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:

TIP 1: HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT YOU WANT

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.

TIP 2: DO THE CONSULTATION DURING DAYLIGHT HOURS

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.

TIP 3: FIGURE OUT WHAT DIRECTION YOUR WINDOWS FACE

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.

TIP 4: DON’T BE AFRAID TO GO BOLD

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.

FINAL TIP: END THE CONSULT WITH A MAX OF 3 OPTIONS

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!

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:

HEAVY PERSONALIZATION – MAKING THE EVENT REALLY REFLECTIVE OF *YOU*

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.

 

UPENDING TRADITIONAL SEATING 

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.

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).

WHY GET A REAL ESTATE AGENT? DOES IT COST ANYTHING?

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.

WHAT TO PREPARE BEFORE YOU MAKE AN OFFER:

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.

WHILE HOME SHOPPING, READ THE DISCLOSURES:

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.

HOW DO YOU MAKE AN OFFER ON A HOME?

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.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER MY OFFER IS ACCEPTED?

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:

RUGS

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

PILLOWS

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

ART

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

OUTDOORS

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!

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.

THE LOBBY:

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?!

THE COURTYARD AND POOL:

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!

OUR UPSTAIRS SUITE:

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!

Diary Moment: Did my Dad know I’d end up in Interior Design?

Yesterday somewhere between 1:30am and 2am was the 7-year anniversary of my dad’s passing. Missing him hit me much harder than it has in recent years, so I wrote a cathartic Facebook post reflecting on the past year since I started my lil interior design business:

Seven years ago, right around this time of night, my dad left this earth. And while it’s “gotten easier” since, tonight is really, really emotional.

I think it’s because, in the past year that I’ve been working on my little business, there have been so many times that I wish I could have asked him for his advice, or for his stories I’d never thought to ask about. Like, “When you had to publish your Business Name Statement, which newspaper did you pick?” “Why were your swags bamboo fans and chip clips?” “When did you realize that you could survive the rough patches?” or “Did you ever get over how terrifying and futile it all feels sometimes?”… and I’ve wondered what he’d think of my business cards or what I keep under his old paperweights.

But while my dad was alive, despite being an entrepreneur his whole career, he never suggested it as an option to me. Looking back, given the racism he faced as a post-WWII Japanese American, and given that he was removed from UCLA to be sent to the internment camps and not given the chance to complete college, I can imagine he might not have thought he had other options like a “white collar job” at some big firm when he was young. So a part of me suspects he wanted an easier life for me: graduate from a good university, get a nice-paying corporate job, struggle little, stress not… because now that I’ve been through my first incredibly trying year of setting out on my own, I completely relate to the self-doubt, depression, and paralyzing fear that loom over this path of self-employment.

And yet, I think if he were here today, he’d still have told me to go for it – so I’ll keep that with me whenever things get difficult. But for tonight, I’ll let myself cry it out and miss my Daddy. And then I’ll get back to business.

My favorite photo of me and my dad, taken on his fishing boat when I was about 4. He got me and my sis Little Mermaid life jackets, which was like the most exciting thoughtful thing ever to lil baby Noz.

Even though my dad was very proud that I’d be working at Clorox in Marketing after I graduated (I accepted the job offer 6 months before he passed), I’ve so wished that he were alive to know that I followed quite closely in his footsteps. My dad’s main businesses while I was growing up were in real estate + construction: a fully vertical model, he would sell land to a client as the Broker, and then he’d put on his General Contractor hat and build the buildings on that land. He also designed + managed the construction of his dream “forever family home” in the burbs of LA that I spent almost all of my childhood in.

