A creative couple with an entrepreneurial mindset, Jimmy Brower and Damien Merino have created a sun-soaked sanctuary on the Oakland/Emeryville border characterized by lush plant life, quiet nooks, and handmade art and decor.
Jimmy is the owner and creator behind lifestyle brand West Perro as well as the founder of Head West, a series of maker fairs in the San Francisco Bay Area. Damien has a background in corporate retail and is currently a manager in visual operations at Old Navy and a digital creator. He also has a knack for building clean, minimalist interiors—and killer playlists, which can be heard at most Head West markets. Even their dog, Joey, is building out his own career with a recent modeling gig for kids fashion brand Janie and Jack.
Just over 10 years ago, what’s now their home was a record shop, without the now existing side door, staircase, and loft. It wasn’t until the current landlord took over that their corner unit and neighboring lofts were converted into live/work spaces. In 2012, Jimmy lived in an upstairs studio, and then in 2014, he and Damien shifted into the current, street-level loft. "Now, the entire building has a mission of supporting creatives—our neighbors are singers, songwriters, musicians, screen printers, and small brand owners, just to name a few," says Jimmy.
Both Jimmy and Damien spent their boyhood days roaming free under the sun, and that freewheeling vibe permeates the home. While Jimmy has a Midwestern background, Damien hails from Hawaii. It only makes sense that their dwelling—aka the "greenhouse of their dreams"—has more than 50 plant and cacti species that grow within a muted, natural interior. "I guess you’d say it’s when Midwest meets West Coast," says Jimmy. "We both brought a little small-town-life aesthetics from our upbringing."
The entire space totals around 1,000 square feet spanning an upstairs loft, living room, dining area, kitchen, mini workshop, and bathroom. With an open floor plan, the goal was to section off separate spaces and vignettes to delineate different functions. Large pieces of furniture, tall plants, and room-specific decor create visual dividers.
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To evoke a gallery feel, they kept their walls white to create a palette for local artist friends. "When I say local, most everything is made in Oakland, and made by friends," says Jimmy. "Supporting your local economy is a big deal, especially when it comes to services that need those dollars in our communities."
The long-term rental has continued to shift over the years with love and some elbow grease from the two. "We have to be conscious of investing our money wisely to not fool ourselves that we’re putting in tangible equity, but rather investing in emotional equity with the space," explains Jimmy. "We made upgrades that would not only benefit us in the current state, but also add value for future tenants, when and if we would ever move."
On such investment was frosting their store-front windows to be able to open the curtains while maintaining privacy. They also refaced the cabinets with birch and pine wood with custom dowel pull handles. "This was an easy update because we kept the foundation of the cabinets, just giving them a facelift," says Jimmy.
A modern spin on a barn door was added to an existing closet space under the stairs to keep clutter out of sight. In the bathroom, they added a new sink, cabinet, and vanity mirror to help it cohere with the rest of the space. Their biggest build, however, was the exposed loft closet made of birch and pine wood with hanging space and storage compartments.
"We pride ourselves on investing in community, the local creative economy, and nature," says Jimmy. "Those beings tend to have a ripple effect on other movements that create good in the world. If we could only have art, plants, and pups—we’d be happy campers."
As both Jimmy and Damien work from home—Jimmy full-time, and Damien part-time—their home stands a creative incubator for ideas, requiring equal parts inspiration and quietude: "Just as a writer might need to find stillness to focus on their voice, or an artist might need to have movement to focus on their strokes, we feel the energy in our space radiating those creative vibes, which helps up to keep motivated and inspired to continue our own work."
The entire West Perro brand is managed from the workshop in the back of the loft, and the two are constantly brainstorming on projects, design, content creation, and travels. For Jimmy, work means refining and expanding the West Perro brand, adding more Head West venues, and creating nonprofit creative use spaces. Damien is honing in on his content creation portfolio for local and national brands via his online blog, #SeriesofAdventures | Beyond the Feed.
"As we both create with our hands and also in digital form, we are constantly inspired by what is going on around us—in our friend circles, the social scene, politics, and so on," says Jimmy.
Now that they’ve made a home together, Jimmy and Damien are setting their sights on investing in a cabin in the mountains for weekend getaways.
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