider unique venues that can actually help influence how they plan their event.


Of course, there are other event venue trends that just won’t quit, and will persist (for good reasons) into 2016:

  • Rustic farmhouses on wineries or lavish estates are beautiful and transport you from the hustle & bustle – they make it easy to throw an event that photographs well and establishes a clear aesthetic and vibe;
  • And venues with midcentury modern furniture, the “skinny jean of decor” – it’s been around, we know it when we see it, but it’s just so functional, space-efficient, and good-looking that it’s here to stay, whether we like it or are kind of over it. (We’re not over it.)


All in, a lot to look forward to on the event horizon. With party planning on my brain this year, there’ll be more tips + event design musings to come.

Project Reveal: Creating a Living Room Ideal for Hosting

The second room I designed for my amazing clients Boe + Sophie Hayward (whose ping pong dining room I also designed), was their formal living room. The family upsized when moving into this house, so they found that they didn’t quite have furniture or plans for the formal front living room.

On top of that, the rest of the home is an open-concept layout, with the dining room, sitting room, kitchen, and family/TV room all connected – whereas the formal living room is separated on the other side of the entry/foyer on the front of the house. As a consequence, when I first saw the home, the living room was being used as an impromptu storage area, with hand-me-down furniture from their parents, boxes, and kids’ toys left in there.

While the fireplace + mantle were perfect places for holiday decor, the rest of the formal living room was not quite working for the family.

I started working with the Haywards during the holidays of 2014, which is why there are so many stockings + nutcrackers (their nutcracker collection is ON POINT!).

Boe + Sophie, who often entertain at their home, envisioned the formal living room being a chic “showcase” space in the house where grown-up guests could enjoy a cocktail when they arrived. Without further ado, the reveal:

Photo by Colin Price

Photography by Colin Price!

Since the family has three kids under age 5, I also wanted to make sure that even though the space is meant for grown-up guests, the furnishings would be safe for kids to romp around as well.

WHAT WAS ALREADY IN THE SPACE: The wall paint, which the stagers or previous owners had painted before the Haywards moved in, was fabulous – so I recommended we keep the paint as it was (in the “Before” photo, the color looks totally different). The blue sofa had just been reupholstered less than a year before, so we opted to keep it as-is also.

WHAT I ADDED + UPDATED: First I wanted to add some life to the floor covering situation in the formal living room. I chose one of my favorite rugs, the Surya Smithsonian Archive Rug in Brown, to bring together the olive-brown walls and deep brown floors. This selection meant that the primary colors in the room were brown, blue (sofa), and white – so whatever color the coffee table / occasional seats would be had to enhance this color palette.

After doing a ton of hunting for standard coffee tables, I landed on the idea of a giant tufted ottoman-coffee-table – and my clients loved the concept! The ready-to-order options I’d found were either not the right dimensions or the right colors, so I went custom and found a beautiful ochre/mustard fabric from Robert Allen, and worked with my amazing upholstery partners-in-crime to fabricate the piece. I LOVE how the colors + textures came together in the room. Plus, Boe + Sophie told me that their kids love running in and crashing onto the ottoman, so I couldn’t be more thrilled with the piece’s versatility.

Not pictured is the fabulous Room & Board sideboard that we got. It serves as the house bar – and the serving tray on the ottoman is a nod to the cocktails that will be served to grown-up guests in this space!

Not pictured is the fabulous Room & Board sideboard that we got. It serves as the house bar – and the serving tray on the ottoman is a nod to the cocktails that will be served to grown-up guests in this space!

The wooden stools with blue felt cushions are from Blu Dot – they’re fabulously casual + modern, and are easy to move around for versatile seating. Most of the time they stay in the family room on the other side of the house.

The final touches were the gold urchin ceiling light fixture and my *tszujing* of the books in the bookcases (side note, I learned how to spell that word by literally googling “how do you spell juj”). I purchased some bookends and decorative objects to complement Sophie’s collection of novels, and then color-blocked the books to give them a sense of organization and visual order. My personal favorite decorative objects are the Golden Gate Bridge bookends (which I used to hold the red books, and which are meant to look like a long *bridge* that extends through the fireplace) and the brass bear (the youngest of the Hayward children’s nickname is Bear). Here are the two bookcases together:

Sorry, Dewey Decimal System, but you have no home in this house.

Sorry, Dewey Decimal System, but you have no home in this house.

This living room was also featured recently in an article on Houzz about living rooms with fireplaces! If you’d like to read more about how I designed the room to highlight the fireplace, check it out here!

