In October 2016, we wrote a backstory piece on Nicole Balin, a San Francisco native who’d recently returned to the Bay Area after 15 year stay in Los Angeles. She’d settled into a three-bedroom bungalow in San Anselmo’s Sleepy Hollow neighborhood. At the time, she thought she’d found her forever home.
But the tedious slog down Sir Francis Drake to reach the 101 eventually got old. “I’m in the city all the time and the commute was killing me,” recalls Nicole, owner of Ballin PR, a niche publicity and marketing firm serving top-interior designers, architects, and product engineers. Then one day, by happenstance, Nicole noticed one of her clients had put her home on the market. “I’d been in the place many times and loved everything about it. I guess you could say it was my dream home,” she recalls.
But, alas, it was out of her price range. It did, however, stoke her desire to move, particularly given her so-called “dream home” also happened to be located 30 seconds from the freeway entrance ramp. So, she began casually looking at real estate options at her price point.
Shortly, thereafter, her “dream home” dropped by nearly $150,000. “I decided to go for it,” says Nicole, who put in an offer that was quickly accepted. “They were excited to sell to someone who loved the house as much as they did.”
The place was in excellent shape. It didn’t need much. Still, she wanted to put her personal stamp on the place. She achieved this by repainting every interior wall in the home. “My client favored white walls, but I love bold colors,” says Nicole, who opted to use Benjamin Moore Pink Panther for the dining room and Kitchen nook, and Yellow Jubilee by Behr for the family room. Her only other design tweak: adding an overhead light fixture from Beach House Style in Fairfax to her home office. “Eventually, I plan to remodel the home’s bathrooms, but for now I’m just enjoying the kitschy vintage fixtures.”
As for furnishings, Nicole loves to blend modern pieces with eclectic antiques, “A lot of the antiques once belonged to my mom,” says Nicole. However, she also splurged on a new sofa from Sofas U Love in San Francisco. Additionally, she reupholstered an old club chair with fabric from St. Frank, also in the city. However, many of her new pieces were job perks, also known as hand-me-downs from her high-end interior design clients. “The dining room table was a housewarming gift from Julia B, a homewares designer, who is also a good friend,” says Nicole. “She also gave me a new duvet cover and custom-monogrammed European pillows.”
Settling in took no time at all. In fact, one aspect of the home that other people might see as a deficit, Nicole embraces as an asset. “I love the sound of the freeway and the Smart Train when I’m in the backyard. It’s a happy reminder of my easy commute.”
How to Help During COVID-19
There are so many deserving nonprofits that need your help right now. For more organizations to support, check out the nonprofits here or GoFundMe, where they’re matching donations on Giving Tuesday Now for select charities.
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Dawn Margolis Denberg has worked as a professional journalist for 20 years. Her work has appeared in top publications, including Wired, Shape and Parenting. She has also written several books for children including, The Men in Black Agent’s Manual The Official Godzilla Movie Fact Book. And, most recently, an episodic audio series for Tales Untold.