The Inside Story: East Bay Interior Design
Meet three of the region’s most in-demand interior designers.
Laura Martin Bovard’s design for the Morse House highlights the owners’ art collection.
Photo by Mo Saito/Doghouse Photos
The East Bay has long been a hotbed of eclectic home design—from Craftsman bungalows to midcentury moderns, from Victorians to contemporary masterpieces. Whatever its style, a house is ultimately a home, and the interiors should reflect the spirit of the people living within it. So whether you long for a calming retreat in neutral shades or interior spaces with bold punches of personality, the right interior designer can get you there. Meet three top talents with East Bay roots who deliver the perfect mix of functionality, style, and imagination.
Laura Martin Bovard
Laura Martin Bovard Interiors
“I’m a beauty-maker at heart. Everywhere I go, I find the beauty in everything. I love to create home for people.”
As a military kid, Laura Martin Bovard spent her childhood hopping from place to place. So, as an adult, she longed to create a space that felt like home. While in college at UC Berkeley, she was mulling career options, and her therapist said, “Laura, all you do is talk about decorating your apartment. Have you thought about being an interior designer?”
Martin Bovard, who lived in the East Bay for chunks of her youth, now calls Oakland home. (It’s also where her eponymous interior design firm is headquartered.) “My dad was stationed at the Alameda naval base, which is fun because I go to the antique fair every month and drive past the street that I lived on as a child,” she says. “That’s nostalgic for me.”
Style: Warm modern, using natural materials and handcrafted treasures.
Current inspiration: “Wallpaper, wallpaper, wallpaper! I’m obsessed with it. It’s so gorgeous. There’s a wallpaper for every surface now.”
Cool project: The Morse House, a landmark home in upper Rockridge owned by a philanthropist couple who support Oakland artists and local causes. “It’s Hollywood glam meets west Oakland,” says Martin Bovard, who created a bold, edgy vibe while honoring the home’s classic elegance. “[The homeowners] have a couple of Mel Ramos pieces. They have K-Dub, who is an Oakland artist who does amazing graffiti and fine art.”
2020 trend prediction: More metal inlay tile and other artistic finishes.
Favorite local decor shops: Sobu and Mulberry’s Home (both in Oakland), and Taylorblue (Berkeley).
Kriste Michelini Interiors
“We want people to feel that they’re heard. We want to delight them. It’s an important relationship, like a mini-marriage.”
Kriste Michelini’s friends loved the special touch she brought to her home—so much that some asked if they could hire her. “It grew organically from there,” she says of her Danville-based design business. “It really is my passion, and I feel fortunate that I get to do what I love for a living. It’s what you try to instill in your children: Find what you’re passionate about.”
Originally from Chicago, Michelini grew up on the Peninsula, then worked in tech in Silicon Valley before moving to the East Bay to raise her family. “Then I launched my design firm,” she says. “I’ve enjoyed being in the East Bay, with the hiking and the restaurants and shops.”
Style: Classical modern—traditional that’s cleaned up, a bit lighter, and fresher.
Current inspiration: “I just got back from a trip to Africa with my family, and the colors inspired me. I’ve already used them in a couple of projects. And nature always inspires me.”
Cool project: Michelini recently designed the interiors of a spacious, modern, minimalist home in the Orinda hills for a family of five. “It’s a cool, hip, fun family, and they’re not afraid of color,” she says. “[The owner] loves typography and fonts, so we worked them in.” Many of the design elements tell a story or prompt conversation. Surfboards hang from a wall along a stairway, for example, and the stair risers are emblazoned with numbers representing the family’s previous street addresses.
2020 trend prediction: “Cozy and comfortable. A lot of our clients not only want [items] to be beautiful but they’ll also ask, ‘Is the sofa comfortable? Is the rug soft?’”
Favorite local decor shops: Elsie Green (Concord), Misto Lino (Danville and Lafayette), and the Alameda Point Antiques Faire.
Nathan Turner, Inc.
“I was an antiques dealer and had a shop for 15 years, so I love objects and putting them all together.”
Nathan Turner, whose client list includes actors Amanda Peet and Adrian Grenier, is a fourth-generation East Bayer with deep design roots. His great-great uncle was an architect of the Golden Gate Bridge, and a great aunt had an antiques store in Piedmont. “Bay Area design is in my blood,” says the Martinez native. “People equate California design with modernity, but there’s something traditional about the Bay Area. We are the older part of the state, and that’s always come into play in the way that I live and design.”
Now based in West Hollywood, Turner has appeared on television shows and taken his talents around the globe, with recent projects in Singapore and Indonesia. For comfort-food recipes and entertaining tips, pick up his 2018 book, I Love California.
Style: A collected look, featuring objects that appear to have been gathered over time.
Current inspiration: “I’m always inspired by travel. I just got back from a buying trip in Europe. I do all the markets and the auctions, and that’s always incredibly inspiring.”
Cool project: “I just did some cabins at the Alisal Guest Ranch in Solvang, north of Santa Barbara, which is a historic cattle ranch. It’s called the Turner House, and that was near and dear to me, because my family has a cattle ranch out [by] Sacramento. It was a really fun collaboration, and it felt like something very natural for me to do.”
2020 trend prediction: “The good old ’80s are going to be coming back. I’m a kid from the ’80s, and I love San Francisco [design] icons like Michael Taylor—I love that whole look—so I’m embracing it.”
Favorite local decor shops: The Alameda Point Antiques Faire, and Coup d’Etat and March (both in San Francisco).