Derek & Ashley’s Artistic, Quirky & Sentimental Seattle Apartment

published Mar 10, 2016
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(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)

Name: Derek Erdman and Ashley Armitage
Location: Seattle, Washington
Size: 1,500 square feet
Years Lived In: 2 years

This apartment is what happens when two vibrant—and cheeky!—artists make a home together. Derek has made a name for himself as a painter in the Seattle art scene by incorporating his own brand of satire into pop culture allusions (you may recognize his work from Andrew & Becky’s Bright, Eclectic Seattle Apartment), while Ashley is an up-and-coming fashion and fine art photographer who loves challenging conventional ideas of femininity in her work. “It’s not a surprise that our house is heavily decorated in personal paintings and Ashley’s photography,” says Derek, “all of which rotates as we sell it and make more.”

(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)

Each room lends itself to a certain kind of sentimentality for the couple, as every piece of art on the walls serves as a reminder of a particular time and place for them. They have collected the artwork through various stages in their lives—breakups, gallery shows, art trades, and birthdays—and are proud of how every piece has become a part of the on-going narrative that has been created in their home.

The apartment is also large enough to allow both of them to both make art at the same time without being in each other’s way. Derek has turned one of the guest rooms into his painting room (it’s filled with acrylic paints, supplies and works-in-progress), while Ashley has been known to turn the living room into her photography studio, complete with studio lighting and backdrops! The couple have also hosted group art shows in the space, which is just another way for them to support the growth of Seattle’s creative community. Thank you for generously sharing your stories and space with us, Derek and Ashley!

(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our style: Somewhere between PNW minimal, curated thrift store, and (heavy on the pastels) art gallery. We have a Pendleton blanket draped over our couch but we haven’t nailed any branches to our walls.

Our inspiration: I’m not sure that we have one in particular. Catalog photos, probably? Whatever is tidy. I was really into “cold and sterile” before I lived with Ashley, she’s opened me up to comfort and warmth. When we saw the feature on Becky and Andrew’s apartment (which is also in our building), Ashley fell in love with their Dusen Dusen bedding, so we got the exact pattern shortly after.

Favorite element: The size of our apartment and the fact that the landlord took the time and effort to restore everything as close to original when we moved in. This apartment has a feel of majesty to it, and occupancy turnover is seldom; some people stay in these units for decades. When we arrived, the original wood floors were pristine, the double molding perfect, and the tile seems all original. I also love having a second half bathroom, and judging by the 20 hours a week I spend taking baths, I’d say my favorite thing is the original pedestal bathtub. Oh, and the pocket doors from the living room into the dining room. The architect William P. White designed this building to have minimal shared walls with other units, so we can hardly ever hear the neighbors.

Biggest challenge: While the front of the apartment faces northwest and is drenched in sunlight, the back of the house tends to be pretty dark. Also, the heating system is a somewhat inefficient pair of tubes that circle the entire unit with hot water. So leave your coat on and bring a flashlight.

What friends say: “Can I have dibs when you move out?” Which is an understandable thing to ask, but the landlord doesn’t allow nepotistic transfers, which I think is great.

Biggest embarrassment: We hardly ever close our blinds and we’re on the first floor on a busy street, so I’m sure every person on the bus has caught a glimpse of our delicate pectorals.

Proudest DIY: We recently covered the exposed kitchen water heater with a removable clear plastic and then painted it with polka dots, so we get a devil-may-care cooking atmosphere while not compromising our security deposit.

Biggest indulgence: We spare no expense when it comes to the comfort of our bed. It’s our favorite place to be, and Sunday is the only day that we let ourselves relax, so we spend most of the day reading and eating in bed. That and five-hour baths.

Best advice: Do your best and don’t worry.


(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)


  • I’m [Derek] pretty fond of Martha Stewart’s Living line; as a painter that works mainly in latex paint, I’ve come to know house paint pretty well. I think BEHR makes a great interior flat enamel that’s to die for. Glidden eggshells are pretty nice too. Alas, the landlord has a uniform set of colors and isn’t thrilled when using any others, so we’re stuck with light tan.
(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)


