House Tour: Mariah's Eclectic House of Curios and Collectibles

House Tour: Mariah's Eclectic House of Curios and Collectibles

Sarah Han
Feb 3, 2009

Name: Mariah Gardner
Location: San Francisco's Mission District
Size: 3 bedroom, 2 ½ bath apartment
Years lived in: 4 ½ years rented

Mariah is a Jack of all trades. She's the kind of person who can fix her own boat, sew her own clothes, whip up a meal for 30 or more friends, and whistle Dixie, all the while looking cool and composed. She manages to be put together without being over the top, old-fashioned without being outdated, and classic without being square. So we weren't surprised when we first visited her apartment that it was a mirror to her self, outfitted with carefully culled curiosities, fun and vibrant artwork, and enviable vintage finds and doo-dads.

We love that the apartment that she shares with her boyfriend Dave, her cat Chairman Meow, and her friends Mara and Chris, almost has the feel of stepping back in time to another era. Again, very fitting, as Mariah's current day job has her acting as a sailing captain aboard a Tall Ship, as part of a costumed living history program for school aged children. And before this gig, she was a seasonal costume designer for Berkeley Rep Theatre. Her artistic and crafting skills have also been featured in instructional craft/sewing tips in Readymade magazine and a show of her photographs at the Curiosity Shoppe. But as for her home, Mariah mixes in enough modern accessories and artwork, and liveable and practical details that nullify any tendency for the home to be overly retro or staged. We liked the fact that when we've been a guest in Mariah's apartment, we felt at ease and at home.

AT Survey

My style: Eclectic mid-century farmhouse

The inspiration for my home: Depression-era and Midwestern family homes; so many fading photos and strange collectibles mixed with a healthy dose of "modern" art.

Favorite element: The way all the curios, plants and furniture pieces fit together to form interesting vignettes

Biggest challenge in designing my home: Being a renter and not able to change some of the existing elements (cabinetry, bathroom tiles, etc) as well as working around some really funky repair jobs.

What friends say about my home: On the first visit there's a lot of "Holy (your choice of expletive), this place is huge!" followed by "Jesus, you've got a lot of stuff." We threw a party once while my ma was visiting and people actually thought the house was hers.

Biggest embarrassment in my home: The bathrooms; Not very exciting and they're always dirty. We also get mammoth dustballs rolling around the hall like tumbleweeds.

Proudest DIY: The wall to wall bookshelf I built in the dining room.

Biggest indulgence with respect to my home: Probably the amount of time I spend doing ridiculous things like arranging the books according to color and texture and age. So silly, but I can spend hours just moving things around until I get it just right. Everyone teases the hell out of me (and it does sound totally obsessive-compulsive), but it I'm always thinking of those photo spreads in old Life Magazines with their bright colors and everything placed just so and a tasty casserole baking in the oven. It all gets strewn about during dinner parties anyhow and then I get to start all over. Total nerd.

Best advice given or received: If you can, get a housecleaner once a month. Split between the four of us it costs almost nothing and there are certain things (like taking a ladder to the cobwebs) that somehow get talked about for weeks and just never get done. Unfortunately, I'm giving this advice to myself again right now.

Dream source for stuff: Antique stores in the midwest are absolute heaven. Even just getting a few hours out of San Francisco seems to open up the treasure trove as far as furniture goes. Here in the city I have a spend way too much time at Thrifttown, and in the East Bay, Urban Ore's awesome. I also have a knack for finding great furniture on the street.

Appliances Mostly thrifted, Thriftown, Urban Ore, garage sales.
Hardware Ace Hardware, Cole Hardware and occasionally the dreaded Home Depot
Furniture Thrifttown, the Salvation Army on Valencia St, flea markets, garage sales, you name it.
Accessories Cole Hardware, Urban Ore and Cliffs Variety on Castro St.
Lighting All the crazy chandeliers were already here, but most everything else was found at a thrift or garage sale. I also like to make lights out of old speakers and things.
Paint Kelly Moore and whatever's local.
Window Treatments Ikea and the fabric store.
Beds I got my sweet captain's bed off of Craigslist.
Art We've got lots of artistic friends who've helped contribute to the collection. There's lots of photography going on with this group and other creative friends whose genius we get to bask in. Local art shows are a fun resource. Creativity Explored (a nonprofit visual arts center where artists with developmental disabilities create, exhibit, and sell art -- so awesome) always has amazing stuff. One of my favorite pieces is a painting of Rod Stewart I got there; I think it may be the first piece of art I've ever bought. I also have a pretty healthy collection of ephemera, including homemade postcards, doodles on napkins ... there's a place for everything.

Thanks, Mariah!


Photos by Phillip Maisel

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