This Three-Level Loft in San Francisco Is an Artist's Sanctuary
This lively live/work studio in San Francisco's Dogpatch is a constant work-in-progress that mirrors its inhabitants' creative processes.
The live/work space of painter Heather Day and musician Chase McBride is what many would expect of a creative couple’s artist loft—high ceilings and an open floor plan saturated with sunlight pouring in through large warehouse windows and skylights, white walls swathed with canvases, and a floor coated in paint splatters. Guitar strumming permeates the three stories, drifting down to coexist with the sound of mixing paint, brushes scratching canvas. As in a painting or song, balance is key, which infiltrates every element of the 2,200-square-foot apartment in the Dogpatch district of San Francisco.
"During winter rainstorms the tin roof fills the space with a calming clatter. Those are great days to hunker down and binge through an entire Netflix series, scroll Instagram endlessly or, you know, read a book."
Each level is broken down with a specific cause, and naturally everything is multipurpose—the bottom level functions as a living room, kitchen, and art studio. The second floor has a full bathroom, music studio, canvas storage, and a converted guest bedroom with a collapsable Murphy bed. The third floor, accessible only by a handmade walnut ladder, is their bedroom and personal space. You can also peer down each tier to the first floor from the bedroom nook on the third floor.
Developments were made by the previous tenant, also a notable artist, with interior designer Sarah Owen to allow the space to function as both a home and studio. The top floor was extended to make space for a bedroom with the bed tucked away, working out nicely as there are no real walls dividing rooms. The goal was to minimize visual clutter in tight accommodations which translated to clean, white surfaces with subtle wood accents.
The second floor has been reconfigured since McBride moved in to accommodate a workspace, where he hosts rehearsals, writes, and records rough demos before doing final sessions in Oakland and Los Angeles. With Heather painting voraciously in prep for her upcoming solo show in San Francisco, the space is teeming with art.
"We love the energy that the constant creation and color give to the space, especially against the minimal aesthetic of the loft. It feels like a living, breathing entity. A cycle of turning nothing into something."
Day found the space when she moved to San Francisco four years ago. She walked by with a friend, peered in the window, and said, "One day I want to live there." Starting out with what felt like a blank canvas, she focused on the natural light. Her primary focus was to make the space mobile for convenience and comfort. A point of concern was the lack of storage, which meant letting go of belongings that would have otherwise lived in a closet or basement. Tight quarters paired with throwing regular events like Studio Table—a dinner series that Heather hosts with her business partner Michelle Wei—and photoshoots, the space needed to be able to metamorphose quickly.
"In a matter of a couple hours, the space can transform from a painting studio into a dinner party venue, so a lot of our furniture is modular, and easy to move between floors."
In terms of the building itself, they’d heard that it was a car mechanic warehouse before it was divided into units. "The guts of the building are certainly industrial, so it does have a mysterious past life. Chase has heard the faint sound of disco music late at night, so he thinks it might’ve been the center of a burgeoning dancehall scene back in the 70’s. That’s up for debate," says Day. The community is equally colorful, bustling with a couple of scientists across the hall, a mathematician a few doors down, and a handful of designers, photographers, bloggers, and other creative minded people. "It’s not uncommon to find a few doors propped open while dinner is being cooked or a house concert is underway."
"The design encourages the concept that less is more."
See it on Dwell.
Photography: Margaret Austin