Readers Choice 2014: House & Home

Furniture Store

Furnishing a house for the first time, or changing out furnishings for a fresh look, are tasks made easier by these Bay Area stores, which offer the latest in home décor and inspiration.

“Good design should be beautiful, affordable and long-lasting,” says Kate Lloyd, public relations specialist at Room & Board. The company works with American artisans to design furniture, accessories and custom pieces. More than 90 percent of Room & Board’s products are handcrafted in the United States, exemplifying the company’s commitment to supporting American manufacturers and small businesses.

The Ikea concept is to provide affordable home furnishings to the masses by “combining function, quality, design and value — always with sustainability in mind,” says Lisa Ciccoli, local marketing specialist. Products are created with the idea that they should make “everyday life better.” The store offers customer service options such as home furnishing advice, home delivery and even assembly.

Sunrise Home is a Marin County home furnishings design showroom staffed by certified interior designers. For 38 years, Sunrise Home has carried “beautiful, classic and quality pieces made in America,” says owner Annie Bowman. The store is an institution in downtown San Rafael, representing large companies such as Stickley and Ralph Lauren, as well as smaller family artisans and vendors. “We are adept at mixing eclectic pieces in our displays,” the website says, and the design professionals who work at Sunrise help customers create “memorable, livable and enduring interiors.”

San Francisco

Room & Board

(415) 252-9280


East Bay



(888) 888-4532


North Bay

Sunrise Home

San Rafael

(415) 456-3939


Mortgage Broker

Along with the joy of having your offer accepted on a home or property comes the chore of financing it. Allow these reader-recommended mortgage brokers to ease your mind and give you confidence.

Rachel Bernstein is a senior loan consultant in San Francisco with California Mortgage Advisors. She helps secure the best loans for clients who are purchasing or refinancing single-family homes, condominiums, multiunit properties, investment properties and commercial properties. In the business for 10 years, she says she’s “proudest of doing honest work and getting people into the house of their dreams.”

Aran Nafisi, based in Orinda with RPM Mortgage, helps people purchasing a home or refinancing their existing mortgage to secure the best loans. “My business model is to deliver clear communication, exceptional due diligence and go the extra mile to ensure clients secure financing with the best terms available,” Nafisi says.

Joel Spolin is the president and owner of SpoLoan Mortgage Banking, which has been in business for over 25 years. His Palo Alto–based mortgage banking and brokerage business helps secure loans for residential and commercial clients, property owners who want to refinance and many others. “I take great pride when a borrower comes to me after being rejected at another institution, and I find a way to get the loan closed,” Spolin says.

Usher Financial Group, a division of American Pacific Mortgage, takes a team approach, “serving the lending needs of real estate professionals, builders and individual homebuyers,” as well as offering the Keys On Time program that closes purchase loans in as few as 21 days.

Bay Area

Rachel Bernstein

San Rafael

(415) 298-1089


Aran Nafisi


(925) 708-8047


Joel Spolin

Palo Alto

(650) 529-4700


Usher Financial Group

(415) 218-5401


Tile/Stone Purveyor

Jerusalem stone has been used since ancient times, including in the Western Wall. For newer construction, our readers recommend these stores for their assortment of beautiful stones, tiles and ceramics.

Porcelanosa offers architectural and design solutions to customers built on a foundation of innovation, quality and service. The San Francisco company offers tile, kitchen and bath products for commercial and residential use. Porcelanosa has special certifications for its environmentally friendly manufacturing processes.

Carmel Stone Imports, with showrooms in Palo Alto and around the Bay Area, is an importer and distributor of high-end stone, tile and slabs. Collections include Jerusalem, Forte de Marmi and Pampeano. According to the company website, “Our commitment to outstanding customer service, coupled with an extraordinary product selection, has made Carmel Stone Imports an industry leader.”

Heath Ceramics still makes its products in its Sausalito factory, as it has been doing since 1959. Customers can take tours of the factory to see how the tableware, tile and ceramics are shaped and fired. “Heath Ceramics is one of the few remaining midcentury American potteries still in existence today,” according to the website.

San Francisco


(415) 593-7763


South Bay/Peninsula

Carmel Stone Imports

Palo Alto

(650) 800-7840


North Bay

Heath Ceramics


(415) 332-3732


Real Estate Agent

Buying a home can be an exciting experience — and an emotional one. Our readers chose these real estate agents for their skills guiding clients through the housing market, helping them sell property or leading them to the home of their dreams.

Debbie Herzfeld assists San Francisco clients with the purchase or sale of single-family homes, condominiums and investment properties. She guides them start to finish, sharing her 32 years of expertise about the city’s neighborhoods, particularly the Golden Gate Heights area. “I limit the number of people I work with at any time so they get the service they deserve,” Herzfeld says.

Deborah Lopez works with buyers, sellers and investors and says their happiness with the process is a top priority. “Whether they are first-time buyers, first-time sellers, downsizing, upsizing or building a real estate portfolio, my business is to achieve success for my clients,” says Lopez, a San Francisco real estate agent for 38 years.

Residential real estate agent Dana Cohen specializes in properties in Piedmont, Oakland, Berkeley and Alameda. She represents buyers and sellers, and has been one of the two top producers in the Piedmont/Oakland office of the Grubb Co. since 2007. “One of the most gratifying results for someone in my line of work is to be able to maintain wonderful relationships with past clients as they move through life events, and have the opportunity to help them and their friends,” Cohen says.

Susan Sims is a real estate agent with Alain Pinel on the Peninsula, where she’s dedicated to bringing “experience, knowledge and professionalism” to her practice. She has a strong background in marketing and negotiating, a handy set of skills for this business. Sims uses those skills to help sellers achieve the highest price in the shortest amount of time and to help buyers relocating to the Bay Area navigate Silicon Valley’s unique housing market, she says.

At Marin Modern, residential real estate agent Erika Davito has worked for 16 years to ensure that her clients come out ahead financially and personally. Davito focuses on southern Marin but also works as far north as Sonoma County. “I have an eye for golden opportunities in homes with ‘good bones’ that lend themselves as lucrative ventures for my clients,” she says.

San Francisco

Debbie Herzfeld

(415) 338-0118


Deborah Lopez

(415) 738-7084


East Bay

Dana Cohen


(510) 813-0321


South Bay/Peninsula

Susan Sims

Los Altos

(650) 743-1838


North Bay

Erika Davito

(415) 531-4945


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