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A Dreamy Loft For A Young, Book-Loving Family in Oakland, CA

by Sabrina Smelko

When graphic designer and illustrator Jess Levitz found out she was pregnant last January, she knew it was time to bid farewell to her tiny San Francisco, CA apartment. After an exhausting search for something affordable in San Francisco, Jess and her husband Josh, who’s finishing up as a Neuroscience Post Doctoral fellow at UC Berkeley, set their sights on Oakland. Many of their friends were located there and it was affordable, so after just 48 hours of looking, they found the one: an old live/work loft just a short stroll to the BART and Lake Merritt. Jess says, “I had always wanted to live in a loft, and while not your average space to bring home a newborn, we knew it was the right fit for us during this transition time of our life.”

Before moving in, Jess spent many hours brainstorming the best layout for their family and came up with the idea to construct a lofted platform bedroom to create the illusion of more privacy while providing plenty of much-needed storage underneath. Before the couple even moved in, Jess had the space painted white, the platform built, and all of their container-store bookshelves installed. As organized and seamless as the few months were prior to moving in, thanks to Jess’s planning and hard work, just one short day after moving in and sorting all of their furniture — including arranging their 1,000+ book collection on their shelves — everything fell apart, literally. Jess explains, “I was sitting up on our bed when our entire shelving unit collapsed, sending our books flying all over the loft. It was so scary! The handyman company that put up the shelves felt so badly, they came back and helped us organize all of the books and put up the shelves with the sturdiest screws they could find. Luckily there was only minor damage: our TV was hardest hit and now sits slanting forward (if you look closely you can see it in the pictures!).”

Another unexpected surprise came by way of baby Izzie: After a painful pregnancy, (Jess had a condition called Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy), Izzie arrived 5 weeks early. But with his arrival also came peace. Since Jess, Josh and their scrappy Terrier Jack welcomed Izzie into their home, life has settled and slowed down (as much as it can with an infant). Jess and Josh are now enjoying the calm after the storm and taking their time with decorating in order to craft the perfect, most comfortable nest for their family.

Their 850-square-foot space showcases the family’s eclectic taste and unique collections, but also oozes with function, familiarity and comfort. As much as Jess and Josh enjoy looking at photos of minimal spaces, in their own home, it’s all about being surrounded by their favorite things, from their coveted book collection — organized by genre and author’s last name — to their in-suite laundry. Jess says, “With a new baby I can’t tell you how happy I am to not have to go down to the basement with a roll of quarters!” But perhaps the most beautiful aspect of their space, the large windows, also presents the most challenges. In the late afternoon, the sun comes in so strongly that their loft feels like a greenhouse, to their houseplants’ approval and the family’s discomfort. Jess says, “If we owned the loft I would install air conditioning so we could enjoy our big windows during those peak hot times,” but despite the few issues they’ve been met with, life for Jess and Josh is quite dreamy. –Sabrina

Photography by Ellie Koleen

An Eclectic and Dreamy Loft For A Young, Book-Loving Family in Oakland, CA
1/19
As you enter Jess and Josh's loft, you'll find the living room, bedroom, and nursery directly to the right. Jess says, "I am a houseplant enthusiast! I love how [plants] add a pop of color and warm up the more industrial space." The rug was originally purchased for their wedding: Jess and Josh stood on it under the chuppah while they tied the knot. It serves as a beautiful, functional memento of their special day.
An Eclectic and Dreamy Loft For A Young, Book-Loving Family in Oakland, CA
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Josh is an avid book collector, and between him and Jess, they have over 1,000 books varying from fiction to comics to art books. These massive shelves almost become their own eclectic art piece!
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A cozy corner in their living room. This amazing retro lamp was bought by Josh's parents back in the 70s and handed down to Jess and Josh after his parents downsized. Jess says, "I love how it is nestled between our record player and my molded plastic chair that I purchased at my favorite store in SF called STUFF."
An Eclectic and Dreamy Loft For A Young, Book-Loving Family in Oakland, CA
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In the long hallway leading to their front door, Jess and Josh store more books, baby gear, and materials from Jess's various side projects. The hanging tapestry, blockprinted by artisans in India, is from Block Shop Textiles.
An Eclectic and Dreamy Loft For A Young, Book-Loving Family in Oakland, CA
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I love Jess's idea to build a platform below their bed to make a lofted, separate area which creates visual separation between spaces. Another bright idea (pun intended) of Jess's was to string bistro lights from Target between the pipes for a more cozy-feeling space and to cast a warmer light. It helps combat the cold, industrial feel a loft can have, while still paying homage to the grandeur of the tall walls.
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In the lofted bedroom area, sheer white curtains add a bit of whimsy and romance while also providing privacy. The twinkle lights in the corner act as a nightlight so that Jess and Josh can easily check on baby Izzie during the night. Their curtains, bed and bedding are from IKEA.
An Eclectic and Dreamy Loft For A Young, Book-Loving Family in Oakland, CA
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After spending way too much time trying to find the perfect large-scale print to put in their bedroom, Jess decided to buy a big piece of canvas muslin and craft her own art with some yellow paint. Jess says, "While a bit of a temporary fix, I like its simple and a-bit-rough charm."
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The whole happy family together: Jess, Josh, baby Izzie and Jack.
An Eclectic and Dreamy Loft For A Young, Book-Loving Family in Oakland, CA
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An Eclectic and Dreamy Loft For A Young, Book-Loving Family in Oakland, CA
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Their loft's floor plan.
An Eclectic and Dreamy Loft For A Young, Book-Loving Family in Oakland, CA
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Tucked away to the left of their bedroom area is a functioning nursery for Izzie. Jess explains, "Our baby is still too young to go in the crib so we use it mostly for storage right now!"
An Eclectic and Dreamy Loft For A Young, Book-Loving Family in Oakland, CA
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Of course Jess and Josh have already started Izzie's book collection, which sits next to some precious stuffed animals and a plant.
An Eclectic and Dreamy Loft For A Young, Book-Loving Family in Oakland, CA
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Behind the living room is a blue door leading to the bathroom. The Otami tapestry above the rubber plant was purchased in Mexico. To the right you'll find their dining area and kitchen, as well as doors to their fire escape.
An Eclectic and Dreamy Loft For A Young, Book-Loving Family in Oakland, CA
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This IKEA chaise was a Craigslist find and is Jack's domain. He enjoys looking out of the window and "protecting" the family from local squirrels and birds.
An Eclectic and Dreamy Loft For A Young, Book-Loving Family in Oakland, CA
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Before Jess and Josh moved in, they had the back wall painted a light mint green for a subtle addition of color and softness.
An Eclectic and Dreamy Loft For A Young, Book-Loving Family in Oakland, CA
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Jess says, "We get the best view of the sunset in the kitchen!" They even have a hashtag to celebrate it.
An Eclectic and Dreamy Loft For A Young, Book-Loving Family in Oakland, CA
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The photo on the bottom right is from their wedding in San Francisco's Presidio.
An Eclectic and Dreamy Loft For A Young, Book-Loving Family in Oakland, CA
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"These old doors out to our fire escape are one of my favorite features of the loft," Jess says. "On nice days I love opening the doors wide and working from the kitchen, it is wonderful to feel the breeze and kind of feel like I am sitting outside."
An Eclectic and Dreamy Loft For A Young, Book-Loving Family in Oakland, CA
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Along the window wall is Jess's "office." As someone who works from home, she needed a space where she could get down to business. She says, "I love the light and that the desk is large enough to have multiple projects going on at once (it is never this clean!). I like to keep my desk tall so that I can sit or stand."

