Minky & Tirsh’s Open, Resourceful Oakland Loft

updated Apr 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

Name: Tirsh Hunter and Minky Lew and their dog, Arnie
Location: Oakland, California
Size: 1,200 square feet
Years lived in: 2.5 years; Rented

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Minky and Tirsh cite their family’s resourcefulness as their biggest inspiration, and their North Oakland loft is filled with vignettes demonstrating just that. Minky takes after her grandmother, who instilled such traits in her. “We’ve learned so much about how to live from the people we love and I think that is what really makes our space a home,” Minky said. Though their loft features pieces with high-end origins, most items were custom-made by the couple or found on Craigslist, in thrift stores, or on sidewalks throughout their neighborhood—further demonstrating the practicality that drives the couple every day.

(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

The couple’s home features dozens of DIY and re-purposed items of which they are rightfully proud. The massive tent and loft bed in the sleeping area, which started as a half-serious suggestion, was a collaborative effort, designed and built by the creative couple and their close friend. And the tufted wool headboard by Hunter & Lew—the couple’s design studio—in their bedroom showcases the simplicity and clean lines they love in their home.

(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

Though finding privacy in the open loft was initially a challenge, the duo collaborated to design a space that worked for them and allowed them to work on various projects—Tirsh is an industrial designer and Minky is a painter. “We used to live in a big Edwardian flat where each room’s function was so clearly designated and space was very structured,” they said. “Open floor plan loft-living feels like the opposite way of living and sometimes we just miss rooms. I think we both still have a soft spot for the formality of the Edwardian floor plan, but for now it’s ‘anything goes!'”

(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)
(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Italian thrift store with Scandinavian aspirations.

Inspiration: Our family’s cabin in the Redwoods is a big inspiration. My [Minky’s] grandma loved to thrift and decorate. She really poured her resourcefulness and practicality into that cabin. I definitely have her aesthetic. Other influences would be modern art, Italian design for how fun and equally functional it can be, and Scandinavian design for its simplicity. Tirsh is from Minnesota originally and I’m a Californian—I think both locations are a major influence on how we spend time in our home. So many talented friends and family members are the greatest inspiration to us, by far.

Favorite Element: LOVE that roll-up door. Having a real utility sink is great, too.

Biggest Challenge: Privacy. Not having rooms is a real challenge sometimes. We used to live in a big Edwardian flat where each room’s function was so clearly designated and space was very structured. Open floor plan loft living feels like the opposite way of living and sometimes we just miss rooms.

What Friends Say: “There’s so much light… Oh my God, your plants are HUGE!”; “This place is amazing!”; “You have so much stuff.”; and “Is that fern real?!?!”

Biggest Embarrassment: Being fabrication and art supply hoarders can be shameful at times, but what can we do? We’re collectors and creators. We make things ALL THE TIME. We need supplies.

Proudest DIY: The tent bedroom is of course a real achievement. We have to credit our friend Dafna Kory (founder of INNA Jam) for the idea of a giant tent as a way of solving the problem of needing a bedroom. Looking back, I think she was a little drunk and probably joking, but we ran with it! I really love the side tables and headboard we designed, too. This whole place is a DIY collaboration, so we’re proud of it as a complete home.

Biggest Indulgence: There’s so many here. Getting to shop almost exclusively at farmer’s markets because of our proximity to them is a real luxury. Our dog, Arnie, gets to go to a different beautiful East Bay park adventure everyday with his dog walker (Analisa of Ruff n’ Tuff Dog Walking). The MOST indulgent thing about our home is having so many amazingly talented, smart, funny, ridiculous neighbors to hang out with, eat with, drink with, conspire with, dance with, argue with, laugh with—and then we just walk across the courtyard back to our place at the end of the night.

Best Advice: If you’re going to live in an open loft space, it helps to really plan it out first. We used Google Sketch-Up to design the layout before we moved things in. Sometimes the amount of space can be deceptive. I’ve found open floor plans often do not have ample storage and so planning how storage will work before you move in can help keep the space from looking like a big garage and help you avoid having off-site storage. Casters! We have most of our work furniture on casters, too, so we can change our work space to suit each project. Most of all: RESCUE A DOG.

Dream Sources:
Minky:Poltrona Frau would be my ultimate in indulgent furnishings. I’ve never sat in more comfortable furniture and the craftsmanship is unreal. It would be great to have some Ettore Sottsass pieces, too. McItosh tube amps would be an analog dream come true.
Tirsh: Design all of our own furniture and have it custom made.



  • All walls: BEHR Swiss Coffee—we didn’t pick it, but it works. It has a nice warmth to it.
(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)


  • Red cabinet: IKEA via Craigslist
  • Sofa: Blu Dot Paramount Sofa
  • Pillow: Hunter & Lew
  • Chairs: Westnofa Siesta chairs via Craigslist
  • Brass lamp: Thrift Town
  • Rug and stool: the same garage sale
  • Print: Minky Lew
  • Painting: Minky Lew
(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)


(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)


  • Dining table: Craigslist, refinished by Minky
  • Dining chairs: Mid-century made in Poland Hoffman set via Craigslist
  • Vase: our neighbor Andy!
  • Japanese ceramics: thrift stores, garage sales
  • Italian ceramics: thrift stores, garage sales
  • Cabinet: street find
  • Pyrex: thrift stores, garage sales
  • Le Creuset: thrift stores, garage sales
  • Lamp: garage sale
  • Rattan Shark: Tirsh Hunter, Cody Lee, Heather Trosdahl, and Gavin Grant
(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)


  • Storage platform: designed by Minky and Tirsh
  • Tent: designed by Minky and Tirsh, made from two bolts of canvas, steel poles from Home Depot, and coupling hardware
  • Tufted wool headboard: Hunter & Lew
  • Tirsh’s side table: designed and made by Tirsh Hunter
  • Minky’s side table: her great-grandma Birdie’s
  • Yellow Boby Trolly: Joe Colombo for Bieffeplast, 1st Series
  • Blanket: Pendleton
(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)


(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)


  • Sofa: Tobias Scarpa Bastiano via Craigslist
  • Rug: Istanbul
  • Side table with leather top: Hunter & Lew
  • Lamp: thrift store
  • Club chair: found, reupholstered with Burberry wool
  • Shoe rack: Hunter & Lew
  • Bookshelves: inexpensive IKEA brackets with whitewashed 1’x8’ pine boards
  • Photograph: Paul Ovalle
(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)


  • Record cabinets: custom built by Alexis Moran of Alexis Moran Furniture/Design (You may have seen her on Ellen’s Design Challenge!)
  • Thorens TD 160 Turntable: eBay, restored by Dave at Vinyl Nirvana
  • Receiver: Sansui 9090DB, restored
  • AR Speakers: Craigslist
  • Klipsch Heresy II Speakers: Craigslist
  • Rug: West Elm
  • Work tables: custom
  • Flat file: IKEA
  • Tool chest: Waterloo
  • Paint cabinet: street find
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Tirsh (left) and Minky (right) have lived in their North Oakland loft for nearly three years. They take inspiration from their family’s practicality and the functionality and simplicity of Scandinavian design. (Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

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Thanks, Minky & Tirsh!