Project Reveal: Dining Room Fit for a Feast with a Side of Ping Pong

Recently I finished working on the home of my amazing clients Boe + Sophie Hayward. They are just the coolest people, and also parents to 3 kids under the age of five and a dog-baby, who make raising a family look like a total breeze.

When I met them, they’d purchased their current home just over a year earlier, and had run out of steam after decorating most spaces (they upsized from a smaller home), and what was left over were the formal living room and formal dining room. In this post I’ll show the Before & After for the dining room:

NOZNOZNOZ - Avenues Family Home - Dining BEFORE

I also happened to visit during the holidays, so all my “Before” photos show the family’s ridiculously extensive collection of Nutcrackers. The table, while beautiful, didn’t fit with their style goals for this room, and was too small. The giant china hutch is a hand-me-down from one of their parents’ homes, and the super-cool Graham’s beverage cooler ended up in the formal living room.

… and AFTER: Noz Design - Avenues Family House - Dining Room 1

What inspired me about Boe + Sophie’s vision for the room was how versatile they wanted their hosting spaces to be. As super-versatile people, they wanted their formal dining room to be stylish but comfortable – to be a space that guests loved to be in… and linger in.

Our process started with finding the right dining table. Boe’s ideal situation was for us to put a regulation-sized ping pong dining table in the space. For the record, that is a massive table for a San Francisco home: 5′ x 9′!!!! But the room was large enough, so I said, let’s go for it! After reviewing a number of options (surprisingly there are a number of ping pong dining tables in all different styles), we selected the Winston table from Venture Shuffleboard – made in the US of solid Walnut with Maple insets. And let me just say, this table is STUNNING and beautifully crafted.

Noz Design - Avenues Family House - Dining Room 2

As the house’s floor plan is very open, we opted to keep the walls in the dining room the same color as the adjacent sitting room + kitchen. That meant we could go with a bold color for the rug. Since Boe and Sophie’s three kids are all very young, I recommended a nice-looking but affordable rug (literally less than $400 and it’s 100% wool!) that they wouldn’t be afraid of having ruined. A big bonus for me was that Sophie loves this rug’s design!

Next was chairs: I found a beautiful set of 8 vintage walnut + wool chairs from my pals at Midcentury Møbler in San Francisco, and then for the head-of-table chairs, I juxtaposed the midcentury modern vibe with Scandinavian modern chairs designed by Hem. I love these leather scoop chairs, and I love that they kind of feel like baseball gloves (Boe is a major SF Giants fan). The woods on these chairs work with both woods in the dining table.

Side note: I'm pretty happy with my decorating job on the decorative shelves to the right. They are a really awkward height + depth, but I think we made it work.

Side note: I’m pretty happy with my decorating job on the decorative shelves to the right. They are a really awkward, unaccommodating height + depth, but I think we made it work. The ping pong gear goes in the little bucket on the 4th shelf.

Finally, lighting: the “before” chandelier was not working with the space – too small, too chrome, and hung too high. In keeping with the midcentury modern vibe, we went with a large Sputnik pendant in black metal, and then hung it just low enough that it feels like a part of the space, but just high enough that it doesn’t interfere with fierce table tennis matches (at least so far).

Boe and Sophie also asked about what to put on the wall. With the china hutch moved out, the room felt much bigger, but the wall felt empty. My idea was mirrors, because the formal dining room happens to get the least natural light vs. the other rooms on the ground floor, and the mirrors would bounce back light during the day and in evenings when the Sputnik light is on. Rather than go with one large mirror, we went with three in leather frames that nod to the leather chairs. Their scale is just enough to add visual interest to the wall without competing with the table and the delicious food to be served on it.

I was SO delighted that a couple friends (including Hedge, my now-fiancé ^_^) noticed that the mirrors look like ping pong paddles!

Also, I was delighted that a couple friends (including Hedge, my now-fiancé ^_^) noticed that I selected mirror frames that echo the shape of ping pong paddles!

And that’s it! What do you think of the idea of a multi-use dining table? I personally use mine as a makeshift “work table” when my desk is too small.

Next up: the project reveal for this same family’s formal living room!

Buying a Home 101: How It Works and What Happens During Escrow

Recently, friends of mine moved from NYC to San Francisco and, given the insane state of rent prices in the city right now, they briefly entertained the option of buying a place. But then they realized they had no idea how you go from showing up at Open Houses to being a homeowner. And the problem with most information on the internet is, googling what’s involved in a home purchase is basically like going to WebMD to find out why your foot hurts (your body is shutting down). So I will try to help demystify some parts of the process, sharing the plain + simple things I wish I knew before getting into the home-buying process myself in 2010!

