Interiorssneak peeks

Turning a Rental into a Home

by Amy Azzarito

When documentary filmmaker John moved to this apartment in San Francisco’s Noe Valley, he really wanted to turn this rental into a home. He travels frequently shooting all around the world (he just returned from China), and when he’s back in San Francisco, he needs a space where he can unpack and fully recharge. He called upon Jill Cordner to turn the rental apartment into a home. First, Jill took stock of John’s existing furniture and together they came up with a list of new purchases – a sofa, filing cabinet, dining set, nightstand, bookshelves, a coffee table, rugs and wall art. She found lots of great pieces from stores like Restoration Hardware, Room and Board and Design Within Reach, but what really added personality to the space was scouring flea markets and vintage stores for unique pieces that expressed his personality. When he’s home, John makes the most of the space. He recently hosted a birthday dinner party for a friend, and Jill helped him figure out how to reconfigure his living room into a dining banquette for seven people. Having a space that is flexible enough to bring people together is truly what makes a house a home. –Amy

Photography by Liz Daly

Image above: “The living room is one big open space separated into an office and living room zone,” Jill says.

Image above: “Bedroom: It was really important to John to feel a personal connection with many of the furnishings. The eye chart is from Restoration Hardware but it reminded him of his mother who is an optometrist.”

Image above: “Helping clients personalize their spaces is one of my favorite parts of being a designer. We found this vintage brass trunk at Leftovers in SF, a consignment store.”

See more of this Noe Valley apartment after the jump!

Image above: “Living room: the apartment had great historical charm and built-ins but needed some modifications to hide the wires from the TV, sound system, record player etc. We commissioned Tim Lawlor, a contractor whom I work with a lot, to build us a walnut wood box to hide all of the wires. It’s a rental so the amount of changes we could make were somewhat constrained as far as hard wiring.”

Image above: “Living room: Extra natural fiber ottomans provide texture and add extra seats for entertaining. Trays really help corral clutter on a coffee table.”

Image above: “Living room: Adding a sense of whimsy and unexpected elements was important. This gold lion was found at the Alemany Flea Market in San Francisco. John has a great collection of books that showcase his love for travel, food and art.”

Image above: “Entry: The Ralph Lauren Suede paint walls in Vista Blue was inspired by Moroccan plaster.”

Image above: “The kitchen is a rental, but being white it was a great blank slate backdrop for colorful vintage kitchenware. We changed out the boring rental knobs to black and white milk glass ones from Bauerware in San Francisco. It’s a great way to personalize your rental – just replace the original ones when you leave.”

Image above:” Office, part of living room: John needed a functional home office setup. He had this great vintage Steelcase tanker desk to start with but really needed a lot of file storage. He found the desk at Urban Ore in Berkeley for a steal. File cabinets are usually so ugly and boring – it was a design challenge especially since they are at the other end of his large living room. We found this awesome vintage file cabinet at Past Perfect in SF.”

Image above: “The kitchen had a pretty small nook for a table and chairs to fit – luckily we found this cute vintage enamel dining set at Stuff in SF. Both the table and chairs are small-scale. The table has two leaves that can be expanded out – perfect for when John has dinner parties and moves it against the wall and uses it for prep space.”

Image above: “We went with another of the Ralph Lauren Suede paints in the bedroom, this time in Plaza Blanca color. The suede effect gives a really nice soft plaster like effect but you can just apply it more or less like paint.”

Image above: “Bedroom: I love mixed metals and we definitely wanted to add a lot of metal finishes into this apartment. The zinc dresser is from Restoration Hardware (and it weighs a ton!).”

Image above: “We wanted to add a little bit of greenery to this city apartment. John loves looking out on the succulents when sitting at the kitchen breakfast nook.”

Image above: “Back door/ Hallway: I found these great little wall plant holders at West Elm, so nice for adding a little greenery into a small space. The apron and tote bags from the Asian art museum in SF and Momofuko restaurant in New York reflect John’s interests and personality.”

Source List

Living Room

  • sofa – Room and Board
  • throw blanket – Pendleton
  • pillow – Target
  • clock – Schoolhouse Electric
  • blue chair is from Past Perfect in SF
  • the leather chair, glass coffee table and sheepskin pillow – Room and Board
  • coasters – Anthropologie
  • wood tray and blue candleholder – Target
  • white votives – West Elm
  • rug – ABC Decorative Rugs in SF
  • globe is from Alameda Flea Market


  • bookshelf – Restoration Hardware baby and child (a great resource for adult furniture)
  • chair is from Design within Reach
  • rug is from Alameda flea market
  • bed frame – Design within Reach
  • nightstand – Room and Board
  • lamp – vintage from Stuff
  • bedding – Area Home
  • throw pillows and starburst mirror – Target
  • plant pot – a garage sale find
  • The eagle mirror – Stuff
  • lamp, tray and brass box – Target (You can find so many great accessories there that finish off a space for great deals.)



  • the vintage mirror – Past Perfect in San Francisco
  • entry table – Room and Board


  • yellow step stool – the Alameda Flea Market
  • the bar sign – Target
  • most of the vintage kitchenware is from Stuff in San Francisco
  • both pieces of art are done on old book covers by the artist Albert Reyes
  • vintage school map – Etsy
  • yellow pendant lamp –  from Stuff  (love that place – it is two stories of vintage furnishings, heaven!)

Suggested For You


  • I used to work for Restoration Hardware and that zinc collection is seriously so gorgeous. Great choice, beautiful space!

  • Is it weird that i’m totally curious about the source of those slippers? (“Summer” is in full swing in the bay area: they are rad, and my feet are freezing!)

  • The plant holder in the last photo is amazing, and I’ve been searching on the West Elm website and beyond for it – does anyone know where to find it? I haven’t found anything like it.

    Well done on this place, gorgeous.

  • Love this home and all the sentiments inside it (not in the least becasue we also love helping people create homes that have their personality stamped over them!) and this is so inspiring, even more so because it’s a rental!

    thanks for sharing!!

    PS we loved it so much we added it to our friday favourites blogpost this week too x