Pilar and Carl's Colorful Casa

Pilar and Carl's Colorful Casa

Name: Pilar Zuniga (of Gorgeous and Green) and Carl Brown (of Corduroy Media)
Location: Oakland, CA
Size: 1300 sq/ft
Years lived in: 2.5 owned
Who else lives here: Isha (70 pound pit bull) and Coco (3.5 pound Chihuahua)

Tales of domestic lore often include a white picket fence. And Pilar Zuniga and Carl Brown's hundred-year-old hacienda is no exception. Though their whitewashed gate isn't outside, it sits just beyond their front door—a salvaged remnant that gives way to a colorful, vivacious home.

When Pilar first noticed the spacious, light-filled bungalow, the price was beyond their budget. But it was love at first site and she couldn't tear herself away from the realtor's tantalizing online photos. Those bathtubs! Eventually, the stars aligned and now Pilar and Carl call the lovely bungalow their own. Over the past two and a half years they've infused the elegant space with their lively style.

Bright hues like deep lime, persimmon, and honey sweep across the walls. A set of antique theatre chairs wears a coat of robin's egg blue. Crimson beads drape around the neck of a cross-legged Buddha who permeates all this vibrance with his subtle serenity. It's a sophisticated combination of proper and punch.

Pilar is the proprietress of Gorgeous and Green, a Berkeley, California boutique offering local flowers, plants, and eco-friendly gifts like vintage bird cages, terrariums, and recycled glassware. Some of the things she finds on scouting excursions for her shop end up in her home, like the brass lamps that illuminate the glamorous refuge known as the "gold bedroom." In the nearby "blue bedroom," Frida Kahlo and the Virgin of Guadeloupe hold court. It's a festive showcase for the trove of Latin decor the couple collected during their travels to Mexico and beyond.

Throughout the house, creative green elements pop up in the most unexpected places--mostly on the walls. Colorful Cuban posters look terrific framed in old, paint-chipped windows. And look closely at the wooly pockets in the living room. That slab of wood they're bolted to hung empty over the couch for two years. Good things come to those who wait.

Re-Nest Survey:
My/Our style: Part Vintage, Part Rustic/Salvage, Mostly Eco-Friendly. Some Mexican/Latin Influences.

Inspiration: Trips we've taken together and on our own (Cuba, Columbia, Mexico), old styles and heirlooms, bright colors, simplicity over clutter.

Favorite Element: My favorite part of the decor so far is my vintage dressing table. The mirror is so large and has a lovely line. It dresses up the bedroom nicely.  

Biggest Challenge: Dealing with this huge piece of wood we found and decided to hang above our couch.  I paint, and used to paint a lot before the business and actually before I got married (hmm?) anyway, I always said I'd paint something lovely on the piece of wood, but never got around to it. A few years later I started Gorgeous and Green and started selling Woolly Pockets, so we decided to hang woolly pockets on it, and that's been really fun. They are growing in nicely.  

What Friends Say: I think they think our bright colors are crazy. But I got really used to bright walls when my mom and stepdad were staying in Baja Mexico. They painted many of their walls super bright colors (hot pink being the brightest) and I painted a huge mural on one of their walls. After that, I got sort of accustomed to the loud and vivid colors. Every once in a while I see how super bright that green wall is in the front room and I think, maybe it's too green? But we have a lot of brown furniture so I think the color is a nice contrast.

Biggest Embarrassment: Probably the amount of dog hair that collects on our floors and almost everywhere. With one dark haired dog and one light haired dog, the hair shows up on everything. Plus, we unfortunately have a lot of white tile, so that is super bad with the black dog hair. Oh well, so is life.

Proudest DIY: My friend Tamra and I dyed the comforter in the guest room blue. That was a huge feat.  We had to do it in the bathtub and we both almost threw our backs out. Carl's biggest project is the back deck which he built himself, although I hammered in a few nails too.

Biggest Indulgence: So far, besides the house itself, our biggest indulgence has been the preparations for a solar powered hot tub we plan to install sometime in the next few years. We'll see when that project gets started.

Best Advice: Don't be afraid to use some of your knick knacks to foster a vision for your decor.  The "gold bedroom" was just an offshoot of some gold frames and little postcards I had collected over the years.   The nice buttery yellow wall we decided to paint to infuse energy and sensuality in the bedroom. The brass lamps were found while antiquing for my shop in Berkeley as did that decadent print of the Turk dog.  The guest room is of course an homage to our trips and souvenirs from Latin America, as well as some paintings I painted while I was living in Mexico. It's a very festive room yet has a lot of emotion and sentiment from our experiences.