BUT FIRST: I will assume if you’re thinking of buying a home, you’ve already done some legwork to figure out your budget – what your down payment / monthly mortgage payment / local property tax liability will be. If not, there are lots of useful mortgage calculators online, as well as budget calculators (google “home purchase budget calculator”).

I’ll also assume you know the basics on how to start looking for homes – your local MLS, Zillow, RedFin, and a host of other websites will help you hunt. You can also contact a real estate agent to help you get access to homes before their listings are published (if you’re super serious).


The short answer is, definitely get an agent. It doesn’t cost the buying party anything to have an agent (it only costs the selling party money via the agents’ commission), and your agent is going to be helpful for a lot of things, including:

  1. Helping set up viewings of homes that are “by appointment only”
  2. Negotiating with the seller’s agent to get your offer accepted instead of another potential buyer’s
  3. Setting up the inspections + title paperwork with a title company (more on this later)
  4. Usually as a “thank you” for getting them a nice little commission, they’ll buy you a “home warrantee” as a housewarming gift, which is basically a blanket warrantee policy that covers fixing anything that breaks during your first year in your home.

As far as selecting a real estate agent, I always recommend working with an agent whom a friend had a previous great experience with – real estate isn’t rocket science, so you can assume any agent has the knowledge and skills to get things done (I mean, you’d HOPE…). Then it comes down to trust and dependability.

One advantage of going with a more experienced agent is that agents with more years + homes under their belts have stronger networks with other real estate agents in the area, and may have more leverage with a selling agent in helping your offer get extra-special consideration. That said, sometimes newer or earlier-in-their-career agents will be more likely to spend more time per client, and will really make you a VIP priority.


If you’ve ever hunted for a rental apartment in a competitive city, you know that you’ve got to get your documentation ready to be taken seriously by a landlord – credit history, rental history, pay stubs, references, bank statements showing you can afford the deposit and 1st/last months’ rent, etc. Well, preparation for buying a home is very similar, just a little more involved. The most important thing to arrange in advance:

GET PRE-APPROVED FOR A MORTGAGE. If you aren’t planning to buy a home in 100% cash, you’ll need a mortgage to finance the purchase. And when you make an offer on a home, the offer will indicate exactly how much money you’ll put into your down payment, and how much you’ll need to finance through a mortgage. Unsurprisingly, offers that show a higher down payment and lower mortgage are more attractive, on a purely numbers basis, than offers requiring more financing. The reason is, sellers know that if they accept an offer with a mortgage, there is a chance that a couple weeks into escrow (more on escrow later) the buyer ends up not ultimately getting the mortgage, and then the whole deal falls through, which wastes everyone’s time and money.

So here’s what you do: find a bank you think you’ll want to set your mortgage up with. It could be the bank where you already have a bank account, a bank/lender where a friend or colleague has been really happy with their mortgage broker (having a great mortgage broker that you get along with is a really nice bonus, by the way), or just simply whoever offers you the lowest rate. Then, set up a meeting with a mortgage broker to get pre-approved for a mortgage that is significantly more money than you actually plan to borrow. Your mortgage broker will want to see several months of pay stubs / income statements, your bank account balances, and will also run your credit report, before agreeing to pre-approve you. Once you’ve been pre-approved, get a letter from the mortgage broker on bank letterhead stating what size mortgage you’ve been pre-approved for. This letter will be vital for when you make an offer.


When you’re shopping for a home, you will ultimately have spent very little time in the home before making an offer – versus a car, where you might test-drive the same model even TWICE before pulling the trigger. Recently, a client of mine bought a house in Oakland and joked that our on-site meeting was only the third time she’d ever even seen the place! So, before you make an official offer, get as much info as you can. All sellers are required to share disclosures on the home, which can include: damages or previous structural / plumbing issues, whether a violent crime or death happened on the property, and a host of other things they’re obligated to tell prospective buyers so that you don’t get bamboozled.


So you’ve found your dream home, you can afford it, and you’re ready to make an offer! This is another place where having a real estate agent (buyer’s agent) is useful. They help package up the offer and deliver it to the seller’s agent. Your offer is basically a packet of documentation (bank statements, income statements, pre-approval letter, etc.), the offer terms, a signed contractual offer (tech-savvy agents will let you sign the offer via DocuSign) demonstrating that if it’s accepted, you’re officially the buyer and will enter escrow, and potentially a heartfelt letter from you to the buyer, telling them why you love their home and how much it would mean to you (and your family) if your offer was accepted. Sometimes these letters sway a seller toward accepting your offer, and sometimes they just further demonstrate how motivated you are.

