A Lovely Little Oakland Hills Cottage Packed Full of Inspiration

My Aunt Chrisy’s cottage has inspired me since I was a small child. Nestled in the busy city of Oakland, but tucked into the hillside it feels entirely private in its urban setting and I am in love with this sweet home! My aunt worked in the art world in her twenties and thirties and gathered a collection of painting and antiques that would make anyone envious. Her home gives me Kate Winslet’s cottage in the Holiday meets House Beautiful’s Bee Cottage vibes and I am majorly into it. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

My Aunt Chrisy and my Uncle Lon have put many long hours into making this old cottage their home. A few summers ago my Uncle Lon even climbed ladders painted the entire exterior of their home this lovely mushroom color! Here they are in front of their home, showcasing their original wood door and windows. They just don’t build homes like this anymore!

Inside the cottage, I’m going to start in my favorite room: the library. This little room is flooded with sunlight from large windows and is painted one of my favorite colors: red! The bold color works so well in this space because it gets lots of sunlight and looks so striking against the white trim. In the library, a top a German Bauernstube armoire inherited from my Oma sits a collection of pewter and silver. Both pop against the happy red wall paint.

Across the room an antique chair sits below a painting my cousin dubbed “angry, tattooed mom.” The painting is beautiful and nods to the red walls of the room like they were designed for each other. The chair was recovered in this happy patterned silk fabric by my aunt years ago. She was worried about the fabric looking faded, but it’s so beautiful even bleached from the sun! I love the patina of it. The light color works really well with the white curtains and crisp white of the built-ins too.

And let’s talk about that Bauernstube armoire some more, because it is absolutely stunning. The carved wood is simple, yet elegant. I love how the carvings are raw enough that some of the cutwork shows black against the rest of the wood. I wish you could still buy furniture with this type of artistry today! The attention to detail and craftsmanship it takes to create this piece of furniture art are so unique in the modern furniture world.

In the rest of the house, my aunt’s art and antiques collection continues to shine. Here from the living room you can see how they play with the character of the house. The wide plank oak floors are original and where the nails sit, wood plugs hide the holes! It’s such a beautiful detail I haven’t seen anywhere else before. Layered antique rugs throughout the home help preserve the wood floors and bring more color and movement to the space. The continuous crisp white trim brightens up each rooms, contrasting especially well against the bolder hue’d green dining room.

My aunt and uncle certainly don’t shy away from bright color (maybe it runs in the family?) and the dining room paint is the perfect pop. Plus the color really highlights the antique furniture in the space, complementing the orange tones in the wood.

My aunt carefully styles many of her accessories, including those in this beautiful china cabinet. Each item in here is stuck with museum gel so nothing moves – even if an earthquake strikes the nearby (and infamous) Hayward fault line! Such a handy trick for Californians – or anyone else who doesn’t want things to shift. Plus the crisp white tones of the china harken back to the white wainscotting, once again tying the different elements of the space together.

On the other side of the dining room, black and white photographs in simple white frames pop against the emerald walls. Below them sits another older armoire my Opa refinished, staining it to look like oxblood. This piece is antique with such beautiful, timeless simple lines, but the old hinges and nails are clearly handmade!

The neighboring kitchen is light filled and happy. It’s a great example of a small kitchen working twice as hard and packs in a ton of function all on display behind glass cabinet doors! Those of you with small spaces, start taking notes now. It’s about to get interesting.

Small spaces can be just — if not more — functional than large ones, and my aunt and uncle have taken advantage of every bit of storage space possible. High ceilings allow for pot racks to hang up out of the way and yet just within hands-reach. The ceiling in here peaks so this makes great use of what could have just been empty space. Plus is there anything as charming as a pot rack?

Cutting boards tucked into the corner are beautiful and entirely functional too. There’s a quote from William Morris that I’ve been thinking of a lot lately: “Have nothing in your home you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” It’s quite striking and causing me to really think before I bring anything home. Things like this beautiful collection of cutting boards really make me think about this quote again too, as they meet both criteria.

