Annually the San Francisco Design Center hosts Design San Francisco to bring together interior designers, artists, manufacturers and visionaries of the design community.  Of the lectures I attended this year, the keynote presentation “Future Shaper” was a highlight. 

Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher, SFMOMA chief curator of Architecture and Design, discussed the museum’s expansion and reopening on May 14th.  It was interesting to learn how the museum considers and facilitates the display of each artist’s medium.  For instance; is the art piece made to disintegrate or should it always be kept pristine?  Can it be easily replaced or is it one of a kind?  As the museum contextualizes artwork for visitor interface and experience, they also are responsible for the lifetime of the item on display.    

I have often considered the parallels between homes and museums.  Every home is an envelope of architecture and an interior filled with a family’s own curated selection of objects.  Each household makes decisions on the context, permanence, and collection display of their belongings.  These photos from the Northbrook Design portfolio show a range of personal “art installations”.

Design explores a sinuous relationship between user, creator, function, economy and aesthetic.  In a similar manner to museums, through our home acquisitions we shape the future of individual and global creativity.     

Blog post by Mary Jones



Everyone is aware that we live in a world dominated by consumption and waste, but how do we deal with the problem aesthetically?  Recycling is great but it requires energy and resources to collect, sort and process.  Alternatively, we can choose to Upcycle, creatively converting unwanted items into something better.  

If you are in need of materials to Upcycle for a project, consider visiting these two inspirational places in San Francisco.  They also accept donations, so check out their website links for details.

Building REsources
San Francisco's only source for reusable, recycled and remanufactured building and landscaping materials. 1.5 acres of land is full of interesting finds and great values. They also have an exhibition space, currently featuring a mixed media installation, Words, created by Clint Imboden.  One hundred mens’ dress shoes hang on a white wall, and each sole has been branded with a letter of the alphabet. According to the artist’s explanation, Words is a based on the board game “Scrabble” and viewers are encouraged to rearrange the shoes to leave whatever message they desire.  

A non-profit creative reuse center/ materials depot/ workshop space founded in San Francisco. They breathe new life into old objects and reduce waste by diverting over 200 tons of materials heading to landfill every year.  SCRAP’s mission is: “Junk has value for those who can see meaning beyond the discarding of things.”

The possibility of a single object is infinite, so is the art of upcycling.

Blog Post by Mary Jones

A View of Art SV/SF


This weekend was Art Silicon Valley / San Francisco (Art SV/SF) at the San Mateo Event Center.  Jill, our energetic Intern, is excited to share some insight to the amazing artwork she saw on display. 

I came away from the show thinking, what makes art so attractively diverse is that stories are constantly being told in different languages, perspectives, materials and even motion.  There is no absolute frame of reference as every person’s reaction and interpretation is unique.  So enjoy the view stepping back and getting closer to see the art through my eyes!

For more information about Art Silicon Valley/San Francisco:





Visiting New York City invariably turns into an exciting exploration even when you don't expect it. In August I was in NYC and ventured to some new places. I saw beautiful architecture and the streets were bustling with that unique lively summer vibe. 

A visit to the World Trade Center's new buildings and fountains was awe inspiring.  The flow of the fountain at the National September 11th Memorial was stunning and quite moving.  Also remarkable is that while the area is busy, people take time to pause and to reflect on the surroundings and significance of the site.  

The contemporary architecture in that area is impressive in both number and scale.  Beyond the fountains in the photo one can see the structure of the new PATH station at the World Trade Center Transportation Hub.  The enormous wings forming the roof of the main hall, called the Oculus, were designed by architect Santiago Calatrava.  In typical Calatrava fashion, the design looks inspired by natural anatomy and is meant to resemble a bird taking flight from a child's hand. The symbolism of hope is both beautiful and fitting. 

As a foil to the quiet thoughtfulness of Ground Zero, I also visited the ever-exciting Meatpacking District. This 20-square block neighborhood on the west side of Manhattan remains lively 24/7. Plenty of cultural and culinary experience awaits at every corner. Facades of former meat lockers as well as a few meat-packers like J.T. Jobbagy Inc. still stand proud along the cobblestone streets. Other attractions include the elevated park High Line built on an abandoned railway trestle and the brand new Whitney Museum of American Art. Whichever neighborhood I found myself in, it was endlessly fascinating to witness a constant mixing of the old and the new. 

