A modern neutral Cole Valley apartment

A modern neutral Cole Valley apartment

This fall my good friend Kevin moved back to San Francisco after living in New York for two years. Not only was I happy to have him back, I was thrilled to design his new apartment in Cole Valley.

Moving from a tiny Manhattan apartment to a generously-sized, bright Cole Valley one bedroom, he brought with him just a bed, a sofa and a TV and not much else. We weren't quite starting from scratch, but pretty close.

Because I love a good before and after, here's where we started:


The apartment is spacious, filled with light, and features an original fireplace with pretty tile details. Kevin wanted the apartment to feel comfortable and ready for entertaining. He loves mid-century furniture and the blue eyes filter on Snapchat, so we started with neutrals and accents of blue.

The Living Room

Kevin already had this gorgeous leather chair from the The Citizenry, which looked beautiful in the living room:

Leather chair:  The Citizenry . Rug:  CB2 . Marble side table:  West Elm . Wine rack:  Crate and Barrel . 

Leather chair: The Citizenry. Rug: CB2. Marble side table: West Elm. Wine rack: Crate and Barrel

We added the CB2 white rug with dark grey spots, which add great texture. Kevin had the infamous West Elm Peggy sofa from his NYC apartment, but the chaise was facing the wrong direction. We took West Elm up on their offer to swap out his sofa and got the Peggy replacement (without popping buttons). The grey fabric is very pretty and seems more durable than Peggy:

Grey couch:  West Elm . Ceramic vase:  Target . Brass tray:  Target . Candle:  Cire Trudon . Blue print (left): Minted. Blue print (right):  Minted .

Grey couch: West Elm. Ceramic vase: Target. Brass tray: Target. Candle: Cire Trudon. Blue print (left): Minted. Blue print (right): Minted.

If you're re-purposing furniture from an old apartment in a new one, get creative with how you're using it. Kevin had three of these hexagon marble tables grouped together as a coffee table in NYC, but we split them apart and used them as side tables in San Francisco:


Built-in shelves are mostly a blessing, but a little bit of a curse if you don't own a ton of books -- they look sad if you leave them empty and gaping. Even if you don't have many accessories, make sure to spread them out evenly so all the shelves have something happening.

My favorite trick for built-in shelves is to lean art against the back of the shelves to create a sense of depth and interest. I wish we had filled these shelves out with more books on the top shelves, but it works for now:

Fiddle leaf fig tree:  World Market . Wood side tables:  The CItizenry . White chair: HD Buttercup (similar:  Target ). 

Fiddle leaf fig tree: World Market. Wood side tables: The CItizenry. White chair: HD Buttercup (similar: Target). 

Mobile:  CB2 . Green print:  Minted .

Mobile: CB2. Green print: Minted.

Wood tray:  Amazon . Copper decanter set:  Amazon .

Wood tray: Amazon. Copper decanter set: Amazon.

We swapped the ugly roller shades that came with the apartment for inexpensive linen roman shades from Hot Blinds, my go-to source for custom shades. The roman shades filter the light really beautifully in the living room, which has a sweeping view of the neighbors' backyards.

I'm particularly fond of a coffee table with a marble top -- no need to worry about stains from water or wine glasses.

Coffee table:  West Elm . Pouf:  Amazon . Media console:  West Elm . Roman Shades:  Hot Blinds . Blue pillow: West Elm (similar:  CB2 ). 

Coffee table: West Elm. Pouf: Amazon. Media console: West Elm. Roman Shades: Hot Blinds. Blue pillow: West Elm (similar: CB2). 


In this corner of the living room, we used my favorite World Market faux fiddle leaf fig tree. I like how it draws your eye up and fills the corner nicely:

Throw blanket:  West Elm . Basket:  Amazon . Moss:  Amazon .

Throw blanket: West Elm. Basket: Amazon. Moss: Amazon.

The Bedroom

We found these Restoration Hardware nightstands on sale online and Kevin pulled the trigger after one too many glasses of wine while online shopping one night. He told me he's never had a worse hangover (the nightstands weigh... a lot... and he had to go pick them up) but the truly important thing is that I love them! The metal surface adds so much visual interest:

Nightstands: Restoration Hardware ( similar ). Bed:  West Elm . Bedding: West elm ( similar ). Lamp:  West Elm .

Nightstands: Restoration Hardware (similar). Bed: West Elm. Bedding: West elm (similar). Lamp: West Elm.

If you have extra space around the house for a side chair, I love buying extra dining chairs for your dining table and using them in other rooms. It makes big dinner parties so convenient when you can pull out extra matching chairs.

And this gorgeous basket from The Citizenry is an attractive way to store shoes:

Chair:  Amazon . Basket: The Citizenry ( similar ). Blue rug:  West Elm . Dresser:  West Elm . Lamp:  CB2 .

Chair: Amazon. Basket: The Citizenry (similar). Blue rug: West Elm. Dresser: West Elm. Lamp: CB2.

Mirror:  Target . Pacific coast highway print:  Minted .

Mirror: Target. Pacific coast highway print: Minted.

Basket: The Citizenry ( similar ).

Basket: The Citizenry (similar).

The Kitchen

The kitchen is large and spacious (I'm jealous of the dishwasher), but the entire room felt very overwhelmingly brown between the wood cabinets and beige floors.

I was insistent that we bring in a large rug to add some color and break up the brown. The key to putting a rug in your kitchen without it getting gross is to look for rugs labeled "indoor/outdoor." These rugs, meant for patios, are made of water-resistant materials and you can wipe them down.

This rug is a gorgeous shade of blue and soft underfoot, and I'm confident it will hold up well to kitchen spills. Ditto the dining table with an easily wipe-able surface:

Kitchen table:  West Elm . Rug:  Annie Selke . Chairs:  Amazon .

Kitchen table: West Elm. Rug: Annie Selke. Chairs: Amazon.


By pulling in the blue rug and the white table and chairs, I think we did a good job offsetting the brown. The wood cabinets are suddenly much prettier to look at, in contrast to white:


I love how Kevin's apartment turned out -- I can't wait to hang out here while he orders sushi and yells at his Google Home. Got any questions for us? Leave em in the comments!


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