A Ceramicist Turned Her Living Room into a Coworking Studio

A Ceramicist Turned Her Living Room into a Coworking Studio

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Name: Marianne Tolosa and my husband, Jamie, and our two cats, Pickles and Suki.
Location: Falls Church, Virginia
Size: 1,600 square feet
Years lived in: 4 years owned, but we just created the co-working space 3 months ago

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When looking to buy our home one of our most important criteria was finding a house with a cozy entertaining space. As a full-time artist who once worked as a barista I think that fostering community and creativity while gathering with your friends over delicious coffee can be good for the soul! My husband and I frequently talk about opening a gallery-coffee shop combination someday, but until that happens we’ve tried hard to make our home into a creative oasis.

“Working from home as a ceramic artist has the potential to feel isolating, which was the impetus behind creating our co-working space.”

Because of this we’ve turned our living room into a co-working/art studio space that’s open for anyone we know to pull up a chair with their laptop, a book, or an art project. We also purchased a commercial espresso machine for me to keep our friends caffeinated while they work! Maybe we watched too much “Friends” and “Seinfeld” while growing up, but we have always loved the idea of having an open door policy for our friends. It’s important to us that the people in our circle feel welcome to come knocking on the door to spend some time with us.

Working from home as a ceramic artist has the potential to feel isolating, which was the impetus behind creating our co-working space. The room melds my pottery studio with coffee-shop-style seating where our friends can bring their creative projects, laptops, books, or whatever they’re working on to spend time in a collaborative atmosphere. My goal was to make it feel bright, airy, feminine, and cheerful; a safe place for any woman to come as she is, drink lots of coffee and tea, feel loved, and just get stuff done. I have a growing list of friends and acquaintances who have been hearing about the space by word of mouth, and every week there are women coming in and out of my home throughout the day!

I think my favorite thing about the space is how quickly we can move from working silently beside each other to talking about real, deep issues just by being together in a contemplative and comfortable place. Of course, I’m not entirely convinced most people don’t show up for the coffee as much as the camaraderie!

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Creative, Modern, and Inviting.

Inspiration: I feel inspired by Old World coffee shops, where creatives used to gather and discuss ideas and art. I hope my space is a modern version of places that people like Monet and Van Gogh spent time.

Favorite Element: My espresso machine. There’s just something about grinding my own espresso, steaming my own milk, and then pouring it together into a mug that I created out of earth and fire that hits my soul in the best possible spot. And I LOVE to share that with friends—being able to craft a beverage and serve it to someone in a functional piece of art is so special to me.

Biggest Challenge: Keeping the space dust free is a constant effort. Making pottery can be a hazard because dry, unfired clay contains silica, and if dried clay is broken or crushed it releases that silica into the air. Chronic inhalation of silica can lead to “potter’s lung,” or “silicosis”—basically, the particles are too large and heavy for your lungs to expel so they just build up in your lungs. It’s a terrible illness. I work hard to consistently wipe down the surfaces of the room with wet sponges and to mop the floor every day or two so that clay dust won’t be an issue. I don’t want to mess around with clay dust and my friends’ (or my!) lungs.

What Friends Say: “This room is so charming!” and “When can I come back?” are the most frequent comments I hear. I also get a lot of comments on my four paintings of the women. They really stand out in the room, and while most people know I’m a potter, not everyone knows that I also paint, so they can be a real conversation starter.

Proudest DIY: The accent wall in our workspace! I know it won’t be to everyone’s liking, but I love how feminine and textural the mix of subtle greens, pinks, and browns look. It took a long weekend, a very tall ladder, and five colors of paint (all rescued from the “mistakes” pile at Home Depot) to create.

Biggest Indulgence: Our West Elm chandeliers. I struggled to give myself permission to buy them—not only are they expensive, but I had previously purchased our couch and side chair from West Elm, and I was wary of making it look like a West Elm show room. But there was zero overhead lighting, and as an art studio where I do lots of fine detail work good lighting was paramount. I haven’t regretted it for a moment!

Best Advice: Try to collect items that speak to you, slowly and over time. Pick up artwork that’s unique to your life, or places you’ve been. You have an innate style, and instead of curating a home from magazines or imitation, I think homes are most authentic and inviting when they’re a combination of things that are special to the people who live there. Be fearless and unapologetic about what you love and collect to make your space! Just like people, each home should have an individual spirit, unique to it alone. If you’re careful about pulling in the things that are meaningful or beautiful to you then your home will have impact and be attractive to the people who love you, because it will read as an extension of yourself.


Dining Room/Kitchen – Behr N460-2 – Planetary Silver
Living Room – Behr 790B-5 – Simple Silhouette
White in the Co-working Space – Custom color match from a paint blend I created

Couch – Craigslist
Side table – Salvaged/Painted
Wooden trunk – Estate Sale
Buffet – My childhood home
“Balloons” lithograph, Alexander Calder – Antique Store in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
RITVA drapes – IKEA
Atomic pendant – Etsy
Faux Barcelona chairs – A friend who was moving
Area rug – Wayfair
Geometric print – My childhood home

Staggered Glass Chandelier, 9-light – West Elm
Side chair, mid-century show wood chair – West Elm
Drake sofa – West Elm
Celosia rug — Crate and Barrel
Jardin print – Yard sale
All paintings – I painted them
Deer skull – Passed down from a friend
Table set – At Home
Pillows – At Home
Work desk (Karlby Countertop with Krille desk legs) – IKEA
Vinyl flooring – Home Depot
Gold cabinet – Salvaged on the road and spray painted
Gold lamp – Estate Sale, spray painted
Studio shelving – Home Depot (spray painted gold)
Plant stands and crates – Estate Sales
Marble and wood side table — Goodwill
Swan bowl – bonboni Home & Gift

Linea Mini espresso machine – La Marzocco
Pendant lamps – Tom Dixon

Thanks, Marianne!

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