I am not sure that I like the word staycation, but it seems to work as well as anything.   Last week, I commented on the dreary San Francisco summer.  I’d really had enough and planned a mini weekend away.  I know, I know…a vacation right before leaving for Maine!


I wanted to do something local to make it easy.  I thought about Carmel, Napa, Healdsburg, and a few others. Then Berkeley came to mind.  From a distance, I had always admired the architecture of the Claremont Hotel in the Berkeley Hills, so I decided this would be the perfect idea.


On a total side note: Part of the reason for going away for the night was to test out leaving Wesley at home with a new dog sitter for the evening.  Wesley suffers from severe separation anxiety when away from me.  The good news is that he did very well being away for the night.


If you are looking for a perfect place to say, I can’t suggest the Claremont enough.  The massage was excellent, and so were the martinis and oysters at the bar.  It was a quick Uber ride down to College Avenue to the Rockridge area to have dinner at Millennium (a plant based restaurant that I had wanted to try for a while).    I checked out the pool early Saturday morning for some laps and then a quick breakfast. When I’m in Berkeley, I’m always excited to go to one of my favorite grocery stores, the Berkley Bowl, so I stocked up on produce and goodies for the rest of the weekend and week ahead.


It was great to get some sun and escape for the night.  Next time Wesley wants to come along too.  He was thrilled to discover that the hotel is pet-friendly.  This isn’t going to help his separation issues, but I think he would enjoy it!

Off to Maine

Off to Maine in just a few weeks. This marks the seventh consecutive year of escaping to Maine.

September can’t come soon enough.  As usual, San Francisco is foggy and cold, so it will be really nice to experience some better weather.


The oft-quoted Mark Twain saying always comes to mind this time of year:

“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”


Lots of friends will be joining for a few days here and there.  I have recipes planned and lots of daily adventures.

I have been working feverishly on my design book for the last months.  Every week it seemed there was another photo shoot.  I have been working on the text to accompany for months.

It will be great to devote time in September to put the finishing touches on the manuscript.  Editing will happen during the fall and winter, and then it’s off to print.

From start to finish, it will be a two-year project.  Can’t wait to share in the fall of 2018!


Here are a few photos from a short trip to Maine in June.  It was great to sneak getaway and work on the book.  The weather was considerably colder and the towns all tranquil.  I’ve decided September is the ideal time.  Still, some warm days, cooler nights (hello, fireplace) and the kids are all back to school.


Sweet Potato Chili

If you are like me, you are counting the days until summer.

You know how much I love Maine.  This year, we decided that one trip just wasn’t enough…so we’re escaping in June and then going back again in September.  If you saw my last post, you’ll know that I am working a book, so I plan on spending a good deal of time writing.

Lots of close friends are visiting this summer in Maine.  I always want to enjoy time with them as much as possible and spend as little time in the kitchen as I can. When in Maine, the closest grocery store is a good 30-minute drive, so I tend to plan my meals out a few days ahead with my list of ingredients. This has been a go to dinner the last few months.  I love it because it is healthy, great for leftovers and easy as can be.


This isn’t your traditional chili recipe, but trust me on this one.  There are beans and no meat, so I know that can be cause for argument. I promise that this will be added to your repertoire!


Sweet Potato Chili


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, diced

1 red pepper, diced

1 carrot, diced

4 cloves of minced garlic

salt and pepper

2 tablespoons of cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon chili powder

2 sweet potatoes (peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces)

28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes 

1 cup of dried lentils

1 can of cannellini beans (rinsed)


Heat olive oil in a large stock pot.  Add diced onion.  Cook over medium heat for 5 mins. 


Add red pepper, carrot, garlic and salt and pepper.  Sauteé for another 5 minutes.


Add cumin, paprika, chili powder, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and lentils.


Add 4 cups of water.   Allow to cook for around 45 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are fairly soft and the lentils are cooked.  Add the can of beans at the end and stir.


I like to have some cornbread and watermelon on the side.


Have a great summer!


Thank you to Elle Decor for this feature in the May issue. Happy to be included with so many great designer friends. Oh, and the cat is out of the bag: It’s true, my interior design book will be coming out in 2018!

For a new generation of designers, Instagram is not only an outlet for creativity, but also a crucial way to attract clients.

The design world isn’t what it used to be — and that’s probably for the best. Social media has become not only a creative outlet for a new generation, but also a crucial way to find clients. An innovative young jeweler exhibits her wares not just at the usual trade fairs, but amid the avant-garde innovators at Design Miami. And a communal studio space in Manhattan provides a new template for how designers can work, both together and apart.