But while I wish I could have told him that my first very own company is an interior design business, all day I’ve been reflecting on the time I had with him, wondering whether my dad might in fact have totally figured I’d end up in interior design eventually. I mean, there were a lot of signs:

  1. First off, I was obsessed with details of the homes I grew up in. The home we rented while our “forever family home” was being built had this heinous forest green carpet, which I LOVED and was devastated to leave behind. Later when I was older, I brought up the carpet and the weird tacky wishing fountain in the rental home’s foyer, and both my mom and dad were shocked that I had such vivid memories of that home – I was only 2-3 years old when we lived there!
  2. Given my attachment to that green carpet, my dad actually let little 3-year-old me “pick” the carpet that would go into our new home! This is another vivid memory: he showed me different samples, and I picked a speckled tufted carpet that was salmon-pink with speckles in rainbow colors. OBVIOUSLY a toddler would pick the most ridiculously colorful option. But instead, he went with an oatmeal-colored loop carpet that ALSO had multi-colored speckles (but they were brown, navy, and grey). So when we moved in a year later and I was so disappointed he didn’t install the carpet I had picked, I think he was really surprised that I 1. remembered at all, and 2. had expected so seriously for the carpet to have been the one I chose.
  3. When my dad was doing materials specifications on our home, he asked me what color I’d want for the toilets/bathtubs and tile. He had already planned on blue bathrooms, and my favorite color at the time was blue, so Little Me was thrilled when all 3 bathrooms ended up blue. I mean, have you ever seen a blue toilet in a house built in the last 30 years? It’s so random! I think my dad beamed a little bit whenever I’d give my friends the tour of the house and gloat when they were like, “Awww man! We only have boring white toilets!”

    The bathtub was also blue. And the sink basins. And the counters. Also note the blue linoleum. And I already covered the blue toilets.

    The bathtub was also blue. And the sink basins. And the counters. Also note the blue linoleum + bath mat. I’m the one with hella buckteeth.

  4. Whenever I played with Legos, all I ever built were homes. I would make a rectangle all the way around the baseplate (maximizing the square footage of the house based on the size of the “lot”, obvi), and then I would create partitions and make different layouts. I remember once lamenting to my dad that there was no Lego toilet piece, because I had to improvise with a 2×3 block with a 1×2 on top (the 1×2 was the tank), and that took up way more square footage than a Lego toilet would have.
  5. My dad often took my sister and me on outings to the local bookstore (anyone remember Bookstar??), and while my sister would run to the kid’s section, I would invariably, from the time I was maybe 6 years old, plunk down in the home decor book section and fan through the pages of books about bathroom design and living room design. My dad would always try to recommend books about kitchens, letting me know that kitchen design and kitchen renovations were where all the value was. But alas, as a little kid, I never played in the kitchen (because fire and boiling water and knives), so I was always like “Okay Daddy whatevs.”
  6. When I was grounded and sent to my room (often), I would spend most of the time decorating my bedroom with grocery store items, like when I tried to drape blue plastic wrap along the ceiling so it’d feel like I was inside a genie’s lamp.
  7. Not to mention when I was in middle school, I told my dad I wanted to be an architect, and took a year of old school drafting my freshman year of high school – which I discovered I was very good at. My dad was actually the one who told me that I should pursue a business career instead of architecture based on the fact that most architects didn’t make much money (see the italicized section above for context about the path my dad hoped for me), and Teenage Me took that advice to heart.

So I dunno, maybe it was obvious and maybe he did imagine that my journey through life might ultimately meander towards this space (in which case, he definitely should have gone with that rainbow speckle salmon carpet because clearly Baby Noz had mad interior design sensibilities!).

But while this time of year is always difficult and a part of me will always wish he could have known that I’m my own boss now, having my own business and working in residential interiors makes me feel so much more connected to his legacy. And who knows, maybe one day a client will ask me to design a bathroom with a blue toilet, and that will be my little sign from the universe that he knew all along 🙂

Project Reveal: Black + White Kitchen + Dining Corner

When my friends and former colleagues (from when I was a toilet cleaner brand marketer (like actually – my face was in the news about it)) asked me to design and manage the renovation of their kitchen and dining area, it was a dream opportunity. It’s always such an honor to get to design spaces for my friends, but Abby and Kurt are the chicest, most stylish couple ever, so I knew this project would be an epic collaboration.

Their house in the classic SF neighborhood of Nob Hill is adorable and petite at 14 feet wide. And while Abby and Kurt have applied their style to the upstairs living spaces, the kitchen and dining space downstairs remained as it looked when they moved in years ago: dark, busy, bullnose counters, red cherry wood cabinets, limited space for relaxed seating, and not a lot of direct sunlight. It was time for an update.

