Ideas for Contemporary Living

Category: Inhabit

2018 Showcase House

Posted on September 25th, by David Bjorngaard in Inhabit, Knowledge, The Moment. No Comments

Why can’t the dining room be the new family room, a place where the entire family can gather throughout the day? This is what I was saying as I drove back to the house, to take a second look at the dining room when it was in its ugly, no-character stage prior to our work.  How would I use the space, I opined? Coffee and news in the morning as I wake up; some breakfast at the cafe table to get me going; work on my laptop at the BDDW dining table, working but feeling like I’m in the park; read my book and enjoy the fog rolling in mid-afternoon; dinner with Sean or friends; a cocktail party in the evening. A room with this view needed to be used! Towards this end, I created a flexible space to accommodate lots of uses. Here’s a quick look at my approach.

Provide the tease.A bit of sparkle, reflected in the mirror just off the entry, catches your eye as you enter the house. (this also provides a great space to check your hair while heading out). A neutral color palette of sisal and plaster, with the absence of window treatments, focuses the attention.

Draw … Read More »


Posted on June 23rd, by David Bjorngaard in Elements, Inhabit. No Comments

Summer is finally here. Time to relax, get outside and enjoy the fruits of our labour in comfortable style. For outdoor spaces, the right mix of furniture has  flexibility, personality, durability and style. Above all, an outdoor space requires fun, sculptural pieces to compliment the organic shapes of nature. To help kick off your summer, get inspired, or find that right piece to mix into your outdoor room, here are a few of my favorite outdoor furniture finds.

Mix light and airy with solid volumes. For this outdoor space in Palo Alto I designed with Monica Ream and Stephen Verner, I paired oversized Lolah Lounge chairs with a Paola Lenti Otto footstool and Orlando daybed, resting on a custom concrete platform. The white curved slats of the chair create an organic volume, and echo the wood of the trellis. The solid shapes of the day bed and ottomans don’t compete with the chairs, while offering a really relaxed, carefree and flexible space to enjoy the sun, shade and pool. Click here to see more of this project.

Every outdoor room needs a piece of sculpture. The view is inspired, so should be your furniture. Simple, refined shapes mix well with the outdoors, and hold their own … Read More »


Posted on January 6th, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There, Inhabit, The Moment. 2 comments

2017 was blur…great projects and clients, a growing business, and some amazing travel. One of the highlights was the debut of my powder room at the San Francisco Decorator Showcase House. A small, windowless room, the smallest room in the house.  Low ceilings, and no architectural details to salvage, this was not much more than a closet when I started.

The challenge was to make this enclosed space feel larger.  Inspiration came from a simple Roman fountain, with execution and detailing influence from trips to Rome and Milan. The result is a self-contained, immersive space that is quiet, reflective, and exquisite…in a way the anti-jewel box powder room. Like many of my projects, the design focused on the confident handling of materials, the detailing of which are revealed in the soft light animating the space.

Here are some of the techniques that I employed to expand the space:

Trick the senses. The rounding of all inside corners not only highlights the thickness of the materials, but also results in a lack of shadows. Our peripheral vision, lacking the vertical shadow lines that define space, is tricked into perceiving the space as bigger.  I like this about the work of James Turrell, using light-spaces … Read More »


Posted on December 13th, by David Bjorngaard in Elements, Inhabit, The Moment. 2 comments

This brilliant restaurant, Loulou Restaurant Paris, recently got me thinking more about the use of caning in interiors.  I love how the technique softens and adds texture to a clean modern space.  I also am intrigued by the veiling of our voyeuristic tendencies:  cane gently obscuring mirror. Clean interiors require a bit of texture, and modern interiors require a bit of history.


Lately I’ve searched out the variety of caned furniture. I like the touch of artistry and handicraft, plus the sense of exotic glamour.  Adding warmth, texture and color to modern interiors is the key to creating inviting, comfortable spaces to live. Here are a few of my favorite interiors and pieces of furniture.  I recommend you embrace the trend.

I’m not terribly acquisitive – could be an occupational hazard –  but I regret passing up a set of 6 Marcel Breuer chairs at a second-hand store in San Rafael years ago.  Bent tubular steel fashioned into a continuous frame, softened by the caned seat and back. Casual yet elegant, modern yet grounded in craft techniques, nearly a perfect chair…and now someone else’s chairs!  Probably in a breakfast room in Mill Valley, or a second home in Palm Springs.

Here are a few other … Read More »

Little Details

Posted on March 28th, by David Bjorngaard in Inhabit, Knowledge. No Comments

I sit with a copy of several of John Pawson’s books at my desk…I love the detailed, expressive work produced by his firm. At times his work has a warmth found in vernacular architecture of Scandinavia, the rigor of a Donald Judd sculpture, and the restraint of Italian and Northern European modern architecture. His work provides a master’s class in elegant detailing. So when I opened up my latest edition of Architectural Digest and saw a home by Pawson featured, I saw some of the lessons come to life.

