A 440-Square-Foot San Francisco Apartment Feels Larger Thanks to a Fresh and Minimal Style

A 440-Square-Foot San Francisco Apartment Feels Larger Thanks to a Fresh and Minimal Style

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Name: Erin Roberts and husband Neeraj
Location: San Francisco, California
Size: 440 square feet
Years Lived In: 2 years, rental

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My husband and I spent two years lovingly collecting heirlooms and designer pieces that make us happy—from pieces that were long sought after to ones that were serendipitously found shopping during our travels. With the small square footage, taking a minimalist design approach works well both for our aesthetic and our space requirements, where clutter is often revisited and let go and each new piece brings life and love to our tiny abode. Inspired by Australian and Japanese design with a little California desert mixed in, we went for a natural, relaxing, minimalist aesthetic with low profiles and warm desert colors. Many pieces featured are favorites from local stores like Field Theory, Super Simple, Stuff Vintage, and Black & Gold, as well as artwork from up-and-coming artists all over the world.

We decided to take on a minimalist approach when we moved into our small apartment together, partially to optimize space, but also after admiring the beautiful simplicity of Danish and Japanese design. We love the way these spaces can be so breathtaking and yet so simple, and wanted to combine them with the warmth of a relaxed, bohemian vibe. From there we chose each new item mindfully with beauty and function in equal importance, and let all the rest of the clutter go.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Natural, modern, minimalist.

Inspiration: Japanese, Danish, and Australian design. Joshua Tree desert.

Favorite Element: Our indoor garden. We’ve collected many plants over the years and love the way they give the house a cozy, natural indoor-outdoor feel. Relaxing outside on a patio surrounded by beautiful landscaping and vistas is one of our favorite pastimes so it’s great to have more of that inside with our big multi-unit apartment building and no backyard. One of our favorite purchases was a nine-foot tall dracaena tree from Craigslist, where we drove all the way to Carmel to pick it up from a family moving out of town who had it for almost 10 years! It’s nearly impossible to find such tall beauties in a store, so it was incredible to find one with such history and give it a second happy home.

Biggest Challenge: Architectural finishes. It can often be tricky to work around architectural finishes in a rental that you can’t change, especially when the colors are outside your normal aesthetic. We were tempted to go with white oak furniture everywhere for a light, natural minimalist vibe, but found that with the existing flooring, warmer woods like cherry and teak actually added better contrast. This ended up being perfect for vintage shopping since these were very popular woods in the fifties and sixties!

Proudest DIY: Framed artwork. Finding framed artwork at local galleries with the right aesthetic and a good price point can be quite challenging. We wanted something budget friendly and unique, so instead we found up-and-coming artists at the West Coast Craft Fair and on Instagram to purchase directly and frame ourselves. We also found some amazing unframed sketches at local vintage stores! We floated them all on watercolor paper instead of using a traditional mat board to get that casual raw-edge look and the outcome is really stunning.

Biggest Indulgence: Ceramics. I am absolutely in love with ceramics and have been collecting them for some time, from bowls to sake cups to water pitchers. I feel drawn to exciting new sculptural shapes in everyday objects and think of them more and more as art—the uniqueness they bring is worth every penny. My favorite new artist is Sarah Koik from L.A. who has the most incredible visionary approach to ceramics—geometric, sculptural, brutalist, natural, and somehow so perfectly effortless.

Best Advice: Shop vintage. Pulling from a few local favorites like Field Theory, Stuff Vintage, and the Alameda Antique Fair, we were able to save thousands of dollars on great designer pieces to create a space rich with character. Amazing vintage finds like our coffee table, lounge chairs and dresser are some of our most cherished pieces. Vintage shopping can be very hit or miss but when you find the perfect piece that brings you so much joy, it’s worth the hunt and feels so special to bring home.


Enzo Modern Sofa Sectional with Motorized Recliner — West Elm
Geometric Artwork — Block Shop, L.A.
Vintage Cut-Out Coffee Table Attributed to Greta Grossman — Field Theory, SF
Vintage Teak Upholstered Armchair, Designer Unknown — Alameda Antique Fair
Vintage Siesta Chair by Ingmar Relling — Field Theory, SF
Vintage Walnut Dresser with U hooks, Designer Unknown — Stuff Vintage, SF
Ceramics — Earthen Shop, SF
Jute Rug — Rugs USA
Plants — Flora Grubb Gardens, SF

White Oak Desk — Akron St, NY
Custom Wall Hanging — Damaris Kovach, Etsy
Blush Circle Purse — Couper et Coudre, England
Hoffman Chair — Design Within Reach
Vintage Blush Turkish Rug — Hands On Hips, Etsy
Pom Bedding — MoMo Pom, Etsy
Ghost Cactus in Bowl — Succulence, SF
Custom Mobile — CALIGRAFIA N°12, Adaism, Portugal
Round White Vase — CB2
Desk Lamp — Target

Thanks, Erin!

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