NOZNOZNOZ - Nob Hill Kitchen BEFORE

The design brief was basically, “Our style is Dorothy-Draper-meets-Tom-Ford – Hollywood Regency. Bold. Drama. SHINE. Also please take the weird stained glass panels off the kitchen window.” Here’s how it turned out:

NOZNOZNOZ - Nob Hill Kitchen - Kitchen 2

For my very first complete-scope kitchen renovation, I’m super proud of our finished product. And we haven’t even talked about the dining corner yet (I’ll get to it in a bit)!

Because the kitchen was in good working order and occupies such a small footprint, we were able to splurge on really luxurious finishes like solid-slab Calacatta marble counters and a marble tile backsplash in a herringbone pattern. We also went with fab polished brass hardware – bamboo-esque drawer pulls à la Hollywood Regency, and large “Minnie Mouse” round knobs.

NOZNOZNOZ - Nob Hill Kitchen - Kitchen Details

Also please notice Abby + Kurt’s ADORABLE Wisconsin-state cutting board, which Kurt immediately noted I had positioned upside-down in this shot!

AND, since the cabinets were only several years old and quality-built of solid wood, we opted to spare the expense (and the waste!) of refacing the cabinets (refacing = replacing the cabinet doors and drawer fronts with new ones). Instead, we refinished them in a high-gloss white for the upper cabinets and a high-gloss black for the lower cabinets. I love that the black cabinets are so shiny that you can often see reflections of the hardware in them.

Another way we maximized the budget was with the counters: Abby really loves Calacatta marble, and in kitchens, it’s stunning; but also it’s expensive at $90-130+ per square foot. We needed much less than a slab (you have to buy whole slabs, which are 40–50 square feet each) for their counters, so I found one with big grey sections (“flaws”) at a FRACTION the cost, and then we just cut around the grey to use only the most beautiful parts! NOZNOZNOZ - Nob Hill Kitchen - Calacatta Vagli slab

Now for the dining area: Abby and Kurt’s one specific must-have was to create a custom L-shaped bench seat in the dining corner so that they could lounge in the space in addition to eat. Other than that, the goal was to bring to life their vision and style in the space.

NOZNOZNOZ - Nob Hill Kitchen - Breakfast 3

Super fab brass light fixture by triple7recycled | custom L-shaped bench by Joybird | Kartell Ghost chairs

First off, I just absolutely love the black + white stripes. They start from the mirrored wall and continue all the way down the entry hallway to the front door – making the petite lil house feel much deeper. Abby’s Pinboard had several photos of homes with stripes, so when I presented the idea of the black + white walls with a black + white kitchen, it was like, “When can we start?”

As for the L-bench, I opted for a piece that looked more like furniture rather than a built-in, to keep the dining corner feeling light. The Kelly Green upholstery is amazing because Kurt has the coolest suede loafers in the same color. I mean honestly, if you saw these two in this space, you wouldn’t know where their personal fashion sense ended and their interior design sensibilities began.

We also replaced their larger rectangular dining table with an oval tulip to allow easier entry/exit to/from the bench, and went with Ghost chairs for the additional seating because they disappear visually, which helps the kitchen-dining area feel spacious.

NOZNOZNOZ - Nob Hill Kitchen - Kitchen Full onAnd there you have it – a lot of design in a little space, for a fabulous couple with a ton of style. Hope you enjoy! You can see more photos of this project on my design website, all of which were taken by the amazing Colin Price Photography.

My 2015 Resolution: Cure My *Tsundoku* Book-Collecting Quirk

11 days into this fresh new year, I’m finally settling on a resolution for 2015: cure myself of tsundoku. Huh? Tsundoku is one of those brilliant other-language words for which there is no direct English translation but whose meaning is so perfect that we should be adding it to the dictionaries (my other favorite: schadenfreude) – and it means the habit of buying / collecting books and letting them pile up without ever reading them.

NOZNOZNOZ - Tsundoku - Bookcase 1

The bookcase in my living room, with my design reference / inspiration books on the right.

