Lane McNab’s Berkeley Design Studio


Lane Mcnab has had a multi-faceted career, spanning from a professional vocalist to now being one of the East Bay’s sought after designers. She has worked on everything from traditional Craftsman homes to more modern designs like refreshing an Orinda pool house, and for each one, she seems to draw out the structure’s character while giving it new life. Today we are taking a tour of her amazing loft office in Berkeley, and with soaring ceilings and dreamy light fixtures to boot, you can see how she has created an inspirational environment in which her teams can design and create everyday. Come learn what design means to her, what she has always wanted to install, and where she loves to go in Berkeley!

24 East: What is your design philosophy?

Lane McNab: My approach to design is honest, grounded, and uncommon.  Grounded design means I start with the architecture and environment of the home.  What is the language of the building and how does it relate to the area around it?  Is the home a delicate Tudor, an ornate Victorian, a nature inspired craftsman or a modern glass and steel new build?   I don’t get constrained by the architecture or a particular period but I like to know it well and often reference it.  Sometimes even just knowing the history of a particular building or area completely frees me to add a fresh new layer to it and reinterpret it for a new approach. But it also ensures that the new design will work where it lives.

Authentic design comes from acknowledging a home’s environment and past, understanding its present, and then collaborating with the people who live there now.  Layering in the lives, hobbies, passions, and preferences of my clients is continuing the story of the home itself.  Every home has a story to tell and my clients are a part of their home’s evolution.  This keeps a vitality and honesty to my designs that creates a sense of belonging and place.


And finally, what kind of a designer would I be if I didn’t push clients to go a little outside their comfort zone to make each project a little better than they originally envisioned?  This pulls in the uncommon element where I try to go a little outside that point of inspiration and elevate the overall design.  I don’t think clients seek me out because they want a re-creation of an image out of a catalogue and that added oomph is the most fulfilling part of the creative process for me.  I love being able to show a slightly different approach that makes the space better.

My ultimate goal is always a space that belongs where it is–never kitschy or themed or bland or ego driven but something that reflects that space in that moment.  The feeling you have when you walk into a room I’ve designed should be that this room belongs in this home.

24E: What was important when designing your office space?

LM: The most important part of our office studio design was maximizing light.  We had a head start with ample windows and skylights. We played up the light and dramatic ceiling height by painting everything out a warm white and drawing the eye upward with the bubble pendants that we hung from a dropped beam.  We also darkened the existing structural beam to play off the all the white. 


My personal design preference often has organic lines playing off geometric shapes and a layer of textures and subtle patterns. We did this with the live edge table juxtaposed with the large mounted origami wall panel,  the overgrown sculptural cactus and the classic, simple, alabaster lamp.  So many different elements but they work together!



The other important thing was function.  We searched for a new studio space for over a year and besides having good light it also had to serve several needs such as housing our growing fabric library and providing an open airy space for meeting clients.  The loft above our work area was the perfect solution to that.  We had shelving installed as well as a run of drawers and now meetings and client presentations are fun and so productive.


24E: What are some of your favorite sources for furniture?

LM: Besides the usual designer resources, I love sourcing locally and doing custom whenever I can!  I work a lot with local woodworkers to create pieces I’ve designed to ensure that each home has a unique and custom feel.  I love sourcing at Teak Me Home in Berkeley and not only do they create beautiful quality pieces with great customer service, their focus on the environment and sustainability makes me feel good about working with them.  For more elegance in a less casual space we also love the refined pieces coming from Quintus Home and they are always willing to tweak any piece to make it custom.   I also love the unique pieces from Shine by SHO in LA.  One of their well-designed offerings is always an elegant conversation starter.   And we can always find something at Cisco Home to fit that casual California vibe.  Also in Berkeley, I love Mid-Century Mobler for authentic Danish Modern pieces.  And I always find something at the Alameda Antiques Faire!

24E: What is a design trend that you have always wanted to install?

LM: I would love to do an elegant industrial space with a leaded glass window divider.  I love the way they look as a shower door or creating a room within a large warehouse space.  

24E: Have you ever gone too bold when designing something, and it didn’t turn out how you had hoped?

LM: Luckily all of my bold statements usually start from an architectural reference and so they tend to land pretty well.  For instance several years ago I put an acid yellow jungle wallpaper in a dining room but because we followed the lines of the craftsman frieze (originally intended to house craftsman era wallpaper) above the wainscoting that already existed in this early 1900s home, it felt like a fresh update.  We also put some really bold graphic prints in a tech company a year or so ago but because they are vintage 1970s graphics from a Bay Area artist they feel authentic instead of random.  We have a kitchen that hasn’t been photographed yet with some really bold, modern, beautiful, cement tile but it is such a part of the client’s aesthetic, it feels like it absolutely belongs.  

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24E: What surprises you about your job?

LM: I’m always surprised by how emotional design is.  There is such a connection between the heart and home and the overall power of transformation which can be amazing and scary.  I love getting to know my clients and their lives and I’m honored every time I earn their trust in my vision.  I have been doing design for a number of years now and I feel emotionally invested in every project–that hasn’t changed at all and if anything it has gotten stronger.  I also love that I learn something new on every project and add it to my arsenal.  


24E: Where are some of your favorite places to go in the East Bay?

LM: I live in one of my favorite neighborhoods–the Elmwood in Berkeley–and I love the shops in that area.  One of my favorite clothing stores is Rue Atelier on College Avenue and I love taking my children for ice cream at Ici and getting takeout from Summer Kitchen.  I also like splurging for my husband at Welcome Stranger on Ashby when he needs a special gift.  When I’m not feeling like a homebody or I need an easy place for a girls night out we often meet at Townie on University–good cocktails and shareable faire.  

Another East Bay find is Slate Gallery in Oakland, one of the best places for curated art.  I always enjoy working with Danielle there to find just the right pieces for a client.  Also, whenever there are open studios in the artists buildings in West Berkeley, I love walking through and discovering amazing new things.  Finally, I love hiking in the Claremont Canyon in the Berkeley Hills or doing an architectural walking tour through Berkeley.  There is so much to offer!

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For more information on Lane, go here.

Original photography for 24 East by Lauren Andersen


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