Natalie's Beach-Girl-Meets-Book-Nerd Nest

Natalie's Beach-Girl-Meets-Book-Nerd Nest

Theresa Gonzalez
Feb 6, 2012

Name: Natalie Linden aka The Unreliable Novelist
Location: Mission District — San Francisco, California
Size: 400 square feet
Years lived in: Almost 3— rented

My friend Jen and I popped by the home of Natalie Linden, aka The Unreliable Novelist, for some French 75s and girl chat last weekend. It was my first visit to what Natalie calls her hen pen and my attention was instantly drawn to the colorful textiles and thrifty treasures in all the nooks of her large studio. It became difficult to hold a conversation as my eyes wandered everywhere. Collections (obsessions?) of tiny vases, books, plates, and things fill the space in unexpected ways. "I come from a long line of collectors--dishware, antiques, taxidermy, jewelry, surfboards, frogs, more dishware, you name it. But in a space like this, I really have to keep it in check," she says.

With abundant natural light and a killer east view, Natalie's bright studio in San Francisco's Mission District has been key to helping her finish the "feminist-fairy tale-spy" novel that she started two years ago and she is now asking blog readers to pitch in on plot points (this week's poll: should protagonist Tess have sex on the second date? You decide). "I can walk into a space and know immediately if it has the right energy for writing. Don't get me wrong--I'd write in a dungeon if I had to--but I have found that the right environment can make an enormous difference in your mood and productivity."

Her design choices haven't hurt either at keeping writer's block at bay, creating a happy vibe throughout and reaching the perfect pitch of minimal and eclectic. Everything has its place and the chaos feels controlled and beautiful, with a few winks here and there. "Everybody asks about the lobster molds," she laughs, speaking of the suggestive molds that line her kitchen wall. "Actually, the guys don't ask about them. They just chuckle and point, and occasionally pull one off the wall to see how they measure up."

A surfer's daughter (she grew up in southern California), Natalie tried to recapture the beach bungalow in her urban home. "A little piece of my heart will always live by the ocean," she says. "I even have sand and seashells from the beach in Brazil where my parents lived before I was born." Wrestling with her love of travel and her nesting instinct, Natalie has also decorated with souvenirs like a rug from Istanbul's Grand Bazaar and ceramic plates from Ensenada, Mexico. "I can't ever seem to decide if I'm ready to settle in or set off. But coming home with treasures from far-flung destinations certainly beautifies the nest, " she says.

Take a peek at her decorating, and then help Natalie get cracking on her writing.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

MY Style: Beach/boho/book nerd/bargain huntress

Inspiration: As Virginia Woolf so famously said "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." When I rented this place, it felt like I finally found mine. I've filled it with things that inspire my creativity.

Favorite Element: The light and the view. I'm on the 5th floor (a rarity for the Mission District), facing east. I can see all the way from the Bay Bridge to Bernal Heights. I'll take this over square footage any day. Having a whole city out your window is the ultimate writer's de-blocker. Plus, I can issue traffic advisories for my friends.

Biggest Challenge: I wish I could magically add just one more room. My fiancé and I are moving in together in a few months, and I can't quite figure out how to cram us both in.

What Friends Say: When they walk in: wow, it's tiny. After the first cocktail: this is heaven.

Biggest Embarrassment: Not an embarrassment, but a regret: I can't host a proper dinner party. You get more than four people in here and somebody has to call the fire marshall. Dining room tables dance in my head while I sleep.

Proudest DIY: Assembling the two pieces of IKEA furniture...what I lack in handiness I make up for in color coordination.

Biggest Indulgence: The mattress and the desk chair. I probably spent 3/4 of my life in them. My back thanks me every day.

Best Advice:

1. Just keep buying the stuff that really catches your eye. It's incredibly gratifying to see it work together as your collection grows.
2. Don't be in a rush. It's worth it to wait for the right pieces to present themselves to you.
3. Don't get fooled into thinking you have to spend a lot of money. The things I'm most proud of are the ones I spent the least on.

Dream Sources:
• Marchée Aux Puces, Paris
• Portobello Road, London
&My bull; Aunt Diane's archives in Palm Springs

Resources of Note:


    • blue door: Benjamin Moore, Blue Spa



    • table: IKEA
    • tablecloth: Williams-Sonoma
    • plates: Talavera from Ensenada, Mexico
    • champagne glasses: thrift stores


    • pig sandwich tray: Aunt Diane's collection
    • lobster molds: thrift stores
    • framed dish towel above fridge: Third Drawer Down
    • stork carving: Aunt Diane's collection


Thanks, Natalie!

Images: Theresa Gonzalez

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