Monika's Evolving Experiment

Monika's Evolving Experiment

Janel Laban
Mar 2, 2010

(Enjoy this blast from the past - this was Monika's first post for Apartment Therapy:San Francisco - a tour of her own home in Oakland.)

Name: Monika
Location: Oakland, California
Size: 1256 sq.ft.
Years Lived: 2.5 years

My home is definitely a work in progress, but since I moved in more than two years ago, it has changed quite a bit. It is an always evolving experiment of redecorating, reorganizing, finding new storage solutions, purging things and acquiring more treasures that we can't live without.


When I first moved in, it was just me and there seemed to be enough space for all my things. Eventually my boyfriend moved in and that is when things became very tricky. Finding room for all of our furniture, collectables, plants, books and clothes became an impossible task. We had to figure out a storage solution before we could unpack any of his belongings.

We built a wall unit/bookshelf in the hallway that stands 16 ft wide by 11 ft tall. It holds everything from books and CDs to kitchen supplies and collectables. Everything was built right in the hallway as the rest of the apartment was filled with boxes and furniture from the move. We are still in the process of creating custom made boxes and magazine files to simplify the look of the bookshelf.

There are a few things that we have learned from that experience worth mentioning. We didn't find out until our next project, but it should be noted that you can purchase pre-varnished plywood from specialty lumber suppliers. This would have saved us a lot of time and headache. Varnishing in a small apartment with limited space is not ideal. Another lesson we learned is to not cut the wood ourselves. Unless you have access to a wood shop with professional tools, I'd recommend finding someone to make the cuts for you. We were cleaning up sawdust for three months afterwards!

The house is much more accommodating for both of us now, but we are always in the process of making it better. The easy solution to the storage problem would involve moving to a larger space but for now we are staying put and just becoming more creative.



Style: Mixture of retro modern and antique.

Inspiration: History. I think every period has something to offer to us and looking back can give us a new perspective on design today.

Favorite Elements: High ceilings. Before living in a loft, I lived in a victorian with high ceilings. I am definitely used to them now and places with low ceilings are claustrophobic to me.

Biggest Challenge: Because the loft is one single space, it is challenging to create an impression of separate areas and define them without dividing the space too much. It is also a small space, and keeping things organized and uncluttered can be difficult. The bookshelf that we built helps tremendously, but we are still in the process of streamlining it.

What friends say: This is a true pad! How do you ever leave the house?

Biggest Embarrassment: The heating unit. It is a true conversion loft with an older heating unit. I have so many ideas what to replace it with, but I haven't gotten to it yet.

Proudest DIY: Probably the bookshelf. It is massive and we didn't realize how much work it was going to be.

Best Advice: Research, research, and research. There are so many resources out there, Apartment Therapy being one of them. Get as many ideas and quotes as you can. When planning your project, figure out which parts are do-it-yourself, and which parts you're better off art directing.

Just got it: We got the dining table before the holidays at the Alameda flea market for $100. Since then we have reupholstered the chairs, and buffed all the plastic. It looks brand new now. It is amazing what few hours of work will do to some older pieces that you find.

Dream Source: Garage sale at Ray and Charles Eames' house.



Most things in the house are from flea markets, Craigslist, thrift stores, eBay or we built them ourselves. In addition to the bookshelf, we have also built our office desk in the loft upstairs as well as more wardrobe space.

Tabco Industrial stainless steel table: Craigslist. Similar can be found at restaurant supply places.
Sideboard: IKEA, donated from a friend.
Bar Stools: Craigslist. They area a copy of the LEM Piston Stool. I would love to replace them one day with the real thing.

Living Room:
Couch: vintage, thrift store in Washington state.
White Kodawood side chairs: vintage, Craigslist.
Slatted bench: vintage, Craigslist.
White coffee table: vintage, thrift store in Washington state.
White bookshelves: designed by me at my previous job as a window store designer.
White chandeliers: designed by me at my previous job.
TV stand: IKEA, as-is section.
Wood chair with black leather seat: vintage, found at the Daly City flea market.
Rug: vintage, eBay.

Dining Area:
Chromecraft dining set: vintage, Alameda flea market.

Orange Steelcase chair: thrift store in Pittsburgh, PA.
Green Do/More steel chair: Craigslist.
Antique velvet Gentleman's chair: estate sale in Berkeley Hills.

Bookshelf: custom built.
Cotterman library ladder: Craigslist.
Bookshelf lighting: IKEA.

Drakkar Large Bottle: antique store in Seattle, WA.
Mirrored Bathroom accessories (soap dispenser, tissue box, framed art, cylindrical containers): found over time at various flea markets and thrift stores.

Eames chairs: eBay.
Garden fountains and angel shelf supports: gift from a family member.



(Originally published 01/07/09 - jl)

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