OFFER TERMS? In addition to the amount you’re offering to pay for the home (could be under or over the asking / list price, depending on your local economy), you can also ask for other terms as part of your offer. For example, if you’ll need a mortgage to buy the home, you can ask the seller to pay down interest rate points in your loan, in exchange for a higher purchase price. What?? Some sellers and their agents want their home to sell at as high a price as possible – because the sale price gets published and influences future list prices on similar homes. But if the real estate market is such that there’s room for negotiation, you could either offer less than the asking price, or you could offer closer to the asking price and get your discount behind the scenes.

Here is an example scenario: your dream house is listed at $100,000. But you want to offer more like $90,000 – or overall, save $10K. You can offer $90,000 and hope the seller + seller’s agent accept, or you can offer $95,000, and ask the seller to pay down like 0.25%-0.5% of your interest rate (saving you thousands over the course of your mortgage), which would cost the seller like $5,000 for a total discount to you of $10,000. So you still get $10,000 off, but the final sale price gets published at the higher $95,000.

OTHER TERMS could include conditions you’re asking the seller to abide by if the offer is accepted – things like, you want them to include the washer/dryer with the house sale. Or the patio furniture. Assets like window treatments and kitchen appliances are usually considered part of the house already, and not necessary to have in the offer terms. But ask your real estate agent if you aren’t sure.

COUNTER-OFFERS: If the seller is seriously considering your offer, they might send you a counter-offer with revised terms. The counter-offer, and your subsequent counter or acceptance of their counter-offer, are all contractual signed documents, just like the initial offer.


Congrats! Your offer has been accepted and now you are in escrow. You’ve probably heard that word a billion times associated with home purchases, but if you’re anything like me when I first entered this process, you know the word but not what it is.

The escrow period (or “being in escrow” or “opening escrow”) means you and the seller are contractually trying to make the sale happen! Typically, escrow is 30 days long, and in that time, everything happens that makes the purchase go through. The details of the process are nuanced depending on whether you’re getting a condo or house, where in the country are you, etc., but just so you know what to expect, activities that happen in escrow include:

  • HOME INSPECTIONS: All home sales are subject to inspections. This reassures you as the buyer that, if the home you fell in love with is actually crumbling apart or has serious issues (or even little issues, like an outlet not working), you don’t have to go through with the purchase unless/until the seller takes care of fixing the problems, or you re-negotiate the deal. Your agent will have their go-to certified inspectors visit the home during the escrow period, and different home types / different areas will have more or fewer inspection criteria. You should plan to be there during the inspections.
  • DOWN PAYMENT TRANSFER: Your offer probably included an amount you’d put down, along with the amount you’d mortgage. Your accepted offer might have even come with a “good faith deposit” that goes toward your down payment. Well, the rest of that down payment is due during escrow, so at some point you’ll go the bank to make a (very emotionally painful / exciting) wire transfer of the rest of your down payment to the seller’s bank.
  • OFFICIALLY GETTING A MORTGAGE: If you’re financing with a mortgage, you’ll go back to the bank from which you got your pre-approval letter, or a different bank if you want to start from scratch, and actually get a mortgage. Getting a mortgage is similar to getting any other kind of loan, except more things to sign and a bigger commitment.
  • CHANGE OF TITLE: On the last day of your escrow period, if everything with inspections is fine and cash / financing payments for the home go through, you’ll officially change title! You’ll go to a title company (your agent will set this up for you with their go-to title company / title signer), you’ll be walked through and told to sign / initial a million pages, a notary will take your finger prints, and when that process is over, title of the property has transferred officially from the seller to YOU!!! OMG!!!!

The title company will then submit all the paperwork to the County, and within a day or two after that, your agent will call you to schedule a time for you to GET THE KEYS!!!!!!

Of course there are so many other versions of this very simplified 101-level home buying explanation – and much of the above gets complicated if you’re buying a foreclosure or if there are competing offers or if your seller wants to rent the home back from you for a couple months, or whatever. But, hopefully if you have been thinking about buying a home for the first time, this was at least a little more helpful than the scary overly technical articles I relied on a few years ago!

Marriage Equality + Pride: Decorating with Chic Rainbows!

If your Facebook feed looks anything like mine, every single post is celebrating the momentous Supreme Court decision that everyone in the United States deserves marriage equality!!

San Francisco's City Hall, all lit up for Pride. Photo by Joe Parks from 2013!

San Francisco’s City Hall, all lit up for Pride. This photo is by Joe Parks!