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Comments

  • I’d love to know if/how they have secured the books onto the shelves. Something I always had in the back of my mind as a book lover in an earthquake zone.

    • Hi Christine! Unfortunately the books are not secure – just the shelves! We are right near a fault too and should probably think of a solution for this! Thanks for your comment :)

  • I love this entire space, there is not one thing I find fault in. What a dream. I’m pregnant with our first child and this gives me hope of maintaining some style and serenity with a newborn!

  • Such a lovely space. So dreamy! I feel that if I had ever lived in a loft, this is exactly what I would try to go for! Really love Jess’ work too (I follow her on instagram), so it’s fun to see her home featured on here. They did a beautiful job decorating & make it feel so home-y in a loft space.

  • dream loft space – particularly those windows! beautiful shots on that hashtag. inspires me for our downsize once our not-so-little-ones fly away.

  • Wow! They chose the perfect word for this: DREAMY! HOW DREAMY! I would probably never have given the space a chance if I knew I needed lots of storage and had a baby coming…But this is so brilliant! It really challenges one to make no excuses! A little creativity is all one needs to make it work. I’m going to get to work with the few iffy spots of my apartment now!

  • Congrats on your little one! We have a 6 month old and ended up building a loft in our SF home too! I love everything about your space minus one detail…I have the same IKEA chaise and I replaced the legs with these amazing mid-century-ish modern ones from a company I found in Sweden. Trust me, you will love the difference! Check it out:
    http://www.prettypegs.com

  • Dying to know which building in Oakland this is! I can’t believe that they 1. found an apartment in Oakland in <48 hours 2. have a newborn in a loft and 3. have such a bright and airy space!

    Their home only solidifies that Oakland is a fantastic city to move to!

  • Beautiful space and story. We are currently in the process of trying to figure out how to accommodate our book collection into a small nyc apartment and this is just the perfect inspiration.

  • I am in love with the bassinet that is right next to your bed for baby izzie, I was hoping you could tell me where you found that gem?

  • What a warm and cheerful loft! Seems like such a happy place to be :)

    As a semi-handyperson myself, I’m shocked that the company didn’t install the shelves correctly knowing how much weight was going to be on them, particularly given the scale of damage possible to both property and persons. Glad they did the right thing and re-installed them when they collapsed!

    We have ~72 feet of wall-mounted bookshelves in our apartment, and since it houses our entire book collection and tv, I used commercial shelving uprights on studs. If stud mounting (heh!) wasn’t going to work I probably wouldn’t have risked it – I’ve seen a small bookshelf with 2 75lb drywall toggle bolts rip out of a wall before, so it just makes me too nervous!

  • Lovely space! I was wondering if you could share where you got the cord and eyelet/bolt hardware to hang the curtains? Is that from ikea as well?
    Thanks!

  • This is absolutely beautiful! I am really curious about the bookshelf system above the TV, it’s perfect! Would love to know where it’s from if someone can enlighten me :)

  • Lovely! I have to ask about that yellow/lime colored chest of drawers the TV is sitting on — where did you find that?!

  • Do you have the layout or specs for the platform bed and the steps and shears? Would love to know how it was constructed. Thanks so much in advance!

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