Apartment corners that make memories
An interview on the memories of a San Francisco apartment
A newsletter on how architecture and the environment affect who we are by me.
I came across a beautiful apartment listing in San Francisco. Even though the couple is moving out of the city, from the pictures and the description I can tell that they have been thoughtful and intentional in their furnishing decisions, and along with it a beautiful story.
I reached out and had a chance to interview Lotti, the woman behind this mindfully decorated apartment. Through chatting with her, I could sense the pride and happiness radiating from her voice as she recalls the process of putting the home together as well as how specific furniture pieces and corners of the room bring about fond memories and emotions.
Fede & Lotti's apartment @San Francisco
Tell me about your background and decisions behind decorating the apartment.
This is the place where I moved in with my then fiance, now husband back in 2017. Up until then, I had been living in temporary places first as a student then as a young professional in New York changing apartments every few months just trying to save as much money as possible. This was really the first time when I felt I can actually settle down for a bit and put some thought into what I wanted the space to look like. That state of wanting to kind of create and being able to relax is what inspired me to create the style for the place. I really wanted it to be our oasis, our Zen place where you come home and your heart beat immediately slows down, your muscles relax, and no matter how crazy of a day you had, it really feels like a place where you can unwind.
I really want it to be our oasis, our Zen place where you come home and your heart beat immediately slows down.
How long did it take to put everything together?
It was done maybe like a year and a half in, also because we're both working full time. It was almost a treasure hunt for me trying to find the right pieces that were right for every little corner and it took a while. I used a bunch of different tools. I went to try to shop at the big brands and at second hand stores because we were also on a budget as a young couple. It brought me a ton of joy to make this happen. And then a year ago, I got pregnant so we had to repurpose the space — the second bedroom was changed from my husband's studio to the baby's nursery. That was an awesome project! So many of my favorite memories in life are from creating that space and imagining, you know, the little one and how he was gonna feel in that space and really trying to make it feel as cozy as possible.
Studio space that was converted into a nursery
My favorite memory is when... I'm actually gonna show you. You know how they say that you can't put anything that's heavy on top of the crib. Because it’s a risk; if it falls, it's going to hurt the baby. So why not have a nice decoration above the crib that was fixed. And so we ended up making a tree. It's a white tree on this yellow background that my husband and I put up together and it took us an entire evening. And it was such a sweet moment because I was like nine months pregnant and we were waiting for the baby. And both of us like carefully putting every leaf on every little tree on every little branch with so much care and love and I was like the only person who's going to care is like it's the three of us like, we have to take it down now that we have to move. But that is honestly one of my most favorite memories also because I was doing it with my husband. It was a joint project. And it makes me sad to let it go now, actually, yes, I had a really good cry about this because I feel so in love with the space.
I noticed a lot of your furniture was custom built on Etsy. How was that like?
The first piece that I got custom built was this massive table that's right behind me. It’s a wooden table, which was scary for me because I never bought furniture on it before and that it's a very big piece, not a cute little decoration. Getting it delivered was a disaster; measuring it perfectly took forever. I think I had 90 emails back and forth with the woman who made it. Ah, but I love it because it's unique. In this world where everything looks the same, it's kind of nice to have something that is just ours, something that we chose and measured that fits the space perfectly.
Ah, but I love it because it's unique. In this world where everything looks the same, it's kind of nice to have something that is just ours.
Do you feel that by having furniture custom made like this, the experience feels different than that at your previous apartments?
For sure. I mean, it’s almost like calling these pieces by their first name as opposed to 'oh it’s just a table'. We have so many memories on this big table. We hosted a ton of big dinners with all our friends. Two of our friends announced that they were pregnant when we had a big dinner here. So it's really been the center of our group of friends. We are both Italian so for us, the idea of getting together around the dinner table is very special.
Have you hosted dinner parties at your previous places?
Yeah, I mean, I did. I definitely did. But they were, first of all, much smaller. And then it's different. I didn't feel pride in showing people the space I didn't feel joy in, you know, having people look around and really feel cozy and really feel at ease. I knew this was my doing and I kept observing. For example, when we designed this table, we decided to design it a little bit narrower than normal so that people were closer to one another. They could talk to one another as opposed to being further away. So even the experience of being physically more near so that you can have a more intimate conversation was kind of the goal. It meant that we actually had to get long and narrow plates because regular plates don't fit. We had to adjust our china as well, but it works.
Long dining table custom built to fit the space; designed to be a bit narrower than normal so that people were closer to one another during an intimate dinner conversation
Are there other instances where a specific place or feature of the apartment like the dining table that enabled specific feelings?
This space where I am right now, these benches against the window; it's nice and airy with a lightweight curtain that moves with the wind. This is where I announced to my husband that I was pregnant. So just feel very attached to this spot, and I like to sit here and do some work or read books. Everywhere else in the apartment feels like there's a purpose and here it's just like an area where you don't have to be with anyone to be here. It's very relaxing. There was a big hanging plant and I like to sit right underneath it, and it does make me feel like I'm surrounded by my people, by my plants and it's definitely where I feel creative and relaxed.
It's a special spot, a little creativity nook
Does anything from your background or profession influence your approach?
When I was decorating the place, I showed it to my mom who lives in Italy. She has impeccable taste, but her taste is more traditional while this is much more modern. So in the beginning, she really criticized me for all the furniture I was choosing. I was thinking maybe I'm doing the wrong thing. So I don't know. It feels like it was an innate type of taste. It's not that I acquired it from someone else. I spent a lot of time searching around the Internet for what made the environment feel warm. So I studied up a bit, colors, shapes, textures, and tried to play around with that. One of the first pieces that I bought was that wooden table on wheels. I really liked this piece because it has light wood; because the wood is really soft and it worked very well with white. So I kind of naturally grew into what I liked by observing how I felt about the pieces that I already had.
