SF House Tour: Alison and Joel's Light-Filled Victorian

SF House Tour: Alison and Joel's Light-Filled Victorian

Feb 26, 2008

Name: Alison and Joel
Location: Hayes Valley/Lower Haight, San Francisco
Size: 1000 sq. ft.
Years lived in: 1 (rented)

We originally saw photos of Alison and Joel's apartment on flickr, and were immediately taken with their great use of color and the way they really worked with the architecture of their Victorian flat. It's astounding that they've only lived there a year, as everything seems both effortlessly comfortable and completely finished. And oh that light - we have to admit that we're jealous of all their big windows.

Photos by Elizabeth Clayton

While Victorians are known for their great architecture, anyone who's actually spent time in one knows that it can be a challange as well as a good thing - Alison and Joel's place both shows off the great high ceilings and period details, while minimizing the high number of doors in each room and utilizing some of the oddly shaped spaces in brilliant ways. A nice mix of DIY, craigslist, and flea marketing make their place feel unique and anything but cheap.

AT Survey:

Inspiration: We didn't set out with any intentional inspiration, but we pick up a little from everywhere, especially magazines (Domino, Blueprint, Dwell, ReadyMade) and online (AT of course).

Our Style: Our style could probably be called comfortable mid-century modern, with a bit of homey Midwestern, in a pre-1906 Victorian apartment. So…a mix.

Favorite Element: The skylights in the hallway and the bathroom.

Biggest Challenge in Designing Our Home: Doing it on a budget. This apartment is a lot bigger than our last, and we moved across the county, so we pretty much started from scratch here. We have bought the majority of our furniture and art within the last year, so we've had to stretch the budget a long way.

We've also worked very hard to incorporate all of our electronics and their many wires. All of the home theater equipment (5.1 receiver, DVR, Wii, PS3, Airport Express, and even a rather large subwoofer) are kept inside the IKEA cabinets behind frosted glass doors, which keeps them hidden but available via remote control. We also have a Logitech Harmony remote which keeps our coffee table clear of the many remotes we would otherwise be navigating. The wires for the 5.1 speakers are all painted to match the walls and pretty much disappear without any harm coming to the plaster (it is a rental). All of the living room lights are dimmer controlled by the touch-sensitive metal hand on the radio by the door. Also, each room has an Airport Express that allows us to play music from iTunes in any room or in all of them at the same time without having any visible wires.

What Friends Say About Our Home: It's huge! We're really lucky to have such a big 1-bedroom. And once: "I feel like I'm in the future" (The combination of all the music and home theater gadgets and our Roomba gives off a definite Jetsons vibe).

Biggest Embarrassment in Our Home: It's hard to make it look clean, especially the floors and bathroom fixtures (they're old). But being old gives them character, too. We think that the flooring is from the original apartment, and the bathtub and sink are definitely not recent. (The apartment was built sometime before the big earthquake—the records were lost in the fires. The floors are all slanted and no walls are straight, but the building stayed up!)

Proudest DIY: We've painted the whole place. Alison just recovered an ottoman, and Joel redid the old radio (both in living room). Our most recent project has been the office/guest room/music studio desk and shelving (the desk folds up to become a headboard with integrated bedside tables and lamps).

Biggest Indulgence With Respect to My Home: Probably the apartment itself. The monthly rent is more than anything we own. Other than that, it's probably the TV.

Best Advice Given or Received: Don't buy anything you don't love. We're working on that.

Dream Source for Stuff: Room and Board. Alameda flea market at 6 am (we have trouble getting there before 10). Peace Industry rugs.

Thanks, Alison and Joel!


Appliances: Came with the apartment

Hardware: Most of it is original to the apartment

Living room:

  • Couch—hand-me-down
  • Round table and chairs—Craigslist
  • Coffee table—Craigslist
  • End tables—Craigslist
  • Blue chair—Room and Board
  • Leather chair—Bedroom&more
  • Radio—flea market
  • Nesting tables—Craigslist
  • Cabinets—IKEA
  • Ottoman—Craigslist (recovered)


  • All IKEA (Hopen bed and Malm dressers and nightstands)


  • Table—Craigslist
  • Chairs—Craigslist and Alameda
  • Secretary's desk—Alameda
  • Triangle-shaped table (folds out)—IKEA
  • Microwave shelf—hand-me-down
  • Rolling cart—Bed, Bath, & Beyond

    Laundry room:

  • IKEA shelves


  • Shelf—IKEA
  • Chair—from living room table set


  • Cabinet—Bed, Bath, & Beyond
  • Shelf on wall—Target


  • Eat sign in kitchen—store in Napa
  • Living room pillows—most made by Alison
  • Teapot (in kitchen hutch) and fruit bowl on kitchen table—Ray Bub, Alison's uncle (matches our dishes set)
  • Metal hand in living room—Half to Have It Antiques in Half Moon Bay
  • Wood box in living room (holds Wii remotes!) by Umbra (from the now-closed Friend)

    Living room:

  • Pendant lamp—Craigslist
  • Reading lamp—Craigslist
  • Alabaster table lamp—eBay
  • Uplights behind couch—IKEA


  • Nightstand lamps—Target
  • Dresser lamp—by Alison's uncle


  • Clamped to shelf—IKEA
  • Chandelier—antiques store in Plymouth, Mass. (lacquered white)


  • All Aura by Benjamin Moore


  • Original to the apartment.

    Rugs and Carpets:
    Living room rugKhyber Pass's going out of business sale (thanks for the tip AT!)


  • Bathroom mats—IKEA

    Window Treatments:

  • Living room and office blinds—IKEA
  • Bedroom—fabric from Fabrix and Discount Fabrics


  • Living room:
  • Both paintings by Maryann Wakely
  • Hallway: Pre-production labels from Apple Records; Boat photograph—Mark Kanegis
  • Kitchen: Hot chocolate painting by Orangewillow; Stained glass—gallery in Rockport, MA; Framed doily—family heirloom
  • Laundry room: Laundromat gocco print by e50e
  • Bedroom: Samara mobile by Adrift Mobiles; Amy Butler fabric on wood stretchers
  • Bathroom: Storypeople print

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