Fay's Charming Grand Lake Apartment

Fay's Charming Grand Lake Apartment

Esteban Cortez
Apr 12, 2015
(Image credit: Sarah Gerber)

Name: Fay Johnson
Location: Grand Lake; Oakland, California
Size: 1,100 square feet
Years lived in: 3.5 years; Rented

Looking at Fay’s gorgeous Oakland apartment, it’s hard to not feel envious. Situated on the top floor of the building, her apartment boasts features most people desire in a home: large windows that provide plentiful light all day, original hardwood flooring and a working fireplace. And if that isn't enough, Fay enjoys amazing views of the skies over nearby San Francisco at sunset, as they begin to match the color palette of the rooms in her home.

(Image credit: Sarah Gerber)

Fay loves clean lines, charming colors and open spaces. “I believe a home should be somewhere that people feel comfortable to relaxing and being themselves, so I have attempted to mix modern pieces with more tradition or personal affects.” Having traveled all over the world, Fay’s home features items that remind her of faraway places, as well as art from some of her favorite local artists.

(Image credit: Fay Johnson)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Global Modern

Inspiration: I carry both a South African and a US passport and spent much of my childhood on a plane. Having lived and worked in South Africa, India and East Africa, I think the traditional and organic nature of colonial style, mixed with the color and texture of local artisans has always interested me. I am drawn to sophisticated and yet culturally rich spaces.

Favorite Element: The original blown glass windows and all the light they let in. Over the course of the day, the light changes the colors in the room and really becomes a primary feature in the apartment.

Biggest Challenge: Storage and old electrical. Most of the walls have sconces, which limits the amount of vertical storage space. I tried removing a few of scones in the living room to place taller furniture, but without the lights, the room became too dark. Old Electrical – If I plug in the kettle in the kitchen, the dining room lights dim and there is only one outlet in the bedroom.

What Friends Say: Upon seeing the place for the first time, friends are usually a bit taken back by the space and décor. I frequently hear, “This is such a ‘grown-up’ house!” With so many friends living in small, hard to come by spaces in San Francisco, a place with room to host eight people for dinner is rare.

Biggest Embarrassment: The living room couch. It was a gift from a friend when I first arrived in Oakland and I haven’t replaced it. It’s from IKEA, uncomfortable and showing its age (a challenge with white couches). The pullout bed is used frequently by quests, so it serves a function, but it’s high on my list of things to replace.

Proudest DIY: The occasional chair in the living room. I bought the chair on Craigslist for $15 when I first arrived in California and reupholstered it with my dad and brother. It’s not perfect, but I love the pattern.

Biggest Indulgence: The carpet in my bedroom by Madeline Weinrib Atelier. Hue and texture are so important to me. When I saw this rug, I fell in love. It complements the natural purple, white and gray tones in the bedroom.

Best Advice: Choose a color palette that works with the space and the available light. I had hoped to use a red/orange/dark wood scheme for my next place, but when I moved in, it was clear that the light would determine the feel of the room. White it was!

Dream Sources: Restoration Hardware, ABC Carpet & Home, Local markets and bazaars in East and Southern Africa, England, Turkey and Chile.


(Image credit: Sarah Gerber)


  • Paint: Martha Stewart Living: Potter’s Clay (MSL329)
  • Couch: Ikea Sleeper Sofa. Free from a friend. I’ve removed the back cushions to give it depth.
  • Bench/Coffee Table: Craigslist
  • Occasion Chair: Craigslist + fabric from Joann’s Fabric
  • Side table and lamp: Thrifted
  • Sideboard: Restoration Hardware
  • Carpet: Karastan Carpet. I’ve moved this carpet with me to LA, DC, and back to California. The traditional but light toned carpet has served me well over the years.
  • Wingback Chair & Ottoman: Restoration Hardware (Thrifted)
  • Vintage suitcases – Thrifted (US and Overseas)
  • Velvet Curtains: Overstock.com
  • Certain Hardware: Bed Bath & Beyond
  • Wood framed mirror: Antique
(Image credit: Sarah Gerber)


  • Chalkboard Paint
  • Carpet: Safavieh Chatham Collection, Grey & Ivy – Amazon
  • Dining Table: Thrifted
  • Chairs: Baxton Studio Eames Chairs – Amazon

(Image credit: Sarah Gerber)


  • Paint: Martha Stewart Living: Sharkey Gray, Eggshell (MSL240)
  • Bed and Linen Bedding: Restoration Hardware
  • Nightstand: Thrifted
  • Carpet: ABC Carpets & Home, Designer: Madeline Weinrib Atelier
  • Painting: Original by Woodward Payne (local artist)
  • Woven blanket: CB2
  • Small Painting: Me

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Thanks, Fay!

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