  • The hot pink drawer chair is very uncomfortable, but so weird and wonderful that we’ll always have it. I bought it off of Craigslist for $60 and still think it was a total deal, even though the guy said he’d been trying to sell it for six months. It’s where we store most of our Nintendo supplies.
  • The extra-long 1960s vinyl couch is from a dentist’s office that was closing in Bellevue, WA. I purchased two at the time and sold the shorter one on Craigslist. It sold so fast for $200 that I’ll always be worried that I underpriced it.
  • The speakers are by Will Jennings Audio Design. Beautiful sound, excellent appearance.
  • We love, love, LOVE candles by local candlemaker Bekah Zietz called The Dank Crystal. Ashley first started with the Golden Gardens scent; now we’re hooked on them all. I bring that up because we have them in nearly all the rooms in our house, but there are usually four in the living room at a time. The scents are perfect and not overpowering, and we’re not even weed smokers.
  • We’ve got a really shabby Lane coffee table that was a hand-me-down from my sister, Sandy. She used it in college and drew and painted all over it, so it’s nice that it isn’t precious. No coasters needed, ever!
  • We’ve got an incredible chest of small drawers made by Chad Smith from Chicago. Each drawer has very tiny compartments, so it’s great for holding many things such as tacks, photos, yarn, incense (yuck), change, keys, etc.
  • Most of the art/photos in our home are from people that we’re honored to call friends. I think that’s one of the most fortunate things about Ashley and my life together.
  • There’s a giant Jim Newberry photograph from a shoot of the band Plush that I will have until the day I die.
  • When I moved to Seattle, I received a painting from Dan Pirone that he found at a thrift store in the 1990s. It’s an original oil painting from the 1950s of Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. It’s a reminder of the kind of things you could find in thrift stores back then, before people started making their living as internet re-sellers.
  • There are two very nice Brittany Kusa drawings from a show that she had at Cupcake Royale in 2012.
  • The painting by Mike Force is of the cover of the Living Stereo version of Ravel’s Bolero.
  • We have four collages by Beth Hoeckel collected over the years, a few from a group show that we had at our house in early 2015.
  • There’s a great painting by Karen Constance that I won in a breakup in the mid-2000s. I hope by mentioning it here that somebody’s not going to ask for it back, because I’d like to keep it.
(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)


  • It’s pretty dorky to have framed records on a wall, but I don’t mind. Signed LPs by musicians that mean a lot to me: The Sea & Cake, Plush, the Fall, Morrissey, My Dad is Dead, Ivor Cutler.
  • The Bees Cause painting is by Darryl Ary. Darryl’s a Seattle painter who sells most of his paintings on the street cheaply. Some of them are kinda dark, but they’re all interesting in a way. The light-hearted and funny ones are my favorite.
  • The Party Forever, Worry Whenever print is by Madeleine Eiche. While this sentiment could be seen as irresponsible, it’s actually just good advice for when I’m feeling uptight.
  • The Hannah Woodroofe collage is about a guy named Chico who used to come into the record store that I used to own in Chicago. He used to say some pretty awesome stuff about being Diana Ross’ dad and being able to talk to people from the future. One day he just vanished, which was kinda magical but also a bummer.
  • The collection of cigarette packs is from the Glore Psychiatric Museum in St. Joseph, MO. It’s a long story why I have this item, and let’s just say that I probably shouldn’t talk about it.
(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)


  • The two doctor’s office sign paintings are from Ghana from the Deadly Prey Gallery in Chicago, IL. The owner Brian imports barber shop, medical office, and movie painting/posters from that area and sells them at his gallery. They’re really colorful and interesting.
  • The Peter Blake Babe Rainbow Silkscreen is from 1968, found at a garage sale in Texas. I remember thinking it was going to be a total steal when asking for the price, but I got it for $50. Which is still actually a total steal.
  • I think they may be controversial dishes, but I wanted to add that I love my Franciscan Desert Rose dinnerware.
(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)


  • There’s not really much to report… there is a giant painting of mine in here called Everything is Easy, Nothing is Hard, which Ashley refuses to allow me to sell. Otherwise, no “magic happens” in this room. That phrase is revolting.
(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)


  • The bathroom is exclusively decorated in Steve Keene paintings, acquired at different times and places. There’s a Tina Turner record cover, the Clash, Black Flag, the Cure, and four Beatles LPs. I love Steve Keene’s record cover paintings, and they’re so affordable, though sometimes you’re at his mercy of what you’ll receive. Though nine times out of ten, it’s great.
  • There’s also a brown cave bat encased in a crystal ball that I bought from John Cusack’s relative at a garage sale in Evanston, IL. I also purchased some of his high school yearbooks.
  • Aside from a metal Garfield garbage can, it’s just a bathroom.
(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)


  • I have three Joan Hiller paintings in here, otherwise it’s just a rotation of personal paintings and cans of paint and supplies to make more paintings.
(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)


The hallway runs most of the length of our apartment, plus opens up into a small atrium at the end, and has a lot of great stuff in it:

  • An original Shana Cleveland drawing of the Supremes from an art show she had at Cairo in Seattle in 2012
  • A copy of Steven Jesse Bernstein’s resume from the early 1990s
  • Two paintings by Ruth Borum-Loveland from Norman, Oklahoma—they’re from a period when she was painting faces with double eyes (I think), and they’re prized possessions.
  • Three papier mâché face masks from a trip to Haiti in 2003
  • A signed copy of one of my favorite records, More You Becomes You, by a band called Plush.
  • A Dame Darcy drawing from the early 2000s—Dame Darcy is a great artist and musician, and also appeared on a number of TV dating shows.
  • A photo of Chicago musician Wesley Willis by Calbee Mundy
  • Two paintings by Margot Bird purchased before she left Seattle for NYC
  • Another Darryl Ary painting called Oh Thank Heaven for 7-11
  • Three pet portraits by Zerrin Koch of guinea pigs Stella and Pig Pig (RIP) and a cat that I no longer have, Dr. O the Snuggy Boy. (Lost him in a breakup—he’s in better hands now.)
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    The living room is a testament to the fact that Ashley’s photography and Derek’s paintings are well-suited to outfit a room together. (Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)

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    Thanks, Derek & Ashley!