An Installation Artist's 400-Square-Foot Portland Studio Apartment

An Installation Artist's 400-Square-Foot Portland Studio Apartment

Heather Keeling
Apr 18, 2018

Name: Jessica Pezalla and Hazel the dog
Location: Alphabet District — Portland, Oregon
Size: 400 square feet
Years lived in: 1 year, renting

When Jessica Pezalla, an artist and designer who founded the creative studio Bramble Workshop, was looking for a new apartment last year, she wanted to live in an urban location and in a vintage building. She found the perfect spot to rent—a corner unit in a great 1920s building that has tons of light for her plants and plenty of room for her and Hazel.

An off-site artist's studio where Jessica creates her stunning installation pieces and window displays frees up her apartment for just living, and Jessica has thoughtfully styled her home with handmade objects, plants and unique pieces inspired by nature. "On the deepest level, my mother and grandmothers are the lasting source of my artistic and aesthetic inspiration. All three were artists. Their homes were filled with beautiful handmade objects, both practical and decorative, and this is what I strive towards in my own home."

Many of Jessica's works can be seen in her apartment; three papier mache woodland creatures are just inside the front door, and a life-size papier mache owl (her proudest DIY) that was commissioned by Hermes is above the couch. Currently Jessica is working on a large installation for the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The show, which is "a focus exhibition that sets out to recreate and interpret the experience of the garden," opens April 21.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Earthy, eclectic. I am drawn to objects that are handcrafted, textural, and made from natural materials. When decorating a living space, I gravitate towards the Japanese "Wabi Sabi" aesthetic of the perfectly imperfect. I also love to bring the outdoors in, through houseplants and simple floral arrangements.

Inspiration: On the deepest level, my mother and grandmothers are the lasting source of my artistic and aesthetic inspiration. All three were artists. My mother created linocuts of plants and animals, my maternal grandmother was a ceramicist, and my paternal grandmother was an expert weaver and knitter. Their homes were filled with beautiful handmade objects, both practical and decorative, and this is what I strive towards in my own home.

Favorite Element: As someone who makes objects and art installations for a living, I have many past projects displayed in my home. I love the pressed flower wall hanging and plan to make more of them when the roses begin to bloom here in Portland.

Biggest Challenge: Living in a small space is always a challenge, but luckily I have an art studio, too. Plants, crystals, and sculptural objects won out over books when deciding what to display on my bookshelf!

What Friends Say: From my friend Danielle, who has seen many of my living spaces over the years: "The spaces you create always reflect how highly you value simple, organic beauty. Also, you are selective in the objects you choose to display—they must be both aesthetically pleasing and significant to you on an emotional level—you don't overcrowd surface area with pretty but meaningless things." Thanks, Danielle!

Proudest DIY: Definitely the papier-mâché owl. It was created for an Hermes window display in Miami, along with other papier-mâché flora and fauna. The animal heads on the adjacent wall were made using the same technique; I have a longtime love of papier-mâché and paper craft.

Biggest Indulgence: I have an unreasonable number of houseplants given the size of my apartment. When I moved in, my dream was to sleep surrounded by plants, and I love to wake up to sunlight streaming through the leaves—although I did not anticipate how difficult it would be to make my bed every morning!

Best Advice: Integrate meaningful pieces even if they don't "match" your aesthetic. The Scandinavian blue and white dish set owned by my grandmother doesn't necessarily work with the rest of my décor, but it makes me happy every single day because it reminds me of her.

Dream Sources: My favorite shops in Portland are Porch Light, Maven Collective, Kiriko, Appetite, and Palace


Golden leaf wreath – made by Jessica
Coat rack – IKEA
Floral head piece- Bella Flora
Bench – IKEA
Pillows on bench – West Elm
Horse painting – by my Great Aunt Ruth Moyle
Wood carvings - Foresta Vintage Basket with wood handles – Target
Stool - vintage

Victorian wicker chair- antique store
Papier-mâché animal heads – Bramble Workshop
Framed portrait – My great, great grandparents Petrea and Hans Jensen.
Carved wood stool – purchased in Ghana in the 1970s by my mother
Plant stands and baskets – vintage
Trunk – vintage
Sofa — IKEA
Ikat pillows – made by Jessica
Owl – made by Jessica
Pussywillow basket – Bella Flora
Wool rug — IKEA Tree slice table – made by Jessica
Bookcase - thrifted
Pressed flower wall hanging – Bramble Workshop
Microscope – owned by my mother, who was both a scientist and an artist
Candle holders made from vintage weaving loom spindles – Foresta Vintage
Bud vase – Niko Far West
White porcelain candleholder – Christina Conant
Cement + wood planter – Portland Flower Market
Teak round stool– Bed Bath & Beyond
Hanging ceramic chimes – made by Jessica
Pinecone garland - Portland Flower Market

Linen bedding – Pure&Linen
Faux fur pillows – West Elm
Embroidered pillow – Loloi Rugs
Mirrors above bed – Anthropologie
Deer print by Navajo painter Harrison Begay - a gift to my grandmother from my grandfather- it hung in their bedroom
Bedside table and plant stand – vintage
Driftwood lamp- eBay

Butterfly linocut – by my mother
Frame – Anthropologie
White carved wood mirror – West Elm
Oval mirror - vintage
Table — IKEA
Chairs – vintage
Dishes – mix of vintage owned by my grandmother and new set from Bed Bath & Beyond
Linen tablecloth – Target
Table runner – Target
Napkins – Anthropologie
Olivewood bowl- Sur La Table
Ceramic and rattan pot – Anthropologie
Glass pitcher – owned by my grandmother
Pots on windowsill – Portland Flower Market and Anthropologie

Tea kettle- Bed Bath & Beyond
Olivewood cheese board, serving utensils, salt keeper - Sur La Table
Baskets above refrigerator- vintage and made by grandmother
Oblong wood bowl – Target
Mugs - Mimi Ceramics
Pheasant print above sink – HomeofDODO
Ceramic vase- Foresta Vintage
Olivewood board - Sur La Table
White vase – West Elm
Candle sticks – vintage
Hanging baskets - Foresta Vintage

Thanks, Jessica!

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