This word is basically my life. And until recently haven’t felt that guilty about it. For years now, I’ve bought books the way I bought objets d’art: as decorative accessories to adorn my bookcases and coffee table with titles or subject matter that represented to guests who I am and what I care about. But when I started my design business last year, I also started amassing a number of decorating / art / interior design books as part of my reference files. And while I’ve thumbed through a few of them, I’m a tech and internet-dependent millennial – so the majority of my reference materials are online, and I’ve been able to rely mostly on browser bookmarks rather than real ones in real books.

So, anyway I am going to reform my tsundoku ways, and as of this post, I resolve to read through my little-but-growing collection of design + decorating books, one book a month, each month, for the rest of 2015. Maybe beyond too. And to keep me accountable, I’ll be posting a book review (cuing memories of 7th grade) of that month’s book to this little blog.

Closer up, here are some of my design/art books – so you can get a preview of what I'll be reporting back on!

Closer up, here are some of my design/art books – so you can get a preview of what I’ll be reporting back on! Also, ha – I just noticed one of my books does have a bookmark in it, sort of.

And if any of you has a favorite design book that I should add to my collection (especially ones with beautiful bindings, covers, or other physical aspects), let me know! I promise I won’t let them go unopened + unread.

Happy reading, y’all!

5 House Party Tips for the Up-&-Coming Host or Hostess

I love a good house party – in particular, I love hosting them. Hedge and I just threw our annual holiday party last weekend (a tradition of mine since 2009, and one we have shared since 2013!!), which we relish in trying to make bigger and better every year – more guests, fancier food + drink, more features. That said, we’re both “normal” people, throwing parties on a budget, so we’ve gotten pretty clever at stretching our spend to reach for Gatsby-esque party glitz.

For those of us hosts + hostesses who similarly have grown out of red Solo cup parties but aren’t quite at hiring full-service caterers + valets, here are some tips to take your next house party to the next level:

1. RENT YOUR GLASSWARE

This was the "drinks station" we set up for the 2013 holiday party.

This was the “drinks station” we set up for the 2013 holiday party.

A lot of people don’t realize you can rent wine glasses, champagne flutes, low balls, etc. (not to mention serving plates, silverware, etc.) from party rental companies. These are the same companies that outfit large-scale events like corporate parties and weddings, but they also accept small orders that you can pick up and drop off at will-call. Just google “[your city] stemware rental” to find some options.

Not only does real glassware take the “class” level up immeasurably from plastic disposable options, it’s also much more environmentally friendly. Plus, I’ve noticed that guests are better-behaved when holding a real glass – maybe out of fear of breaking it, but also I think because it adds a different elegant tone to the party.

Good news too: when the party’s over, you don’t need to wash or rinse anything: just put everything back in the shipping crates and bring it back the next weekday.

Cost: it varies by the style (I mean, you can rent actual crystal!), but expect a wine glass to cost $0.75-$2.00 a piece to rent from Friday afternoon to Monday morning, and a lowball to stay under $1.00.

2. START A TRADITION

Of course, traditions are only official after they have happened more than once, but even if you think you might throw another party again, it’s worth thinking of something special you would like to your guests to remember about your events. For instance, Hedge used to live in Sevilla; and during the holidays in Spain, a family will put out a big leg of jamon serrano (or ibérico, if you’re fancy) and slice pieces off throughout the season. He wanted to share that Spanish tradition with our friends last year, and it was such a hit that we knew it needed to be a feature of our holiday parties every year.

Before and after: our leg of jamon serrano. Note to the wise that in 2013 we had the leg be a participatory thing, but we decided going forward that drunk friends wielding 14" fileting knives = not the safest.

Before and after: our leg of jamon serrano. Note to the wise that in 2013 we had the leg be a participatory thing, but we decided going forward that drunk friends wielding 14″ fileting knives = not the safest.

3. SET UP A PHOTO BOOTH

In this age of social media and digital storage limitlessness, people love taking photos at events – and house parties should be no exception! Hedge’s awesome idea for this year’s holiday party was to turn his man cave into a photo booth for guests, using my Nikon DSLR, backdrop decor + silly festive hats from Amazon.com, and this $50 photo booth software for his laptop.

Our little photo booth template, which I created in Illustrator. Lil Viv in her reindeer antlers stars in the template, as well as photos!

