Tour A Totally Pin-Able East Bay Abode

We have to be honest, resting our bones in a secluded, treehouse-like space sounds like a dream. No city clamor, ample trees around — lovely, right? Well, for the East Bay-based interior designer Justine Macfee, it’s a total (and very enviable) reality.
The adorable creative let us peek into her design-driven world for an afternoon, while showing us around, and playing dress up around her palatial casa. We toured the classic, lodge-like home and walked away with some sweet snaps to share. We have to warn you, though, a flip through this slideshow and you may want to book it to the wilderness ASAP. So, go ahead, let the home envy ensue and plan your next weekend getaway.
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Photographed by Maria del Rio
Tell us a little bit about what you do.
"I run a full-service interior design firm in Lake Tahoe and the S.F. Bay Area with founder — and my mother — Catherine Macfee. We specialize in high-end residential as well as boutique commercial projects."

Justine greets us in a Ferrell Hapgood bespoke skirt, Zoran top, vintage necklace, and Sam Edelman boots.
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Photographed by Maria del Rio
What’s your background in interior design and how did you get involved in it?
"I really grew up in the business. Since I was about ten years old, I would spend after school at my mom’s office doing homework, once it was done I would help fold fabric and do little design assistant tasks to help out. When I was in high school, I realized that I wanted to go to art school and study interior design. Even as cheesy as 'following in your mother’s footsteps' sounded, I was positive that was the right path for me. I studied Interior Architecture and Design at California College of the Arts in S.F. The talent around me pushed me to explore all aspects of art and studying in a creative field. A lot of what I learned at CCA in terms of collaboration of talents, I try to use in my everyday practice."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio
How would you describe the aesthetic of your home?
"A medley of cool stuff all living together — technically defined as 'eclectic.' It's a mixture of cultures, design concepts, colors, patterns, and art."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio
How would you describe your personal style?
"Similar to my design aesthetic — eclectic with a traditional undertone."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio
What are your favorite aspects of your home?
"Architecturally, I love how the house is perched on a hill among these amazing old Redwood trees. It reminds me of a treehouse, especially with the large windows that overlook Mt. Diablo. The outdoor space is probably larger than the footprint of the entire house, so we really tried to take advantage of the outdoors living areas."

Where is your favorite place to chill in the house?
"Outside, in the striped lounge chair with my laptop working on my blog, jamming out to a little Rhye."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio
You mentioned many of the pieces in here you made — tell us more about that.
"Our design mantra in our studio is: 'If we can dream it, we can make it.' From furniture to lighting to accessories, most of our notable work is custom. The sofa, for example, is a part of our custom upholstery line. We were inspired by an antique piece that we scaled up to feel more comfortable and updated for that space. The attention to detail that it takes to create almost an entire household of custom items is immense, but it changes the integrity of the project and creates that feeling people 'can’t quite put their finger on' why they like it and it feels different from other spaces."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio
Who are some of your favorite designers?
"I love Marni, Helmut Lang, Stella McCartney, Oscar de la Renta, and Eskandar."

Justine gets cozy in her living room in Lanvin track pants, a rag & bone t-shirt, Manolo Blahnik pumps, and a Jody Candrian necklace.
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Photographed by Maria del Rio
You travel pretty frequently, what are some items you’ve collected from your trips?
"Typically, the heaviest or most impracticable things to travel home with. Last November my boyfriend and I went to the Champagne region of France, and came back with bottles and bottles of bubbles. I had to chuck some clothing to make room. By the end of the trip my suitcase was so heavy I could barely haul it on and off the tube in London. On a more serious note, when I travel, I come back with a better sensibility to design. I am reminded how simple and humble good design can be and how you really don’t have to try that hard for spaces to have integrity and soul."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio
How do you see your business evolving over the next couple years – what are some of your big-picture goals?
"In the next few years, I see us expanding our boutique commercial side of the business. I want to focus on great restaurant and bar design, as well as boutique hotels. I love smaller commercial projects because they are so public where your audience is so expansive and typically the client is willing to take a little risk with the design. That being said, I would never want to let go of our residential projects. Our clients are some of the most thoughtful and interesting people I have ever had the pleasure to meet and honor to design for. I would never want to change that part of our business. Crazy big-picture goal? Catherine and I have been outlining a potential television show, but I am going to need a little mentoring from Anthony Bourdain before I really tackle that goal."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio
Where do you score décor items, locally?
"My own store! Rubicon Collection, Big Daddy’s S.F. is a go-to, for sure. Alameda Flea Market — go with a goal, and possibly a truck and get there early! Flower Market, I love you! Not many people know it’s open to the public after 10 a.m."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio
What Bay Area shops do you admire?
"I love Paxton Gate, Flora Grubb, Establish, and General Store."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio
What are some of your favorite objects around the house?
"My new favorite piece is the painting I just completed for the entrance console table; I love how the abstract contemporary lines juxtapose the traditional antiques. Also, my lucky elephant! He’s a carved wood piece, originally from Thailand. I love it, but my mom can’t stand it! At this point it’s kind of a running joke in our family. She keeps hiding it or trying to sell it in our store, but I just keep finding it and taking it back. Lucky elephant prevails!"
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Photographed by Maria del Rio
If you’re looking for inspiration, where do you head?
"Back to my travels. Snapshots of materials, tile details, pillow details, things that I have cataloged over the years in my photo library. Also, depending on the project, I love Pinterest — I think the amount of information now cataloged on that site is incredible and you can learn so much by just stumbling upon different people's boards."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio
What are some items you want to add to the house?
"A yurt, chicken coup, pizza oven, and maybe an outdoor shower. Yes, please!"
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Photographed by Maria del Rio
What are some of your design essentials?
"In terms of overall philosophy — spend your money on key lifetime pieces and fill in the rest as you live. What I mean by that is, invest in key pieces like a sofa, a rug, a great mattress, and nice sheets. From there you can mix more found pieces and great accent pieces as you collect."

