House Tour: Dan's Upper Market "Lake" House

House Tour: Dan's Upper Market "Lake" House

Sarah Han
Jul 7, 2009

Name: Dan Johnson Lake
Location: San Francisco, CA
Size: 3-4 bedrooms, including a dining room
Years lived in: 12 years, rented


Twelve years ago, Dan Johnson became the fifth roommate in this 4-bedroom apartment. His prior living situation came to a tragic end when his apartment building was set ablaze, and he found himself desperate for a place to live. He found a room, but he soon learned that it wasn't always easy living with others with differing ideas of decor and cleanliness. But Dan compromised, and over the years, roommates moved out until, finally, he found himself the sole resident of this spacious flat. Finally liberated from other people's stuff and taste, Dan was able to create a unique space of his own.


store on Divisadero Street in North Panhandle. His apartment is a testament of his interest in, and love for the arts, as it's filled with artworks by various friends, artists whose shows he's curated, and his own works of art. It's also alive with many green friends that have come from Plant'It Earth, where he also works as a bookkeeper.

To set the record straight, Dan doesn't live on a lake, nor is Lake his last name. But he and his friends now refer to him and his apartment as "Dan Johnson Lake." The joke came into existence when a friend snapped a shot of a lake with that very name, which hangs in his dining room. The name turns out to be a fitting one for the home. Some parts are dark and deep, with long hallways and so many rooms. It's also a fun place to visit and "play in" -- artists, including Amy Rathbone and Reuben Lorch-Miller, have stayed and created art within these very walls.

AT Survey:

My/Our Style: Minimal

Inspiration: I can't help but conjure antithesis for inspiration... sounds kinda dramatic, I know, but wanting a lifestyle that is the opposite of needing and wanting so many things and gadgets is inspiration. Growing up as one of seven in a household, then a young adult life sentenced to roommates - you realize that you've had your fair share of being so completely surrounded by "stuff" - what's more is that it's "stuff" that you didn't have a choice to be surrounded by - other people's stuff and furniture and bad art that you just wish you could drag out to the curb but you had to live with it. Being liberated from all of that is very inspiring to not adopt that lifestyle of surrounding myself with so many unnecessary "things".

Favorite Element: Natural lighting. So much. I love being away in other cities - I get the San Francisco blues all the time and get really psyched to be somewhere else like New York or LA or Seattle etc.. But if I end up in a dark hotel or a friend's or family member's dark apartment, it really really makes me appreciate all the light in my apartment when I get home. Even if/when I date someone with a dark apartment - after a few days of not being here I get to feeling kind of on edge and really feeling the need to get home and be near some windows! Even when I was a kid, I always hated having to turn lights on in the daytime.

Biggest Challenge: Keeping up with the dust ... the Market Street filth creeps in with reckless abandon.

What Friends Say: Whoa, do you really live here all by yourself?!

Biggest Embarrassment: My shabby split bathroom and my giving in to the laziness of not wanting to paint vaulted ceilings in this place.

Proudest DIY: Completely changing deplorable paint color schemes that existed when I moved in 12 years ago. It took many many many hours.

Biggest Indulgence: I bought a 16 dollar candle from Rainbow Grocery once ... really everything else seems kinda reasonable for what it is and where I got it. Seriously.

Best Advice: Discover what you really like and just kind of stick with that. Try not to deviate too much from one room to another ... it's an apartment and if you don't own it, seems best to not be like, "And this is my Safari room, and this is my collection of Homie figurines." If that makes any sense at all.

Dream Source: I won't lie ... there's stuff I see in Dwell Magazine that knocks my socks off. Also I was/am obsessed with the furniture from the sets of the TV series, Mad Men. I became more obsessed with some of the sets than the characters.. A friend of mine commented on that so eloquently; he said "Don't be embarrassed about that.. the period is a character as well." I daydream window shopping at The Touch on Valencia street and Modern Artifact on Market Street. Record sleeve covers and inserts. Movies. Old Sears catalogs - my Dad worked for Sears for almost 30 years.



Appliances: Not much to speak of at all. I have a small modern refrigerator and a stove that the name brand has worn off of. It's very old and brown and looks like it could have been on the set of Good Times. When I first moved in and had a best friend visit for the first time, he asked, "What's up with the tobacco road stove?!"

Hardware: Not so much. Some Coat hooks and that's about it.

Furniture: Danish stuff. A little bit of Ikea.

Accessories: Lots of plants

Lighting: Pretty much all stock with halogen bulbs. I did a bunch of upside down China Town parasol things to hide so many of the bare bulbs that were here when I moved in. Also see "Favorite Element"?

Rugs and Carpets: I have one rug that was made in India... hopefully under legal working conditions.

Artwork: I've been so fortunate to have met many local artists who have either given me art or sold to me for very cheap. I have been curating art shows for almost three years now, and in the process, have been able to cull a tiny collection of thoughtful art. The hallway has mostly art that I did in college that people seem to get a kick out of. It's been up for years, and I don't have a big enough collection to replace it all with. I promise I am not that narcissistic.

Alissa Anderson (Joanna Newsome photo)
Amy Rathbone (wall installation/fingernail - looking drawing)
Frank Haines (Felt stuff, small silk screens on wood, Dachshunds print)
Mat O'Brien (Stay Blk, Stay Strong, Get A Grip On Things, and various bits of papers)
Barbara Garber (you know that one)
Leslie Shows (Dan Johnson Lake (No Fires) photo)
Paula Malesardi Hansen (Wood and resin panel pieces)
Evan Rehill (framed Jellyfish short story)
Jennifer Uman (small figure paintings on front door)
Nathan Burazor (Wrestler Collage)
Jeremy and Claire Wiess (Daryl Hannah!)
Chris Baird (Led Zep III)
Reuben Lorch-Miller (Rolled Rugs, Crying Lightning Bolts)
Dave Schubert (Photo of Chris Johanson painting)
Lis Goldschmidt (Folded Dollar Bills, Hatch marks with thread on paper)
Ajit Chuahan (Charged)
Will Yakulic (It's Ok To Call In Sick Today, I Do Believe I've Had Enough)
Treasure Frey (i think you know that one too)


(Thanks, Dan!)

Photos by Phillip Maisel

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