Name: Stella (6)
Location: Alamo Square neighborhood, San Francisco
Room Size: 10' x 16' (160 s.f.), not including closet
We have featured shared rooms before but they usually focus on how two or three siblings occupy one space. An example which we do not see as much is a shared space between a parent and a child. This is exactly what Tiffanie did in her San Francisco apartment, where every square foot counts. Combining her daughter Stella's room with her husband David's office sounds daunting, to say the least. But Tiffanie gets it oh-so right with an ingenious room divider, varied paint colors and some eclectic artwork.
A few of Tiffanie's projects have been featured on Ohdeedoh (check out her salvage dollhouse and creative art corner) so we were excited to see how she tackled this unique challenge. Not surprisingly, she didn't disappoint.
How would you describe the look and feel of this room?
The goal was to have it feel like Stella's own room, not her dad's office, and the main play area pulls you in toward the windows so we breeze right by his desk area and into the main space. The feel is serene. It doesn't at all feel like an office. It's a peaceful place to read, and a fun place to play. While I am a huge fan of objet trouvé and vintage pieces, we had a formidable collection of play kitchen equipment that needed a home, so a lot of the feel of the room is dictated by the colors and activity in the play kitchen. We squeezed a lot of function into this space.
I have to tell you, I really struggled with my aesthetic vs. hers. When she was four and a half, everything was about princesses (at six, it's all about fairies now). I wanted to give her the framework to make spaces to PLAY princesses (hanging a sheet down from the side of the bed to make a castle below, a big bag of costumes tucked within reach) but I just couldn't bring myself to turn the room into a pink ruffled palace, even though I know she would've loved it. If Oliver ever moves out of our bed, this will be his room too, and it's big enough and gender-neutral enough for both of them.
What is your favorite piece or element?
We all love the tree. I'm all about using all surfaces of a room to bring it together. I think there are only two spaces in our whole apartment that don't have something hanging on or from the ceiling. The tree is just beautiful, but my personal favorite is the old mirrored bathroom cabinet over the play sink. You can't stand at a kitchen sink without some form of visual release. I found that on the street when I was in architecture school twenty years ago. I can't believe it's still in one piece. It brings dimension to that corner.
This room is a wonderful collection of interesting items. Do you continually comb thrift stores, tag sales and specialty shops and grab what interests you or do you get a specific idea in your head and then find an object that fits the bill?
For our apartment in general, yes, we do enjoy going to a few great Bay Area flea markets and some great local Danish and mid-century shops for things we like. I am still desperately checking certain places every week for lighting for our woefully underlit living room and Stella's bedroom. The limitations of the space we had in Stella's room, the functions we required, and the things we already had that needed somewhere to go gave me way less room for play than I would've liked.
I knew exactly what I wanted when I went looking for the crates to make the separation between the office and the bedroom. I'm not sure what I would've done if I wouldn't have found them. Maybe a curtain? Pretty much everything besides the crate divider was already here and waiting for a home.
I would love to be able to throw some other cute things I find into her room (a vintage chair or desk, a giant stuffed toy dog, etc.), but we're out of space. Especially after I built the dollhouse. Such is city living!
What was your biggest challenge in decorating this room?
You mean besides laying the carpet by myself with a baby strapped to my chest? Making sure that everyone has enough natural light, while protecting Stella from the glare of the computer screens if one of us comes in the room to work at night. The space above the crate divider and the way it steps down lets in a lot of daylight, but the taller portion keeps Stella's bed area dark for sleeping. Also, securing it. We live in earthquake country. There are lots of thin cables connecting the units to the ceiling joists, screws from inside the crates to the wall studs, and screws from crate to crate. But most importantly, I left a pin connection at the bottom of the stack of crates, so that in a quake it will slide back and forth on the slick finished surface of the Ikea Expedit bookcase below, giving David's books a chance to shake out onto his desk before any crate might start to think about coming off the cables.
One more thing. It took a long time to figure out window treatments. I looked at so many curtains. Whatever I would've chosen I'm sure would've changed the mood of the bedroom, for better or worse. Finally we decided on simple roll-up shades. But I did A LOT of thinking about that before we went with the shades.
What do your friends say about the room?
"What was here before?" or "Wow". A lot of them are drawn to the banner from the Conservatory of Flowers, maybe because there's a giant pill in the middle of it. We've lived here together for eight years, Stella has only been in here for a year and a half, I am sort of flattered they can't remember what it was previously.
How do you think your training as an architect influenced your style?
I'm not sure it did, in this case. I am really into creating space, like every architect is or should be. Sometimes you can position furniture in very aesthetically pleasing configuration but no one ends up sitting there, so I was pleased that the spaces within the room invite the activity they were intended for. As far as style, it was really dictated by the objects we already had. My style is actually a lot more rustic and warmer than how this room turned out!
Do you have any advice for creating an atypical shared space, like this kids' room/office?
If you can get in there and just start to experiment with where things go, they will tell you where they want to go. I drew this room up in plan and experimented with a few different configurations, but it wasn't until I got all the crates and bought the door for my husband's desktop that I really knew it was going to work. We had this giant vintage dresser to contend with, too, and it is an asset as opposed to a space hog, because we dragged it around until we found where it would feel unobtrusive. Just like any renovation, you've got to take it one step at a time. We couldn't paint until we got new windows, we couldn't put down new carpet until we painted. You have to be patient and build it one step at a time.
Now that this shared room has been functional for over a year, is it working as planned? Any tweaks or things you would do differently?
The main objectives (being able to work without waking her at night, giving her a space she really loves) have worked out great. The spaces stay separate and there is little toy flow over into David's office area. I think because it's darker over there the kids just don't gravitate to that side.
I really miss being able to snuggle with Stella easily and readily, but the IKEA loft bed we bought has a weight limitation that I just don't like to test. I might've scrapped the whole raised bed idea if I knew I couldn't just jump onto the bed and read her a book. So we let her fall asleep in our bed every once in a while so we can read and drift off to sleep together. The good thing about the loft, of course, is the extra floor area below it, that one day will be where Oliver sleeps.
If money were no object, what would be your dream source?
We're renters, I'm not sure how much further we could take it. That's a tough one. I do collect wall banners and probably could find an even more appropriate one for Stella's room at Better Wall. And right down the street is a great vintage/mid-century furniture place which if I had carte blanche I'd just take it all home and start over.
• Wall paint: Benjamin Moore Robin's Nest #618
• Wall banner: Souvenir shop at The Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park
• Vintage fruit and Coke crates: Various Etsy shops
• Eames chair: DWR warehouse sale
• Low bookcase and loft bed: Ikea
• Depression era dresser: A store in the Mission called Therapy, which I don't think sells furniture anymore
• Tree/birds: A backyard garden/Ikea, circa 2003
• Birch tree closet tapestry: Urban Outfitters
• Carpet: California Carpet
• Dollhouse: Me!
(Images: Tiffanie Turner)
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