The West Street Project: A 1920s Duplex Remodel in Oakland

When our clients reached out about renovating their 1920s duplex in Oakland, their original plan was to transform the property into a single-family home. However, as we started working on the scope and a design plan, they quickly realized the project would go well beyond what they wanted to take on. (A good example of why planning should always come first!)

Their solution was to keep the property as a two-unit home, renovate it, and put it on the market. Although most of our design projects are for families who plan to stay in their homes, we jumped at the chance to flex our creative muscles and design a Joy Street-worthy space with mass appeal.

Spoiler Alert: This duplex in the Longfellow neighborhood sold within a month on the market and for well over asking price! Okay, $1.9M, if you’re curious. Here’s how we did it…

From a Dated to Inviting Exterior

Exterior Before

I’m sure the West Street property had charm way back when, but rolling up to this property for the first time felt…uninspiring. Dated white paint, faded eaves, and old-school doors and windows were just begging for an upgrade.

Exterior After

We brought this home to life with fresh exterior paint in this muted teal color, brand new windows with more architectural detailing, and black and white stairs. In the backyard, we kept it simple. We cleaned things up a bit with landscaping and added a dining area and a living area (sofa and coffee table) to make it livable.

Two Living Rooms: First & Second Floors

The floor plans of these two dwellings (first floor and second floor) are nearly identical and so are the changes we made. The biggest was to remove a major wall that was separating the living and dining spaces from the kitchen. Opening it up created a beautiful open concept floor plan that brought in natural light and more functionality for a modern-day family.

Living Rooms Before: 1st Floor (left) and 2nd Floor (right)

On the left, you can see where we removed the wall between the kitchen (behind the photographer) and the living and dining areas. We tried to keep as much of the home’s architectural character as possible, including moldings, trim, and baseboards. And after, we painted it…

Living Rooms After: 1st Floor (left) and 2nd Floor (right)

WHITE. “Wait…Joy Street Design doesn’t do white spaces!” I know, it’s very unlike us. But when creating a home for mass appeal (not for a specific family), it’s important to keep things approachable. We chose white to help this home feel open and reflect some of that great natural light coming in. Of course, we couldn’t resist modern light fixtures and colorful art and accessories to make the space sing. Now, it’s lively and approachable.

Dining Rooms: Same Space, Two Ways

Dining Area Before

Above is an even better look at that wall we removed. The dining room stretches all the way to the edge of the natural pine floors. The kitchen lies just behind it, but we’ll get to that in a minute. 

Dining Area After: 1st Floor (left) and 2nd Floor (right)

SO much better. Technically, these dining areas have the same amount of space, but where one has a round table and built-in bench (left), the other has a long dining table with room to seat 6. This is also another great example of how we made color pop in this space while maintaining mass appeal. Inviting, right?

All-White Kitchens? No Way!


The original kitchen had these dated oak cabinets (I think we’ve all seen those before) and a connected laundry room and back hallway. While we may have painted most of this home white, you can safely assume there was no way we were going to design two all-white kitchens. Don’t ask, we won’t do it. #nowhitekitchens

After: 1st Floor (left) and 2nd Floor (right)

Hellooo, green and navy! We painted the cabinets in each of these spaces to add some life and color that still feels like a neutral base. Normally, we would have gotten creative with the backsplash too, but white seemed more buyer-friendly. Instead, we used art and decor to spread more color around. Any buyer could easily do the same with whatever colors they like best.

Also worth noting — because we removed that dividing wall, we had enough space to create these two functional islands. To keep the flooring cohesive, we installed new pine flooring that is an exact match with the rest of the home. The whole space now feels fresh, modern, and livable.

Adding Home Offices with a View

After: 1st Floor (left) and 2nd Floor (right)

Originally, this back area was a hallway connecting the two units, but this seemed like a waste of good space. We closed it off, added terrazzo flooring (in timeless black and white) for some fun, and created functional workspaces instead. Whether the new buyers work from home, have kids in school, or simply need a place to retreat, they now have the perfect flex space to make their own. 

Bathrooms & Bedrooms

After: 1st Floor

With a combined 5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms (including one we added on ourselves!), this home required thoughtful updates and staging to make it more universally appealing. We stuck to mostly black and white in these spaces, including this bathroom we remodel with a fun tile. It has great geometry and interest, but isn’t taste-specific. We also opened up a walk-in closet, because who doesn’t want that?

After: 2nd Floor

Upstairs, the bedrooms and bathrooms are similar but with their own unique twists. We went with more sand-toned neutrals in this space and ocean blues, keeping with the warm orange and navy palette found in the kitchen and living areas. This makes the whole home feel cohesive, which is what potential buyers want when touring a home! And clearly it worked, because…

Sold for Above Asking Price

I know I already spoiled the surprise, but in case you skimmed ahead, here it is again: this two-unit property sold within 1 month and for well over asking price at $1.9M. We’re thrilled!

No, these spaces may not have our usual level of color in them, but they are perfect examples of how we can renovate something for the masses and still infuse color and vibrancy into it. Which feels just as “Joy Street” to me!

We all have different personal preferences for the way color is used, what hues, and how much of it — but color itself is a natural part of our world. Bringing it into your home is all about finding the right hues and balance that works for you. 

If you need help with your next renovation, you know where to find us

— Kelly

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