Oakland, CA

Downsizing from a large home in the East Bay, Dr. Jim and Pam Cohen hoped to retire after raising five daughters to an urban retreat they had always dreamed. After viewing their new condominium that they purchased on the 24th floor of an Oakland City high-rise, it became clear to me that the space was crammed and cavernous, and needed much more than an entertainment center. To take advantage of the wall-to-wall strip windows affording expansive Bay Area views, we instinctively opened the kitchen out to the living room to create one extensive area. To provide intimacy within the space, we then created separate zones using furnishings and cabinetry to form areas of living, dining, eating, reading, and meal preparation.

An extensive use of maple wood with glass display and stainless steel accessories throughout unified the design. As the client was the daughter of an endeared jazz musician of the 1920s and 30s, we employed a subtle Art-Deco motif that recalled the glamour of Radio City Music Hall. We refurbished lighting fixtures from nearby antique Art-Deco dealers. We added strip lighting below cabinets above a raw stainless steel back splash to create ominous ambient effects. We purchased all new black leather furniture, Donald Deskey tables, and designed custom modern rugs inspired by Picasso. In addition, we floated wooden shelves in front of mirrors, hung “UFO” style lighting fixtures from the ceilings, and created streamlining effects using aluminum reveals throughout the cabinetry and as crown molding.

To create continuity between various spatial conditions we carried these visual and material effects down the hall and into the bathrooms and bedrooms.  Custom concrete sinks, specialty limestone tiles, and custom designed closets, vanity areas, and dressing areas compliment the overall design. Casework, furniture, and lighting were the staging elements that performed to create a powerful psychological space that gave the client a truly contemporary modern style and affect. Registering the change in effects over the course of the day, the space finally comes to life at night as automatic Mecho-Shades open to reveal phenomenal city-light views. Twilight reflections cast on the dark windows of the interior creating a stellar spectrum of visual effects against the night sky. This new home truly becomes a space of glamour and entertainment that reflects the dreams and lifestyle of this young retired couple.

Principal Designer and Architect: 

Stephen Phillips, AIA, Ph.D


Bill Longwell (Contractor)