A Modern, Comfortable, Eclectic Small/Cool Space

Name: Michelle Spetner

Size: 590 sq ft

Home type: Apartment

Location: Oakland, California

Years lived in: 6 years, rented

Household: Partner (Antonio) and plants (Polyflorus)

Have any design professionals worked on this space: Myself (a landscape designer) and my mom, Katherine Spetner (an architect)

Describe your space:

My mom is an architect, artist, and my single greatest influence. So when we moved into our apartment, we worked with her to bring the space to life—preserving the charming historic details and opening up the rooms to create a comfortable, light-filled home. With only 590 square feet to work with, we came up with creative storage solutions that felt original, but fit modern needs for entertaining friends or having a cozy night in. This apartment is the smallest, coolest space because its historic details; modern comfort; and vintage and unique objects that make the space its own.

Did you DIY anything in your space? And, if so, what's your favorite DIY?

The coffee table—we installed a projector to maximize space, and with the upgraded cinema experience, the tired old couch had to go, which meant the old rug had to go, which meant the old coffee table, also, had to go. We needed a petite coffee table because a couch with a chaise was a must. We came across this sweet, worn, typeface drawer at a garage sale for $5—snapped it up, bought $40 hairpin legs on Etsy, and ordered a custom $30 glass top from a local window repair shop. The best part is the typeface compartments are filled with my collection of matchbooks from India and vintage dice.

What's your favorite product that you bought for your space and where did it come from?

The outdoor couch on our balcony is one of the best investments we made in our space. It is one of the only things we purchased new since our balcony is only 4’-6” wide! It called for a perfectly narrow couch that was both slender, functional, and inoffensive—something that proved a serious challenge. After scouring the internet, we found the Baltic Sofa on Wayfair, of all places. At 2’-4” deep, it's a perfect blend of style and comfort, while still being narrow enough to scoot by, join someone for an evening vermouth, and watch the sunset.

What inspires you?

As a landscape designer, the natural world is a huge inspiration of mine. I love natural, warm grays, earthy reds, and understated greens. I also feel it’s really important to connect your space to your surroundings, so preserving historic details while recycling building materials and furniture are big priorities of mine. As an avid garage-sailor and tchotchke extraordinaire, I love vintage touches and playful objects.