The cabinets, counters, and backsplash were all part of the house when my Aunt bought it over 30 years ago, but are so well maintained and classically designed, they feel perfect for the space.

Behind glass cabinet doors sits everyday china, mugs, serving-ware, and specialty items, all within easy reach and all styled to look beautiful, even when the cabinets are full. I’m taking notes for my own kitchen!

A modern quartz or even stone counter could feel jarring in this kitchen. The simple tiled counters feel old-world, not ’80s, and speak to the essentials of good design. The simple look, high end material, and classic design is entirely timeless. This is white well designed 50s bathrooms are still around, when we’re also ripping out everything from trendy ’90s bathrooms. So often kitchens are designed to last 10 years at the most and when that timer goes off, everything from the appliances to the counters and cabinets heads to the landfill. I love that this space has been so well preserved and saved from that fate! I can’t think of an aesthetic reason to change a single thing about this space anytime soon.

Let’s head back to the living room. I shot the house just after the holidays and their sweet Christmas tree really makes the corner glow. Another antique rug brings a happy pop of color to the space. Light walls pair well with the deeper hues of the rug which nod to the dark colors of the adjacent living and dining rooms.

Books abound in this house (another thing that perhaps runs in the family?) and I adore this little side table my Uncle found, which is specifically designed to keep your current (and future) reading material close at hand. Each time I visit, this table tells the stories of my Aunt and Uncle’s passions, always packed to the brim with novels, historical non-fiction, and at least one book relating to art.

The mirror above the fireplace was also originally my Oma and Opa’s and used to sit above their mantle as well. I’ve had my eye out for a similar convex mirror for years! It’s such a fun way to bounce light around the room without reflecting an exact image. It’s the antique version of some of what we’ve seen popping up with copper colored mirrors in recent years (a trend, I can definitely get behind!), where the mirror is designed as more of an added reflected surface for the space and not to reflect anything specifically.

The small arched opening of the fireplace is so utterly sweet. It’s such an old world element that feels so perfectly proportioned for a cozy space and is a far cry from some of the giant fireplaces we see so often in contemporary homes (though those can be quite nice too). It’s a great reminder that some thing smaller and well proportioned can tell a story better than something oversized. I love the little three-legged stool next it it too! The perfect spot to perch and tend the flames. The mushroom pillow atop the chair nearby feels straight out of a fairy tale and is yet another layer of charm and whimsy layered into the space.

Speaking of whimsy, I styled the mantle with a few things I found around the cottage, since it was originally decked out for Christmas. I love how amidst the traditional furniture and antiques my aunt scatters the most fun and smile-provoking art like this tiny piece!

This room is full of original paned windows that let in the best light. It’s a sweet space and feels so cozy! This room is tight and also provides the main circulation for the house. My aunt has arranged it several ways over the years and I managed to convince my Uncle Lon to help me move around some furniture and try a new layout for this shoot. It was fun to see the living room this way, so different from before. Does anyone else love rearranging furniture to create an entirely new vibe for their space?

In another nook of the house a beautiful rounded from desk sits in front of french doors. A painting of my cousin done by my Aunt’s cousin sits on the wall. I absolutely love the book storage in the desk! It’s such a beautiful and unique piece, it shines wherever it’s placed! My Aunt even posed for me here at the desk at the very end of our day of shooting.

A huge thank you to my Aunt Chrisy and Uncle Lon for letting me descend on their home, to style the spaces, rearrange furniture, and create general chaos shooting the space just after the holidays! It was such a pleasure to photograph and share this adorable home!

Who else took away tons of small space storage ideas, whimsy art, and ways to style antiques? I’m majorly inspired by this kitchen – even more now than before!

6 thoughts on “A Lovely Little Oakland Hills Cottage Packed Full of Inspiration

  1. Thank you, Laurel! You made our house look so good. And you were totally right about the living room. We aren’t changing a thing after you rearranged it, except following your advice on a Chesterfield couch to replace the old white many cushioned couch that’s there now. Love you!

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