Before and After: A Designer’s Oakland Rental Gets a Soothing Refresh for the New Year

published Jan 4, 2022

Before and After: A Designer’s Oakland Rental Gets a Soothing Refresh for the New Year

published Jan 4, 2022
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Name: Sophia E. Aguiñaga
Oakland, California
 900 square feet
Years lived in: 
1 year, renting

When Apartment Therapy first toured interior designer and artist Sophia E. Aguiñaga‘s Oakland rental apartment, her home’s design style was best described as “Wild Eclectic Glam,” and it featured seven wall paint colors across six rooms. When she realized she would be moving at the end of 2021, she took it as an opportunity to refresh the apartment before the move, paring down her stuff and experimenting with her style to give the apartment a minimal, organic new look. The mini makeover is a great reminder that anytime you want a new look or feel to your home, it’s within reach. Use Sophia’s refresh as inspiration for your own.

“I consider myself an interior nomad. I love moving. Like, a lot. I lived in 11 apartments in three years before I finally signed my first one-year lease,” begins Sophia. “Since I don’t move apartments as frequently anymore, I love changing up my decor — often and drastically. No, I don’t mean rearranging furniture, I mean selling everything, repainting, starting totally fresh. I love exploring how many unique ways I can express myself in one space, and I don’t ascribe to any one style. Rather, I believe all styles are within me and arise intuitively.”

“One thing I love about design, particularly in rentals, is the practice of building something up and then tearing it all down. It reminds me of the Tibetan Buddhist sand mandalas — the creation and destruction of unbelievably intricate mandalas made from colored sand. Once the mandala is complete, as a practice in impermanence and belief in the transitory nature of material life, the Buddhists will swipe every grain of sand away with a brush. Destroying the image it created and releasing the weeks and weeks of work that went into the process.”

“I’ve always loved this idea — building something up, admiring it, loving it deeply, then deconstructing or even destroying it as a means of release, a practice in letting go, remembering how everything we love and have built in our lives — from careers to relationships and anything material — are all impermanent. So what if you’ll only live in your rental for a year? Speaking from experience, a year of sanctuary is worth the effort and time.”

“The driver for this particular refresh was my plan to move at the end of 2021. I knew I’d have to paint all my walls back to white and I wanted to use it as an opportunity to build something entirely new in the space. I also wanted to pare down for the upcoming move — turns out eclectic maximalism doesn’t lend toward traveling light. So I re-homed almost everything I owned and used minimalism, ease, and traveling light as my guide. These concepts translated into a minimalist wabi sabi design rooted in earth tones. Chartreuse is my favorite color, so I kept that pop of color while drawing in rustic, woody, and earthy colors and textures everywhere else.”

“What I ended up with was a marriage of modern and rustic shapes expressed in earth tones and eclectic textures. Reminiscent of a walk through a meadow filled with trees and tall, bright grass, the space is both grounding and enlivening at the same time.”



  • Chantilly Lace — Benjamin Moore


  • Lewis Corner Sectional in Royale Apple — Joybird
  • Vintage Wood Laminate Coffee Table — Chairish
  • Yngve Ekström “Lamino” Style Leather and Teak Chair — Facebook Marketplace
  • Vintage Scorched Bamboo Hall Tree — Sourced from Narrative (for sale also)
  • Wooden sculptural side table — Sunbeam Vintage
  • Carmen Drink Table in Rust — Anthropologie
  • Custom Log Pole Entryway Bench — Etsy



Thanks Sophia!

This house tour’s responses were edited for length and clarity.