Shannon Kaye: Madison, I’m a huge fan of your @stellalunastudio Instagram feed. What was your idea for the feed and what are some of your favorite houses?
Madison Davis: My feed has always been about color. Over time I began to realize my favorite subjects to photograph are houses, sunsets, palm trees, and flowers. My favorite house in San Francisco will always be 200 San Jose Ave in the Mission which is a brightly colored purple and pink Victorian with turquoise and green accents.
SK: Oh my gosh, I've walked by and snapped that house so many times... it always makes me smile.
MD: My second favorite is the rainbow house at 521 Clipper St.
SK: I've run into fantastical houses here and there, but how do you find so many cool houses for your Instagram feed?
MD: I follow other accounts that have a love for houses and save posts with houses I’d like to visit. Often addresses aren’t included in the caption, so I have to use whatever information I have- a number on the house, a city or street mentioned in the caption to find these gems. I use Google street view a lot and spend quite a bit of time driving around. As you can imagine, this is tedious and takes lots of time but is well worth it.
I enjoy doing my own house hunting too so I’ll pick different cities and neighborhoods to visit and will aimlessly explore until I find something that captures my attention.
SK: I love the obsession. Makes life really rich.
When we talked the other day, you said you have a home staging business. Of course you do! Tell me about that. How did you start that business, what kind of projects do you work on, and what are your favorite style houses to stage?
MD:My dad has been in real estate for 30 years, and my mom has an interior design background. She started staging some of his properties over 15 years ago. In 2017, I quit my job in software sales and within a week the lightbulb went off- I approached my mom about legitimizing her staging talents and expanding from staging my dad's properties to other agents as well.
Together we established our company, Furnish, furnishing and staging luxury homes and fixer uppers across San Francisco and the Peninsula. Each house is unique yet our approach is the same, to highlight the best qualities of the home and help its personality and charm shine through to potential buyers.
My favorite project so far has been a Mid-Century Modern Rancher in Menlo Park. It had original details like glass shutters, brick fireplaces, vintage light fixtures, and original kitchen appliances. We curated everything to complement the mid-century modern vibe. This was the first time a property really lent itself to exploring a theme other than the usual contemporary look.
SK: I think just about everyone wishes a stylist would come into their homes and put everything in just the right place. Do you have 2 or 3 tips you can offer to help people create that effortless put together look?
MD: We live by the 60-30-10 rule when it comes to choosing a color palette.
We then pick a metallic (gold or chrome) and let that palette drive the furniture, bedding, decor, and art selection.
With respect to furniture layout, scale is the most critical thing to consider. People tend to buy furniture that's too large for their rooms.
Lastly, just because you “love it” doesn’t mean it’s going to go with the rest of your stuff.
SK: This is really practical advice, Madison. People are going to quote you!
Several years ago, I helped a couple in San Francisco choose new colors for their Victorian house. Get ready, we chose pumpkin orange with cream and eggplant trim and gold leaf on the dental molding. Sounds ridiculous, but two years later they sold it for several thousand dollars over the asking price because they were the only house on the market that had color. Do you have any fun or unexpected stories about choosing colors for your clients or things you’ve seen exploring that surprised you?
MD: Our job usually involves replacing garish colors with something a little more digestible to buyers. We are preparing a home for sale which is a totally different process than curating a look for someone’s personal taste.
SK: I totally agree. It's great to add those accent walls and other personal touches while you live there, but not everyone's going to see your vision for their stuff when it's time find a new home.
MD: Yes. We worked on a project a few years back where every room was a different bright pastel shade (think teal, orange, blush, yellow, green etc.) It took a lot to convince the owner to paint it all neutral because they had such a strong attachment to the colors.
From our perspective, color is a personal thing. A seller shouldn’t alienate potential buyers by assuming that their color choices will be loved by everyone else. People really do nitpick about that sort of thing. That being said, certain architectural styles like the Victorian you mentioned, lend themselves to bold color choices which we certainly encourage if the house is suitable.
SK: So, home staging aside, what’s your favorite color palette? For me, there’s something about white walls with green and red accents, oh, and I love analogous schemes like purples with red…
MD: I visited the Sands Hotel in Indian Wells, California the other day and they do this wonderful blend of black, white, green, and pink with touches of gold and now I’m obsessed with this palette. All of these colors are incorporated in Moroccan inspired theme but executed in a way that felt incredibly contemporary.
MD: In my apartment, my dominant color is white followed by pinks and blush tones. My accent is blue and my metallic is gold. Textures include lots of velvet, faux fur, slabs of stone and crystals, and woven baskets giving the space a glam bohemian vibe.
SK: And what color would you paint your dream house? Inside and out? Why?
MD: Because my work revolves around appealing to the masses, my personal color choices skew much more wild and bold. I have such a passion for colorful houses. A colorful house is unapologetic, exudes personality, and makes a statement.
The color of my dream home would really depend on the architecture but:
Every time I think I know exactly what I want, I spot another door color or exterior color combination that I fall in love with. Here are a few of my absolute favorites.
MD: With respect to interiors, I'd keep the majority of my dream home a neutral shade so I have flexibility to bring color in through the furniture, art, bedding, and decor. Having an environment that feels very bright is important to me. I would love a super bold bathroom though where when you walk through the door you feel transported to another place entirely. I could see green or blue walls with one wallpapered and a mix of black and white patterned tiles. I think bathrooms are the perfect place to explore over-the-top color and design choices.
SK: We have so much in common around exploring color and always looking for a unique combination I haven't seen before. Ok, it’s time- pull out your Kelly-Moore paint deck and tell me your favorite colors.
MD: For interiors, the colors always use are:
MD: For trim, we almost always use:
MD: Now personally, I’d love a door in KM5474 Tassel Flower because you can never go wrong with a pink door.
SK: Madison, it’s so fun talking with you. We could probably geek out talking about color all day, but besides @stellalunastudio on Instagram (everyone must follow you!), tell everyone about the best way to connect with you if they want help with staging or color consulting.
MD: Thanks for having me, Shannon. I could literally talk about color all day.
For more information about my staging and color consultation business Furnish, visit my website furnishsf.com or shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re interested in purchasing prints of my photography, check out my shop: stellalunastore.com