Atomic Garden

Atomic Garden

Have you ever walked into a shop and thought you would like to make it your home? Caroline Rowland takes us behind the scenes in her book, The Shopkeeper’s Home, showing us how more than 30 of the most stylish independent lifestyle retailers have interpreted their unique interior styles in both their shops and homes. The Shopkeeper’s Home is filled with lots of wonderful decorating advice and details. We are thrilled to share one of Caroline’s featured shops, Atomic Garden, a unique lifestyle store in Oakland, California. Reclaimed materials and vintage pieces are at the heart of the interior decor in this store where artisanal objects and sustainable items of kitchenalia work well on shelves of reclaimed wood.  A subtle backdrop of neutral walls allows the quality of the objects to shine, with natural wood, metal and textiles giving a modern rustic aesthetic.


The Shop

The establishment of lifestyle store Atomic Garden was a somewhat impulsive, but at the same time organic, career change for co- owners Adrienne Armstrong and Jamie Kidson. The two women were previously clothing designers, who met, not through work, but on the sidelines of a soccer field. While watching their children play, they developed a kinship – both were striving for a career with an emphasis on sustainability and craftsmanship, distancing themselves from the world of mass production. Originally they started looking into suitable companies to produce Adrienne’s clothing line in this way. It didn’t happen, but what came about instead was the discovery of many great makers and designers whose values matched theirs. The natural progression was to open a store selling the wares of these artisans and promoting their shared ethos of well-designed, well-made products that have either a positive effect on the community or on the planet.

These ideals mean that everything they sell has some kind of story, and it was these stories that inspired the design of the store too. They chose to use materials that were natural and simplistic – lots of reclaimed wood, much of which was repurposed from a local building, and vintage pieces such as the large workshop bench, which is central to the store. With a wide and varied selection of goods, they didn’t want the store to feel overwhelming, so pared-back display solutions were required, to complement the style of items they love. The two women spend a lot of time styling the store in a considered manner grouping together products that relate to each other in some way. Mini ‘departments’ are the result: for example, kitchenware, children’s toys and clothes, soft furnishings and toiletries each have their own section, making browsing manageable while maintaining a natural flow.


The Home

The shop owners agree that the store is constantly evolving. As new products arrive, the design dynamic changes, just as it does in a home when a new piece of furniture arrives. Striving to keep the space fresh and inspiring, they often incorporate different ideas into it – currently they are making a move towards celebrating California and its varying landscapes – mountains, desert, forest and the ocean. In fact, it is environmental diversity that Jamie loves about her Berkeley home. In one direction, she is five minutes from the base of a canyon hike, and two blocks in the other, she has the convenience of cafes, markets and shops. Jamie has lived in her current home for a little over a year, but has already carried out a substantial amount of restoration work.

A wood-clad craftsman-style house, built in 1910 by a notable Berkeley architect, Walter Ratcliff, it has almost all of its original features, which Jamie has worked tirelessly to repair. She also tried to ensure that the newly installed kitchen and bathroom appeared as if they had always been there, choosing styles and colour palettes that blend seamlessly with the character of the building. A stickler for detail, she even aged some new brass window locks so they imitate what may have existed originally.

When it comes to decorating, Jamie explains, ‘I would say my style has been evolving since I was little. I’m not sure I have a specific style, I decorate more in a response to the space and the way it feels.’ She believes that daily life functions better in an uncluttered environment and surrounds herself with a carefully chosen collection of objects that inspire her, or make her happy. While she sources things from flea markets, estate sales, eBay, Etsy and her own store, it is some of the more sentimental items that mean the most to her. Two clay unicorns made by one of her daughters, a cup crafted by her boyfriend, a potter, and a childhood toy tiger from 1966 make up a personal and meaningful edit of possessions. Another of her most treasured items, a jar of coloured sprinkles, dated 1942, was found at the estate sale of an artist. The rest of the family know how precious it is to her, and when someone knocked it over and cracked the glass, the culprit chose not to admit their blunder!

While Jamie has created an interior that is sympathetic to the original building, she is not afraid to mix in contemporary pieces that give the space a refreshing, updated aesthetic. Her background in design means she easily sees when something works in a space or not. As she says, ‘It has to add to the space and not distract.’ But her rule of thumb is, ‘Surround yourself with things that make you happy. The energy that comes from that ethos will naturally make your space warm and inviting.’ It is the authenticity that comes from decorating a home over time and keeping a sense of simplicity that has led to the creation of Jamie’s classically beautiful home.


5453 College Ave, Oakland, CA 



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The Shopkeeper’s Home by Caroline Rowland is published by Jacqui Small LLP. Caroline is also the founder and editor of 91 Magazine, an independent interiors & lifestyle magazine, and interior & lifestyle blog Patchwork Harmony. Follow Caroline on Instagram, Pinterest & Twitter.


The Shopkeeper's Home by Caroline Rowland




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