Interiorssneak peeks

A Neat and Tidy Home by The Bay

by Garrett Fleming

Overlooking a communal garden in San Francisco, minimalists Cary and Cam Fortin’s two-bedroom home is an exercise in restraint. The two have done such a fantastic job putting it together, you would never know that they are living with only 35 pieces of clothing each and with just the basics. By employing decluttering methods she uses with her clients at New Minimalism, Cary has been able to train herself to live with less while still maintaining a truly personal and layered abode. “I believe that the relationship we have with our space is a powerful one, and I wanted this space to add to our lives and encourage us to be our most inspired and adventurous selves,” Cary says.

The airiness, bedroom balcony and french doors immediately drew the couple to the apartment while on the hunt for a new home in the Bay Area. Originally, the two had a vast array of disparate furniture that didn’t exactly serve to showcase the merging of their two styles. Through decluttering, however, they were able to toss a third of their shared possessions and start building this home together. Fast forward five years, and the 1920s-era spot truly captures Cam and Cary’s original vision of a space that is restful, serene and creative. “In the past, I’ve hesitated to invest in a rental, but each time we have, it’s been incredible,” Cary says. “Had I known five years ago we’d still be here, I would have done everything right away.”

Far too often the expectations for what is considered “minimalism” are set at an unattainable degree. That’s why I find Cary and Cam’s home so refreshing. It ushers in a new way of perceiving the movement by showing what a contemporary and lively family deems “the essentials.” It also doesn’t hurt when that family has impeccable taste, like these two. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Ryan Devisser

A Neat and Tidy Home by The Bay, Design*Sponge
Cary and Cam's living room was designed, "... to be comfortable... to inspire guests to stay a little too late, (and) to encourage long, leisurely meals and lively games."
A Neat and Tidy Home by The Bay, Design*Sponge
Putting the dining table beneath the bay window allows the couple to soak up as much time in the California sun as possible. The dining table is vintage and the sheepskins come from Sheep Skin Stuff.
A Neat and Tidy Home by The Bay, Design*Sponge
"Cam and I moved into this apartment in our mid- 20s. We got engaged in our bedroom. We've held baby showers and engagement parties and birthday gatherings for our favorite people in the world here. When we moved in, I thought it was just another apartment in the line of many. I didn't realize it would become our home." The sofa was a Pottery Barn/Craigslist find, and the the coffee table is from IKEA.
A Neat and Tidy Home by The Bay, Design*Sponge
Large-scale printing can get quite pricey. To get around this, Cary took one of Cam's photos and broke it into thirds. Having three medium canvases wrapped in his work was much more affordable than one large canvas. Vases by Heath Ceramics. The credenza is vintage.
A Neat and Tidy Home by The Bay, Design*Sponge
"After giving up cable last February, I purchased this gorgeous Tivoli radio. Now we listen to classical music or NPR in the mornings, and Cam catches Giants games at night." The triptych above was shot by Cam last fall at sunset during a super moon. "To me, it accurately shows the magical nature of our adopted home and my husband's talents!"
A Neat and Tidy Home by The Bay, Design*Sponge
"My favorite thing about Cam is how creative he is. Whether taking photos, building a website or playing his guitars, it always amazes me how joyfully and curiously he creates. When he has these gorgeous guitars plugged in and begins to play a new song or make one up, it's (our) shared highlight of the week."
A Neat and Tidy Home by The Bay, Design*Sponge
Cary used to have a desk in the study but always found herself drawn to the living room so she could bask in sunlight as she typed away. The plants were positioned, "... to create a subtle boundary for (Cary's) work space."
A Neat and Tidy Home by The Bay, Design*Sponge
For only $30 Cary crafted a desk from an IKEA shelf and brackets in the corner. "The (desk's size) forces me to keep it clear and gives me a great home base to return all my work supplies at the end of the work day."
A Neat and Tidy Home by The Bay, Design*Sponge
The view as you enter the apartment. "I love that the windows and the white in the bedroom draw you back and invite you into the space with a soothing, welcoming feel." Cary's dad made the wall's artwork. "I've always looked up to my dad as a writer, an artist and a renaissance man. He just started taking watercolor lessons last year, and I fell in love with this series (of) wildflowers. It reminds me of my Midwestern roots and, more importantly, that it's never too late or too silly to do something you love."
A Neat and Tidy Home by The Bay, Design*Sponge
"I love our bedroom. It's everything I want in a space: restful, serene, crazy-comfortable and airy. The double french doors in our room open up onto the sweet, little Juliet balcony and overlook our yard."
A Neat and Tidy Home by The Bay, Design*Sponge
"In San Francisco we generally have no bugs and as such rarely have screens on our windows and doors. Unfortunately for us, we have a neighbor with a still fountain, and several months a year we now have mosquitos." After months of the buzzing, and not willing to let screens interfere with the balcony's view, the couple installed this canopy. "After living in and traveling around Southeast Asia, I became a connoisseur of mosquito nets. My two biggest points of advice? Make sure there are two openings - one for each side - and that the net is a high-quality cotton or linen. It makes a world of difference."
A Neat and Tidy Home by The Bay, Design*Sponge
The couple spends Saturday mornings drinking coffee in bed. "It's my favorite part of our week and a luxury I know we'll look back at with such joy when we have kids. I like to read, and Cam will gently strum away at his acoustic guitar," Cary says. "Then when we finally get up, we cook a big breakfast and head out the door to hike feeling really well rested and nourished." Cary and Cam's headboard is from Pottery Barn.
A Neat and Tidy Home by The Bay, Design*Sponge
"This is probably the space that has experienced the most change over our five years here. As I grew curious and began experimenting with minimalism, my wardrobe was the first place I decluttered. I currently have a capsule closet with 35 items - including jackets and shoes - that I rotate each season." Since decluttering, Cary and Cam say they're more sure of themselves, more confident and better dressed. Once the two decided to do so, they realized that having fewer pieces wasn't limiting but actually helped them come up with more creative ways to layer and mix up their outfits.
A Neat and Tidy Home by The Bay, Design*Sponge
A Neat and Tidy Home by The Bay, Design*Sponge
Cary chose rich leathers and deep colors to capture the coziness and moody look of the studies she remembers from her days at school in New England. The rug is from West Elm, and the leather chair was a gift from Cam's dad.
A Neat and Tidy Home by The Bay, Design*Sponge
The Japanese chest was a gift from one of New Minimalism's clients. It's extra special to the couple as it was brought to San Francisco by the giftee's friend whom he lost to AIDS in the 80s. "When I see this piece I think of the craftsmanship as well as the beauty and fragility of life."
A Neat and Tidy Home by The Bay, Design*Sponge
"Being a minimalist, we tend to have a lot of empty storage space. I love to add photos or natural elements to my closets to make them feel like more of a room than an afterthought."

