A “Rainbow Bohemian” Tiny Cottage in the Berkeley Hills

updated Apr 30, 2019

A “Rainbow Bohemian” Tiny Cottage in the Berkeley Hills

updated Apr 30, 2019
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Name: Rachelle Padgett
Location: Berkeley, California
Size: 525 square feet
Years lived in: 1.5 years, renting

In Rachelle’s living room, a rich and colorful rug is layered on top of another, creating a kaleidoscope of colors on the floor. Bright turquoise sheets in her bedroom complement the framed photo of a bright French Quarter house she took on a recent trip to a jazz festival. Clearly, Rachelle isn’t afraid of color — just take a peek at any room in her Berkeley home, which she describes as “rainbow bohemian.” The home was constructed in the 1930s as a pottery studio for the original owner, Rachelle says. “There’s still a little smokestack on the roof, where the old kiln used to be,” she adds. “I’m an interior designer, and love the idea that I’m continuing the creative energy for which the home was built.”

When Rachelle first set her eyes on the small cottage, she checked off a bunch of “wants” from her list: lots of natural light, beautiful hardwood floors, and proximity to nature. She lives just blocks from some of the best hiking trails in the Bay Area, and has views of the entire East Bay from certain spots in her neighborhood.

Despite fulfilling most items from her home bucket list, she wasn’t allowed to paint the white walls or put holes in them. But, she was surprisingly okay with that. After all, finding the true potential of a space is what Rachelle does for a living. She immediately invested in Command Hooks and hung vibrant art in the living room. She also switched out the plain hardware in the kitchen for blue ceramic knobs, and splurged on a custom turquoise sofa.

“When I started Synthesis Interiors & Color ten years ago, it was with the mission of helping clients express their personal style while staying true to their environmental and social values. This home has been a true laboratory for me to explore my imagination and do just that. I’m thrilled with how it’s come together!”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Mid-century Rainbow Bohemian

Inspiration: Nature, flea markets, Justina Blakeney, my childhood obsession with Rainbow Brite

Favorite Element: I’m really proud of my 100% natural, organic bed. I have a botanical latex mattress, linen and organic cotton sheets, wool comforter and wool/latex pillows, and organic cotton duvet cover and blankets. I recently discovered the delightful, breathable luxury of linen sheets, and I’ll never buy anything else! It’s such a joy to crawl into at night, and I sleep soundly knowing all of the elements are healthy for me, the people who made them, the environment, and my sweet cat who snuggles under the covers.

Biggest Challenge: Making a workable kitchen out of such a small space. I had to block the door!

What Friends Say: “This is how you do rainbow as an adult!” and “How soon can I hire you?!”

Biggest Embarrassment: There is no built-in lighting in the living room. I just tossed up some Christmas lights when I moved in, intending to upgrade them to prettier fairy (copper string) lights, but never did.

Proudest DIY: Mason jar pantry as art? Just kidding! The simple photo of a window in the French Quarter that hangs in the bedroom brings me so much joy. It reminds me of an awesome trip to Jazz Fest a few years ago. I love the colors, the perfect little pop of grass, the reflection, and the way the curtain hangs just so!

Biggest Indulgence: The custom sofa.

Best Advice: Don’t be afraid to mix styles! Support local artists and independent craftspeople. Pieces with a story to tell lend meaning and spirit to a home. Buy things that are well made and last.

Dream Sources: I’m dreaming about a trip to Morocco in the fall, and have visions of trying to bring the entire souk home with me!


I inherited white walls, and for the first time in my life, am totally okay not painting them. I do wish they were a flat instead of pearl finish, and a slightly crisper white.

Big rug — CB2 Panja rug (discontinued)
Small rug — eBay, vintage kilim
Sofa — Alpha Design custom Oliver Ottoman Convertible Sofa in Vibe Solitude
Throw pillows — Therapy and VivaTerra
Coffee table — Etsy, Delia table with butterfly legs, custom size
Red side table — VivaTerra
Media console — Etsy, Derelict Design Midcentury Media Console, custom size
Mirror — IKEA
Ottoman — Vintage (1970s Peru)
Curtains — West Elm
Lamp — West Elm

Blue Leaf, Peacock Feather, Arrow, and Pink Sky prints — Minted
Facing Peacocks — Phil Lewis
Moonlit Landscape — Napa artist
Magic Bus — Post-Phish show sidewalk artist
Red Flowers/Blue Flowers — IKEA
Purple Squares oil painting— Roger Morgan
Rainbow Gradient watercolor — Made by Me
Multi-color Flower — Society6
Rainbow Hawaiian Sunrise canvas — Ryan Kerrigan
Black & White Dahlia and Moroccan tile photos — Etsy
Moroccan tile — Sahara Import
Aqua and red glass vase — Slow Burn Glass
Red bud vase — Heath Ceramics
Wooden ripple bowl — Vintage
Bronze giraffe — Target
Pen mouthed brass fish — My grandmother used this for decades as her ring holder
Tile boards — Discontinued sample boards (from my interior design business)

Table — World Market
Wooden dining chairs — Craigslist (Thonet bentwood cafe chairs)
Metal dining chairs — Big Daddy’s Antiques, vintage
Dotted bud vase — Heath Ceramics
Curtains — Custom from fabric remnants
Mason jar shelf — IKEA
Metal lattice — Ohmega Salvage

Rustic industrial cart — The Wooden Duck
Oil and spice cart — IKEA
Rag rug — Etsy
Cabinet knobs — Zara Home
Turquoise kettle — Le Creuset
Metal teapots — Vintage, from my grandmother and great aunt
Chilacayote Squash — Gift from client

Desks — IKEA
Red storage carts — IKEA
Earthen mug — MMClay

Rug — Flor
Large dresser — Craigslist, vintage mid-century
Green dresser — street score when I lived in San Francisco years ago
Headboard — Urban Outfitters
Organic mattress and bedding basics — Earthsake
Sheets — Gaiam and Pottery Barn
Duvet cover — Custom from Organic Cotton Plus fabric
Floral blanket — Anthropologie
Throw pillows — Crate & Barrel and West Elm
Curtains — Laura & Kiran
Rainbow tapestry — Therapy
Indigo wall hanging — Ethnic Arts
Seashore canvas — Ryan Kerrigan
Sail photo — Mike Wardynski
New Orleans window photo — Taken by me
Little Trees print — Berkeley artist

Shower curtain — Anthropologie
Bathmat — World Market Round Cotton Bathmat
Concert posters — The Fillmore
Rusty Leaf — Kendall LeCompte

Thanks, Rachelle!

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