After graduating from UC Berkeley across the Bay, Jen Hewett first made the move to San Francisco, CA in 1996 — during the city’s first highly competitive rental market. Hundreds of people would show up for any given open house, and Jen struggled to find a place, wondering if she had made a poor choice in moving. It wasn’t until her friend discovered an apartment building undergoing renovations in the foggy Inner Sunset neighborhood that Jen’s interest (and hope) was piqued. After chatting with the landlord’s father who happened to be there that day, she was thrilled to sign a lease, despite the price. “The rent was more than I could afford at the time, but we somehow made it work,” Jen explains. Looking back, almost 20 years later, she’s thrilled she signed on this 1909 Edwardian flat which she — and her Italian Greyhound mix, Gus, — call home.
Jen is a printmaker, surface designer, textile artist and teacher who has run through multiple careers in her life so far, before discovering her true calling with printmaking in 2008. Her work combines her love of loud prints and saturated colors with the textures and lightness of the California landscapes she grew up surrounded by. So it’s no surprise that her apartment, especially after two decades, exudes her personal style and reflects her own life journey. “The evolution of my flat into a home really follows my path from a recent college graduate to an adult woman in her 40s,” Jen explains. In her early 20s, her space consisted of mismatched and often scavenged furniture; In her 30s, she became more conscious of the look and feel of her space and began investing in quality furniture and editing out pieces that didn’t fit her more mature taste or needs. As she neared her 40s, the goal was less clutter, and to celebrate the work of her friends in the artist community she fostered. She adds, “I did a huge purge at the end of last year, creating a calmer, lighter home, filled mostly with things I love.”
Just as Jen and her tastes have changed over the years, so too has the building itself. The patchy hardwood floors tell a story of the flat’s original open-concept layout. Jen suspects that in the 1930s or 1940s, the layout was altered and the units were used as a boarding house. The dining room (which was previously open to what is now Jen’s bedroom) was enclosed, and in it were locking, numbered cabinets, which Jen has since removed. There was also once a fireplace in her bedroom, where her bed currently sits, and all of the doors to the bedrooms and living space had deadbolts on them. Additionally, Jen thinks that the tiny 54-square-foot room which Jen uses as a studio space was once a balcony.
Change has been a theme in Jen’s life, and through it all, the stability her home has offered her is what she’s most thankful for. “Yes, my home is spacious and light-filled and in a great neighborhood,” Jen reflects, “but I’m most thankful that it’s been my stable, home base for almost twenty years. I’ve been through a lot of career changes, a few relationships, and have done a lot of growing up in the time I’ve lived here. My home has provided me with some much-needed stability. I don’t think I could have made the choices I’ve made about my career if I constantly had to worry about my housing.” –Sabrina
Photography by Stefanie Renee Lindeen