Our little photo booth template, which I created in Illustrator. Lil Viv in her reindeer antlers stars in the template, as well as photos!

Another cute thing about this software is that you can create custom templates for guests’ photos to be arranged into – from a single photo to multiple, and include party messages or hashtags. We chose to make the largest photo in the template the *third* photo taken, since we figured the first would be practice and the third would be the wackiest.

Then, guests can email the finished photo booth output to themselves, or even text (but it costs $0.0075 per text, via Twilio).

NOZNOZNOZ - House Party Tips - Photo Booth example photo

Hedge’s friends from college and +1s, a few hours into the party (lolz), sporting festive headwear.

For backdrop inspiration, I turned to the interwebs for how to get something cheap + decent looking for our first photo booth attempt – turns out a lot of fabulous bloggers have shared their insanely creative photo booth decor ideas. Next year, the backdrop will be taken to the next level: green screen (maybe. Or just less janky).

NOZNOZNOZ - House Party Tips - Photo Booth backdrop 1

Our backdrop, a little haggard the day after the party. It’s made of 2 cheap plastic tablecloths, and 2 packs of tinsel “curtains,” all from Amazon.

4. CONSIDER BOXED WINE IN DECANTERS (Yes, really!)

Our go-to boxed wine brand is Wine Cube (far right), available at Target of all places.

Our go-to boxed wine brand is Wine Cube (far right), available at Target of all places.

Boxed wine has come a long way since the Franzia days. Really legit winemakers have been introducing new brands of boxed wine whose quality is on-par with very reputable *traditional bottled* wine. I have taste-tested many Wine Cube wines with my wine-loving friends over the past couple years, and they’ve all been so surprised and impressed.

Another benefit, besides cost-effectiveness (average $4-5/750mL), is how much waste you minimize with boxed wine. 8 boxes of Wine Cube (at 3L in each box) takes up only 2 cubic feet of space, and only weighs what the wine weighs inside – compare that to its weight and space-taking equivalent of 32 bottles! You’re saving from consuming and disposing of all that glass, as well as (if you’re an eco-friendly nerd like me) the amount of energy + fuel it takes to produce the bottles and transport them. PLUS… Hedge and I live in a 3rd story walk-up, so party prep AND clean-up involves carrying everything up and down a bunch of stairs. It was a lot tougher when we were trucking cases and cases of wine vs. just a few boxes.

That said, don’t serve boxed wine out of the box – that’s tacky. Decanters, on the other hand, are so beautiful, and functionally help aerate the wine. I’ve collected a few over the years, and a very thoughtful friend bought me one as a hostess gift; but if you don’t have enough for your party, guess what – yes, party rental places do rent decanters as well 🙂

Wacky Carafes

Some wacky decanters, which wouldn’t hold a ton of wine, but would definitely impress some guests and start conversation

5. GET A COAT RACK

It sounds really minor, but giving your guests a civilized place to put away their coats and bags when they arrive at your house (especially during winter parties) makes such a difference – particularly if you live in a city-sized place, as we do. I’ve always felt that having your guests throw their belongings down on a bed or a couch in another room makes their process of leaving the party more stressful. Inevitably, someone loses their coat, or takes someone else’s, or their coat falls off the bed and gets stepped on.

Party rental companies rent coat racks (super affordable – ours was a 6 foot rack that folded down for transportation, and only $16 for the weekend!), but you can also buy them on Amazon for $20-80 (“garment rack, or rolling garment rack”), if you have room to store one after. Note: whether your rent or buy a coat rack, the rack will NOT come with hangers. So you’ll need to get some online or borrow a bunch from your neighborhood dry cleaners.

Do you have any other house party advice for those of us with fancy party tastes on a budget? Share the wealth!! And happiest of holidays, everyone!!

Is That a Star Trek Ship in Your Tree?: Our First Xmas Tree

Somehow 2014 has flown by, and it’s already the holidays – the first holiday that Hedge and I are sharing as a live-together couple – which means our Christmas decorations, Christmas tree, and holiday party decor are now an equally shared endeavor.

