Monday, April 7, 2008

House Voyeur: An Artful Mix in Alameda

As many of you know, I have a major fetish for felted wool -- which is what led me to Patty Benson in the first place. Under the name Papaver Vert, Patty creates the most wonderful felted bowls, pillows, and other household items, which she sells in her Etsy shop and at trendsetting Bay Area boutiques such as Rare Device, Rose and Radish, and Relish at Home.

I've featured Papaver Vert a couple of times on this blog, and I had a sneaking suspicion that I'd love Patty's home as much as I love the beautiful products she so painstakingly crafts by hand. Happily, Patty agreed to open her doors and give More Ways to Waste Time readers a virtual tour of her colorful, eclectic apartment on the quiet San Francisco Bay island of Alameda:

"I live with my husband, Chris, a helicopter pilot-in-training and a mechanic who works on vintage Vespas. He loves those scooters, and has a couple himself that we sometimes take out for a spin.

Our 750-square-foot apartment is actually part of a 1905 Georgian-style house that's been divided in three -- our landlords live downstairs and there are two units upstairs. When we first saw the place four years ago, I was immediately drawn to the tall ceilings, old windows, and crown moldings. Chris bought this Vespa poster several years ago at First Kick Scooters in San Francisco, where he works. (First Kick no longer carries it, but you can find the poster here.)

Though the apartment is on the small side, the high ceilings and spacious open areas make it seem bigger than it really is, and I love the large windows. Still, because of the size, we really can’t bring in too many new things. It’s painful to think of all the beautiful pieces that I’ve had to turn down when I’ve visited the flea market or walked past a great estate sale. I would love to have more chairs, for instance -- especially midcentury Danish ones -- but there’s no room for them. So I tend to focus on the walls, since there’s more surface area there. The 'Lido' sofa and chair in our living room are from the Comfort Connection in San Francisco.

I love things that have some sort of personal meaning: My mom’s vintage Sixties scarves, hand-embroidered linens from Chris’ grandmother, my Irish grandmother’s metal teapot. I also enjoy mixing vintage, found, and inexpensive new pieces from IKEA, and I really like to re-purpose things and find new homes and lives for them -- many of our items have moved several times in our little place! Our next big project is finding some old lumber to make wall shelves, and I’m trying to get Chris to agree to making his collection of old skateboard decks into a console and coffee table. They’re just so cool with all their colors and crazy scuff marks. Each one has its own special story.

We really have no view to speak of, but there are some beautiful trees outside the living room windows that I never tire of looking at. The light comes in just so, and when you sit on our couch you can see the tree branches backlit by the blue sky -- or a sunset if you’re lucky! It’s my favorite spot to sit and crochet. Chris took the photos hanging in the windows when he was in college, and we mounted them with fishing line. I like that they look like they're floating in an almost 3D way, giving the room more depth.

We went to Tijuana several years ago and found this really cool outdoor market called Mercado de Artesanías, at Calle 2 and Avenida Negrete. It's a maze of alleyways filled with handcrafts. We bought the colorful umbrella, heart, and hand prints hanging to the right of the window there. I wish I could say that I use the vintage dress form to design the most beautiful couture you’ve ever seen, but it’s really just doing a great job as a coat rack! We painted the walls this deep, chocolate brown color on a total whim -- I told myself to just go for it. I’m ready for a change, though, and plan to repaint in a lighter color.

The old Fender Rhodes keyboard is from a school that was getting rid of them. Chris jumped at the chance to grab one. The art hanging above it was painted in the Sixties by a friend of his grandmother's. His Grandma gave it to Chris, and he had it in his room as a teenager. The art our friends and family have given us is not only beautiful, but has sentimental value that makes it priceless to us.

On one of our anniversaries, we went to the Alameda Point Antiques and Collectibles Faire for the day before splurging on a nice dinner -- at least that was the plan until we saw these beautiful salvaged tin stars made by Amish farmers from old barns. Instead of going out to dinner, we decided to spend the money on the stars. I'm very happy to be married to a man who loves a good find as much as I do!

So many of the things in our apartment have been bargains of some sort. I love vintage and secondhand items, and visit thrift stores often. I found the round vintage mirror at To Herb with Love in Alameda. The front of the shop has kind of a Parisian kitschy feel to it, with knock-off vintage jewelry and handmade soaps -- but in the back is a small antiques store with vintage and retro glass, ceramics, and cute kitchen tins. I also like stopping by Park Street Antiques and Pauline's Antiques in Alameda, Ohmega Salvage in Berkeley, and the once-a-year Oakland Museum White Elephant Sale, which is NOT to be missed!

My favorite DIY project is the two old soda crates that we made into box-lights. We found a string of round, clear patio bulbs, and then Chris unscrewed all the bulbs before placing one socket into each hole through the gaps between the wood slats at the back.

