From the curb, it’s impossible to tell that there’s an apartment hiding behind the doors of Creative Director and General Manager Risha Gauder’s home...
If anything, her front door looks like it belongs to yet another abandoned Temescal storefront. However, the moment you turn the handle and step inside you’re instantly transported, like peeking through a curtain into a lush Victorian parlor.
Risha has been with Crimson for three years, where she is responsible for the majority of creative decisions both on and off the sales floor, from product curation to floral design. When questioned about where her knack for design originated from, she admits that she tends to gravitate and finds joy in transforming unconventional spaces. It is only natural that she ended up finding the studio she now calls home, a daunting one room expanse with uneven wood flooring that previously served as a general store and a heating and plumbing business before being zoned for residential use. It’s hard to imagine that when she moved in, it was just one big empty room with a fridge and stove on one wall and a giant support beam jutting through the center. Risha expertly used a variety of color blocking techniques to make each corner of the large room feel like a separate space, and used creative furniture placement to style the room into a livable space.
This approach proved overwhelmingly effective in turning this blank canvas into a cozy home. Her bed, which is lofted atop a hand-built platform with a broad staircase and cabinetry cut-outs, is secretly tucked away out of view. The room contains two separate parlors for seating, and the appearance of a full kitchen, created using open shelving and an island with backsplash to mimic a long kitchen counter. You would naturally assume that Gauder has some serious interior design experience under her belt, but the majority of her work experience has actually come from working in merchandising and assisting with the process of building retail spaces.
“I feel pretty comfortable creating small stories within a space,” she shrugs, as though it is a simple, everyday task.
Her eclectic design sense and effortless styling is executed with the same casual flourish, accented by heirloom pieces passed down through her family, who are multigenerational Bay Area residents on both sides. She inherited much of the furniture and art in her present home from various family members, which she displays beside ”interesting and beautiful things that make me laugh.. odd and silly pieces” scoured from the far corners of thrift stores and hidden at the unassuming booths of the Alameda Flea Market. Her home growing up was also filled with oddities, taxidermy, and unfinished art projects, much like her present space. Unsurprisingly, it was also filled with plants.
And as you can tell, plants are the real spotlight of this secret Oakland conservatory, adorning every corner of her studio from floor to ceiling.
“I have been surrounded by plants my whole life and always felt a connection to nature,” she remarks. Growing up, her parents owned a landscaping company guided by her mother, a Landscape Architect, and executed by her father. This naturally made way for a lush, verdant interiorscape within their own home. “When I was a young teen we would do a lot of our shopping at the ‘Super Longs,’” she laughs. “They had a banger plant section. I would always pick out a weirdo plant every time we were there. I remember getting my first Chenille plant and killing it a couple of weeks later!”
As an adult, Gauder has made a career out of plant curation, and today hand-picks most of “the weirdos” Crimson is known to carry, from rare plants to everyday goobers. “It’s a weird thought, but I’ve been doing the plant thing for over 20 years now.” It’s a good thing, because her watering routine is kind of a part time job in itself. Risha spends around three to four hours watering and caring for her plants each week. She sticks to plants she knows will survive within the lighting conditions of her space and that will tolerate her weekly watering schedule in order to keep things simple and avoid overcomplicating her plant care routine. “I just crank up some music and make a day of it!” she says with the same enthusiasm and good humor she uses to approach the pile of difficult tasks she somehow manages to accomplish each day in order to keep Crimson stocked and beautiful.
Needless to say, her approach is inspiring for plant lovers and the plant curious, alike. She proves that no matter what amount of time you have, you can still curate a home you love and a thriving plant selection if you stick to what you know.