Mary Roach’s Nest: The Curious Charm of a Writer’s Pad

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Name: Author Mary Roach & Graphic Designer/Illustrator Ed Rachles
Location: Glenview — Oakland, California
Size: 1,800 square feet
Years lived in: 7 — owned

Mary Roach’s best-selling books, like Stiff and Packing for Mars, invite readers to unusual places such as morgues, labs, and outer space. In her books, Mary reveals the science (and humor) behind dead bodies, sex, and errr…other funky stuff. With this, one might expect that Mary, and her husband Ed, live in a home crawling with creepy curiosities like “skulls, plastinated specimens, or other book-related relics”. Rather, their nest is infested with artful charm and relaxed style that is truly one-of-a-kind.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Mary and Ed live in a 1912 California Craftsman bungalow located in the eclectically comfortable Glenview neighborhood in Oakland. They love living in Oakland and appreciate the convenience and affordability, fantastic restaurants on Park Boulevard, and people-watching around Lake Merritt as the sun sets in the pink sky. Mary writes in a downtown Oakland office, which she shares with several other writers and radio types. So for Mary, being at home means relaxing while listening to beautiful tunes wafting from their musical neighbors, bird (and squirrel) watching, and seeing flora out of every window. Ed is an illustrator and graphic designer who is good with tools; a skill he learned from his dad.

Ed’s craftiness shows itself throughout their house, especially in the recently remodeled kitchen that he installed. It has a green twist, both figuratively and literally. They selected a Cricket Field green floor, which exudes a simple freshness; especially, since Mary notes that the floor color was their most difficult decision. The material is Marmoleum, featured on Apartment Therapy before, and made from renewable resources: linseed oil, wood flour, pine resin, natural pigments and a jute backing. Also environmentally sustainable, their black Richlite paper countertops (similar to those shown here on re-nest) have a laboratory-chic vibe, which Mary said she wanted, befittingly. Other unique touches include: vintage-inspired orange pendant lights, a built-in breakfast nook accented with throw pillows made by Ed (of course), and Sears’ scratch-n-dent appliances that look full-priced.

Mary and Ed like to collect things: art pieces and ephemera that move them (in more ways than one). Their collection comes from family, friends or people they know in the community, like the artists with developmental disabilities from Creative Growth and Creativity Explored, two local nonprofit visual art centers. Look further to discover some particularly curious and comedic morsels lurking between the cracks…

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Random.

Favorite Element: A turny staircase with a funny little long window.

What Friends Say: “Hey, get your doorbell fixed!”

Biggest Embarrassment: Redoing the kitchen.

Proudest DIY: Redoing the kitchen. (Ed did it!)

Biggest Indulgence: Redoing the kitchen.

Best Advice: Marry an Ed.

Dream Sources: Alameda Flea Market.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Resources of Note:



    • Blue console table: Ed made it from scratch!
    • Art: Creativity Explored
    • Metal collage art : by Grant Ditzler


    • Bent plywood coffee table: David Brunicardi he makes them to order in his warehouse in the Sunshine biscuit factory in Oakland
    • Blue leather chair: Alameda Flea Market (aka Alameda Point Antiques and Collectibles Faire)
    • Cedar of Lebanon long bench: Paul Smith (now in Los Angeles)
    • Fish top table: French 50s 60s (store in Los Angeles)
    • Rocking chair: L&G Stickley antique (I bought it for 40 bucks from a friend’s old landlord in the Haight. Bud Morey, his name was.)
    • Lamp with spiral metal base: also from Bud Morey (actually he gave it to me, because he thought it was so ugly.)
    • Sculpture (on the mantel): from Creative Growth
    • Side table with refrigerator pan top: Academy of Art University auction
    • Windmill silkscreen print: by Lily Rachles (Ed’s daughter)
    • Kangaroo rat iphoto: by David Liittschwager
    • Rug: Crate & Barrel


    • Dining table: some antiques place in Marin
    • Rug: bought from Ed’s ex-wife
    • Curtains: IKEA
    • Dining chairs: from garage sales
    • Nail box art: by Tim Barrett


    • Architect for kitchen remodel: Bill Engelhardt. He does lots of renovations in the Oakland area. Reasonable and super professional.
    • Refrigerator: Fisher and Paykel (from Sears’ Outlet scratch-n-dent warehouse in San Leandro)
    • Stainless stove hood: General Appliance of Berkeley
    • Flooring: Marmoleum (natural linoleum made from renewable, natural ingredients), color Cricket Field
    • Flooring installation: by John Frick of Frick Flooring and Installation (he’s really good)
    • Countertops: Richlite (paper-based solid sheets made from FSC-Certified and/or recycled sources).
    • Cabinets: Cabinets by John (seriously, that’s the business name)
    • Cabinet hardware: House of Antique Hardware (good deals)
    • Orange pendant light fixtures: Rejuvenation
    • Penny tiles on backsplash: Art Tile (store located on Broadway in Oakland)
    • Blue bench cushions: made by Teal Major at Slips in Berkeley
    • Metal small table: from a neighborhood store called Fernseed, that reconditions old stuff (closed recently). Her stuff was kinda great. She took cheap old plastic outdoor chairs and painted them cool colors. Made huge hanging lamps from hula hoops and fabric, and tables from old suitcases. Really creative.
    • Tulip photograph: by Jeff Lindeman, General Manager of Mountain View Cemetery
    • Black & white photographs: Phoebe Rachles
    • Figures of little men in the black suits (on the kitchen shelves): from Venezuela, depict patron saint Jose Gregorio Hernandez


    • Birds art print: by Lily Rachles
    • Landscape photographs: by Ed Rachles
    • Sepia tone photograph: by Susan West



    • Blue bench: Ed and Lily made it together
    • Old chaise lounge chair: Alameda Flea Market


    • Footstools/hassocks: Ebay
    • Bookshelf: Fenton MacLaren (painted green by Ed)
    • Rug: Anthropologie
    • TV console: IKEA (Ed added the casters)
    • San Francisco Giants print: by Lily Rachles

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Thanks, Mary & Ed!

Images: Beth Lundell Garver

• HOUSE TOUR ARCHIVE Check out past house tours here
• Interested in sharing your home with Apartment Therapy? Contact the editors through our House Tour Submission Form.
• Are you a designer/architect/decorator interested in sharing a residential project with Apartment Therapy readers? Contact the editors through our Professional Submission Form.