Rena’s Global Eclectic San Francisco Apartment

updated Dec 19, 2019
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(Image credit: Stephanie Strickland)
(Image credit: Patrick Cline)

Today’s tour is the second in a collaborative series curated by Jeanine Hays and Bryan Mason of Aphrochic for Apartment Therapy. They handpicked homes from around the world to share that capture the culture and style that they celebrate in their book, Remix: Decorating with Culture, Objects, and Soul.

Name: Rena Thiagarajan
Location: Russian Hill; San Francisco, California
Size: ~800 square feet
Years lived in: 8 years; rented

Rena’s cozy San Francisco apartment is truly a feast for the eyes. There are vintage photographs of India, containers from Marrakech, a rare rug from Kazakistan — a beautiful symphony of treasures collected over the years, and each with its own story. You might be surprised to learn that she was an attorney for several years before she decided to change careers and pour her resources into an enterprise called Project Bly, a San Francisco start-up that combines a passion for world travel and shopping curated art, textiles and more. Rena’s apartment clearly reflects both of these passions, so it’s easy to see why she would be the “Adventurer in Chief” of Project Bly!

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(Image credit: Stephanie Strickland)

Rena manages to successfully toe that oh-so-thin line between curated and cluttered, a balance many of us are constantly trying to find. What makes her apartment so enticing is the fact that she has managed to fill it to the brim with wonderful and interesting things to look at, yet the eye never feels overwhelmed. Even more importantly, there is plenty of room for good company!

(Image credit: Stephanie Strickland)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Global eclectic. I love mixing vintage and antique pieces with contemporary and handcrafted pieces. Most everything in my home has been collected over time and has a story.

Inspiration: Urban travel, graffiti and street art, abstract expressionism, nature, textiles.

Favorite Element: My apartment is in a pre-earthquake building on Russian Hill. I love the details of the hardwood floor as well as all the morning light I get. As for my favorite piece in my apartment, it has to be my rug. I love textiles and when I moved into my apartment 8 years ago after grad school, I waited to find the perfect rug before I purchased any furniture. The muted gray rug with red pomegranates in my living room is from East Khotan, an oasis town on the historic Silk Road located on the edge of the Taklamakan desert in Northwest China. This rug inspired me to read voraciously about the Silk Road and visit Bukhara, Uzbekistan — another famous stop for camel caravans.

Biggest Challenge: Wall space! I don’t have enough wall space to display my art collection. I have collected contemporary Indian art for almost a decade and don’t have room to hang everything. I also paint myself and store my own paintings in my hallway stacked up against the wall. I’d love a place to store them!

What Friends Say: So cozy and so colorful! Where is that from?

Biggest Embarrassment: When I first moved in, I painted my living room blue. It’s hard for art to shine on blue walls and between my art, walls and rugs, there was too much color! I love color and pattern, but having too much of it can be overwhelming.

Proudest DIY: I hung my curtains and art by myself. Nothing hangs quite straight in my apartment, but I did learn to use a power drill!

Biggest Indulgence: Rugs and art.

Best Advice: Your home should be a reflection of who you are, where you come from, and where you want to go. Most importantly, it should be a place to put your feet up and dream, so make sure you buy a comfortable couch, preferably wide enough for two!

Dream Sources: The Souks of Marrakech for Berber rugs and kilims, Fergana Valley in Uzbekistan for ikat and ceramics, Arimatsu in Japan for Shibori (I’ve never been but can’t wait to visit this craft village famous for its indigo!).

(Image credit: Stephanie Strickland)

Resources of Note:


  • Glass & Metal Console, Crate & Barrel
  • Black & White Photographs of Chennai, India in the 1900s
  • Silver Hammam Bowl from Marrakech, Project Bly
  • Doll from Bukhara, Project Bly
  • Painting by Masuram Ravikant


  • Mid Century Modern Credenza, Mid Century Modern Finds
  • Black Metal Console, Mid Century Modern Finds
  • Brass Lamp, Flea Market Find
  • Couch, Crate & Barrel
  • Leather & Cane Chair and Leather Ottoman, Crate & Barrel
  • Brass Teapots from Mumbai and Marrakech, Project Bly
  • Couch Pillows, Project Bly
  • Floor Pillows, West Elm
  • Glass and Wood Coffee Table, Apartment Therapy Classified
  • Paintings: RM Palaniapan, Sunil Shree, Suhas Shilker
  • East Khotan Rug, purchase from a vendor in Almaty, Kazakistan
  • Textile on the Couch is a Manta from La Paz, Bolivia, Project Bly
  • Mid Century Floor Lamp, Mid Century Modern Finds
  • Linen curtains, West Elm


  • Dining Table, Craig’s List
  • Leather Chairs, Big Daddy Antiques
  • Kilims from Turkey
  • Table Runner from Laos (Gift from my mother)
  • White Ceramic Canisters from Marrakech, Project Bly
  • Wooden Fruit Bowl from Oaxaca, Project Bly
  • Vintage photographs of Indian Royals, Rajasthan, India


  • Bedding by Restoration Hardware
  • Painting by John Tun Sein
  • Side Table by Room & Board
  • Black Chair (used as a side table), Etsy
  • White Eames Chair, Mid Century Modern Finds
  • Dresser (from my student days!), Ace Hardware
  • Wooden Jewelry Hanger, Alameda Flea Market
(Image credit: Stephanie Strickland)

Thanks, Rena!

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