sneak peeks

An Eclectic Apartment in Seattle, Fit For a Quirky Illustrator

by Sabrina Smelko

I’ve known Kelsey Dake for a few years — okay, fine, I’ve been following her and liking her photos on Instagram for a few years. We’ve become sort-of Internet acquaintances and, though we’ve never met, we share a few similarities: 1. We’re both illustrators 2. We love glasses (though her collection trumps mine) 3. We share an affinity for bizarre, antique finds that others might cringe at (such as my beloved deer skull I smuggled from Germany in my carry-on!). So I was thrilled when she agreed to give us a tour of her Seattle, WA apartment where she lives with her Lakeland Terrier, Truman.

Kelsey’s eclectic, open-concept studio apartment, which was once a brewery, definitely has its quirks; The floors are all slightly slanted feeding into an old drain, and there are absolutely no rooms or walls (other than the four walls that contain the unit). But Kelsey has found a way to own it, creating the illusion of rooms and letting her unique personality and high-end furniture pieces do the talking. To help maintain the integrity of the industrial building, Kelsey made a lot of her own decor items, such as lamps using galvanized pipe, shelves from reclaimed cedar and curtains out of drop-cloth to fit the apartment’s massive commercial windows. Anchored with vintage signage and a floor-to-ceiling American flag, her space is 100% her own and that’s the way she likes it. –Sabrina

Oh, and if you like this tour get excited because Kelsey has recently purchased a 1931 Tudor Revival home in Phoenix, AZ and she’ll be letting us in on some of her renovation projects later this year!

Kelsey's tall 15' ceilings were the perfect backdrop for all of her art and shelving. The full-length mirror is an old closet door Kelsey salvaged and removed the hardware from, costing her $40 rather than $400. And yes, that is a real Eames Leg Splint hanging beside the shelf which Kelsey bought from someone in Palm Springs. She (yes, the splint is female in her world) is Kelsey's pride and joy!
Though the entire apartment is open-concept, Kelsey managed to make her bedroom space feel separate from the rest of the apartment by making use of the original concrete wall as a pseudo headboard/feature wall. The illustrations are all Kelsey's own and the nightstands were salvaged from an old rosewood one-piece headboard.
One of Kelsey's favorite salvage finds from Second Use in Seattle. "I have a thing for old enamel signs," says Kelsey, "This one has seen better days, but I loved how messed up it [is]." Visiting the "2" highway in northern Washington is on Kelsey's travel bucket list.
"All of my furniture is Truman's furniture," Kelsey laughs, "Nothing is sacred here!"
The Hans Wegner credenza is one of Kelsey's favorite pieces, which has become somewhat of a room divider, separating Kelsey's kitchen and entryway from her bedroom. The bridge on the Wegner was for a 4th-grade science project of Kelsey's which passed the snap test after all the required weight was applied. She's cherished it ever since.
The view from the front door. The two east-facing windows overlook the I-5 freeway, which has been a source of entertainment for Kelsey. "The freeway is a hotbed of interesting activity," she says, "It truly is astounding how fascinating it is out there." The drapes are made from drop cloths Kesley sewed button holes into and added shower curtain hooks and galvanized pipe to.
Though Kelsey tries to find antiques of salvage pieces herself, she loves her Crate and Barrel table and foresees it bearing the brunt of many parties and dinners in its future. Her massive enamel Holiday Inn sign pulls the space together and breaks down into eight pieces. She found it at an antique store in Phoenix.
Kesley's Holiday Inn sign took two full days to hang all by herself. "It's mounted on 2" x 4" brackets that I had to secure into the wall, and then it's fastened down through holes on the upper lip of each piece." When she originally got the sign, Kelsey lived in a house with huge glass windows you could see into from the street. Her house became known as "The Holiday Inn House" to neighbors since you could see it from the street!
Kelsey was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ, so her sign obsession is a natural one born from the explosive Phoenix growth in the 50s and 60s where signage was huge. The Flame was an old restaurant that once stood in downtown Phoenix, so Kelsey painted this tribute piece of the sign.
Kelsey crafted these shelves out of salvaged cedar and spray-painted generic shelving brackets. The mask to the right of the shelf is Kelsey's father's. "It's still hung with a binder clip, the same way he had it hung is his office for years."
Three things Kesley loves: Bad taxidermy, dried lavender, and Votivo's Black Ginger candle.
Kelsey's lounge features a gorgeous 1970s Rosewood Eames Lounge and real subway sign from NYC.
Truman hangs out on Kelsey's 1940s Persian rug next to an old Budweiser crate of her father's and a Noguchi coffee table.
As an illustrator, Kelsey's studio space with windows facing the freeway is where she spends most of her time.
Kelsey's first month living in Seattle was a rough one, so her dad sent her a letter that read, "Smile, it could be worse" with this $100 bill inside. "He had taped Mona Lisa's face over Ben's. I couldn't bear to take it apart and spend it," says Kelsey.
A corner in Kelsey's studio displaying a few of her professional awards, her first illustrated book cover and her prized Howard Miller clock, which has all of the numbers from 1 to 60 set in Helvetica all the way around. The Craftsman set was a gift from her parents.
Kelsey grew up driving past the late Paolo Soleri's Cosanti in Paradise Valley, but never ventured inside until she was an adult. "His bronze bells are still being made on the property by his students," says Kelsey, "If you ever find yourself in Phoenix, you must go, it's a magical place."
Kelsey always dreamed of having a pink bathroom, so she bit the bullet and painted it in glorious flamingo pink. She found the clever vintage sign at an antique store and it cracks me up.
Anyone who knows Kelsey knows this duck means a lot to her. She snagged him from an antique store in Albuquerque during a really rough time in her life and it represents a turning point in her independence and owning who she is and what she likes. "I was dating a jerk who saw this duck and scoffed at me. The woman who owned the store could see I was going through something, and when I came back the next day [without him] to buy the duck, she chatted me up for a few hours and gave me one of the most motivational and supportive talks of all time. I left the store with the duck, and a solid promise to myself to be true to myself... Hope that speaks to someone out there!"