Earlier today I ran to my computer to find adorable rainbow-y gay decor to celebrate (because otherwise I have been removing basically all color to achieve a mostly-black-and-some-white aesthetic in the living room) – and that’s when I realized that it isn’t that straight-forward (lol… straight-gay pun… #seewhatididthere) to find ways to decorate with a rainbow in your home without it looking like a literal Gay Pride flag.

And so: whether you’re looking for a bright colorful accent in your home but can’t pick just ONE color, or you’re wanting to find Pride-themed decor that’s more chic than a plain old rainbow, here are a few options:


The “Rainbow” rug by Sonya Winner – I love the pattern.

One of my favorite ways to add a punch of color to a room is by putting down a bold rug. Sonya Winner makes amazingly saturated, geometric rugs that utilize the colors of the rainbow without being super literal. I also love that a couple of her rugs adhere to no rules and are just really rad shapes, like these:

Sonya Winner rug - Prism Sonya Winner rug - Vortex


For a low-commitment way to add a rainbow to your space (especially useful if you like to change your decorations based on the holiday), pillows are an affordable, easy-to-store option. I tend to like geometric patterns for the colors to scatter, like this pillow on Etsy:

Etsy Pillow

Or, you could always fully commit to the cause and arrange a bunch of solid-colored pillows into a rainbow: 

Alternatively, I quite like this Tangram-esque duvet+sham set, which also has a bit of a midcentury modern vibe by having excluded purple:Tangram Duvet Cover


Maybe the most obvious way to outfit your home with a rainbow that still feels sophisticated and chic is to put it on your walls as art. One of my favorite contemporary California artists is Raul de la Torre in Los Angeles. His large, abstract multimedia pieces are beautifully textural, combining thick applications of paint and THREAD which he embroiders through the canvas! Many of his pieces are super colorful, and would add color and visual interest to even the most strictly “neutral” interiors.

Raul de la Torre art


If you wanted to take your rainbow decor outside, rather than just simply hang the flag, you could get huge flags and drape them from your bay windows like awnings, which my friends at The Powerhouse did for this month:

(Not to mention that the entire building was recently repainted in the BDSM flag colors!!)

(Not to mention that the entire building was recently repainted in the BDSM flag colors!!)

If you’re in San Francisco or New York City, Happy Pride!!!!!!!!! May your entire world – from the insides of your home to every lamp post on the streets – be covered in vivid rainbow celebration all weekend!

MATERIAL MOMENT: Bógólanfini – African Mud Cloth

In the last several months, African mud cloth has been having a MOMENT in upholstery and decor, and I’ve fully fallen in love with its rich textural and graphical nature. Mud cloth, or Bógólanfini (translates pretty literally into mud w/ cloth), originates in Western Africa, specifically the country of Mali, but I’ve also seen some imported from Burkina Faso – and has been a traditional textile of the Bamana (also known as Bambara) people for centuries.

Mud cloth of all patterns and colors in this photo from African Interiors, published by Taschen.

Mud cloth of all patterns and colors in this photo from African Interiors, published by Taschen.


One of the distinctive features of mud cloth is that it’s not one giant continuous piece of material; rather, it is made by hand-weaving strips of cotton (woven by Bamana men), then sewing those pieces together. Then, the cloth is dyed by hand by Bamana women (which is really awesome teamwork, btw).

First, the cloth is soaked in water infused with cengura tree leaves, which is basically a primer to help the darker colors adhere. Then the cloth is dyed with fermented mud, clay, other leaves (for the black / darker colors), and caustic soda (for the white patterns in the mud cloth). Specifically, the iron-rich mud is painted on first, and then the caustic soda bleaches the designs from the primer’s yellow tones to white. Impressively, the whole process of making an authentic mud cloth takes 2-3 weeks!

The designs are all different – they often stylized depictions of plants and animals, and are arranged to honor specific events or purposes, like a girl entering womanhood, or to camouflage hunters and signify their status.


What I love about mud cloth is how versatile it is, and how much of a presence it carries in a space. It works in a variety of applications from pillows to throws to upholstery.

NOZNOZNOZ - Mud cloth best chair ever

This is one of my absolute favorite “inspiration” chairs to ever come from Google Image Search. The mud cloth on this Louis XV-style gilded chair provides such a cool juxtaposition of European 18th-century and African tribal styles.

I especially appreciate upholstery applications where mud cloth is used on the backside of chairs as well. A couple projects I’ve seen feature mud cloth on the back, but a solid black/charcoal upholstery material on the seat + front of the chair.

