Interiorssneak peeks

A San Francisco Home Built for Play

by Shannon Grant

What would happen if the kids’ playroom turned into the entire home? It would look a lot like the San Francisco home Julia Busenitz shares with her husband Dennis, two sons Rune and Sepp, and dog Gucci. They were already living in the neighborhood — just a little over a block away — when the family fell in love with this house. They saw the potential even though it was “tiny, dark and stinky,” as Julia says. They knew they could make it their own with a lot of work and love. Fast-forward seven years and the house is transformed into a light-filled, lived-in, kid-friendly space.

It wasn’t easy to transform the home. There have been challenges along the way, lots of projects built just to be torn down again, but that’s just part of the process, Julia says. Their biggest objective, though, was to make sure the space was not precious at all. They wanted their home to be fun and inspiring: a place where their kids would bring their friends over to play, while still being comfortable enough to host big dinners.

Details such as the net lofted above the living room to the “porthole” above the boys’ bunk beds are proof of the family’s dedication to make every detail of the house playful and experiential. Julia’s husband Dennis built much of the furniture, making everything feel special and truly one-of-a-kind. His custom woodwork pieces are complemented by fabulous Craigslist scores (the oven, and a brand new bathroom sink and toilet). Outside, they are surrounded by a riot of lush greenery, their chicken coop, and Julia’s studio. Aside from being the coolest parents in the neighborhood, Julia runs a textile design business, Luca Jackson, and Dennis is a professional skateboarder. Thanks to both Julia and Dennis for demonstrating that a space for kids and a space for adults don’t have to be two separate things. —Shannon

Design*Sponge Home Tour
The view of the living room and some of the kitchen. This is where the family spends the most time; playing on the floor, swinging on a swing, eating at the table, cuddled on the couch. They love that it's open, airy and always full of people.
Design*Sponge Home Tour
This is another view of the living room. Dennis built this long bench with drawers for extra storage, since, as Julia says, "in our small space we have to think like boat dwellers."
Design*Sponge Home Tour
This is a view from above, another spot the kids and their friends spend lots of time. This is from the net, where you can see the kitchen and door to the backyard below.
Design*Sponge Home Tour
The doors lead to the kids' room. Both the door and the ladder upstairs are outfitted with plumbing hardware. Their dog, Gucci, likes to nap in this sunny spot.
Design*Sponge Home Tour
A corner of the kitchen and the door to the backyard with a sign from their son that reads "love chickens." The metal olive leaf wreath above the door was a wedding gift from Julia's sister and brother-in-law in Greece.
Design*Sponge Home Tour
This is the kitchen as seen from the living room. They found the vintage Wedgewood stove on Craigslist for $200. Julia says, "We had to haul it from two stories up, and clean up about 60 years worth of gunk, but it works like a champ and we love it."
Design*Sponge Home Tour
According to Julia, this is her favorite room in the house, "our little bathroom sanctuary, also known as the only place I might find five minutes to myself."
Design*Sponge Home Tour
Another view of Julia's favorite room. They were able to cut costs in this room by finding the toilet, sink and faucet on Craigslist, all brand new. Someone had bought them all for a remodel, and ended up going with something else. The tiles were seconds from Heath Ceramics.
Design*Sponge Home Tour
Detail of the door Dennis built in the bathroom.
Design*Sponge Home Tour
The bedroom and their pup, Gucci. Dennis built the light table/ flat file combination for Julia's birthday when she was in school. "He's the best," Julia says. The two paintings were created by their son when he was three years old, one is called "The Darkness" and the other is called "Morning Time." When they bought the house, Julia's godmother gave her this beautiful blanket on the bed along with a duffel bag full of beautiful textiles she had collected from around the world.
Design*Sponge Home Tour
Some shelves in the bedroom that Dennis built.
Design*Sponge Home Tour
The kids' bedroom. "The crazy room of my little dudes. It's chock full of toys and books and art, and feels like a boat in there. There is a little hole with a ladder going upstairs. My husband built their bed and shelves and this little swing that hangs from the ceiling, and I made their headboard with fabric I printed and dyed," Julia says.
Design*Sponge Home Tour
The front garden. When they moved in, this was all concrete. Dennis knocked it all out with a sledgehammer and Julia planted a garden. The Brugmansia tree was a cutting from a neighbor when she gave it to them seven years ago. Now, Julia says, it scents the warm evenings with the most incredible smell.
Design*Sponge Home Tour
Backyard studio and chicken coop with living roof.
Design*Sponge Home Tour
Julia's 10-foot x 12-foot printing studio, where she spends as much time as she can.
Design*Sponge Home Tour

Suggested For You


  • My favorite sneak peak to date! Love everything about this space, gives off such a happy and chilled vibe : )

  • The living room, bathroom, and garden are amazing. You can tell they put a TON of work into it. It has so much character. Truly a great one to read!

  • So nice and exciting ! Your house is so warm, welcoming, fun, poetic !
    Both of you have done some great work in there, engaged in the process, AND made sure your kids would love to play, live and dream in it !
    Congratulations !

  • Who is the artist of the blue wave motif painting in the first two photos? It is just wonderful. Great looking house!

  • Great idea! My kids are gonna love that. I just have to blast couple of doors and a wall and my house’s gonna turn into children s paradise :)

  • Julia, can I be your friend? Your house is amazing and warm and quirky in the best way possible. I just want to come over and hang out! My kids would go ape.
    Absolutely lovely and fantastically designed by you both.
    Thanks for sharing one of the best sneak peeks ever,

  • I love ,love ,love this home.And the roof garden on the chicken coop is so clever! And by the way ,your textiles are beautiful.

  • Hi JULIA, I have to buy from your company as my grandson who lives in San Francisco by the ocean is named Luca Jackson .
    Also I am a clay and art teacher in Ashland and have taught printmaking , multi-media art adventures, clay and journal creations to children for combined 35 years in San Francisco { at S.F. Museum of Art in 70’s , Mcallister and Van Ness } and Portland and Ashland Oregon in 80’s , 90’s and currently.
    I really like your print work and also woodwork projects of your husband. So glad you have chickens as we did recently for 7 years.
    I received ” you may know ” luca jackson on facebook and thought it was my grand son. And I discovered you!!! great. thank you Shari

  • Did you guys use two different grout colors in this bathroom? So beautiful. And if so did you have issues with that?