Blog post by Mary Jones




Recently I discovered the wonders of Marin Country Mart in Larkspur. Farmshop is a great restaurant offering a full-flavored experience with finesse, comfort and style. The food was noteworthy, and I loved the interior which was designed by Commune Design in LA. To be more accurate, the design was a collaboration with local artists and artisans who were responsible for the mural in the back, the macrame light fixtures, those walnut tables, the long sculptural bar top and more!

Details always tell stories. The original barn structure was exposed and in keeping with the artisan food concept. I particularly like the way finishes were left in their most natural state. They are raw but elegant, modern yet warm, and most importantly: welcoming. I thoroughly enjoyed lunch at Farmshop with my husband and some of our foodie friends from Berkeley.

Blog post by Katherine Carroll




On a recent trip to Panama, I transitted the canal from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean on a Nordhaven motor yacht with my husband, brother-in-law and his wife. Being on the water for six days was a new experience for me, and watching ships go through in both directions was fascinating. Where were they coming from, where were they headed, where were they built, what were they carrying? The ship colors ranged from very subtle to bright, and the same was true for the containers on board. Here are a few of my favorite images of ships and containers. This adventure was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and one I am extremely grateful came my way! The photos “Stratton” and “APL Garnet” were taken by Andy Carroll.

Blog post by Katherine Carroll




“Bouquets to Art” happens each year at the De Young Museum in San Francisco.  Floral designers go all out and create displays that tie in with a particular art piece, from literal to abstract interpretations.  The presentations are always inspiring and beautiful, which is why I keep coming back each year. One of our clients joined me this year and we had a great time. Narrowing the photos down to 12 is challenging, but here are some of the ones that really stood out. 

More info can be found here:




Dyeing eggs can be a lot of fun, particularly when the opportunity to set several hours aside for experimenting with different techniques arises! 

I looked up the history of decorating eggshells and learned that it is ancient, predating Christians. In Africa, decorated ostrich eggs have been found that that are 60,000 years old! Early on in Christianity, eggs were stained red to signify the blood of Christ. Over time the egg became a symbol of the resurrection. Today of course eggs are decorated for many reasons such as for Easter egg hunts, to adorn a dining table, to hang on trees.

Here are some eggs that were decorated in my home today. Happy Spring!




Over the summer of 2014, Yi-Ling joined Northbrook as an intern. She is studying interior architecture at UC Berkeley Extension. Her portfolio of school projects certainly impressed us, and her interest in specialty coffee is great fun.

Yi-Ling works at the Mint Plaza location of Blue Bottle in San Francisco. They are known for the buttery soft Belgium waffles and savory poached eggs dishes, as well as for freshly roasted coffee beans and unique seasonal pastries.

In addition to the basic espresso drinks and individual pour-overs, this Blue Bottle location also serves up the fascinating siphon coffee (you can see Yi-Ling captured in action). “Everyone always muses over how it looks like a science experiment”, she shares.

The cafe is housed inside a historical building. While the square footage is limited, the high ceiling and big windows and minimal decor create a great sense of space. The espresso house blend is called “17ft Ceiling.”

With Yi-Ling on the team, we have learned a lot about coffee. At the Northbrook Design off-site office retreat in December 2014, the gift exchange was coffee-themed!




For the second year in a row, Northbrook Design had an off site retreat in December at the Ritz Carlton in nearby Half Moon Bay. We started with a walk along the ocean, and spent the day sharing ideas, setting strategy for 2015 and attending a presentation by Thom Bruce, a decorative painter and special finishes master. 

Jody Harper, our business consultant, came down from Oregon to guide the team through the agenda and activities. She is so gifted at her work. We all learned a lot and had a great time. 

The 2013 retreat was inspiring, and the 2014 retreat was even more so!




In the middle of June, Minta and I went to Los Angeles for one day of sourcing furniture and one day of the Dwell on Design Conference at the LA Convention Center. We enjoyed both days immensely, as well as dinner and a night’s stay at The Line Hotel.

