House Tour: Erin and Melanie's Sunny Mission Oasis

House Tour: Erin and Melanie's Sunny Mission Oasis

Sarah Han
May 26, 2009

Name: Erin Cullerton and Melanie McGraw
Location: San Francisco, CA
Size: 750 sq. ft.
Years lived in: 4 years, rented


Erin and Melanie have made an enviably sweet nest together in this one bedroom Mission District apartment. We love their awesome, sunny backyard and the way the light from outside generously pours into their kitchen. We also appreciate the clean, minimal design scheme they've got going throughout the inside of the home.


Erin, the Assistant Director at the American Institute of Architects who educates the public about local architecture and design, moved into the apartment first, four years ago. Her partner Melanie, an independent filmmaker, joined her two years later, moving up from L.A. Other household members include feline companions Sebastian and Little Cat, a suprisingly friendly feral cat that "found them." The decor in the home is Erin's doing, but Melanie explains that while most of the stuff isn't hers, the apartment still strongly reflects her style.

AT Survey:

My/Our Style: Comfortably modern

Inspiration: White and blue accents, and an attempt at clean, unifying lines!

Favorite Element: Definitely the way we feel when we walk in the door. Like we've left the world behind us. Seeing the garden through the kitchen and bedroom windows and having that constant connection to the outdoors is second best. Right now the Calla lilies are exploding, and the wisteria has just started to bloom. The garden makes the overall footprint of the apartment so much bigger, and it makes us smile every time we come home.

Biggest Challenge: The apartment has a long, linear layout, so it's been a challenge to make each room feel cozy and find a way to artfully display our photography and art collection. Since I work in the design industry, I am exposed to a lot of different styles and experimentation, so it's a constant battle to not want to change things constantly. Given our space constraints, I have had to learn to be happy with making small, meaningful changes instead.

What Friends Say: People gush when they come through the door. We think it's a combination of friends feeling like it's a little treasure given the neighborhood—or that they are surprised we have some semblance of style! We're always flattered when our designer friends love it, and when people ask us when we're moving so that they can move in next.

Biggest Embarrassment: Definitely the taupe rug in the bedroom—it's totally inconsistent with the floors in the rest of the house. Since it's a rental, though, we're stuck with it. Also, the linoleum kitchen floor would not have been our first choice!

Proudest DIY: I would have to say it is the garden transformation. I recently found a photo of what the garden looked like when I first moved in and I was completely shocked. Though we have a gardener, I helped to design the layout and have been slowing integrating my favorite plants and flowers. There were already pear, apple and nectarine trees, but the next step will definitely be growing our own food.
I made the cube in the living room when I lived in London years ago, and shipped it back. Even though it's not totally my style now, it was a true labor of love. I made the side table in the living room, as well as various pillows and hand towels from textiles I have collected over the years.

Biggest Indulgence: Buying more design objects and sometimes furniture (I have a chair problem) than we need and not having a place to put them!

Best Advice: "Go slow and add your favorite things carefully. Making a home takes time." Garden advice: Buy ladybugs and unleash them on the aphid-infested nectarine tree. Indoor composting advice: The chic, stainless steel countertop compost bin from Cole Hardware that was recommended to us by our friend and local artist Cathy Liu.

Dream Source: Spitalfields markets in London, night markets in Bangkok and Luang Prabang, Peace Industry, Designer's Guild, Yolk, Egg, Limn, De Sousa Hughes, Third Street, and Abbot Kinney in Los Angeles, friend's garages and design studios.



Hardware: Ikea for light plates, hooks, lighting fixtures. West elm for picture frames and shelves

Furniture: Various flea markets and consignment shops over the years. Therapy (couch),
Design Within Reach Warehouse Sale (Eames Rocking Chair, Philippe Starck Prince Aha Stools), West Elm (bookcases), Ikea (flat shelving units, which are great for paper collections), San Francisco Design Center Auction (living room chair), handmade (redwood side table in the living room), the Container Store (Blu Dot desk and television stand)

Accessories: Yolk in Los Angeles; Egg, Rose and Radish and Zonal Home in San Francisco (among countless others); Designer's Guild in London; and Hable Construction as well as most of the boutiques in Nolita in New York, have provided more ephemera than I can name. Magazine holder and frames from Room and Board. The metal magazine holder is from Rosie Hanna. Dinnerware and vases from Heath Ceramics. Other ceramics are by Rae Dunn, Diana Fayt, Jonathan Adler, and handmade by me. Planters and garden pieces by Flora Grubb. Orla Kiely at Target — I fell in love with her seven years ago in London and I have a residual problem… Textiles and fabrics, prints and art, lamps and pillows, bowls, ceramics and various objects from my travels to Bangkok, Laos, London, Mexico, Hawaii, Tokyo, Abu Dhabi.

Lighting: Ikea, West Elm, flea markets, The Apartment, Propeller

Rugs and Carpets: Ikea (living room rug), West Elm (runner in the office area) Tibet Rug (kitchen rug, designed by my friend Dolma Chuteng's company).

Beds: Ikea. Linens and pillows from various sources over the years

Artwork: Art by Cathy Liu, Audra Welch, Kavel Rafferty, Kireilyn Barber, Lotta Jansdotter, and others. Prints by Tara Hogan, Dutch Door Press, Ork Design, and others. Photographs we have taken during our travels.


(Thanks, Erin and Melanie!)

Photos by Phillip Maisel

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