In the six years since Instagram burst into the App Store, the social-networking site for the visually oriented has become the clickbait of choice for interior designers—Bunny Williams has 129,000 followers—and, for young decorators especially, a source of new clients as well. “I’ve met so many people on Instagram,” says Mark D. Sikes, whose preppy, all-American style has earned him 75,500 fans. “It’s less polished than a professionally produced design portfolio, but it puts you literally into the hands of the public, showing them who you are and what you love.” Here, 10 design firms talk about the power (and pitfalls) of Instagram.

This story was originally published in the May 2017 issue of ELLE DECOR.

You can view online HERE

“Awesome or Insane”

Thank you San Francisco Magazine for featuring not one, but two projects in the January 2017 issue.  You can check this out on news stands now or check out the online version HERE.

“Awesome or Insane”

Two sisters. Two husbands. Five children. One duplex. Let the design-off begin.

Anh-Minh Le | Photos: Kathryn MacDonald

Parents often try to instill in their children the virtue of sharing. Sisters Helen and Julie Kim, now grown up and both attorneys in San Francisco, must have learned that lesson well: They currently live in the same duplex in the Castro alongside their young families. Helen, her husband, and their brood of two sons and two daughters occupy the downstairs quarters. Julie, her husband, and their son reside above them. “People usually have one of two reactions to our living arrangement: They think it’s awesome or insane,” Julie says. “The reality is that it’s a bit of both, but mostly the former—and has a million advantages when you put four working parents and five kids together.”

Julie’s kitchen
Julie requested a “jewel box” with luxe surfaces and finishes. Brass fixtures and hardware polished to a high sheen adorn the custom cabinetry, the La Cornue range, and even the vent. A Calacatta marble backsplash is a grounding element for all the bling.

Helen’s kitchen
Durability was the name of the game in the downstairs unit, where four kids (or more) often hold court. Hence the white oak cabinets fronted with wipable Supermatt Blanco laminated boards and splatter-camouflaging tiles by Marianne Smink for the backsplash.


Not only can they easily coordinate play dates between cousins, but they can also divvy up babysitting duties, and most nights dinner is a communal affair. Friday dinners are usually followed by popcorn-fueled movie watching. “The thing I like most about [the setup] is that the kids are growing up together, and despite the occasional sword fight, I think that will really make a difference in how close they are later,” Helen says. “At the very least, if they all end up at the same school eventually, no one will mess with any of them on the playground!”

Julie’s den
Gibson juxtaposed a vintage chair reupholstered in hot pink velvet and a leather sofa from Furniture Envy with antiqued mirror-backed built-ins and a Stark rug.

Helen’s den
A low-slung sectional from Interior Define offers room for both families to lounge. For the nearby casual eating area, the clients couldn’t decide on a single style among the dining chair options that Gibson presented, so they went with a mix.

Before any joint habitation could take place, the Kims’ 1965 building needed an overhaul. The square footage was increased from 3,200 to 4,000—thanks in part to the conversion of a section of the garage into living space (allowing the lower unit to span two levels). And the interiors got a desperately needed aesthetic update, for which they turned to interior designer Grant K. Gibson. For older sister Helen, he conjured a warm environment with Japanese and Scandinavian influences. The palette is dominated by white and wood tones, with the liveliest motifs reserved for the kids’ rooms. Julie, meanwhile, wanted a “jewel box,” she says, “polished and bold in color and wallpaper.” So Gibson introduced a series of eye-popping patterns—Cole & Sons’ Nuvole Storm on the walls and ceiling of a long hallway, Kelly Wearstler’s Crescent in a watery blue in her son’s room, Makelike’s Lush in a red-gold-and-black colorway in a bathroom.

Helen’s bathroom
Gibson opted for a more subdued palette in Helen’s powder room. The wall is lined in a Quadrille pattern and punctuated by a pair of Cedar & Moss sconces.

Julie’s bathroom
“Because Julie loves color and pattern and that more European feel,” says interior designer Grant K. Gibson, “we could take more risks.” Take, for example, the exuberant Makelike wallpaper in the powder room.

The kitchens provide perhaps the best snapshot of the siblings’ divergent tastes: Helen’s is outfitted with clean-lined white oak shelving and cabinetry, a durable outdoor table plucked from a Restoration Hardware sample sale, and mismatched wooden chairs and a 15-foot bench. Julie describes her sister’s space as “the workhorse of the building. With [her] four kids and us down there for most meals, practicality was definitely taken into account.” The kitchen upstairs is decidedly more luxe—with a Calacatta marble backsplash fabricated from a single slab, alongside cabinets painted to dramatic effect in Farrow & Ball’s Drawing Room Blue. Further adding an exclamation point in here is the combination of the striking La Cornue range and the brass vent overhead.

