sneak peek: rena tom {rare device}


a year ago rena tom moved herself and her popular store, rare device, to san francisco to team up with artist lisa congdon to open a larger version on the west coast. the store is known for clean white walls and brightly colored goods, but rena looks at her home as a place full of muted colors that make for a relaxing haven in the city. from oakland to new york, back to san franscisco, she and her husband have had a serious exercise in downsizing, as each place is slightly smaller than the last. they now find themselves in a 700 sf 1920s marina-style apartment (note: they’ve only been moved in here for two months!). she acknowledges the excess of doors to be a challenge in room layout, but it’s always fun to see the solutions creative people come up with and how they make the most of the space given. click here for more images of rena’s place, and here to find all of our fantastic sneak peeks. and don’t forget to stop by rare device next time you’re in the bay area. [thanks so much, rena!]anne

[above: our apartment is the rear unit overlooking the backyard. you can see it when you open the front door. we don’t have a terribly wide hallway but we have lined it with cubitec from DWR and it holds a lot of our books (most of our possessions are books).]

we got the norrebo shelving unit from ikea when we were living in brooklyn. it breaks down easily and has held up really well. we use the norrebo drawer units to store phone chargers, dog treats, CDs, journals – all sorts of little clutter around the house.

view from one corner of the living room to the other side where the bed nook is. we should probably install some french doors or hospital track to close off the space, but when it is always on view, it is incentive to keep it tidy. case study day bed from modernica, cell dresser in walnut and bamboo from union studio in berkeley, gallows lamp by bed from zinc details (discontinued), rug from peace industry, modular shelving is go-kart by blu dot (discontinued). the day bed cushions used to be bright red – we are getting used to the grey, and are on the hunt for a throw in persimmon or yellow. any suggestions?

the kitchen is small but pretty efficient. when we moved in, the old wood cabinets were white, the marble countertops are white, and the subway tile backsplash is white. we painted the lower cabinets a warm medium grey (benjamin moore stone) for contrast, and to hide some of the crooked moulding on the doors and drawers. then pendant light and rug are ikea, the plate above the door is by lena corwin.

wall space is rather scarce in our kitchen (we have two giant windows plus two doors and a set of french doors opening onto the space) so the knife rack had to go right above the counter, which turned out to be the perfect place after all.

we got most of our big pieces of art when i worked at patricia sweetow gallery in san francisco. the epoxy stripe drip painting is by markus linnenbrink. it is huge, it basically dictates where we live. if an apartment doesn’t have 6 feet of wall space (harder than you would think in SF, with all the doors and windows and wainscoting) we can’t move in! the black watercolor is by joachim bandau. table is ikea, a hand-me-down from the rare device remodel, chairs are gio ponti ‘superleggera’ for cassina. we put down a flor tile rug. the walls are painted a very dusky purple (benjamin moore vintage charm) that we love. it changes from grey to brown to purple throughout the day.

the sideboard with door off. painting by david huffman, table lamp is glo-ball by jasper morrison. the sideboard is a crate built to ship our art across the country. it was a shame to throw it out, so we installed some ikea billy shelves in it and we put our dishes inside.

everyone loves this painting, so here is a closer look at it. the light-colored pillow cover is by angie lewin for st. jude’s.

we installed an ivy coat rack from rare device inside the front door. it looks good even when there is nothing hanging on it (though that never seems to happen!)

my favorite spot in the apartment. i love curling up in this chair with a book and a mug of tea. the ‘harry’ chair is from b&b italia, the lamp is tolomeo by artemide, the side table is ikea, the modular bookcase is blu dot. the black porcelain wall hanging is by karin eriksson from rare device. and yes, i know the art is not spaced right, i am still in the process of moving it around. . . we’ve never had a sideboard before. it’s nice to have utensils at hand in the dining room. . . this chartreuse heath ceramics vase is the accent color for our kitchen. it looks great with grey and white. we painted the cabinet kick panels and interiors in this color (benjamin moore savannah moss).

  1. wayne pate says:

    I really like the color scheme of the kitchen. The shade of Grey on the cabinets looks amazing against the white. Great choice on the lighting fixture and rug. Ikea’s got game!

  2. lisa jackson says:

    love that color scheme in the kitchen too rena! great mix of high end and ikea finds. love that.