There are so many great furniture, accessories, rugs, art and lighting sources to see and we covered a good bit of ground. Lief is a beautiful space filled with beautiful things.

The Line Hotel is in Koreatown and I got a kick out of my super urban view. In the morning I could see a reflection of the Hollywood Hills on the tall building across the street. Breakfast arrived at my door in a lovely wrapping and was delicious.

At Dwell on Design we attended an interesting lecture, saw lots of fun new products, ran into some familiar faces, marveled at the diversity of products displayed. To name a few: bicycles, hand made ceramic tiles, tomato cages, cardboard iPhone amplifiers, pre-fab houses, light fixtures, furniture, plumbing fixtures, and I am leaving out a lot!  I was very taken with the airplane carts re-purposed as furniture. We got a lot out of the action packed day and look forward to going again next year.




Where to put my desk in our new house has been a question. It has moved around several times in plan. Now it is really located. My desk will be in our Entry! This space has a big window and a sky light and is generous in size. It seemed like a waste to have a bench under the window where people would rarely sit to put on their shoes. So instead there will be a work surface and file storage underneath. On the wall above will be a cabinet to store art supplies and craft tools. 

The materials are douglas fir with a clear stain finish, Benjamin’s Taos Taupe paint on the wall cabinet and our colored concrete floor. The work surface will be Richlite’s Northwest in the color: chocolate glacier. This material is made from recycled paper. The Herman Miller Chair I already own will move to the new house with me to make this a functional set up! I look forward to sitting here making cards or writing a note.




I have taken a lot of ceramics classes. Working with clay is really rewarding and challenging. At every step in the process there is something new to consider both technically and aesthetically. There are a lot of unknowns (particulary for the novice) to experience along the way, something I am not gifted in accepting readily.

The dining pendant selection for the future Greatroom in our new home was recently completed. Jaklyn who works with me at Northbrook said one day “THIS is the fixture that represents YOU and what you love and is also a functional dining pendant!” So here it is.

Los Angeles based Lesley Anton is a gifted ceramicist with LOTS of talent, represented in San Francisco at the DeSousa Hughes showroom. She designs and makes gorgeous, eco-friendly ceramic light fixtures for the interior design trade. She has sent me some test samples of what I asked about and we have had some fun back and forth conversations via phone and email. Lesley has gone out of her way to work on this piece being perfect for the space. The 13 shades will be made out of black mountain clay. Each one will have a green glazed interior, and white shiny exterior. Our fixture will be smaller than the example shown. The photo titled “glaze options” was taken by Lesley. To see more of Lesley’s designs go to

So thank you Jaklyn and thank you Lesley!




Visiting a job site is always a thrill. One of the fun things about being an interior designer is seeing our projects in all the various stages from construction to finished furnished space. Jaklyn and I went to tour one of the Northbrook Design projects in the Presidio Heights neighborhood this morning. 

Construction began several months ago, and we have been working on the job for about a year now. Our scope includes finishes and lighting for the Entry, two Powder Rooms, Living Room, Dining Room, Kitchen, Library, Family Room, Sun Room, Master Suite, three bedrooms and three full bathrooms. We are also in the process of furnishing the house with area rugs, furniture, window treatments and plug-in lighting.

Here are some “in progress” photos. When a house is opened up, the light can be really fantastic, or pretty grim! The house will have windows pretty soon, then doors. So many people working hard to turn what was already a pretty house into an even nicer home for the lucky owners. We are collaborating with Gast Architects and Matarozzi Pelsinger Builders.

What a beautiful day it was in San Francisco today!




I have been looking at mosaic floor tiles for the master bathroom of our new houes to go with glossy glass tiles on the walls. The room has a curved wall, so round mosaics are a good way to go on the floor, and a nice contrast to 2″x12″ size wall tiles. I am crazy about the mosaic blend of azul, thassos and ming green stones, but the cararra stone is a great classic too. There is also doug fir in the room, and yay for already made decisions – a pair of Dornbracht faucets at the vanity in polished chrome.

P.S. Things are happening so quickly on the new house and I am feeling quite behind on the blog. So posts out of sequence seem the most realistic way to keep something up and running!