A renovation in the 1980s meant that any charm that’s typically inherent in a house of this era had been depleted over the years. Instead, the homeowners inherited textured walls, shiny paint finishes and worn fittings. The owners, a family of four, hired interior designer Nicole Yee to thoughtfully and thoroughly transform the space to better suit their family lifestyle.  A lauded designer, Nicole is known for providing her clients with remarkable results. Her eye for detail is keen, and her creativity boundless. She focuses on creating original, well-edited designs for each client, and this home is no exception. We spoke to Nicole Yee about the design project. 

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The property

This is a 1930s historical home in the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland, CA. It was remodeled in the 1980s in a rather rushed effort that depleted its 1930s character.  Decorative wooden plaques were hung above each window in a failed effort to add architectural interest. Lack of storage made it inevitable that the house always looked chaotic and cluttered.  Creating a durable, functional space for my clients – a fun-loving family of four including two adults that love to cook, two athletic teen boys and a dog – was the goal. Aiming for a minimal, yet family-friendly look, I knew the design needed to be practical, bright and brimming with light.  


With the addition of custom cabinets in the hall, now everything has a place, removing the opportunity for clutter to gather. 

Living room

This space was designed with the whole family in mind. It is the perfect place to unwind, entertain or even play games. Structured yet comfy, it sets a clean, friendly tone for friends and family alike. Light was a major factor when renovating this home. We wanted to incorporate as much as possible with clever window positioning, as shown above.


I always factor the environment and sustainability into my designs, so we made careful product choices to lighten the carbon footprint in this renovation. The kitchen cabinets in this home were made locally in Oakland using wood products from environmentally responsible, legally harvested forests.  The kitchen backsplash tile was also handmade locally. The counter material is quartz made from recycled materials. We always use LED lights, no-voc paint and energy-saver appliances. The new windows are also energy-certified. We also donated old furniture for re-use. White kitchens are still the biggest selling ‘color’ in the kitchen market place, and  there’s no denying that choosing white cabinets – or, a combination of white and wood designs, as seen here – does make it considerably easier to adapt and tweak color schemes at a later date. We’ve managed to avoid the ‘clinical’ look by making sure that there are some elements of natural materials in the room – wooden flooring, table and chairs. What’s more, the cabinets in this home were made locally in Oakland using wood products from environmentally responsible, legally harvested forests.

Dining room

The dining room – a lesson in symmetry – highlights the minimal aesthetic the family have come to love. The beautiful new dining room table is made from FSC certified wood and was purchased locally. 

Powder room

The powder bathroom started out as a little dark cell.  I added a small square window and two beautiful clay ceiling lights to fill the space with light. The narrow modern sink fit perfectly without having to knock out any walls, while shiplap boards at the back add texture and interest. Photography / Lauren Andersen / SEN Creative (opens in new tab) Interior design / Nicole Yee (opens in new tab)