Kelly Wilkinson and Mike O’Neill
Cole Valley, San Francisco
1200 sq. ft.
Years lived in:
Rented for 2 years
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One of the things we most adore is to peek into the homes of creative people. And Kelly and Mike are certainly that. Kelly says, I split my time between working as a reporter at KQED here in SF (the NPR affiliate), and launching a craft/media empire at Make Grow Gather! My husband Mike O’Neill is the creator of the Jimi wallet. It’s a modern update of the classic bifold wallet, and is made from recycled plastic in Massachusetts. He runs the company out of our second bedroom and has gotten love everywhere from the New York Times to the MoMA Design Store to Treehugger. So between the two of us, we’re always hatching new projects and grand life plans here at home.
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My/Our style: We’re not precious but we are deliberate in what we bring into our place. We’re not rigid about a specific style, but we can tell you a story about almost everything that’s here. So the apartment ends up feeling kind of like a layered collage of old and odd, modern and meaningful.
Inspiration: Any home that feels like good things happen inside. That, and a huge file folder of ripped-out articles from magazines. And images we keep in our heads from old movies where people lounge around on beautiful sofas, sipping cocktails and reminiscing about taking the sleeper train to Budapest.
Favorite Element: The big slice of city and sky outside our front windows. The colors changes all day long and St. Ignacious church sits smack in the middle of our view, set off by constantly changing combinations of light and fog.
Biggest Challenge: Suppressing our instincts to rip down walls and build decks and redo everything. Kelly grew up in a barn her parents renovated in Virginia, and Mike’s dad was a builder in England. So we both have remodeling tendencies deep in our DNA.
What Friends Say: “I think it’s time for you guys to sell those couches,” “Where’d you get that?”
Biggest Embarrassment: The aforementioned couches. They’re a nice shape but covered in dot-com era fabric and they’ve lost all their padding. The pull-out is so uncomfortable that we dubbed it the George Foreman grill.
Proudest DIY: The wall we built to give Kelly a little sewing/studio nook at one end of the living room. It took about $50 bucks and an afternoon, and we put it on wheels so we can move it to make one big room again. A close second is covering the 1980s mirror above the fireplace with renter-friendly foam core spray-mounted with pretty paper. The whole shebang is attached to the mirror with Velcro.
Biggest Indulgence: Trading up out of our dark, bottom floor apartment where our landlords clomped overhead without any rugs. That, and installing a drip-irrigation system in the backyard vegetable patch. It kind of feels like cheating but it also feels like little veggie fairy godmothers come and water during the night.
Best Advice: If you love something, find a way to take it home with you. We’ve lugged rugs across Morocco and pulled lighting fixtures out of dumpsters. Not everything we’ve acquired has been so adventurous, but we go for what we love.
Dream Source: Aria in SF, ABC Carpets in NYC, and Lucketts General Store near where Kelly grew up in Virginia. The Conran Store, Habitat and Francis Street antique shops in Dublin (we’ve got a family cottage in Ireland and spend as much time there as we can).
Alameda, Alemany, IKEA, Building ReSources, Anthropologie, Kamai.
Appliances: All aging GE. But if it qualifies as an appliance, our newest love is a seltzer machine from Soda Club. We love fizzy water but it’s expensive to buy and we hated recycling all those plastic bottles.
Hardware: All original to the apartment.
Furniture: Scandinavian Design; an antiques complex that used to be South of Market but became SEGA or something else that’s the opposite of antiques; IKEA; tiny antique stores that we duck into but can’t remember of names of; Alameda and Alemany flea markets.
Accessories: All found, made, bought or accumulated over the years.
Lighting: Re-wired chandelier and lamps from Building ReSources, Crate and Barrel, Lamps Plus.
Rugs and Carpets: Morocco, Overstock.com, IKEA, Limn.
Window Treatments: Basic white curtains from IKEA.
Beds: Headboard from the long-gone South of Market antique place.
Artwork: Old movie posters, artwork from Kelly’s mom and grandmother, paintings from student art shows, prints from Little Paper Planes, family and friends’ photographs.
Paint: One living room wall is a mushroomy-purple color. Bedroom is a kind of earthy chartreuse. The rest of the walls are the renters’ staple: antique white.
Flooring: We made a deal with the landlord before we moved in to pull up the 20-year-old, wall-to-wall grey carpet. We were bullish about that, which seems weird in retrospect because San Francisco is such a competitive renting market. But he went for it. It’s kind of revealing of our prevailing home and life philosophy: hold out for what you love.
See more of Kelly's work at Make Grow Gather! and Mike's at The Jimi.
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Thanks, Kelly and Mike!