  3. Michele says:

    I love the recycled crate, it makes a nice contrast against the purple walls, plus it probably didn’t cost an arm and a leg!

  4. Claire says:

    Hi! I loved these pics, but when I clicked the link to view more, I found that Rena’s flickr set was private. Would she mind opening it up to the public?

  5. VisuaLingual says:

    Oh, wow! This home is absolutely amazing. The grey kitchen is to die for!

  6. kate says:

    I love the shipping crate idea! Also, it’s amazing that they’ve only lived there for a few months. I’m usually still living out of boxes then.

  7. tara says:

    can you tell us what the brand the coat rack is? i looked for it on the rare device website but it wasn’t there. thanks!

  8. Beautiful apartment, Rena! That is some great looking kitchen.

  9. Kristan says:

    Wow! This is possibly the best coordinated personal space I’ve seen on the site so far. I love the purple/gray theme that’s going on in most of these shots. And the color accents (dining room painting, bookshelf)!

  10. rena says:

    hi, thanks for the nice comments! i just made the Flickr set public. the coat rack is called Ivy, just type that in the Product Search box.

  11. I love this site, so cute and feminine. Second, love the space. Everything is so ORGANIZED. Especially the fun book shelves. **a little jealous**

  12. Jessica says:

    I’m so happy to see a Markus Linnenbrink painting! His pieces are phenomenal and vibrant, and yours goes so well with the sedate color scheme of the rest of your home. Just beautiful!

  13. julia says:

    wow Rena- looks beautiful! when can i come over?

  14. susan says:

    rena! wow! lovely!!!
    would love to see those lovely paint colors in person – so glowy and wonderful…

  15. bussbuss says:

    rena – it looks SO great! love the color scheme and the adorable bear s&p shakers in the last set (i have those too!).

    is your marina-style apt. in the marina? are you my neighbor now?! :)

  16. Lovely home. Thought you might be interested in fabrics by Joel Dewberry as they have several choices in Persimmon and Mustard and some also have gray in them. The fabric is a very thick cotton, perfect for throw pillows.

  17. Oh I have that same kind of magnetic knife rack in my kitchen. So practical! Nice use of neutrals in this home.

  18. Love the purple n the dining area – and the day bed is beautiful. Crates are fantastic.


  19. Hazel says:

    I hope you are able to manouever over the knife rack to open the kitche window!!!

  20. Michelle says:

    I just love your home, parts of it remind me of the cozyness of the Brooklyn shop. So pretty.

  21. Emily says:

    You use color so beautifully!

  22. Heidi says:

    Where is the bed from?

  23. Erika says:

    The norrebo shelving unit is ingenious – clutter just seems to be attracted to bookshelves – so flexible storage space is key. It’s a great way to keep the environment “zen,” focused but also warm. And I love the paint in the dining room!

  24. Lindsey says:

    Hi! I love this apartment and am going to use it for inspiration as I decorate a new apartment in May after I get married. May I ask where the glassware came from? I just love the wine glasses.

  25. Genevieve says:

    I love your use of color! So soothing, warm, and still clean. I looked for the paint color of your living room/bedroom in the post, but didn’t see it. Can you tell us what it is?

  26. laura says:

    was so happy to see rena and derek’s new place, yay!!! one day i will see in person i hope. i see you there mia. i miss you too.

  27. rena says:

    wow thanks everybody. let’s see…the kitchen window is so high, you would really need to get on a stepstool to open it, we probably won’t ever do it. the bed is an old IKEA design with a slatted headboard, i was not into the beech color so i sewed a little fabric cover for it. the wine glasses are Iitala and the designer is Alfredo Haeberli. the living room is in Benjamin Moore ‘April Showers’, it’s kind of a greenish neutral. and no Kelly, it’s not in the Marina, we are near the Panhandle east of Golden Gate Park.

  28. Leah Hennen says:

    LOVE it — it’s serene and sophisticated at the same time. Love the soft purples and grays!

  29. Zan Dobson says:

    I love that the kitchen cabinet doors have picture frame detailing on them.

  30. Bethany says:

    That sideboard from a crate is wonderful!! Such a great re-use that has turned into something with real elegance. Lovely home…the owls are darling too!

  31. Some great interior work done here. Did you use benjamin moore paints by any chance?


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