I think you also mentioned there's the double shower head, how was that like?
The shower in this apartment is huge. It's so big. I don't know why there is no tub. As soon as we moved in I was thinking man, two people could shower in here, but there was only one shower head. I literally called 10 plumbers to get estimates for how much it was going to be to get another shower head. It was so expensive and I thought there needs to be a better way. I ended up going on blogs of people passionate about plumbing to find out what is the best way to go about that showerhead without spending too much money and they advised me to get this thing on Amazon, which you can just attach to the wall via like a vacuum so you don't have to drill anything, and it worked perfectly. It was a great way for my husband and I to share some time in the morning and relax together.
A double shower head for two 😉
I find it fascinating that you go through all this, I guess it's not trouble since you enjoy the process, but the work you put into every little corner...
Yeah, honestly my husband also had a hard time understanding it like what's the point. For me, not doing it is painful; seeing a corner underutilized it hurts me. I get so much joy from making it useful and making it beautiful. There's also the process you said that I enjoy, the imagination and the creativity. I do a job that is not necessarily super creative. I make investments [as a venture capitalist] in startups and yeah, I can be creative in that I envision what the startups could look like in the future but from a visual standpoint this is my outlet. This is my way to channel some of that creative energy.
Do you think this process that you go through in decorating is common or do you have other friends who has a similar process?
Honestly I don't think so. Only now that I'm selling some stuff I'm meeting people who told me, 'you know like every other night I go on Craigslist to see if there's anything interesting being sold' and I do that too! So I’m not alone there are other weirdos out there that do the same thing.
What are your thoughts on how you would go about decorating the next place?
I was thinking about that as I was deciding whether or not to sell this furniture. I was thinking, do I want to keep it so that I can use them for my next space as well? And the truth is, I think the reason for which this place looks so nice is that I thought about what I already have and what is a style that goes well with the features of the house, such as the green and yellow walls and the fireplace. And so I think I have to do the same thing in the next house. In the next house, if I can recycle some of these items then great. But if not, it's almost like taking custom fit clothes that were made for someone and trying to put it on another person because it's just not gonna look as good. I would like to give the same vibe like really make home feel like an oasis, but I'm open to do it in a different way. If the new house is say very modern; it has concrete or very sharp features, then I can’t use these colors; I'll have to find a different way to make it feel warm.
I noticed you had tech integrations such as the August lock. How was that like?
That is my husband's contributions to the house. I actually kind of resisted that in the beginning. I was like, 'No, this is a Zen place. I don't want any technology'. But I'm so glad that he did because it really made the experience great. So for example, we are on the couch at night and you have the bright light in the kitchen and there's one light on in the bathroom and you'd like everything to be nice and toned down. So we created all these light routines where you can just say to your smart assistant like Alexa, ‘good night” or ‘TV time’ and then it would set all the light bulbs with the right hues and the right intensity and it was lovely. Being able to go to sleep and say, ‘okay, good night’ and all the lights would come off. Yeah, so that was a great user experience. I am glad that I listened to my husband.
So we created all these light routines where you can just say to your smart assistant like Alexa, ‘good night” or ‘TV time’ and then it would set all the light bulbs with the right hues and the right intensity and it was lovely.
Yeah, I remember reading about how humans traditionally wake up and go to sleep based on natural lighting cycle. Nowadays given all these artificial lighting many people are more intentional with say dimming light before around sunset to be in tune with the circadian rhythm.
Exactly. Yeah, we're pretty strict about that. So at night, the only hues that we use From a light perspective are oranges and reds so that your eyes don't pick up the blue light that keeps you up and that it's less harsh.
Any other memories about the space that you'd like to share?
It's the kitchen. So Fede (my husband) and I spent a ton of time cooking together. It's how we like to catch up and we share our day with one another, we cook for one another. And we spent like, every night essentially around that big counter height table. You know, talking about our future and the baby and change of jobs. Yeah, so I look forward to having another big kitchen so that we can continue to do that.
Where they shared their days and spoke of the future
This was really my first home and I have a very strong attachment to it. So I'm glad. I know for some people, it's crazy that I did all this work to then move out but for me it was so worth it; the joy and the quiet and the happiness that I got from it, it was all worth it.
Lastly, if you were to say something to our audience, to those who are moving and decorating their new apartment, what would that be?
In San Francisco, there's such a huge market for secondhand furniture, there's no reason to have a piece in your house that doesn't fit properly. Like if your couch is too big or too small, like, just think about what actually fits in the space and try to find the piece that fits it. Don't start with stuff that you already had or you know, stuff that you really like. Say you definitely want to buy that couch, but it's not the right couch for your space. Don't get enamored with a piece that you really want to buy when maybe it doesn't fit your space properly. I see that so much, especially the hot brands and people are really into this type of couch for this type of lamp, but it just doesn't fit the space.
Before we wrapped up the call, Lotti said to me, “I'm so glad you reached out. It makes me happy. It makes me happy that you noticed it; it makes you happy that you're writing about it."
It makes me happy hearing her recollections. And I wish her story will inspire many others to be intentional in designing their dream home.
This article is put together by me, Coco, a designtrepreneur that loves innovations in the architecture and built space.
Let’s be friends. DM @cocobliu