Bernee & Dado's Cheery Oakland Hideaway

Bernee & Dado's Cheery Oakland Hideaway

Name: Bernee Lee & Dado Ong
Location: Oakland, California
Size: 700 sq/ft
Years lived in: 3 years, owned
Who else lives here: Kezia, 1-year-old

Tucked away behind the main houses of a side street in Oakland's Temescal neighborhood, Bernee and Dado's 1920s bungalow is a showcase for creativity. A sun-splashed driveway leads to a homemade patio where Bernee's splendid design studio occupies a former garage. Salvaged wooden planks, tree stump tables, and potted succulents arranged carefully on painted sills create an atmosphere of indoor/outdoor living that merges with the bright, cheerful rooms inside.


Embraced by the greens and reds of the surrounding foliage, the facade's warm California colors give way to a cozy interior. Here, treasures collected from travels around the world are neatly arranged among original artwork, hand crafted objects, and minimalist furniture.

Photographs Dado took in South America and New Zealand add character to a simple napkin holder, while shards of sunlight dance among graphic murals Bernee painted on the walls of their one-year-old daughter Kezia's room.

A historic abode filled with personal touches and artistry, this wonderful home offers a refined image of Bernee and Dado's simple, Japanese and Scandinavian-inspired style.

AT Survey:

My/Our style: We fancy simplicity and essentially drift towards Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's "less is more" philosophy. Space that is visually engaging and physically accommodating.

Inspiration: Art galleries and retail spaces. Stores like Anthropologie.

Favorite Element: The wooden countertops that we sealed with aromatic, natural, herbal oil. We liked the idea of sealing them with oil since varnish is toxic, so we found a German product online called Bioshield Organic Oil, Herbal Oil #2. It's "high grade organically grown cold pressed linseed oil," and it smells good when you apply it. We bought it online but found out that Eco Home, in Berkeley, carries it too.

Biggest Challenge: Dado says he is "criminally" unhandy. He has to learn the hard way. One of the first things he did after moving into the house was hang something on the door, but the screw was too long and went all the way through the other side. Then he hung up the blinds but got rather tired after screwing them all into the hard wood windowsills by hand. Luckily the Temescal Tool Lending Library is a great resource that has taught him about things like power tools.

What Friends Say: We received a number of compliments for the hardwood and stone floors. Our handy friends say the renovation was done nicely.

Biggest Embarrassment: When Dado goes to the Temescal Tool Lending Library, he never knows the name of the tool he needs. So he describes what he wants to do, then asks for "this thing." One particular day, the person had no idea what he was talking about and all they could do was laugh. But he has learned a lot from the library staff and has borrowed everything from a circular saw to an electrical sander, and his ignorance compelled him to take a fine woodworking class at Laney College in Oakland.

In addition to a side table, Dado made a set of angular, wooden book ends from scraps he collected from the other students' projects.

Proudest DIY: We built a mini "fence" using salvaged wood from Urban Ore.  Everything was supposed to be even, inspired by Japanese simple line design. Straight, even. Once we started cutting the wood we realized the slats were all uneven. But if we trimmed all the pieces to make them even, it wouldn't properly block the space (the idea was to camouflage the garage door) so we had to change our original sketch and get creative with the design.

It was one of our first stressful moments together. Bernee measures by eye. She's very visual and Dado's not visual, so it wasn't until the project was completed that Dado was happy. We argued a lot during the process. Dado was the one holding the power tools, Bernee was the one directing the shapes and the cuts. Eventually we just lined them all up asymmetrically. Once it was finished we were very happy. The funny thing is it has to stand on its own. Fortunately, it clipped right into the neighbor's fence. Then we built plant boxes to support both ends and added the greenery. At the end of the day we were really happy. Dado wasn't cranky anymore.

Biggest Indulgence:
Our Vernon Panton chair from the MoMA Store.

Best Advice:
Dado says it's the advice Bernee gave him, "If it's not broken, don't fix it," meaning if it works, leave it alone.

Dream Source:
Art galleries, Bonluxat (for Inga Sempe Brosse Storage Units), any place that carries Capiz chandeliers.

Green Elements/Initiatives:
The DIY salvaged wood fence, our dryer which we converted from electric to gas (though we hardly use it - we air dry mostly), energy efficient light bulbs, blinds also serving as insulators, and lots of artwork and other functional pieces we created ourselves from salvaged or recycled materials.

Future Goals
A garage rooftop garden.


Appliances: Mostly energy-saving appliances.

Furniture: A mixture of Scandinavian Designs, Crate & Barrel Outlet, MoMA Store, Pottery Barn, garage sales, IKEA, and Craigslist "you-pick-it-up freebies."

Our coffee table is a family/cultural heirloom. Bernee was admiring one just like it at her aunt's house in Dublin, California. She remembered seeing it as a kid at her grandparent's home in the Philippines. Her aunt said she had another one in the garage, so we brought it home with us. She beautified it by sanding it and sealing it with natural oil. Later we found out that it came from a Philippines export business that her grandfather ran.

Bernee's mid-century modern, Danish desk was a gift from a contractor friend. The family whose house he was working on was going to throw it away.

Accessories: We collected curly willow branches from our tree in front of the house, that we use as decor along with a tall vase that was given to us as a gift.

We made the "Ottoboxes" (ottoman + boxes) from discarded styrofoam boxes used for shipping that Dado brought home from the hospital. Bernee selected the fabric and her mother sewed the covers. They function as seats, but also as coolers, and Dado uses them to store his favorite ice cream.

Lighting: One of the best things about this house is that it gets plenty of natural light through more than a half dozen windows.

Rugs and Carpets: We bought a wool rug hours before Dado proposed in Mexico. It went home with Bernee to Sydney, resettling in California after we got married.

Beds: Essentially, a mattress. The black wooden night stands are repurposed from 20-year-old speakers Dado bought when he first moved to America, that no longer work. The Dome lamp was scored from a thrift shop.

Artwork: All canvas paintings are originals by Bernee. One was repainted/repurposed from an existing painting bought at the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse. Another large canvas "painting" is intentionally unpainted as "white on white." Photos in the napkin holder were taken in New Zealand and Uruguay. We framed a child's painting that depicts our home. It was given to Dado as a birthday present.  Sitting on top of the bathroom mirror is a local map Dado brought back from Easter Island. "Think Positive" prints are from byleedesign's A Positive Dose collection. Dado created the black, Wabi sabi concept plates at a ceramics class. 

Paint: Mostly white. Baby's bedroom mural paints were Benjamin Moore from

Flooring: Hardwood.

(Thanks, Bernee, Dado, and Kezia!)

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(Images: Celeste Sunderland)

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