sneak peek: caitlin williams & james freeman

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?

CLICK HERE for the rest of the sneak peek (including all the images on one page) after the jump! (you can also click here for full-sized images on flickr)

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.

  1. visualingual says:

    What a gorgeous home! I love that a lot of the vignettes shown are refreshingly clutter-free. I have to wonder about those metal chairs that really look like they are missing their cushions — they can’t be comfortable the way they are, right?

  2. Barbara says:

    Where can I find that jocelyn davis print? I love it!

  3. patty says:

    I laughed about the “granite countertops” – that is the worst, along with “stainless steel appliances”. Real estate agents look at me oddly when I mention this, but why do people like this boring combo??? Love your Wedgwood, by the way.

  4. greybreaks says:

    great looking home. love the sideboard underneath the cotillion painting.

  5. Shanon says:

    What a fantastic fireplace, and I really love that headboard. I think I would have the most peaceful dreams.

  6. Mouse says:

    Nice style fusion. And I have a crush on that juicer.

  7. Such inspiration here! Love the architecture. And the simplicity!

  8. Teri says:

    There’s so much to love… but I think I want that cotillion painting for sure!!! And just when you think you’ve seen it all, a two-headed doll collection??? Wow!

  9. melody says:

    love the architecture as well as the inhabitants – can just smell the pastries and coffee in that house! lovely! dashiell is one lucky boy. :-)

  10. I’m crazy about the dining and living room. what amazing features this home has!

  11. jeanie says:

    Hi there, I love this inspiring home. I tried to access the flickr photos, but was instructed that the page was private.

  12. Jessie James says:

    They both had lovely homes before… but together their home is breathtaking!

  13. how great to have a sneak peak at your beautiful new home. now i’m longing to visit and see it in person!

  14. steph says:

    Anyone know where I can find a similar paint-by-number painting like the one used for their headboard?

  15. This was a fantastic project to photograph. It paired immaculate design with beautiful natural light. Please see more of my photography at:

  16. Liane says:

    uh, stainless steel, granite counter and don’t forget “crown molding.” ugh.
    2-headed doll collection is 2 funny.

  17. I love all the built ins the character in the dining room. So unique to SF homes/apartments.

  18. Rebecca says:

    Nice place. But eek!, a ghost? What does she do?

  19. might you have room enough for one more?
    so lovely.

  20. Ilisa Crosby says:

    Love the clothesline drawing in the kitchen..can you tell me the artists name or where I can find it?

  21. Eva says:

    lovely home! great painting with the dressoir, they make an excellent match. and the headboard is fantastic! You can tell you love the place. I also bought a vintage hospital-like cupboard for the bathroom, it just goes well together!

  22. Julie says:

    That dog is adorable! Nice place too!

  23. Chelsea says:


    On a random sidenote, I just recently bought an antique juicer, similar to theirs, and my biggest problem is what to do with the citrus leftovers, I mean the juice is great, but then what? composting isn’t currently an option for us because of our tiny apartment, but I can’t bring myself to throw them away and my garbage disposal is suffering. Any thoughts?

  24. caitlin freeman says:

    What sweet comments! Okay, a few of questions to answer:

    Jocelyn Davis print – We were in school together, I don’t have any idea if she’s still doing prints, I’ll leave any info as I find it.

    Metal chairs – James claims he’s perfectly comfortable in them. I prefer the bench in front of the fireplace. Considering having Peace Industries Rugs cut me some pieces of felt that will be simple, clean non-cushions for the chairs.

  25. caitlin freeman says:

    Oh! Paint by numbers – any PBN you could ever want is waiting for you on ebay. Cheaply.

  26. Anne says:

    What amazing photographs! I wonder what this amazing photographer could do in my abode!

  27. Trude says:

    Stunning combo of styles. Love how they kept it simple to let the lovely architecture and details shine through.

  28. Amanda says:

    where can you get that juice press?? love it.

  29. Merysa says:

    The space is beautiful. I get what they are saying about editing and having just what you need around you, but the photos dont seem to capture much humanity or warmth. It seems a bit uptight to me. I’m no fan of clutter either but something is missing.

  30. tatum says:

    caitlin, i’m dying to find a paint by numbers like the one you have as your headboard. i’ve been searching all over ebay and all i’m finding are super-lame PBNs of majestic wolves, unicorns, kittens, dolphins and thomas kincaid. help! i’ve also tried searching online for anything like modern PBN or something … how did you do it? how did you locate it? also, is your PBN actually two put together or is that merely a black line drawn down the middle? i wouldn’t mind if there was two put together like that, i actually love it. anyway, i would much appreciate some tips, maybe i’m not using the right search terms. thx so much! beautiful home, just beautiful.

  31. Eileen 2 says:

    Happy that you snagged a place that included a rockin’ old stove. The husband love it. Saw one online for 8 grand. YIKES. Hey, D*S community, will we ever find one for a lot less than that?

  32. Kei says:

    Would love info on how you found the PBN headboard painting I love it too~!!

  33. Jason says:

    It sounds like you painted the PBN yourself, yes? Did you find the pattern somewhere, or did you design it yourself?

  34. sunny says:

    What a beautiful home! Love how it’s pared down to what they love and use. Love the cart in the bathroom.

  35. Caitlin says:

    Oh, hello! I had no idea people were still commenting!

    About the PBN, I found it on eBay, but edited it a bit (removed a barn, chose new colors, simplified). I created a legend for the colors and labeled the original PBN, then used my Opascope to project the image up onto the prepped plywood. From there it was really easy to paint and varnish!

  36. Caitlin says:

    Oh, and it was just one. I liked the effect of splitting the image onto two boards, plus it was logistically easier with the plywood sizing.

    The juicer came from our local restaurant supply store – economy restaurant fixtures.

  37. Charlotte says:

    Does anyone have any idea what the color in the dining room might be? beautiful!


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