NOZNOZNOZ - Mud cloth chair home office

Something else I love about mud cloth upholstery is, since the patterns differ across mud cloths and even vary within a single piece, you can arrange the mud cloth sections to create a unique look based on which patterns you are most inspired by.

NOZNOZNOZ - Mud cloth in a home

This mud cloth-upholstered chair really grounds this room by providing a contrasting style.

No budget for upholstery right now? No problem. This space just coolly draped a piece of mud cloth over a vintage rattan chair, adding visual interest to this global-styles reading corner.

NOZNOZNOZ - Mud cloth draped

… or, drape it over the edge of your bed.

NOZNOZNOZ - Mud cloth on a bed

If you are looking for just a touch of mud cloth for your home, I’ve noticed a pretty steady increase of options on sites like One King’s Lane over the last few months. Also, a really rad store in San Francisco that carries lots of responsibly globally-sourced decor is St. Frank!

I’m working on a little mud cloth project for my baby bean Vivienne (crazy dog mom, yes I am), so I’ll update in a future post when it’s done!

DIY: Painted My Outdoor Deck + Railings BLACK

Over the weekend, Hedge and I painted our deck + metal railings black. The joke is that I ran out of walls in the apartment to paint black, so I took my obsession outside. But it’s not a joke, because that’s actually what happened.


Tada!! (A typical bright + sunny summer day in San Francisco… ha)

Since moving into Chez Noz in 2010, I’ve gone through various stages of falling in and out of love with my deck: first, “Omg I’m just so happy and grateful to have outdoor space in a city!” Then, “Ugh maintenance of the deck is daunting. I shall avoid!” (which I did for over 3 years). Then, “Ugh I hate the railings – they look like prison bars – I need to replace them with fancy cable railings or I won’t be able to concentrate on my life.” To finally, “Okay, can’t afford to change the railings with my super-baby-DIY budget. What else can I do?”

BEFORE the prep work began!! That black spot Viv is lying next to is burn damage from a charcoal chimney being set down there.

BEFORE the prep work began!! That black spot Viv is lying next to is burn damage from a charcoal chimney being set down there. Don’t the unpainted metal railings look terrible?

I was also troubled with what to do about the burn damage mark on the deck, from when Hedge accidentally set his lit charcoal chimney down.

Then, an epiphany from the burn mark: I remembered how much I love shou-sugi-ban – a Japanese practice of charring wood for outdoor applications. The charring makes the wood rot- and pest-resistant, and also makes it beautifully black. So I decided, “Omg let’s paint everything outside black!!” I figured black would also make the existing railings feel more modern and sleek, which was my goal anyway with previously wanting new cable railings.

And now that it’s done I’m suuuuuper happy with the final results:

Closer look at the deck boards

Closer look at the deck boards + Viv’s lil face

TOTAL COST: $87! (Well, we only paid $77, but it WOULD have cost $87)

The supplies we bought for this project: 1 gallon of Benjamin Moore Floor & Patio paint in Onyx, 2 cans of Rust-Oleum

The supplies we bought for this project: 1 gallon of Benjamin Moore Floor & Patio paint in Onyx, 2 cans of Rust-Oleum “Universal” spray paint in Glossy Black (they SUCK), and 5 cans of Rust-Oleum “2x” paint + primer in Glossy Black.

Besides the deck paint (~$52 for a gallon) and spray paint (it took 7 full cans of spray paint, $5/can, but we only paid for 5 cans of the “2X” which is why we only spent $25 on spray paint vs. $35. Will explain in a bit about the Universal spray cans), we already had everything we needed from previous paint projects. Here’s the full supply list:

  • Deck paint (a gallon of the Benjamin Moore Floor & Patio paint will more than cover 2 coats of a 200+ square foot project. Our deck is about 110 square feet)
  • Paint roller + a paint tray for the roller
  • Paint brush for the trim work
  • Optional: a pole for the roller, so you can stand up while painting the deck (I just unscrewed the pool off a broom – the threads from broom handles tend to be the same as what screws into a paint roller)
  • Spray paint that works outdoors and on metal (we needed 7 cans for 2 coats along ~25 linear feet of railings – your quantity needed will vary based on how close together your balusters are)
  • Sand paper (medium + fine grit) and steel wool

We went with a top-down strategy and prepped + painted the railings first, then the deck.

First, prep work: we brought all the furniture, Hedge’s Weber smoker, and planters inside. Then we swept the deck. The most painstaking and time-consuming part of this project was prepping the railings, which is basically cleaning + sanding them (to remove rust and to prep the surface so the paint adheres). Side note: sanding metal railings SUCKS. Steel wool, or any metal abrasive, grating against another metal surface, is like nails on a chalkboard that you feel in your hands the entire time.

