Vivian & Leonard’s Converted Loft in Oakland

updated Dec 19, 2019
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(Image credit: Monica Roy)

Name: Vivian and Leonard
Location: West Oakland; Oakland, California
Size: 1,100 square feet
Years lived in: Leonard since August 2010, Vivian since December 2011; Rented

Though Leonard was living in their West Oakland loft before Vivian, the two have managed to successfully bring in both of their personalities to create a rustic and organic space. When it comes to decorating their home, they always strive to feature elements that represent them both, which Vivian and Leonard say make their loft a cozy and relaxing home in the middle of a concrete urban neighborhood.

(Image credit: Monica Roy)

Walking through their home, guests can instantly get a sense of their creative personalities (their apartment building is home to a community of Bay Area artists and creative people). Vivian’s personal photos and art can be seen on the walls of their apartment, and Leonard’s musical instruments are scattered throughout. His drum set is the main focal point of the space, placed underneath the huge wall of windows. Vivian’s fortunate possession of a green thumb also allowed her to bring in numerous house plants when she moved in, which balance out Leonard’s collection of taxidermied animals.

What makes their apartment so special, Vivian and Leonard say, is that they could tell stories about each part and element they’ve added. “There’s so much about this apartment that I love and makes me really feel at home,” Vivian said. “It truly is a space that represents two people with all the elements in harmony with each other.”

(Image credit: Monica Roy)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Organic and rustic with some touches of mid-century modern.

Inspiration: Our inspiration was the apartment itself. Living in a converted warehouse means you get a space with a distinct character all of its own. The large exposed redwood beams and wall of windows pushed us in a more natural and organic direction. We wanted whatever we populated our apartment with to feel in harmony with the space itself.

Favorite Element: All of our plants! Specifically, the large colocasia (elephant ear plant) that we use as a room divider. Never in my dreams did I think that the seven inch houseplant would grow to such massive proportions in six years. A lot of the plants in our home were raised from tiny house plants and help make our apartment feel more inviting. I also like how the live plants balance out the Len’s (dead) taxidermied animal heads.

Biggest Challenge: Figuring out how to layout and divide the space as well as create storage. Before I moved in, Len had made part of the apartment his music studio. The area next to the window was where his mixer and musical instruments resided. However, once I moved in, we decided to make the most of the window light and transition his bachelor apartment into a place suitable for both of us. After several different tries of configurations, as occurs when you’re working with a large empty rectangle, we settled on splitting the main living space into our living room and dining room/kitchen. A buffet along with my large elephant ear plant helps divide the space without blocking conversation and the natural window light. Also, we quickly realized that most regular sized home furniture was going to feel small due to the unusually large elongated space. That’s where we turned to Ikea and Home Depot to create some furniture made specifically for the space.

What Friends Say: When people come over they often remark on how cozy our apartment feels. The warehouse is very unassuming and kind of cold from the outside so it’s a nice contrast to have a living space that feels comfortable and homey. The space is really nice at night too as we made sure to use lots of warm lighting (no harsh bright fluorescents) to create a cozy mood.

Biggest Embarrassment: If you come by our place on laundry day, you’ll see that we use the whole apartment to hang dry our wet clothes. From the kitchen chairs to the drums in the front room, clothing is strewn about like a teenager’s bedroom. We haven’t figured out a more practical and aesthetically pleasing way to deal with drying laundry.

Proudest DIY: I love our “faux-denza”, the long credenza we built running down our hallway. We made it out of seven IKEA bathroom sink cabinets, 4x6s and plywood that we stained and glossed. Staining the plywood helped make the piece look more finished and kept in harmony with the apartment’s exposed redwood beams. The faux-denza provides ample storage space, a nice long surface to place things and includes a vanity area for Vivian.

Biggest Indulgence: The Scandinavian Designs buffet and kitchen table set. We were on a DIY kick after making our bookshelf, the faux-denza, the TV media stand and my desk so we wanted to try to make something to divide the living room from the kitchen. After a couple failed attempts with metal pipes and IKEA shelving, we decided that buying something nice was worth saving ourselves the headache of trying to DIY something.