“I really thought of this as two separate projects, rather than one,” Gibson says. “Just because they are connected—the sisters and the spaces—that didn’t mean there needed to be any flow between the units.” Indeed, while they admire elements of each other’s decor—“I should’ve done a leather couch!” says Helen, referring to Julie’s living room seating—there’s little overlap in their design sensibilities. Adds Gibson: “I wouldn’t be offended if someone looked at the two homes and didn’t even realize that the same designer worked on both.”

Top 5 Interior Design Trends for 2017

Last weekend, The Wall Street Journal published it annual article on trends.

Top 5 Interior Design Trends for 2017wsjphoto


They asked me what I thought was in and what was out for 2017.

You can check out the full story HERE

Happy 2017 to you!

Eggplant “meatballs”


With the holidays just around the corner, I am sure that you are starting to freak out over what to serve for your holiday cocktail party, work potluck or what to serve when your favorite vegetarian comes to dinner.

I have been playing around with some recipes to make eggplant into “meatballs” (without the meat).   My adventure in the kitchen started this summer.  I took a few wrong turns, but I think that I finally have these perfected.

These are baked, so they are quite healthy.  Serve hot out of the oven as an appetizer or main course with a tomato sauce.


Eggplant “meatballs”


2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 white onion, minced

1 large eggplant

1 cup water

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Fresh flat leaf parsley

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup bread crumbs

Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and dried oregano and/or basil


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper

Heat a large skillet over medium.  Add olive oil and onion, salt, pepper, pepper flakes and oregano.  This should become aromatic.  Add garlic and eggplant that has been cubed (with its skin) and cup of water.  Reduce down to low and cook for 20 minutes.  The water will reduce down and you are then left with a pan filled with a soggy mess.   Allow this to cool for a few minutes.

In a large bowl, mix grated cheese, a handful of chopped parsley, eggs and breadcrumbs.  Add in eggplant mixture and stir.  Add more breadcrumbs if the mixture is too moist.    You then must refrigerate the mixture for 15 minutes (trust me, I skipped this in my trial runs.  It makes all the difference).  Roll into balls.

Place the eggplant “meatballs” on the baking sheet (don’t forget the parchment paper or else they will stick)  Bake for 30 minutes.  I like to flip them over after around 15 minutes to get them crisp on both sides.




Is this room clean, tailored or edited? Whatever it is, it must be chic… right?

Interior designers weigh in on what designer jargon actually means, so you can make sure you’re using the right terms in the right ways.  You can read the entire article HERE

Thanks to Elle Decor for including me.  I defined six of the 20!



2 2-1


4 4-1 55-1 6 6-1

Mexico City


“The Mexican capital is more cosmopolitan than ever, with world-class museums, vibrant street art and bustling markets.”- The New York Times

Mexico City – or CDMX, as it’s now known- has been on the top of my destination list for several years.  I was honestly a little scared about going due to the city’s reputation as a dangerous place.  When my friend Julie – a former resident of eight years – talked about taking a visit, I knew that I wanted to tag along for a long weekend adventure.  The flight is only three-and-a-half hours non-stop from San Francisco.   I feel in love with a city that is trove of art, architecture and food.


Like with any travel, be smart about your surroundings.  I felt completely safe at all times.  I would advise drinking bottled water to keep your stomach healthy.  A pack of Pepto chewables is not a bad idea if you’re not good with spicy food.   People seem to complain about the horrible traffic. Have you been stuck in traffic on the 405 in LA or been to San Francisco or New York recently?  The traffic didn’t strike me as noticeably worse.  Another thing to consider is that the elevation is quite high.  Sometimes people think that they are having troubles breathing related to the pollution, but it can also be due to the altitude. (A 2015 report ranked Mexico City’s pollution as similar in magnitude to Los Angeles).  Check weather reports to avoid the city in the really hot weather. Late fall and winter seem to be the ideal times to visit.  I am not quite sure how I managed not having a drop of tequila on this trip, so I am already planning how I can make a return trip to remedy the situation.

As I always share after my travels, here are my narrowed down TOP 10 suggestions. My insider tips, that you might not see listed in a guide book.  In no order…here you go!


10. Stay at The Red Tree House.  Suggested by a few friends (and written up in the NYT), it is a cross between a boutique hotel and B&B. Set in the Condesa neighborhood, the owners did a complete renovation of the beautiful 1930’s home.  The staff (and Abril the dog) couldn’t be any nicer and helpful.  A different homemade Mexican breakfast each day and wine in the courtyard after exploring all day.  A perfect way to meet and chat with travelers from around the world. The interaction with other travelers might have been a highlight of the trip.

9. The Frida Kahlo Museum, also known as the Blue House for the structure’s cobalt-blue walls, is a historic house and art museum dedicated to the life and work of Mexican Frida Kahlo.  The building was the birthplace of Kahlo and is also the home where she grew up and then lived with her husband Diego Rivera for a number of years.  If you book online you can avoid the long lines wrapped around the block.