Next, we spray painted the railings, starting with the top rail, then the balusters, then the bottom rail. For all my previous posts about spray painting DIY projects, the railings were BY FAR the most ambitious spray painting endeavor I’ve completed so far. Two full coats, then touch-up for spots that we missed or were under-covered.

Pro Tip: get started prepping the railings early in the morning. That way you can start spray painting before afternoon winds pick up. Once the winds came, it was just comical to watch paint fly another direction and not hit the railings, so we had to finish up the next morning.

Product Tip: DO NOT use Rust-Oleum “Universal” spray paints. The coverage + quality of the paint is great, but the trigger nozzle is AWFUL. Within the first minutes of use, we realized the paint was leaking out of the trigger all over our hands, and every time we shook the cans (you need to shake spray cans regularly during use – see my other spray painting tips), paint was dripping and splattering ALL OVER the deck. In our case, we were going to paint the deck anyway so it was okay. But I would be livid otherwise. We returned the two Universal spray cans to the store (which is why they didn’t hit our budget), but not before this:

Tons of paint splatter from the terrible Universal spray cans. Not pictured: all the splatter on my legs and feet, and the drippage all over our hands and arms.

Tons of paint splatter from the terrible Universal spray cans. Not pictured: all the splatter on my legs and feet, and the drippage all over our hands and arms.

After we finished the 2 coats of spray paint on the railings, we moved on to the deck. We swept the deck again and used a spackling blade to get any pebbles or debris out from between the deck boards. Then I sanded down the burn mark aggressively to make sure that surface was smooth. Luckily the rest of the boards are still in good shape and don’t have splinters.

Painting a deck is pretty simple: like painting walls, you do the trim work first with a brush, then use the roller to fill in. The trick is to paint from the farthest side first, then move backwards closer and closer to the door, so that you don’t paint yourself in without a way to get off the deck while it’s wet. For good measure, we painted two full coats – but the coverage with the BM Floor & Patio was very good after just 1 coat. The other amazing thing about the Floor & Patio line is you can pick just about any shade that Benjamin Moore offers in its indoor paints. We chose Onyx because it’s a more dynamic color than Benjamin Moore “Black.”

Progress shot: you can see how opaque the coverage was after just 1 coat!

Progress shot: you can see how opaque the coverage was after just 1 coat! The wonky sheen differences = sections drying differently because of the shade.

We also happened to paint directly over the stain that we applied about 20 months earlier. The stain was pretty worn down / no longer really sealing the boards from water, even though the red color was still there. Since our previous stain was water-based, it should be totally okay that we just painted over it without stripping the stain first (time will tell if this was in fact a huge mistake). If the stain had been oil-based, though, we’d have had to sand down and strip the deck boards first before painting.

However – since we painted over the stain, the paint actually took quite a bit longer than I expected to set in and dry. If we had completely sanded + stripped the deck boards, I think the paint would have dried and set faster.

We gave it a full 2 days before putting all the furniture + planters back out, but now that things are put back together, OMG I LOVE IT. The black deck feels so chic, and so unusual. It also has become such a cool blank canvas: the teal Acapulco chair looks SO rad now (rather than when the teal had to compete with a red deck).  And my little Black Rose Aeoniums look so rich and vibrant now:

These Aeoniums used to feel so plainly black versus my other succulents. Now they feel newly rich with color.

These Aeoniums used to feel so plainly black, but I LOVE their colors now against the black railings.

There are, of course, a few side effects to having painted everything black: the deck is hotter to walk on now (because, black), and if my shoes are a little dusty, they leave footprints more visibly. BUT, we live in San Francisco – it never gets that hot, and it’s a city, so dirt happens. Other than that, I’m thrilled with the end results and can’t wait to throw a “Deck Viewing Party” (aka: BBQ) later this summer.

What do you think?? Would you ever go #allblackallover outdoors?

HOTEL INSPIRATION: Tribal Hotel in Granada, Nicaragua

As a residential designer, I don’t usually get inspired by hotels – their lobbies and rooms and the demands of their furnishings are a different beast from the spaces I work on. But just last week, I got to spend a night at the Tribal Hotel in Granada, Nicaragua, which is so impeccably designed that it made me want to (literally) move in and stay forever.

I first heard about Tribal Hotel in a roundup of highlights in Nicaragua; after this boutique hotel was featured on the cover of Conde Nastinterest from tourists has exploded (while there, visitors would just stop by to ask to peep the space) – so we were super lucky to get to stay in one of Tribal’s indoor-outdoor suites.

