Small Space Living: A San Francisco Crash Pad Turned Live-Work Space

By: Sarah Beaumont

January 17, 2017

To many, business trips mean room service, hotel bars and company-paid dinners. Not a bad deal every once in a while. But when you’re jetting off to a different city for work nearly every week, the hotel life can get old fast. Such was the case for Arena Ventures, a seed stage venture capital firm based in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Though Arena’s four-person team of investors live in L.A., their work frequently takes them to the country’s tech capital, where they meet with startup founders and visit various companies around the city. But although San Francisco has always functioned as their second home base, living out of pricey hotel rooms didn’t make it feel much like home.

Small Space Living: A San Francisco Crash Pad Turned Live-Work Space, Laurel & Wolf,

“Since we’re in the city so often, we needed a place flexible enough to support one or all of us at the same time,” says founder and managing partner Paige Craig. “And as a seed fund, we also needed an affordable solution to hotel rooms that could be used for sleeping, hosting founders, and meeting with our companies.”

It’s no secret that rent and real estate in San Francisco is expensive, which meant that Arena would have to make the most of a very small space. After finding a one-bedroom apartment in SF’s SOMA district—a popular area for tech startups—the team began utilizing it immediately. Equipped with a killer gym, a full-time concierge service, meeting spaces, and a screening room, the building was the perfect set-up for the company. But making the one-bedroom apartment suitable to sleep three grown men, as well as a functional space for meetings, work, and relaxation, was a different beast entirely.

Small Space Living: A San Francisco Crash Pad Turned Live-Work Space, Laurel & Wolf,

The apartment before the redesign.

The team quickly realized that three mattresses on the floor weren’t going to cut it, so they called upon Laurel & Wolf designer Erica Johnston to put all of their spatial requirements into action. With a budget of only $2500 and barely 600 square feet to work with, Erica split up the tiny, open concept floorplan into three spacious feeling sections.

Small Space Living: A San Francisco Crash Pad Turned Live-Work Space, Laurel & Wolf,

Using a wood-finished, slatted screen room divider, Erica carved out a second bedroom in between the living area and kitchen. The bed looks out onto the San Francisco cityscape, making it feel like a private little alcove within the open space. While the room divider functions as a headboard on one side, it provides a mount for art and a backdrop for a multi-purpose eating and work area in the kitchen. Although the living room sits directly adjacent to the second bedroom, the positioning of the sofa and a large area rug make it feel like a separate space.

Small Space Living: A San Francisco Crash Pad Turned Live-Work Space, Laurel & Wolf,

Major plus: the sofa pulls out into a bed for those nights when three people stay at the apartment.

“Not only did Erica manage to create a functional living area, kitchen, work spot and bedroom, but she was also very responsive and thoughtful about incorporating the tastes and styles of Arena into the space,” says Paige. The apartment’s modern architecture, big glass windows and white walls gave Erica a blank canvas to write the Arena aesthetic upon.

Small Space Living: A San Francisco Crash Pad Turned Live-Work Space, Laurel & Wolf,

“I love industrial antiques and contemporary furniture, but we didn’t have the time or skill to give the space style and functionality on our own,” Paige says.

Small Space Living: A San Francisco Crash Pad Turned Live-Work Space, Laurel & Wolf,

Erica used a blue color palette infused with organic browns and metallic finishes to complement the space’s neutral, modern mood. In the master bedroom, a similar color scheme is paired with the room’s sleek contemporary furnishings to create a calming ambiance. But the space includes one piece that really stands out to the whole team.

Small Space Living: A San Francisco Crash Pad Turned Live-Work Space, Laurel & Wolf,

“When we each walked into the bedroom for the first time, we were all wowed by the vintage industrial dresser with the cool circular mirror hanging over it. I’d say that’s definitely our favorite thing, but we also really love the living room rug and the vibe of that whole area,” Paige says. “It went from being a bare bones crash pad to a place that actually feels like home.”

Small Space Living: A San Francisco Crash Pad Turned Live-Work Space, Laurel & Wolf,

The startup world is all about functionality no matter what you’re working with. And the Arena Ventures’ apartment reflects both the hip, techie speed of San Francisco and the professional environment required of a venture capital firm.

Small Space Living: A San Francisco Crash Pad Turned Live-Work Space, Laurel & Wolf,


Photos by Dustin Walker for Laurel & Wolf. Designed by Erica Johnston.

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