Best Advice: Never underestimate IKEA. A lot of DIY hacks can be done with IKEA furniture to make it look less IKEA. It just takes a little inspiration ( and some elbow grease. We really took advantage of the fact that Home Depot cuts wood for free, so we didn’t need power tools for our DIY creations. Also, use Craigslist for art! A lot of my favorite art pieces were found on Craiglist. (But patience during the searching process is key!)

(Image credit: Monica Roy)

Resources of Note:


  • Closets: IKEA
  • Worktable/Cat Condo to hide litter box: DIY
  • Shoe closet: IKEA with DIY fabric cover
  • Rug: Rug Depot
  • Canvas photos: Vivian’s photography
  • Laundry hamper: IKEA

  • Side chair: Scandinavian Designs
  • Media stand: IKEA/Home Depot DIY
  • Couch: EQ3
  • Couch pillows: Target
  • Throw: IKEA
  • Chandelier: Z Gallerie via Craigslist
  • Deer heads: EBay
  • Ram head: Craigslist
  • Rug: Home Depot
  • Sidetable: IKEA
  • Bookcase: IKEA/Home Depot DIY
  • Lamp: IKEA
  • Wooden sculpture: Craigslist
  • Canvas Photo: Vivian’s photography
  • Abstract Golden Gate Bridge painting: Craigslist
  • Green floor pillow: Pier 1
  • Chevron cube pillow: West Elm
  • Candelabras: Craigslist

  • Kitchen table: Scandinavian Designs
  • Buffet: Scandinavian Designs
  • Wall art above stove/sink: Vintage from Len’s parent’s garage
  • Rug: West Elm via Craigslist
  • Bar: Pier 1 via Craigslist
  • Wall hanging above bar: Pier 1 via Craigslist
  • Wine rack: Found in our building’s discard/free pile
  • Deer head bar tool set: Cost Plus World Market
  • Candle holders on buffet: Z Gallerie
  • Wooden animal sculpture: Vintage from Len’s parent’s home

  • Bedspread: DENY Designs
  • Antlers: Found in our building’s discard/free pile
  • Storage baskets: IKEA
  • Corner cabinet: IKEA via Craigslist
  • Stool: Gifted from friend, repainted


  • Desk: DIY from IKEA/Home Depot
  • Shelf: IKEA
  • Desk Chair: Craigslist
  • Shelf decor: Vintage camera from friend, Tintype photo from Photobooth


  • Shower curtain: DENY Designs
  • Mirror: IKEA
  • Rug: Target
  • Towels: Target
  • Bathroom/Hallway light: CB2
  • Canvas photos: Vivian’s photography


  • Art: Craiglist, found in our building’s discard pile, large painting by Vivian, Urban Outfitters, Vivian’s photography
  • Faux-denza: DIY from IKEA/Home Depot
  • Vanity mirror and light: IKEA
  • Vanity mirrored stool: West Elm
  • Jewelry box/Old metal fishing tackle box: Alameda Antiques Faire
  • Jewelry display: Vintage box from thrift store


  • Other art and decor has been collected slowly during our time together living in the apartment. (I love that a wooden railroad tie sculpture is perfectly matched by two abstract paintings of the Golden Gate Bridge. Both were Craigslist finds, both were purchased at separate times and yet they seem to mimic one another perfectly.) Some pieces were found on Craigslist and others were found downstairs in our building’s lobby “free pile.” Our apartment building is home to a community of artists and creative people so often we will find some amazing pieces of art abandoned. My favorite piece we’ve found is a colorfully painted metal bomb that was found with a framed photo of two naked hippies standing next to the same bomb! (If that doesn’t say San Francisco Bay Area…I don’t know what does!)

  • (Image credit: Monica Roy)

    Thanks, Vivian and Leonard!

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