8. Museo Rufino Tamayo is a public contemporary art museum located in Mexico City’s Chapultepec Park. A wonderful collection of modern and contemporary art.  Rufino Tamayo (Oaxaca, 1899 – Mexico City, 1991) began to collect pieces for his international contemporary art collection from the end of the 1960s, in order to give Mexicans access to twentieth-century art.


7. EAT MEXICO.  A chef friend suggested doing a food tour and she couldn’t have been more right with this recommendation.  For four hours, Paco guided us on a private culinary walk through the markets and street vendors.  The Gourmet San Juan Market was a highlight, including a cheese and mole tasting, shopping for dried chilies. I am still dreaming of the blue corn quesadilla with fresh squash blossoms that I gobbled on the street. They also do a night tour which I want to sign up for next time, which includes street tacos and Mezcal.


6. Markets: Mercado Lagunilla Sunday flea market.  Antiques, plenty junk to sift through – but treasures abound.  This has been taking place in the same site since colonial times!

El Bazaar Sábado (on Saturday, as the name implies) in the beautiful cobbled stone streets of San Angel. A little bit more folksy, but discoveries can be made.

5. Palacio de Bella Artes. Construction began at the turn of the century, when architects were fascinated by Beaux Arts and Art Nouveau – but the project was halted during the Mexican Revolution. It was ultimately completed in 1934, in Art Deco style – and the result is nothing short of spectacular.  Don’t miss the murals!


4. Centro Artesanal La Ciudadela is a designer’s dream: a huge market filled with artisanal products from all over Mexico. (Note: you do need to do a little bit of weeding through some typical touristy items.) I always love picking up housewares for the home when traveling.  Look for the stunning handmade pottery made from black clay (Barro Negro) from San Bartolo Coyotepec in Oaxaca.


3. Casa Luis Barragan.  It is hard to pick a highlight of the trip but this might take the prize.  For years, I have been an admirer of Mexican architect, Luis Barragan.  His use of texture, light, geometric forms, and color are like nothing that I have seen before. I loved his signature of hanging art slightly off center.  Worth a visit and paying extra for the right to photograph. In 2004, it was named a World Heritage Siteby UNESCO because it is one of the most influential and representative examples of modern Mexican architecture. Make sure to book far ahead of time.  I booked a month in advance and was able to snag the last tickets.


2. Check out home decor concept store: Roma Quince. They’ve gathered a handful of supremely tasteful, local textile all in an old restored mansion in the Roma. Onora (in Polanco) carries beautiful hand local crafted home items from Oaxaca, Chiapas and Puebla. Onora is filled with contemporary housewares in monochromatic colors of black, grey and white.


1. There is no shortage of great places to eat. Street food and a new surge of gastronomic treasures. Contamar is not to be missed.  I am still dreaming of the raw tuna tostadas.  Add Huset, Lardo, Maximo Bistrot Local, Rosetta, Pujo and San Angel Inn to your list for sure.  Califa is sort of Mexican fast food. Cheap, fresh but delicious.  Late lunch seems to be the main meal of the day.  I love how you can linger for hours and people watch.




Shakshuka [shahk-SHOO-kah] originally comes from North Africa.  A Tunisian dish with eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce.  In my research of the history of this dish, it turns out that it is also popular in Israel, where they eat it for breakfast. Each country seems to have its own variation.

This is a new favorite.  I have been playing a bit with the traditional recipe and added some new things: feta, spinach and chickpeas (this really gives it some extra heft and protein).
It couldn’t be any easier to make.  A one pot wonder so easy clean up.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion (thinly sliced)
1 large red pepper (seeded and thinly sliced)
2 cloves of garlic (minced or thinly sliced)
1 tablespoon of ground cumin
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
Pinch of Cayenne pepper (I use more than a pinch)
1 large can (28 ounce) of chopped tomatoes
Salt and pepper
6-10 eggs
Feta cheese (about a cup, add more if you like, but be careful as it is salty)
1 bag (frozen) or 1 bunch (fresh) of spinach
1 can of rinsed chickpeas
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large cast iron pan (that can be put into the oven) saute onions and peppers together with the olive oil on medium heat for around 15 minutes.  Add garlic, spices and tomatoes and simmer for a few more minutes.  Add spinach and chickpeas. You want some of the water to evaporate and the sauce to be on the thick side.  Stir in 1/2 of the feta cheese.  Crack the eggs over mixture, season with salt and pepper and bake for around 7-10 minutes.  You want the eggs to set and not over cook (to the point that the whites are no longer translucent). Sprinkle with cilantro and the feta cheese.
Main menu