A Southeast Asian-Inspired Oakland Loft

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

Name: Thoey and Sutty
Location: Jingletown—Oakland, California
Size: 1,600 square feet
Years lived in: 1.5 years, rented

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Thoey and Sutty’s spacious loft is filled with colorful, vintage items that create a happy home they and their friends love to spend time in. Upon closer inspection, it’s clear that each vignette in their home tells a personal story, from the poster of the Cambodian rock-and-roll documentary that reminds them of their Southeastern Asian heritage to the Buddhist altar filled with photos of loved ones. It’s from their heritage that the couple finds most inspiration, as well as from folk art and the local artists that surround them in their community.

(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

Thoey and Sutty find it difficult to define their style because it’s constantly evolving. Their open loft features art from friends and family, as well as vintage furniture found at local flea markets. Among one of their favorite elements is a painting of Sutty’s father depicting a photo taken at a Cambodian refugee camp. “I love this piece because it’s a reminder to work hard for what you believe in no matter what obstacles stand in the way,” he said in our survey.

The loft also functions as Thoey’s workspace for her business, EcoMonster, for which she travels throughout the Bay Area to host DIY workshops and craft parties. The couple found their building to be a perfect fit, as it functions as an incubator for various enterprises and adds diversity to this mixed-use industrial neighborhood in Oakland’s Jingletown. All of the creativity surrounding them, they say, allows them to create a cozy vibe that feels unique at the same time.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: It’s difficult to pinpoint what our style is exactly since it’s constantly evolving. When you walk into our home you’ll see items inspired by the ’50s, modern furniture, repurposed items like our wooden ironing board that we now use as a bar table. You’ll also see artwork that draws from our Southeast Asian heritage as well as handcrafted goods by local artist in our neighborhood. We try to combine all of these elements to create a cozy vibe that’s practical, but still unique.

Inspiration: Folk art, local artists, and our Southeast Asian heritage. I [Thoey] also draw inspiration from my time working at a vintage shop. Every other week there’s always someone out there bringing in really cool items from different decades. This really broadened my perspective for different designs and styles. All I had to do was pick what I liked.

Favorite Element: Thoey: The fact that we live in a hundred-year-old building. I love that they kept some of the old stuff like the original wood flooring, the exposed brick walls, and the high ceiling windows.

Sutty: A drawing by my brother,
Nak Bou, depicting our father’s photograph at a Cambodian refugee camp during the Khmer Rouge Era. A couple months after this picture was taken he was admitted to the United States. I love this piece because it’s a reminder to work hard for what you believe in no matter what obstacles stand in the way.

Biggest Challenge: Our bathroom doesn’t have any natural lighting and the floor makes it feel like a college dorm. We’ve tried tips like bringing in light colors and creating spa-like space but at the end of the day you can’t replace natural light, and the floor is still there.

What Friends Say: “Don’t ever move!” Or, “When’s the next get-together?”

Biggest Embarrassment: We’ve been waiting to upgrade our record player from Target.

Proudest DIY: My pipe yarn curtain that acts as a headboard divider between our kitchen and mezzanine bedroom.

Biggest Indulgence: Our gray sectional couch. I didn’t understand why we would need such a large couch with just the two of us. My husband gave me two reasons: 1) We love having guests over 2) you got to pick your king-size bed. I must say, he was right. I do love my king-size bed. Within the first week, the entire couch was completely occupied by our friends. No more grabbing extra chairs or pulling out the leaky airbed. It was definitely worth it.

Best Advice: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” -William Morris

Dream Sources:
Noise Furniture, Alameda Point Antique Faire, West Elm



  • Walls: landlord’s choice


  • Art: Sutty’s brother Nak Bou
  • Ladder: Ace Hardware


  • Sectional couch: Macy’s
  • Pillows: handmade by rural Hmong artisans in Thailand via Oimei Co. on Etsy
  • Entertainment center: Alameda Point Antiques Faire
  • Chairs: Redux Studios in Alameda
  • Ironing board bar: Craigslist
  • Library crate shelf: Watonsville Farm
  • Succulents: Terra.Haus


  • Dining table: handmade by our friend Leon
  • Alter stand: Goodwill
  • Wheelbarrow: Redux Studios in Alameda
  • Record player: Target
  • Guan Yin Print: Alameda Point Antiques Faire
  • Painting: Sutty’s brother Nak Bou


  • Stainless steel kitchen island: restaurant supply store
  • White and yellow pattern on cabinets: DIY made from contact paper
  • Blue glassware shelving: Alameda Point Antiques Faire
  • Apsara painting: Stockton Cambodian Temple


  • King-size bed: IKEA
  • Duvet cover: IKEA



  • Mirror: Urban Island Consignment in Alameda (now closed)
  • Vanity accessories holder: EyeDesignART
  • Old kitchen tools turned into jewelry holders: Yerdle


  • Wall shelves: made from salvaged wood by my friends from Bay Tree Maples
  • Huge wooden shelf: free from our neighbors
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Thoey and Sutty’s 1,600-square-foot Oakland loft is located in Oakland’s Jingletown neighborhood. (Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

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Thanks, Thoey & Sutty!