Dream Source: I would love to live by the ocean or live in a treehouse in the Redwoods by a creek. In the meantime I've settled for clawfoot tubs and lots of trees we've planted around our house.

Green Elements/Initiatives: Carl and I are very eco-minded and try to be as sustainable as possible. A lot of our furniture was bought used, vintage/antique or was given to us by family. For a while we both worked out of the house and I became green certified at our house, so our house is pretty much green certified. We use all low watt bulbs, no VOC paints, no bleach and biodegradable cleaners. We've bought new green appliances and try our best to recycle and compost as much as we can. We happen to live on a creek, so we don't even have to water our yard very much, which is awesome. But not so much for our flooding basement.


Appliances: We bought an eco washer and dryer at Sears.  The LG fridge and stove came with the casa.

Hardware: I got some cool nobs at Jeremy's in Berkeley.  They are pricey, so I just added a few here and there for a little twist.  We also try to use Urban Ore as much as possible as well. They have cool glass door knobs that I plan to get one day for the bathrooms.

Furniture: A claw foot table in the dining room that I grew up with as a kid. Some vintage chairs that belonged to Carl's mom. A Japanese bed that has all biodegradable ingredients and has natural materials (wool and latex mattresses with tatami). My vintage dressing table I got about 5 years ago off Craigslist. The two chests of drawers are from Carl's mom, the vintage desk and chair is from a vintage office furniture store on Heinz Street in Berkeley. The clawfoot tubs came with the house, and were probably the reason I fell in love with this house.  It was originally out of our price range and was just a dream for a while, but I was so enamored that I would spend hours each night looking at the online photos and trying to pick apart every detail. Those tubs really sealed the deal.

Accessories: I have found a lot of stuff antiquing and visiting local thrift stores. Some of the vintage stuff are things I have owned for years, like the small travel sewing machine, that I got vintage when I was 10 years old or so. The old white picket fence is an Urban Ore find, and pays a small homage to the white picket fenced house that you envision when you draw a house on paper as a kid. We have a lot of little plants, and some taller ones in the house. We like fresh oxygen. I have a collection of  vintage suitcases and traincases, but I have had to take most of them to my shop to avoid clutter. I still keep a hat box and train case around to use and store my vintage hats/scarves/gloves and things. We have airplants because I sell them in my shop. The long branches were fallen from the oak trees that line a street nearby, the vintage bird cage is a vintage find, I found a few and sell them in the shop as well.

Lighting: The brass lamps I found at a Goodwill, and I bought more than I needed.  I still have 3 I need to use for something. Carl used to have a cool brass lion lamp, but he decided to take that to his studio. It would look great in our gold bedroom. 

Rugs and Carpets: We actually only  have small rugs in the restrooms, mostly because cold tile after a hot shower is a real bummer. We have no other rugs. Our hardwood floors are in nice condition so they don't need much.

Tiles and Stone: We have granite in the kitchen and a lot of marble in our bathroom. That dresses things up and also makes things look clean, so we don't accent those rooms very much.  

Window Treatments: We have a curtain in each bedroom that I got from Jeremy's. They have great overstock/seconds and I lucked out on some nice additions.

Artwork: We have a lot of paintings and prints. I used to paint a bunch so that stuff is everywhere and we bought some really cool film posters when we were in Cuba for our honeymoon, so those we chose to frame using old windows. The windows are from Urban Ore of course. I have two free-hand cutouts in the kitchen that my Great Aunt Josephine Zuniga made years ago. I think I get my creativity from her. Amazingly, she cut out all the little animals without sketching it, with just a pair of scissors. She passed when I was young, but I've inherited some of her vintage clothing; some lovely stuff. I have a small collection of Calaveras (skulls and skeletons) that I have in the guest bedroom, mostly from trips I've taken. My favorite is the miniature bride and groom skeletons we received on our wedding day, we had asked friends and relatives to help us create an altar for our wedding.

Paint: We have bought all of our paint at Eco Home in Berkeley, they have some nice zero VOC paints.

Flooring: The floors are dark hardwood, and I think were refinished before we bought the house.

(Thanks, Pilar and Carl!)

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(Images: Celeste Sunderland)

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