Summer 2017 Newsletter

thinking about furniture

Like many people who have gone through a major remodel, we tend to get totally absorbed in the design and building processes. By the time the project is completed, we may feel at a lost about how to furnish our wonderfully shiny and somewhat unfamiliar living spaces. For some, their old and beloved sofa and chairs may also appear to look lost. For others, having to furnish a new space from scratch can be overwhelming, akin to an artist confronting a blank canvas. To gain some insights about the art of furnishing, we turn to Lisa Russell and Bill Kehrer, proprietor and account executive respectively of our local (Berkeley) Design Within Reach studio.

modern is an attitude

The most important takeaway from our lively conversation is that a good interior consultant approaches furnishing very much like an architect does with building design. Lisa says she follows the classic modernist approach: she first asks about how the clients live (relax, work, and play) at home, then she studies the entry point, the traffic, natural and artificial lighting, the views, etc. Along the way, she has an understanding of the clients' needs and tastes, and she custom-tailors the furniture selections for their particular lifestyle. For example: if a couple loves to entertain all the time, then the kitchen is the most important element. Her goal will be to make it organic for friends and family to cook and enjoy the space together. 

Certainly, believing in form follows function does not mean neglecting the aesthetic concerns. Lisa feels strongly that the furniture should carry on where the architecture has initiated. That means it should deepen, enriches, and accentuates the architectural intentions. If architecture is like the plot line of a film, then furniture is like the sound effects without which the whole movie experience would be dull.

design for an open and rectilinear floor plan

In many of today's remodels, clients favor opening up the spaces to improve the flow and enable an indoor/outdoor connection. When working with such an open great room or loft concept, Bill's favorite approach is to select a few key items to anchor the room. "If a family enjoys hanging out together, start with a sofa grouping or dining set where they will be spending the most time." Furniture groupings are also very effective in defining more intimate spaces (for conversation, reading, watching t.v., etc.) in an otherwise wide open room.

Purchasing quality furniture is a significant investment. Most people pay much attention to the construction, fabric and finish. But Bill and Lisa like to emphasize the importance of silhouette and personality. They also believe having a few iconic pieces can make the design pop. Sometimes, introducing some curves in a straight rectangle will also add unexpected delights. Lisa reminds us that a piece of art can sometimes drive the whole design and pull it together.

make it your own

Both Lisa and Bill say they enjoy working with real people and realistic spaces. And they encourage clients to put a personal stamp on the design. Within an overarching theme of clean lines and timelessness, they love to incorporate handcrafted elements such as hand forged metal hardware against concrete, smooth pillows with raw edges, sleek and chunky chairs, fuzzy sheepskins, and eccentric upholstery. 

tips for homeowners

  • Be selective: invest in a few key pieces instead of filling the house with furniture.
  • Edit your existing furniture and incorporate them with the new: 'mix and match' creates unexpected visual delights. Bill likes to visit clients and help them with editing without charge. DWR will also let you borrow new pieces and try them at home.
  • Make sure you try the furniture before buying. Some may have the pre-conception that modern sofas and chairs are not comfortable since they look sleek and thin. But the most important factor is the construction and ergonomics. The Eames Lounge Chair is very comfortable because the contour is so well designed. 
  • Children can learn to respect and appreciate good design too. No need to really dumb it down.
  • Think about furniture early in your remodeling: think of it as the treat you deserve at the end of a long process.

design within reach

Design Within Reach exists to make authentic modern design accessible. When it was founded in 1998, consumers simply weren’t able to buy the classics at retail. To find them, they had to visit Europe or work with intermediaries. DWR changed that by making innovative works from iconic designers accessible for the first time, and they have continued to provide the best in modern design ever since. Accessible means that it can be seen and touched (taken for a “test drive,” as they like to say) and that it’s in stock. At DWR, they are passionate about design – past, present and future.
All project images are provided by DWR. To learn more, please visit  
Profile image: L.A. Modern Santa Monica, house built in 1949 
1.    Furnishing plan custom tailored for client's lifestyle  
2-3. L.A. Modern Culver City, house built in 1939 
4.    L.A. Modern Santa Monica, house built in 1949  
5.   Mix and match - L.A. Modern Fairfax "SpanishModern", 1927
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Stephen Shoup in Oakland, CA on Houzz
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