moving into a marital abode—in this case, an immaculately preserved 1895 flat in san francisco’s historic alamo square neighborhood—wasn’t without its design-related uncertainties for james and caitlin freeman. “james has such a cool, modern and slightly industrial sensibility, while everything i own is pink, blue, green, scalloped and two-headed,” says caitlin. to illustrate: when james first house-sat caitlin’s bachelorette pad, he discovered a landscape of creepy art and a multitude of strange noise-making objects. when caitlin returned, she found that her future husband had disemboweled all of her ticking clocks. “we each thought the other was impossibly strange…it was the beginning of our romance,” says caitlin. [all photos by claire bloomberg]
the newlyweds’ 1,960-square-foot dwelling exhibits a pared-down aesthetic; a cozy environment of midcentury and industrial furniture embellished with original victorian moldings, modern art and creepy curiosities. “we both strive to avoid feeling bogged down by possessions, so we edit regularly to make sure that we enjoy and use everything in the house,” james explains. “caitlin still hangs onto a few fussy girly things, envisioning a dainty vacation home someday!” —leilani labong
[images above: a print by caitlin’s friend jocelyn davis hangs above a boos block worktable in the kitchen. says caitlin, “while we were house-hunting, our kryptonite became ‘granite countertops.’ it was an indication that someone spent too much money on a quickie kitchen makeover—yes, i’m aware this is a generalization! it was actually a selling point that this kitchen hadn’t been touched. the old wedgewood stove, along with others in the neighborhood, is serviced by a repairman named mac, who told caitlin and james about mrs. white, the woman who owned the building and lived in their unit from the 1920s to 1970s. (caitlin has a suspicion that mrs. white is the ghost that’s been seen around these parts.) the painting above the stove is an abstract masterpiece by the couple’s son, dashiell.]
james likes that the dining room set, made by his friend and san francisco furniture designer tad longmaid, looks like a complicated picnic table due to its dramatic steel components. it has turned into ground zero for family crafting; here, dashiell builds star wars battleships, caitlin makes wedding invitations and james sketches out renovations to the blue bottle website.
usually caitlin’s dog, a russian wolfhound named henry, is not allowed on the bed in the master bedroom, but since master james wasn’t around for the photo shoot, we sprung henry from his crate and gave him a free pass to laze on the bed. since both caitlin and james spend a lot of time here reading and working on laptops, caitlin created a paint-by-numbers landscape as a headboard to prevent discoloring the walls. (“if given the choice, caitlin would choose to eat dinner with a bowl and spoon…in bed,” says james.) industrial-style reading lamps sit on the 1952 heywood-wakefield side tables: one is by dazor, the other is from ikea…can you guess which is which?
no respectable victorian would be caught dead without a clawfoot tub. this one happens to be roomy enough for two, a luxury not lost on the newlyweds, whose nesting rituals include running a hot bath and wheeling in a television and dvd player for a combined couple’s soak and movie night. the hospital-grade stainless-steel table from SS21 in san francisco’s gritty tenderloin neighborhood adds an unexpected shine to the charming bath.
the kirsten tradowsky painting, titled mother’s prom, is an elegant display of caitlin’s favorite colors. “i love the suburban realism of kirsten’s work; they make me feel like i’m privy to robert bechtle’s dreams,” she says. the credenza is from another time antiques in san francisco’s deco ghetto. the roomy cabinet serves as a safe haven for all things that may be considered “clutter.”
this is where the magic happens. here, in the south-facing living room, caitlin sketches out her new cake designs and james reclines in his eames-inspired lounge chair “tap, tap, tapping away on his computer, doing CEO-type stuff,” says caitlin. “when i retired from miette—before i started making cakes for blue bottle—i spent a lot of time here watching the city go by.” on the wall behind the couch, caitlin envisions hanging another art project: old-fashioned silhouettes of each member of the family, quadrupeds included.
caitlin’s collection of two-headed dolls by seattle-based sara lanzillotta is a rare decorative element that has been, according to james, “protected from our clutter-free lifestyle.” more examples of the macabre are artfully placed throughout the house, including several decapitated doll heads, and, on the dining room’s west wall, a painting titled, all hail the reindeer army by camille rose garcia. “we wonder how dashiell will turn out, since he eats dinner looking at creatures turning deer entrails into cupcakes. he seems to be doing alright so far,” laughs caitlin.