My House: A Creative Couple’s Live/Work Loft Is Full of Sunny, Southwestern Vibes
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My House: A Creative Couple’s Live/Work Loft Is Full of Sunny, Southwestern Vibes

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By Jen Woo
Bay Area makers and entrepreneurs Jimmy Brower and Damien Merino fill their desert-inspired home with work by local artists to keep the creative juices flowing.

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.

"We’re lucky to have a dual entrance where we have a shop front door, but also a door on the side street, which has less foot traffic," says Jimmy. "We wouldn’t trade the shop door for anything because it has so much historical integrity…and we love how it breaks up the floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room." 

Joey the pup, Jimmy Brower, and Damien Merino chill in their live/work loft.

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.

A West Elm Eddy sofa stands as the anchor in the living room alongside a vintage leather chair from Berkeley salvage yard Urban Ore. Perched above is a wood squiggle by Katie Gong. 

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 latest addition to their art collection is a neon Monstera leaf piece by Meryl Pataky. 

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.

A mixture of old and new adds character to the living room: an industrial credenza meets a vintage chair and Moroccan poufs by Soukie Modern. 

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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." 

"Plants, for us, are oxygen," says Jimmy. "When you live in a concrete jungle, you want to make sure your space is soft. When we couldn’t do that with rugs, throws, and other home goods, we did it with plant life."

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." 

An assortment of books sits atop the kitchen counter, a nook that showcases wood art by Aleksandra Zee, a Carissa Textured Ceramic Table Lamp, and an All Roads peace sign. 

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.

The kitchen holds a ceramic collection including Tall Mountain Tumblers from Coco Chispa, mugs from danvalbar, In Meditation Face Cups from Rogue Habits, and a West Perro Baja Duna Air Plant Vessel. 

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.

"Our lofted bedroom has to be one of our most special spaces," says Jimmy. "It’s not necessarily the space we spend the most time in, but it has some of our most treasured and sentimental pieces that bring us together—like our Tiny Cathedral by Lisa Swerling and our illustration by EmmieBean. The old single-pane window over our bed lets in the sunrise and the moonlight." A Kaleen Cameron piece of plaster art hangs above their West Elm Floyd Platform Bed with Coyuchi sheets. Alongside is a West Elm Natural Tree Stump Side Table with a SIN Mima Table Lamp. 

"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."

Chic desert vibes continue in the upstairs loft, where El Cosmico Kimono robes hang beside a Mexican leather chair. A custom EmmieBean portrait of the couple sits above the dresser. 

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."

West Perro is entirely run and created in this little nook workshop in the back of the home. 

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.

A collection of the pieces Jimmy uses to create his wall hangings and hats. 

"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.

Joey’s hideout under the stairs is filled with books and art, like Katie Gong’s mini wood knot.

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.

Learn more about West Perro, Head West, and #SeriesofAdventures.

More My House:

A Bay Area Restaurateur’s Woodsy Retreat Prioritizes Community

Apparel Designer Mikey Armenta’s Northern California Surf Retreat

Gallery Owner Francis Mill’s San Francisco Loft Is a Poetic "Place For Looking"

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