Justine hangs out by one of her favorite paintings (she made herself!) in a Zara top, Stella & Dot necklace, and AllSaints boots.
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Photographed by Maria del Rio
Where can we find you when you’re not working?
"In Tahoe I try to stay active on my days off and get outside. Lots of boating, hiking, mountain biking, and catching up with friends. I recently have gotten back into tennis; I am horrible but have a lot of fun playing. When I’m in S.F., I try to take a lot of day trips around the area. I love going up north to the coast kayaking in Tomales Bay or eating oysters at Hog Island Oyster Co. or down south, visiting friends in Half Moon Bay! Everything is so close when you are in the Bay Area and I love taking advantage of that on the weekends."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio
If you weren’t an interior designer what would you be doing?
"Great question! It’s kind of along the same lines, but I would love to do set design for TV or film. But that’s still design related. If going a totally different direction, I think being a career coach would be really interesting. I like listening to people and understanding where they are now with their life, where they want to be, and helping to come up with creative ideas of how they can achieve that. I have made some great friends over the years, simply chatting about real life and listening to their stories."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio
What are some design trends you love right now?
"Our firm is calling it 'contemporary organic luxe,' — mixing rustic textures with more contemporary industrial lines, but still with a soft touch of luxury and layering. This mix has been going on in restaurants in the Bay Area and wine country for quite some time, but I am actually excited to see if go more mainstream in Restoration Hardware, West Elm, and Pottery Barn. It's high use of organic-rustic textures and material mixed with cleaner-lined industrial with a topper of luxury like fur, leathers, or suede."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio
On the flipside, which ones are you totally over?
"Modern minimal and bland. I am still into modern lines, and even minimal accessories, but please, don’t be boring and bland! Add some personality, fun artwork, a great pillow or throw, and textured rug! I literally get depressed in spaces that have no sense of life or personality. Let that show!"

Justine chills out in her kitchen in 7 For All Mankind jeans, a Theory top, Percolating Design necklace, and Gucci boots.
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Photographed by Maria del Rio
Tell us about the inspiration behind the décor in your home?
"I think the house in Lafayette is ever evolving. It really is a collection of pieces from all different cultures, time periods, and even some things left over from client projects that didn’t stick in their house."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio
What does a typical day look like for you?
"These days, I don’t really have a typical day — with clients in both the Bay Area and Tahoe, one day I am in S.F., the next I am in Tahoe. So, maybe my typical day is on I-80? When I am not travelling I am either out and about with a client, with Catherine shopping, or in the design studio plugging away. I try to get some kind of activity in after work in the summer —a bike ride, gym session, a hike, or a little bocce ball game with friends."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio
What’s the best advice someone has given you?
"In business, my mom has always taught me to manage client’s expectations and go out of my way to make sure we are all on the same page. Typically if you can achieve that clarity, the project and the relationship will run smoothly. In creativity and life: Take time to 'intake' inspiration and creativity. So much of what I do as a designer is outputting creative energy and ideas. Take the time to stop and get recharged, go to an art gallery, museum, go watch live music, check out a lecture or take a class...anything. Stepping outside your box will not only mix up your routine, but hopefully inspire or refresh your sense of self."
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