Using small nails, he tacked the wires into place, screwed the bulbs back in, and then hooked up the whole thing to a dimmer switch. I love turning on the lights in the evening, and it's always a conversation piece when we have friends over.

I filled this wall in the living room with canvases covered in beautiful African fabrics, some IKEA fabric, and an old metal owl that we scavenged from Chris’ grandpa’s house. Apparently that owl had been hanging on the same wall since the Seventies -- I love that! I got the African fabrics at a knitting show in Oakland a few years ago. Instead of leaving with yarn, I bought the fabrics as well as this beautiful basket. (You can find similar baskets here). The pillows next to the basket are my own.

My mom is from Mexico, and I’ve always had an affection for all things Mexican -- especially the religious iconography. I just love the stunning colors, the richness, and the almost over-the-top way they worship, for example, the Virgin Mary. They have the most beautiful statues of her in Latin America, and I especially love the image and the colors of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The whole mystic thing that’s behind that image and the fact that no one knows how it was made on that piece of cloth five hundred years ago is too cool.

We collected the driftwood in this bowl at the beach at Van Damme State Park in Mendocino, while we were on a camping trip with Chris’ family last year. We started off with a few pieces and then went a little crazy, spending the whole afternoon looking for more. There are some shells in there, too, from our trip to a Mexican coastal town called Sayulita, where we went for a friend’s wedding. Having these little reminders around is just as good as pictures when it comes to reminiscing about our travels.

A neighbor gave us this Moroccan lantern when she moved. (You can find similar ones here.) I made the box sculpture in college, using an old wood pastry tray, chicken wire, and branches. I've loved chicken wire ever since and can’t wait to do something with it in the apartment. Unfortunately, Chris doesn’t seem too keen on the idea!

Our kitchen doubles as my work studio for Papaver Vert. I worked for several years as a store designer for Crate & Barrel, which developed my love of interiors, displays, and little vignettes. (I still check out window displays, from Anthropologie to pet stores. I can’t help it!) I then studied fashion design and worked for Gap Inc. before deciding that I really wanted to design my own products, felted wool accessories for the home. It combines my interior design and fabric backgrounds, and I've always loved wool and working with my hands. I use this hanging board to lay out my pillow collection, using sketches and wool color swatches. The board is actually an old chalkboard that I covered with muslin and a layer of spongy cardboard underneath so that I can stick pins in.

The photos on the wall to the right of the board are inspiration images I clip out of magazines. There are tearsheets on designers Suzuki Takayuki and my favorites, Minä Perhonen and Orla Kiely. I get a lot of color inspiration from them for my own products.

This is our bedroom. I love love love bright colors (orange, green, red … ) and am always drawn to bold print and pattern in clothing, fabric, and art.

I ordered the red "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster from Barter Books in England, but you can get them in a variety of colorways from Victoria Smith's (aka sfgirlbybay) Etsy shop. I made the pillows with Marimekko fabric; the Marimekko Concept Store has a lot of beautiful choices.

These curtains, which we got from IKEA about three years ago, hide our computer station. I love that it’s such a bold fabric against our bright green wall and that it has a dual purpose -- covering up the computer and adding color and a bold graphic element to our bedroom. We hung the curtains with individual shower clips attached to ball chain, which you can find at any hardware or home improvement store. We screwed eye bolts into the ceiling to form a half-circle, and simply looped the ball chain through them.

I think it's important to be selective in terms of what kinds of items you’re bringing into your home. You don’t have to buy into cookie-cutter products. Instead of visiting, say, Pottery Barn, go on Etsy and support the amazing artists who are selling their prints, ceramics, and other products there. I’m amazed at how affordable they are -- but even better, that they've been touched by the artists themselves. There’s always a story going on there, and having a dwelling full of stories is what makes a home a home."

I couldn't agree more. Thanks so much for sharing your cozy and creative apartment with us, Patty!

(P.S. Want to see more? Click here for a peek inside other readers' homes.)

5 comments:

reclaimingmisshavisham said...

It breaks my heart that I can't have those three prints by the front door of the heart, umbrella and the hand. I love them SO MUCH!! Great apartment. I'm going to need the exact address so I can break in and steal those pri....uhh I mean stop by and say hi!

reclaimingmisshavisham said...

Okay I have to comment again because I've gone over the pictures again and I'm just a squirrely exciteable person. I really love this woman! She's obsessed with chicken wire? That's so twisted (no pun intended) and awesome! I also love the soda crate box lights. I'll be ripping ideas off of this apartment like it's my job

Pigtown-Design said...

What a fun house! I love her felted items, too. I haven't mastered felting yet, so I am very jealous!

Anonymous said...

What a cute house! And the husband is pretty cute too!!! he he he

Patty is AMAZING! Very creative and has a great eye for color.

Love the photos of the apartment.

cheers,
PJ

Anonymous said...

so cool...thanks for opening up your home to us :) great ideas!

 

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