Suggested For You


  • This is a beautiful apartment, and surely special to the people who live there.

    Lately on DS we’re seeing the same fiddle leaf figs or large philodendrons, flea market/native-inspired textiles, succulents, white-washing, and mid-century furniture in almost every apartment tour.

    I look to this site for ahead-of-its-time inspiration, so I’d really love to see some apartments with elements that are more singular and looking to the future of design.

    • Hi Sara

      Individual home owners here are usually real people, not “ahead of their time” design professionals. We’re doing a lot of trend coverage at ICFF this week so hopefully that can satisfy that need, but we try not to expect real people to build homes based around staying ahead of trends or styles, but instead to reflect real people with real budgets. We try to (and do) include homes that look different from each other, but it’s nearly impossible to escape the zeitgeist happening right now that includes a renewed love of textiles and certain plants. As for fleamarket-inspiration, that’s a must here. Our audience has been very vocal about wanting to see real attainable homes (built on a budget) since day one, so focusing on spaces that utilize DIY and flea market finds will always be a big part of the aesthetic here.


      • I appreciate the response, and that makes sense. I mean, who am I kidding, this could be my apartment! …though a different type of fig (jk), much smaller and in Harlem…

        I probably feel the urge to make the comment because this apt is similar to what I have at home. You have so much access and clout with what you’ve built on this site. So, if you were already thinking about actively looking for homes with a different aesthetic, I think your readers would be into it.

        • Sara

          I’ve spoken about this a bunch on the site and in comments lately but yes, we’re doing a deep deep dive for more diverse homes right now. Not just in style but in terms of owners, with a different range of ages, backgrounds and living styles.


          • Ah. I don’t comment on any sites, really, so next time I’ll dive into some comments on other posts before I prompt any rehashing of old dialogues.

  • It’s great to see minimalism that is still warm and inviting. A lot of time, minimalism is synonymous with stark.

  • Wholesome, sane and inviting–this is a perfect way to focus on your relationship rather than an endlessly demanding home! Thanks so much for featuring this sweet space.

  • Sara has a good point. The interiors on this site are starting to look very much the same. I too come here hoping for something new and inspirational from “real people” on “real budgets”.

  • Lovely airy space…sucks about the mosquitos!
    If you can get at your neighbor’s standing water, you could toss in a “mosquito dunk” (Made with Bt-israelensis (Bt-i), a highly specific biological pesticide…. Will NOT harm people, pets, wildlife or fish.) I use them in my bird bath in summer.

  • This is such a beautiful home. Love how they made lemonade out of lemons with the canopy hanging to prevent bugs. Looks very pretty!

  • I don’t understand this statement: “I currently have a capsule closet with 35 items – including jackets and shoes – that I rotate each season.”

    Please explain this system.

  • As someone who recently got rid of, like, 75% of her stuff for a cross-country move, it’s great to see how other people live with less stuff! I find it freeing not to have so much stuff to organize, clean, or just SEE in my home. :-)

  • I’d love to know the paint color in the study! It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for. This home is gorgeous, and that minimalist closet is a dream.

  • I would be soo curious to learn more about Cary and Cam’s wardrobes- what exactly comprises them, what they switch out season to season- etc. I have a micro wardrobe myself, and I think a lot of us are going that route- after seeing this beautiful home I’m just totally intrigued to see what beautiful and simple clothes are in that closet!

  • I love this apartment. I’ve been in the Bay Area for 10 years as a renter and understand the tension of do I make it my own or do I stick to doing minimal upgrades. If you look at each room, you can see how well edited it is and with very little investment for finishes: a new coat of paint and framed pictures. They also have alot of pieces with dual functions: a shelf that can be used as an upright desk.
    I think it can be overwhelming for people to look at the house and think as a whole its way too much work. However, if you really take apart each room it is definitely budget friendly. Please note, they do not have a TV and a flat screen in itself is close to $2000-3000. Paint, frames (even from IKEA), nails and some art work will not put you back that much. Yes, you may need to dig a little more or hunt online or thrift but it is doable.
    I’m a little sensitive since I think that this home is within arms reach for most of us. Just sit back, breathe and really think about how you can simplify your life.

  • I LOVE photo 7 of the standing desk and plant divider. I’d say that’s new – haven’t seen anything like that before. Though I’d pull up a slim bar stool to sit at, this use of space is great.

  • The house is super! lost of light and the decoration is very humble with taste! Big windows and lots of space….Love it!

  • I was just thinking about how I could incorporate a standing desk into my own home. I love the idea of using a shelf!