Actually, visiting Tribal Hotel was a bit of an honor: the owners, who designed and curated every part of the hotel themselves from the building to every chair and pillow, are NYC hospitality superstars Jean-Marc Houmard + Yvan Cussigh. I met Yvan when we checked in, and he told me that to achieve the style they envisioned, some of the pieces could be sourced locally in Nicaragua, but other textiles / materials were brought in from NYC and around the world.


NOZNOZNOZ - Tribal Hotel Granada Nicaragua - Lobby

Can we talk about these FLOORS? The perfectly global-tribal-geometric floor tiles are laid w/ a thin border of contrasting tiles to create the effect of two “area rugs” in the lobby as you walk in.

NOZNOZNOZ - Tribal Hotel Granada Nicaragua - Front desk

Despite having ogled so many photos online, seeing the check-in desk in person felt surreal – like I was walking into this super chic open-air Alice in Wonderland space.

Seriously though – these FLOORS!

Seriously though – these FLOORS!

Another interesting detail about Nicaraguan cities is that every building is responsible for maintaining its sidewalk. When you walk down a block, the tiles change in style and condition constantly. Outside tribal Hotel, the black/white tile continues, but they've been laid in different patterns per stair, which are different from their treatment inside, which is such a thoughtful detail.

An interesting detail about Nicaraguan cities is that every building is responsible for maintaining its own sidewalk. When you walk down a block, the tiles change in style and condition constantly. Outside Tribal Hotel, the black/white tile continues, but they’ve been laid in a different pattern from inside, which is such a thoughtful detail. OMG ARE YOU INSPIRED YET?!


One of my favorite things about Granada was its colonial architecture. Most of the blocks around the gridded town appear to be long uninterrupted buildings (the changing colors indicate different owners) with basically no windows. The sunlight + fresh air come from the internal courtyards.

NOZNOZNOZ - Tribal Hotel Granada Nicaragua - Cabanas At Tribal Hotel, the courtyard was a blending of midcentury modern, African, and Central American details, set among super lush greenery. You can lounge in one of the cabanas or lounge chairs around the adorable mod-tiled pool, or at one of the 3 conversational pods with built-in benches.

I think I was most excited about *moving into* one of these conversation areas. In the evening, the hotel staff lights all the candles and pendants in the space, and it is baaaasically a dream.

I think I was most excited about *moving into* one of these conversation areas. In the evening, the hotel staff lights all the candles and pendants in the space, and it is baaaasically a dream.

NOZNOZNOZ - Tribal Hotel Granada Nicaragua - Courtyard closeup

Detail shot of the art, upholstery, + decorative objects in each of the conversational spaces. Of the 3 spaces, this one is meant for larger groups and has a dining-height table.

NOZNOZNOZ - Tribal Hotel Granada Nicaragua - Courtyard 1

One of my favorite photos of our trip so far!


Of Tribal Hotel’s 5 guest rooms, we stayed in one of the upstairs “junior” suites, overlooking the courtyard. While the bathroom, closet, and bedroom are inside with A/C and high ceilings, the living/lounge space is open-air with white linen drapes for privacy.

Besides lounging in the living area of the suite, you can also have your breakfast served here!

Besides lounging in the living area of the suite, you can also have your breakfast served here!

Mostly n00b-posing, but also I'm in the shot to provide scale as to how large the space + how high the ceilings!

Mostly n00b-posing, but also I’m in the shot to provide scale as to how large the space is. Also, throughout the hotel’s spaces are live-edge and beautifully carved wood furnishings and art. This flame-like piece was one of my favorites. 

The bed + nightstands are built-ins like the courtyard bench seating. I'm so obsessed at how relaxed and easy the black/white theme felt in the room – like the all-white built-ins against a black cement floor.  Also can we talk about how thoughtfully curated + arranged the artwork is?! Not pictured is another floor-lamp-like art piece in the corner.

The bed + nightstands are built-ins. I’m so obsessed at how relaxed and effortless the black/white theme felt in the room – like the all-white built-ins against a black cement floor. Also can we talk about how thoughtfully curated + arranged the artwork is?! Not pictured is another floor-lamp-like art piece in the corner.

If you have the chance to travel to Granada, Nicaragua, absolutely 1,000% stay at Tribal Hotel. It’s right in the heart of of the city only a couple minutes’ walk to the central park, and yet, once you walk in, you’ll be transported. Wish we could have stayed much longer than a day and a night here (or, like I said, moved in!) – but next time. ¡Hasta luego!