NOZNOZNOZ - Juxtaposition of Hedge and Noz

Here, you can see the melding of our ornament collections: Hedge’s light-up SF 49ers blimp, and my vintage wooden drag queen ballerina.

So far in our living together, “our” new style has usually been simple: Hedge will have very specific functional requests (e.g. “I want bookshelves for all my books” or “I wish to have my desk facing the TV so that I may play Final Fantasy and watch sports simultaneously”), and then he is happy with any style / specific items I select to make it come together. This has worked out quite well so far.

But when it comes to the holidays, Hedge and I are equally opinionated on how to decorate. Luckily, both of us are actually really nostalgic about Xmas trees and lights. I think some people have assumed I’d have a very designy-tree, but Christmas is a time where I love to feel at every turn the holiday magic I felt as a kid – same with Hedge. So it’s been a pretty seamless blending our decorations so far: rainbow lights (incandescent old-school lights, never LEDs), vintage wooden ornaments from the 1980s, and now (thanks to Señor Hedge), lots of light-up, talking nerd space ships + sports memorabilia!

Our first Xmas tree living together. Also Viv in a Santa hat.

Our first Xmas tree living together. Also Viv in a Santa hat.

As far as tree decorating advice, I’m all about people just enjoying decorating for the holidays in ways that cherish the traditions they love — not necessarily to impress anyone. As long as the tree itself is beautiful (Noble Firs for the win, but I’m also into the more spare “Charlie Brown” look of Silver Tip trees), the lights are evenly strung, and each ornament is hung to face outward, I will probably be obsessed with your tree, because it is a reflection of how the holidays make you happy.  My newest clients’ home in San Francisco is covered in their huge nutcracker collection, for example.

SOOOO, in that spirit, the rest of this post will just be close-ups of some of the decorations in our tree and other evidence of Hedge’s holiday nerdery around the house!

Why yes, that is in fact a Star Trek "USS Rio Grande" that speaks nerd when you press a button.

Why yes, that is in fact a Star Trek “USS Rio Grande” that speaks nerd when you press a button. If you’re curious, there is also a Star Trek Enterprise, a Shuttlecraft, and a Delta Flyer. They all light up and speak because they hook into the Xmas light strand.

This ornament has been the most contentious of Hedge's – as it's a very heavy World Series champion trophy that he wanted to be the FIRST ornament people saw when they walked into the house. It's been migrated to face the living room vs. the front door.  SIDE NOTE: I kind of like that this photo obscures the last # in the year (201#) because IT COULD REALLY APPLY TO 2010, 2012, OR 2014. BOOYAAAAH.

This ornament has been the most contentious of Hedge’s – as it’s a very heavy World Series champion trophy that he wanted to be the FIRST ornament people saw when they walked into the house. It’s been migrated to face the living room vs. the front door. Note also the frilly glittery / pearly ornaments around it.
SIDE NOTE: I kind of like that this photo obscures the last # in the year (201#) because it could apply to any of the years the Giants won – 2010, 2012, OR 2014. BOOYAAAAH.

This Yoda lego baby was actually a recent addition – from Hedge's mom last year.

This Yoda lego baby was actually a recent addition – from Hedge’s mom last year. My little wooden angel in a sled is behind.

Perhaps surprising, the Hello Kitty ornament is in fact a nostalgic relic from Hedge's childhood.

Perhaps surprising, the Hello Kitty ornament is in fact a nostalgic relic from Hedge’s childhood.

My cutie glittery carousel horse (I am obsessed with carousels) + an old angel baby holding a snare drum (?)

My cutie glittery carousel horse (I am obsessed with carousels) + an old angel baby.

Last nerdery in the post: Hedge's hilarious Wookiee stocking. I'm a Disney nerd, but the Mickey stocking has just been a placeholder since I haven't found something else I love.

Last nerdery in the post: Hedge’s hilarious Wookiee stocking. I’m a Disney nerd, but the Mickey stocking has just been a placeholder since I haven’t found a stocking that I love.

I will end this post with a final note that, whatever decorations you and your family put up for the holidays, no matter how tacky you think they might be, they are already awesome – the holidays are about love and being together and happiness and magic!!!! No need to over-design that 🙂