The offbeat occupant: Dee: Graphic Designer, Interior Stylist, Vintage Curator
Other occupants: Nathan, Husband
Approximate square footage: 2000-3000 sq. feet
How many bedrooms? 0/studio
Lives in: Oakland, California
When did you move into this home? Three years ago
Let’s start with the neighborhood. What’s it like where you live? The area I live in is called Jingletown. Jingletown is a pocket arts community adjacent to the Oakland Estuary, with an eclectic and gritty industrial feel to the landscape. There are a number of working artists living in the converted lofts that predominate in the area. It is located about two miles southeast of the stunning Lake Merritt. Jingletown is currently thriving as one of the fastest growing arts districts in the San Francisco Bay area. The live/work loft building is called Cotton Mill Studios and it has a rich past all of its own. It’s one of the more recognizable buildings you see while passing Oakland from highway 880.
What makes your home offbeat? It is a true live/work artist’s loft. In all honesty it’s just a big 2400-square-foot box with floor-to-ceiling windows at one end and skylights throughout. The exposed brick, heavy timbers, and scarred wooden floors are reminders that at one time this was a real working cotton mill.
The most offbeat thing about my home is the steady flow of neighbors and friends in and out of the place. The door is always open, and with so many creative interesting people living in the same building, we’re all one big happy family. My loft serves as not only my home and the place where my husband and I run our businesses, but every three months I throw the doors open, turning the place into a one night only vintage pop-up shop.
Everything about it is me, from where each item sits to the paintings on the wall. It is a true reflection of my own style, my graphic design work, and my love of mid-century modernist design.
What’s the most challenging about this space? How do you deal with the challenge? First and foremost is the space itself. Most people aren’t lucky enough to live in a space large enough to park five rows of cars end to end. The space is overwhelming and forces me to change the layout every few months just to see if something works better. It’s like a work of art that’s never quite done.
We also try to make sure that we’re not filling the space needlessly just because we have it. If we ever moved, who knows what we’d do with that 14-foot couch. Another challenge is the wall of windows that are roughly 18 feet tall. I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth, because to an artist all that natural light is to die for and the view is wonderful. But I forgot how difficult and expensive it would be to get proper coverings for windows that large. The windows are a blessing and a curse, what with the gorgeous light but also the amazing amount of heat or cold they let in. Keep in mind this was a big factory at one time. I gave up trying to solve this one, and as it turns out my husband hand-crafted our entire set of drapes, that were exactly what we needed.
And probably the greatest challenge of the space has been lack of built-in storage. We’ve had to find some creative ways to store everything from tax documents to DVDs.
What’s your favorite feature of your home? The floors. If you stand in the upper loft area and look down onto the main floor from our bedroom, you can see the history of the building in the floors. Deep gouges, scratches, areas where it looked like something large and heavy was dragged across the room. A mysterious dark spot here and there or a strange faded spot where a machine was mounted. All the marks and indentations are like character lines in a person’s face, or battle scars that tell a story of an amazing life that this building saw.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from this home? Your home can be a continuous source of inspiration, from the people around you to the fixtures themselves. I’ve been inspired and intimidated by certain attributes of this home. Can you really hang a Calder-esque mobile in between two ceiling fans near an industrial grade AC system? Will it work? What’s the best way to provide seating for 30 people coming over for brunch? Should I really use my vintage lunch box collection as on-display filing cabinets?
What’s your grandest plan for the space? The grandest plan was to one day create a retail space that was actually a living, working, breathing, home. People marvel at Ikea all the time about how the entire place is staged with rooms and vignettes. The difference is, no one actually lives there. When I open up our home every three months to sell vintage items from my hunting excursions and styling shoots, you’re seeing the items as they would be lived with. You’re actually walking amongst our things in a very unique shopping environment that no one else currently offers. You get a vicarious sense of how the items would work in your home.
What advice do you have for other offbeat homies? Don’t be afraid to try new things. New doesn’t mean expensive. It may mean turning the couch in a new direction. Play with the layout of a room and see how the flow works. You can turn something completely on its ear to make it all yours. Be your own designer and stylist with the things you love.
Any stuff or services you want to recommend? My home is full of my own creations as well as those of artists and craftsmen from the world over. There are too many to mention but thank goodness for Etsy because I’ve made so many friends and contacts there. You can’t find better custom work out there right now than the people who have set up shop on Etsy. Stunning work.
Recently however I came across a product I’d turn my house completely upside-down for. When doing research for an outdoor fireplace for one of the common areas for residents of the building I live in, I came across a small independent company in Arizona called Modfire. Needless to say I struck up a wonderful friendship with the owner and have gone out of my way to tell the world about his wonderful creations. It isn’t your ordinary fireplace… trust me.
Show me the decor porn!