Three Roommates Share a Small Attic Apartment in Oakland

Three Roommates Share a Small Attic Apartment in Oakland

Esteban Cortez
Jul 27, 2018

Name: Helen, David and Nami (plus their cats Boogie and Sammie)
Location: Lower Bottoms — Oakland, California
Size: ~600 square feet
Years lived in: 5 years

Helen, David and Nami live in a two-bedroom attic apartment in a historic mansion that was converted to apartments. The space has its perks, such as the walls painted yellow (Helen's favorite color) and its convenience to downtown Oakland and public transit. But the awkward attic space also has its drawbacks: small windows resulting in low light, weird ceilings angles, and a tiny kitchen. Despite that, the three roommates admit that its awkwardness has made coming up with solutions a fun challenge.

After a long and unsuccessful apartment hunt in Oakland, Helen and David decided to tackle the challenge of living in the unconventional space and brought Nami on board. "This was the first time living in an attic for all of us, so we didn't know how to arrange the space," Helen says. They brainstormed to find the best configuration for a makeshift kitchen island using IKEA tables, something Helen admits was not an easy task, and they came up with seating options in the living room even though fitting a couch up the narrow stairway is nearly impossible. "We've learned to live with the space and like how cozy it feels," Helen admits, "but David still hits his head on the ceiling sometimes."

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: We love bright colors, vintage decor and things with interesting textures. I [Helen] get pretty sentimental and like to display the things I collect, so it gets eclectic.

Inspiration: Saturated colors found in nature.

Favorite Element: Plants!

Biggest Challenge: The ceiling angles are one thing, but the low light and dark floors and trim that came with the apartment are the toughest part. Sometimes the lighting is actually better at night with artificial light.

What Friends Say: "It feels like a tree house palace."

Biggest Embarrassment: The kitchen floors are awful! The tiles are better suited for a patio.

Proudest DIY: Building two IKEA counters in this TINY kitchen! Figuring out the configuration was a big win, too.

Biggest Indulgence: Plants

Best Advice: Rearrange your space often.

Dream Sources: Traveling the world to find awesome pottery.


The apartment came with these paint colors. We like the light shade of green and yellow, but wish it was brighter.

Kitchen island — Two IKEA counters put together
Vintage dishes — Nami's collection
Aprons — Made by Helen's mom
Red table runner — Made by Helen's mom
La Llorona Desperately Seeking Coyolxauhqui print — Alma Lopez via Serie Project
Jarritos print — Serie Project
No War print — Melanie Cervantes
Chips & Lemons prints — Purchased at The Grease Diner on San Pablo Avenue
Metal Tomato and Chiles prints — Garden signs purchased at dollar store
Kitty hall of fame — A shrine to our cats past and present

Plants — Gifts or from local nurseries (Dry Garden, Cactus Jungle, etc.)
Pottery — Cactus Jungle, thrifted, or from the dollar store
Record shelves — IKEA
Art and photos — Taken and printed by Helen
Beach and poppies photos to the left of Helen's desk — Christy Peña
Bench — Made from a sturdy wood coffee table
Crochet pillow — Mary of Green Horse Craft
Beaded Jaguar — Gathering Tribes (purchased from a traveling Huichol artist)
Painted skulls and carved wood animals — From Mexico
Jaguar mask — Made in Guatemala

Leg prints — Ayqa Khan
Flower postcards — Stay Soft
Banner — Painted by Helen on a vintage curtain
No Ban, No DAPL pieces and Polaroids — Made by Helen
Boogie's food bowl & fountain — Woven basket from Mexico

Flower print tea towel— Lisa Rupp for Harriott Grace
Cat portrait — Ema Kubo
Cat print — Boyoun Kim
Nude Garden Party print — Mike Perry
Two Girls illustration — From a free pile at Ladies Drawing Night event hosted by Chronicle's Books
Night stand — Kids desk from Ikea
Small chair — Thrift store find
Desk and chair — Amazon
Mystical deer cushion cover — From Mexico City

Thanks, Helen, David and Nami!

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