Inside An Outer Sunset Family Home

Inside An Outer Sunset Family Home

Cayla Zelanis

When we got the opportunity to sit down with the owners of acclaimed local eatery, Outerlands, we jumped at the chance. Dave and Lana are longtime residents of the Bay Area who have been sharing their artistic and culinary gifts with the Outer Sunset community for well over a decade. In their restaurant and their home—which they share with their two children, Leithien and Aman—they embrace sustainability and a strong sense of community, inviting local, organic fare into thoughtfully designed spaces with their own special signature.

Join us as we get to know this loving family, and tour their cozy, “cottage-y” home, nestled just blocks away from the beach.

Thanks for inviting us over today! So when did you move to the Outer Sunset?

We moved to the Sunset from West Oakland in 2005 —17 years ago! We were pining for the ocean, and got to know the neighborhood through friends at Mollusk surf shop, which was just opening at the time. We discovered the house, which had recently been put up for rent, on the same afternoon—Lana through a Craisglist ad, and Dave when he was strolling by on a visit to Mollusk. We fell in love with it and have been here ever since.

It truly is a special neighborhood, and you’ve found such a gem within it. Tell us a bit about your space! 

This space has come through a lot of changes, but it's maintained the funky cottage-y feel that we loved when we first moved in. We estimate that it was built in the late 1800's, most likely as a beach hovel when the area was still just miles of sand dunes. Now it feels a bit like "The Little House" with taller, more modern structures on all sides.

What are your favorite spaces within the home? 

We were just talking with our 8-year-old about this yesterday, and we decided our favorite places in the house are our beds. We like to come home and get cozy.

Since we've lived here for some time, we've been able to observe how we use the space, individually and collectively. We've had fun responding to those routines— over time, for example, cupboards or niches have developed to have their own specialized functions, contributing in their small way to the flow of everyone's day.

Haha, that’s our favorite too! What does a typical morning look like here?

Mornings are a whirlwind of activity, getting everyone ready for school and the day ahead. None of us are naturally early risers, so we tend to stay in bed until the last minute. Then scramble to get dressed, get lunches made, and we’re out the door.

Afternoons are the opposite of mornings, more our quiet, introspective time. Once everyone's home from school/work, the kids go off into their favorite corners to read, draw, or do homework, and there are a lot of rounds of snacking before dinner. We're also all night snackers so a classic interchange is that we say, 'time to brush teeth!', and everyone replies, 'oh no wait, we're hungry!'

There is definitely an art to creating a home with room for both togetherness and solitude in equal measure.

How do you create a soothing space or a space that allows for all of these different activities?

Since our house is more or less an open floor plan, we've tried to create nooks that provide a sense of containment while still maintaining a feeling of space. This extends to our outdoor space as well— there are lots of small reading zones and sitting spaces tucked in the periphery of the yard.

That is, indeed, a delicate balancing act that you’ve managed to achieve. Where do you pull design inspiration from?

We're always inspired by the meeting place between efficiency and beauty. Living in a small space means everything needs to have a purpose, so function and practicality are key. To preserve space but still create variation and texture in the layout of each room, we replaced furniture with built-ins at every opportunity. In that model, textiles become extra important, because they offset functional lines with malleable curves and patterns. So, we have a lot of throw blankets and cloths we rotate around for splashes of softness and color.

Another major inspiration is the ocean! We both grew up within ten minutes of the water, and that in itself just feels like home. As community members, we're inspired by the effort and energy of the amazing people we've worked alongside, in our business and in the neighborhood, especially over the past two years.

What is special about your neighborhood and community?

Like our house, the neighborhood has changed over the years we've lived here. But through it all, the Sunset continues to stay the Sunset, with its small-town feel and neighborly community. We love our neighborhood shops, such as Blackbird Books & Coffee and Case for Making, and feel so lucky to be surrounded by such a creative and connected community. There's a spirit of creativity and innovation here, and also a great respect for the ocean and landscape. Those two qualities working together make the area an exciting and inspiring place to be. 

Tell us about your work!

For the past year we've been working to rebuild the restaurant after the pandemic shut-downs, and while this has been challenging, it has given us exciting opportunities to restructure toward a more sustainable vision of both our business and service in general. This is a conversation that's happening city-wide, and it's incredible to see so many businesses coming together to make positive, lasting changes as an industry.

Outside of the restaurant, Dave maintains a studio practice in painting and illustration, and teaches watercolor classes through Case for Making, a local studio supply shop. Lana writes poetry and fiction, and is currently working on her MFA.

Wow, with such busy schedules, how do you find the time to work sustainability into your lives?

Sustainability means a lot of things, and as restaurateurs, artists and people in a community and an ecosystem, all of those meanings come into play. It's important to us to mediate our environmental impact as we make decisions about suppliers and day-to-day practices, but also to consider our definition of sustainability when it comes to work and how we model what a business should produce or how it should function. We saw so much of this called into question on a macro scale during the pandemic, and these are critical questions we want to keep at the forefront of our thinking.

Can you walk us through some of these sustainable routines?

As business owners, we make myriad small decisions throughout our days. Taking an extra moment to weigh options makes all the difference in making sure our practices are in line with our values and the needs of our community. This means staying open to new ways of doing things, asking lots of questions, and remembering that we're in a process— that process and learning together are the center of our work.

What is it about your home that makes you feel “at home”? 

Home is a place for being together, and also a place to find quiet alone time. It's a place of return, where we can regroup with each other and check in with ourselves. Home feels like home when it provides space for both external connection and internal reflection.

Check out the Outerland family playlist here, perfect for homework doing, dinner making, and spending time at home.