Less but better. Instead of lots of stuff, surround yourself with thing things you really love. Don’t love your lounge chairs? Then live with a comfy sofa and some great art…or floor cushions.  With minimalism, the key is to find pieces that have a sculptural quality, and that speak to each other.  In time, you can accumulate more things on trips and through people you encounter, and these objects will have a greater impact because of the memories and connections.

Think in volume, not just floor plan. Volume is one of the most under used aspects of design. Entering a double height space from a narrow hallway adds drama, and makes even a … Read More »

Swiss Chalet

Posted on December 20th, by David Bjorngaard in Inhabit, Knowledge, The Moment. No Comments

In the dark, cold days of winter, I dream of settling into a nice chalet in the mountains. Surrounded by snow and cold, but engulfed in the warm glow of a fire and the comfort provide by rustic materials, friends, spirits and a good view. A comfortable modern aesthetic, laid back with a good place to read, nod off and cook up a good meal. My friends can go skiing.  For me, a really comfortable chair, a nice window seat,  and a simple but well designed kitchen would work wonders.

This home in the Swiss Alps plays on local architectural vernacular, and provides a glimpse of what I admire: a mix of wood both warm toned and cool, refined and rustic; vintage furniture; organic shapes and materials; punches of color; and a bit of brainy fun. A home in Tahoe could take inspiration from this chalet.

The entrance provide multiple points of interest. Lined in red-painted shingles, the entrance inverts the skin of the exterior into the interior, singling that something different is going to happen. Unfinished metal walls and raw wood floors, combine with contemporary art and velvet to create a warm embrace from the cold.

When the floors, walls and even ceiling are wood, the eye needs … Read More »


Posted on October 15th, by David Bjorngaard in Elements, Inhabit, Knowledge. No Comments

Connecting and working with talented individuals is one of the highlights of my job.   Local crafts people and artists have a thoughtful perspective on design, and they help create objects that are both more meaningful and fully realized.  International designers often have a different cultural perspective, a different aesthetic framework, yet it is exciting to see that many of us are working on projects that emphasize the same core values: using traditional techniques, sustainable materials, and cutting edge designs. I recently meet Nani Marquina, a talented designer and founder of the eponymous firm which creates and explores ideas surrounding rugs. Here are a few of my takeaways from our meeting.

Rugs define a room, creating atmosphere and emotion.  Rugs provide the foundation of a room, while adding warmth, color and comfort. Bohemian. Tailored. Artistic. A rug suited to your personality and taste really can provide a transformative experience to your space, expressing your personality. A thoughtfully selected rug transforms an existing room, making your existing furniture look new.

Collaboration yields striking results. Through a range of collaboration with designers such as Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec  and Ron Arad, the company is pushing experimentation of textures, shapes and materials. Carpets are being pieced together, or woven … Read More »

Island Life

Posted on March 15th, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There, Inhabit, The Moment. No Comments

As you read this I will be lying in a hammock, swinging in the humid breeze of the Mayan Caribbean. A good book, a cool drink and a friend or two will make for a great trip.

Living in a tropical location, or setting up any vacation home for that matter, revolves around several basic tenants: keep it simple, make it user friendly, and encourage large gathering of friends. You don’t go on vacation to work, you go to have fun. So put a little thought into design to further your fun. Here are some tips.

Make the kitchen big and open, because that is where you’ll be spending a lot of time in the evenings. Provide lots of countertop space and durable surfaces, so you have room to work and don’t have to worry about cleaning up right away.  Closed storage allows you to store staples out of sight until needed.

Focus on the pool, this is where everyone wants to be during the day, but celebrate both the shade and sun…some of us want to be in the shade! The shade will give everyone a place to retreat from the mid-day heat, or take a nap after that afternoon Pina Colada. Treat the … Read More »


Posted on February 4th, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There, Inhabit, Knowledge. No Comments

Winter in the mountains, to me, is all about the warm glow of a fire and the comfort provide by rustic materials, friends, spirits and a good view. It’s all about the view, a nice hike, and the deep quite of nature. With the majestic environment holding sway, ordinary materials used in extraordinary ways help to humanize the environment, providing beauty and interest within reach.

When designing a mountain ski retreat, I’d remove the fussiness and kitsch, provide straightforward, tactile furnishings and detailing, in order to create a contemporary and comfortable environment. As a point of reference, the aesthetic of Angelique Buisson would look great in Tahoe and Mammoth. Here’s what we can take away from her work.

Keep it practical. Use durable materials that handle the elements. Slate works great in bathrooms and mud rooms, and unfinished wood will keep looking better with age.

Have fun. Animate a space with artful use of materials. Below are two examples, one using Bocci lighting, and one using inexpensive sconces found at the hardware store. Each is effective: one feels like blowing leaves in the wind, and the other creates a geometric pattern drawn by an intentional hand.

Clean it up. Remember you’re a modernist, so bring your aesthetic to the mountains. You don’t need to over decorate. Remove … Read More »