Emma Makes the Most of a (Temporary) Move Back to Her Childhood Home

published Feb 2, 2016
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(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)

Name: Emma Fineman
Location: Oakland, California
Size: 238 square feet
Years lived in: 17

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We recently shared artist Emma Fineman’s stylish Memphis-inspired studio, in which she paints as well as designs textiles and apparel for her women’s clothing brand, Weft + Hide. Today, we get a glimpse into her cozy, temporary living quarters in her childhood home, filled with plants, textiles, and mementos from her travels.

(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)

Emma spends a good part of the year traveling for her work as a painter and designer, and she most recently completed an intensive artist residency in Iceland. In this time of transition between traveling and applying to grad school, she has found herself temporarily taking up residence in the home she grew up in. Having a bright studio located in the spacious garage (making her commute each morning very speedy!) as well as having the ability to focus on and incubate some of her larger-scale creative projects makes living at home in this short season of her life artistically fruitful.

In keeping with the spirit of her studio, Emma’s living space is a trove of DIY gems. From her gorgeous wood headboard—made with timber from a 100-year-old house in her neighborhood—to the love seat that she reupholstered with mud cloth, her mantra truly is, “Try your hand at making it!”

(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: I am a collector of things I find while traveling, so there are many fabrics present in my space that represent other cultures that celebrate amazing and wonderful handcraft. I really like combining those items with modern handmade goods, most of which are my DIY projects. I’m not entirely sure what the name of that aesthetic is, but it’s definitely one that is well-represented throughout hip shops in the Bay Area, haha. Also plants, gimme all the plants.

Inspiration: My space is very much inspired by local aesthetics. It is a combination of natural and handmade elements mixed with contemporary furniture that as been inspired by Mid-century furniture designers like Henry Bertoia. I love seeing so many amazing artists and makers using their hands instead of machines to custom make beautiful wares. I really appreciate the skill and time it takes to create objects by hand and am often drawn to them.

Favorite Element: My favorite element about both my room and studio is the stories present in the objects that fill them. I would say that many things in my spaces aren’t simply ordered and shipped from some unknown far away place. I really like that. I love looking at my headboard, for instance, and knowing the exact house down the street that the wood came from, that the architect of that 100-year-old house was the same as the one who designed our house, and the steps that it took for me to put it all together.

What Friends Say: I think my friends mostly just love my bed. It’s sort of the most comfy bed of all time.

Biggest Embarrassment: I have one terrarium that just won’t live. It makes me look like a terrible plant mama.

Proudest DIY: My headboard and mud cloth chair.

Biggest Indulgence: My diamond blanket from Joinery.

Best Advice: Try your hand at making it! I think people often get discouraged by all the countless Pinterest fails they see on the web, or their supposed lack of hand skill, but I can assure you that with a bit of patience and tenacity, so many projects that seem impossible really aren’t as hard to do as you might think. It also might just boil down to needing the right tool for the job.


(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)


  • Bed: DIY using wood from a 100-year-old house in the neighborhood
  • Diamond blanket: Joinery in NYC
  • Chair: The chair came from an antique shop in Vallejo, and I reupholstered it with mud cloth. There is a great store on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley called Albo African Gift Shop where you can find great mud cloth. If you are local, you can also get it at the Alameda Flea Market the first Sunday of every month.
  • Lamps: I made all my lamps from scrap parts, most of which I got at the Alameda Flea Market and Urban Ore on San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley.
  • Work bench: came with the house
  • Small stool: antique shop on Telegraph Avenue just up the street from Albo
  • Monstera plant: Berkeley nursery on San Pablo Avenue
  • Most of the succulents: Home Depot
  • Cow skull: from a cross-country road trip I did with my best friend from college—I believe we got that one in North Dakota.
  • Rug: kilim from Istanbul
  • Framed butterflies: from my dad—he super randomly used to pin butterflies for a period in his life and still has some of his collection.
  • Singer sewing machine: Alameda Flea Market
  • Sheepskin: IKEA
  • Big rusty terrarium: my friend’s barn/mill in Maryland
  • Old Nikon film cameras: my grandpa Bill’s
  • Pillows on my bed: Joinery in NYC
  • Pillows on my chair: kilim pillows from Turkey
  • Bucket painting: by my Grandpa Bill
  • All other paintings: by me
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In this period of transition, Emma has made the most of living with her family in the home she grew up in by filling her living space with pieces that she has picked up during her travels. (Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)

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Thanks, Emma!