Creating a Dream Home in Berkeley, California

Share It

Architect Cliff May is credited with designing the post-war California ranch home in the 1930s, opting to build homes out instead of vertically to promote modern livability and function. These iconic homes feature pitched roofs, open living areas and large windows to conjoin indoor and outdoor space. Eight and a half years ago, Lisa and Nick Jackson were looking for a mid-century style home in Berkeley, CA and came across an ad on Craigslist that intrigued them. After receiving only a single image of a rough exterior, the couple thought it might be a scam and decided not to go see the property. A few months later, the same home was on the radar of their realtor who suggested looking at it. What Lisa and Nick found was a gem: The only home Cliff May ever built in Berkeley. It needed some work inside and out, but they knew it was worth it.

Lisa, graphic designer and founder of Good on Paper, her husband Nick, an attorney, and their two boys, Lucas and Theo, live in this bright, beautiful home. When Lisa and Nick first moved in, they got started inside finishing the space. “The previous owners of the house were designers and already had many great things done to it,” Lisa says. “Unfortunately, many of their renovations were unfinished. The house still had its original, mid-50s roof, so that was the first thing we took care of. After we fixed the interior, it was time to tackle the outdoor landscaping. The entire process took about a year and a half.”

The family’s love of mid-century design is mixed with contemporary pieces throughout their home. “We wanted a clean, minimal space that was still warm and inviting. We love mid-century modern style with Scandanavian touches and a California/west coast vibe,” Lisa says. “We knew we wanted to have kids, so the space also had to be baby- and child-friendly. It’s funny: before kids, our space was clean and minimal; now it’s Legos and pillow forts everywhere. We wouldn’t have it any other way, but stepping on those Legos with bare feet is killer!” This unsuspecting house that they originally passed on is now their dream home. Lisa and Nick have taken what Cliff May intended and have made it more functional, charming and creative for their family. –Lauren

Photography by Lisa Jackson

  1. Kristin says:

    Beautiful home. Kudos to Lisa for being able to work next to that bed – I’m like her, I’d love more time to sleep. I’d have a hard time resisting that call to nap while I worked!

    Love the natural light, and every single thing in this home. It’s lovely.

  2. Dana Decals says:

    In love with their kitchen table and that view. Green is the little design hero in that first picture. It’s the accept that pops against everything else. Love all of the use of wood and clean lines.

    1. Dana Decals says:

      *accent, not accept. Haha. Autocorrect.

  3. I always love how much light his homes have.

  4. Audrey says:

    Yay! I’ve wanted to see a tour of your home since finding you on Instagram years ago. All the little snippets were never enough.
    You have such a beautiful home. You guys did a GREAT job.
    I want to see more of your yard now!

  5. Tracy says:

    I’ve been a huge fan of Lisa, her designs and her home since I first came across her on D*S years ago! Your home has been a constant inspiration! Is there a place where you source some of your furniture? Where is your kitchen table from? I recently moved into a much bigger house, and I’m excited we finally get to have a big kitchen table for meals, family parties and art projects,

    1. Tracy says:

      And while I’m at it, the chairs around the kitchen table too! ? I’m struggling to figure out cool, comfortable chairs that aren’t bulky and take up lots of space.

  6. Ellie says:

    Would you mind sharing the source of the brassy wall lamps over the bed? Thanks!

  7. Gorgeous and very appropriate-feeling home. Human-forward home designs inhabited by REAL PEOPLE feel so few and far between these days.

    Love the photography of this Berkeley home!

  8. paula says:

    ah. thank you. thank you for showing a coat rack full of coats and a bit of a messy bed, and what’s that? toys! gasp. sometimes it so nice to see a non-curated picture of a real home.

  9. Stacy says:

    Hi there, it would be great to know which Ikea cabinets you used for the area behind your dining room table as we’re hoping to create a similar look in our apartment and are having difficulty deciding between different options! Many thanks.

  10. leslie says:

    Where did you get that cactus art?? I love it!


Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.