Budget Breakdown: A Bay Area Warehouse Becomes a Live/Work Space For $124K

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By Jennifer Baum Lagdameo
A Bay Area producer and community organizer converts a run-down warehouse in Oakland into her dream house for $124,093.

With one foot in the tech design industry and the other firmly in the art world, producer and community organizer Michelle Morrison started saving to purchase her own home before she turned 30. She was dreaming of her own industrial live/work space, and after 10 years in San Francisco, she started to look in Oakland for a warehouse space which she could convert. 

After searching for months and being outbid on multiple spaces, she finally upped her budget as much as she could afford and hit the jackpot—winning a 1,300-square-foot former coffee and produce warehouse in Oakland’s waterfront warehouse district. The space was exactly what she was looking for—something she could break down and build back up.

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Budget Breakdown: A Bay Area Warehouse Becomes a Live/Work Space For $124K - Photo 1 of 12 -
By saving money on her dining table, which is a piece of walnut countertop from IKEA, Morrison was able to budget for splurges like a bespoke, pink velvet sofa from Anthropologie. The artwork is by her brother, who also happens to be her roommate.

By saving money on her dining table, which is a piece of walnut countertop from IKEA, Morrison was able to budget for splurges like a bespoke, pink velvet sofa from Anthropologie. The artwork is by her brother, who also happens to be her roommate.

One of Morrison's greyhounds relaxes on the tufted sofa.

One of Morrison's greyhounds relaxes on the tufted sofa.

Feeling empowered by her purchase, Morrison set her sights on an even loftier goal: to convert the space into her dream home with just a $125,000 budget. With Siol Studios and Elliott Build in tow, the results came in on time and exactly within her budget—and she was able to move in just seven months after closing. 

Says Morrison, "I was on a pre-election feminist high, and I bought the loft from a woman and I had a female loan officer, so it only made sense to find a design and build team who were also women. I started calling my home the Womansion."

Morrison and her two greyhounds pose with her brother and roommate, Michael Anthony Morrison—an artist who is also responsible for much of her art collection. 

Morrison and her two greyhounds pose with her brother and roommate, Michael Anthony Morrison—an artist who is also responsible for much of her art collection. 

The super-efficient team successfully executed a carefully considered design that met Michelle’s goals in creative, budget-friendly ways. For example, instead of using raw walnut for the parquet stairs, they repurposed countertops for a beautiful walnut finish. That same walnut "countertop" material (which was sourced from IKEA for only $500) also became a beautiful dining table. Creative hacks such as these gave Morrison the flexibility in her budget to splurge on priority pieces like a $4,200 bespoke pink velvet sofa from Anthropologie—a statement piece which ultimately defines the living room space. 

Morrison wanted the space to possess the warmth of her Mexican family’s roots with industrial-modern touches and ample space for art—a true reflection of who she is.  

Morrison wanted the space to possess the warmth of her Mexican family’s roots with industrial-modern touches and ample space for art—a true reflection of who she is.  

Morrison received many of the chairs in her eclectic collection as hand-me-downs from her family. 

Morrison received many of the chairs in her eclectic collection as hand-me-downs from her family. 

A vibrant corner flourishes with plants and music. 

A vibrant corner flourishes with plants and music. 

Rather than treating the concrete walls, Morrison hung a massive painting by her brother to give the dining room depth. 

Rather than treating the concrete walls, Morrison hung a massive painting by her brother to give the dining room depth. 

Morrison also had her heart set on having a marble countertop and backsplash for her kitchen. Instead of purchasing from a designer showroom, she was able to score a piece from IRG, a Bay Area marble supplier. The price was so good that she even picked up a spare in case she needs a matching piece to construct a small island in the future. 

Morrison's marble countertop and backsplash were a major score. 

Morrison's marble countertop and backsplash were a major score. 

The graphic cutout screens that enclose Morrison’s dressing room also back the kitchen. The screens were inspired by traditional Mexican ironwork.

The graphic cutout screens that enclose Morrison’s dressing room also back the kitchen. The screens were inspired by traditional Mexican ironwork.

Now, her beautifully designed, maximalist dream space is filled with plants, artwork, and heirloom furniture from her family, curiosities from her travels, and an extra-long dinner table where she can host dinner parties and continue to organize her feminist agenda—all the things that make a live/work loft truly a home. 

Morrison's dressing room features pink cement tiles from Bay Area company Cle Tiles. The screens were actually designed to match the tiles. 

Morrison's dressing room features pink cement tiles from Bay Area company Cle Tiles. The screens were actually designed to match the tiles. 

The bed occupies a cozy alcove.

The bed occupies a cozy alcove.

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Siol
Builder/General Contractor: Elliot Build
Photography: Megan Bayley

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