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  • That space is amazing!!!–Love the duck story as well. I’m moving into a place of my own after a hard year & this makes me excited to find pieces that are just *mine*.

  • I’ve been following Kelsey on social media for awhile now as well, and I’m in love with this place! Great job! I love hearing people’s stories about specific pieces in their house, I feel very attached to certain pieces as well!

  • If I may ask, how many square feet is this apartment? I am ashamed that my generous 500-squarefooter isn’t nearly as well utilized as this beautiful apartment (and I also want to adopt a small dog, so it would make me feel somewhat better if our places were of comparable size!).

  • Thanks for the love guys!

    Nicole, it’s 1100 sq ft., I didn’t share pictures of my kitchen, but it’s pretty large (just not anything to write home about). Truman has *enough* room, but we definitely go to the dog park a lot!

  • WOW! Talk about a studio apartment that induces creativity. I love the eye candy all around. The next time I am in Seattle, I may need to come and get Truman!

  • Absolutely beautiful! Such a wonderful use of space, and I just love how you incorporate your own illustrations and all your collections into it all! Have to ask, where did you find the rug in the living area? It’s gorgeous!

  • This is the first time I’ve truly appreciated a single space to live. Usually there’s still something in my mind that cannot accept the bed being in the same room… But with this apartment, it seems so.. connected.

  • I just started my day checking out Kelsey’s loft and what a perfect way to start out my day!

  • This home has the two most important things in life: a great dog and a great rug! This space is used incredibly well, and is so neat and organized. Love the mid-century furnishings–they feel really modern and with the architecture of the space add to that eclectic feel. Nothing is too expected. Interested to see how the new place will shape up!

  • I love spaces where all the items look like they’ve been collected over the years, not all purchased at once. It looks personal and authentic. LOVE this space!

  • Space is missing two things: Naked chicks and floppin’ dongs. Dat Dake knows what I’m talking about…

    All in all, yes the space looks mega rad and I’m proud to have the same horse head illustration in my apartment (orange version).

    + that duck story is the shiz.

  • Oooo, the old Rainier Brewery! Love her space and the industrial mix of found objects and the existing space.

  • I always wanted to know how to mix a noguchi table and other high end pieces without looking pretentious. She nailed it. Love this mash up of old and new, vintage and trendy, statement and side walk.

  • The Rainier Brewery is about fifty feet from I-5…looks like she has a lovely view of the freeway. In case, you know, you were getting too jealous :)

  • The quirkiness of this space (and I mean that entirely positively) is entirely charming and enticing. And as I constantly struggle in my own home and in my writing with a mixed passion for warm mid-century modern and stark industrial, this studio proves it can be done with aplomb. Congrats, Kelsey!

  • Love the bed in the room! .. Love the place/space. May I ask where it is located? Besides the generalization of Seattle. We are looking for an apartment, re-locating.
    Thank You,
    Very Impressed – Barbara

  • Love! May I ask where the dining table is from? I’m looking for one just like it!

    • Hi Shelly,

      The table is the Big Sur table, and it’s from Crate and Barrel. I usually lean towards secondhand furniture, but have lusted over this table for years. I finally pulled the trigger last year.