In San Francisco, Decorating In, Around, and Through Literature

by Annie Werbler

When editor Chrissy Loader first moved into her San Francisco, CA flat a decade ago, she discovered a 1970s Jimi Hendrix poster stuffed into the hollowed-out recess of a pocket door. A more recent kitchen renovation revealed that the walls and floors of her second floor-through unit in a 1900 Victorian townhome had been insulated with horsehair and debris from streets in the North of the Panhandle neighborhood. “I appreciate how there’s history not just in my home’s architecture, but literally embedded in its walls,” Chrissy shares. “It makes me feel like I’m part of my home’s long legacy.”

For Chrissy’s part, the additions have been more familiar. Several rooms in her 1,495-square-foot apartment are inspired by beloved books. “As a writer and reader, I decorate in and around (and through!) literature,” she explains. “My bedroom is inspired by The Lover and my guest room by The Sheltering Sky.” The home’s softwood floors, kitchen pass-through, and other original architectural details lend a sense of romance that, to Chrissy and her guests, feels welcoming and classic at once. “I really like the way the Victorians lived — they had a double-parlor where they would socialize and entertain, a looooooong hallway, and a dining room where people would actually sit down and share a meal together.” Her own favorite homes “are reflections of well-lived lives – they tell a bit of a story.”

Many years ago, a stylish older neighbor reassured Chrissy that she would develop a beautiful home for herself in time. “She told me, just wait,” Chrissy recalls. “You’ll collect things you love, and your home will reflect your adventures. It’ll happen.” She has surrounded herself with old things, European touches, Danish design, and the ocean, cacti, and natural light reminiscent of her native California. Also along for the journey is an imaginary friend (of sorts) who guides Chrissy’s decorating choices. “He’s my mythical San Francisco Auntie Mame, a gay man with a French grandmother who likes tea time, madeleines, and Lillet (sort of like Proust crossed with Tim Gunn).” He would certainly appreciate the home’s days gone by. “As the paint wears,” Chrissy reflects, “I find purples and pinks and avocado greens that remind me there’s a history within its walls.” —Annie

Photography by Rachel Styer at Feather Weight

Decorating In, Around, and Through Literature, on Design*Sponge
Chrissy has collected pieces to hang in her hallway from friends, artists in San Francisco, and her own handiwork. "I like to say I do cartwheels down this hallway when no one’s looking, but truth be told, I’m not that coordinated," she jokes.
Decorating In, Around, and Through Literature, on Design*Sponge
"I notice that the more the wine flows, the more I find my friends poking their head through this little window," Chrissy explains. The pass-through is her favorite feature in the home.
Decorating In, Around, and Through Literature, on Design*Sponge
In the newly-renovated kitchen, Chrissy implemented a design built around her fondness for entertaining. “We only get so many meals in life, so every one of them should be a beautiful snowflake,” she says. Her octagon tile floor reminds her of a sea of snowflakes.
Decorating In, Around, and Through Literature, on Design*Sponge
"My favorite thing about my home is I get to share it with the people I love the most!" - Chrissy Loader
Decorating In, Around, and Through Literature, on Design*Sponge
During the kitchen renovation, Chrissy decided to turn her back porch into a butler’s pantry with plenty of counter space for making cocktails.
Decorating In, Around, and Through Literature, on Design*Sponge
In the dining room, Chrissy sourced the textured Anaglypta wallpaper to refresh some walls on which it was missing. A French side table from her aunt and a milk can from her milkman grandfather add a personal touch. She paired Series 7 dining chairs by Arne Jacobsen with a rustic table from a Maine manufacturer.
Decorating In, Around, and Through Literature, on Design*Sponge
The built-in China cabinet holds Chrissy's grandmother’s sweet Noriko set.
Decorating In, Around, and Through Literature, on Design*Sponge
The Giant Bird of Paradise plant, a gift from Chrissy's mother, has thrived in the dining room. Framed images above the pass-through have been taken by the homeowner over time. A whimsical vintage chandelier came from a local lighting store.
Decorating In, Around, and Through Literature, on Design*Sponge
Sleek, modern furniture strikes a contemporary note in the living room.
Decorating In, Around, and Through Literature, on Design*Sponge
The mantel usually shows a revolving assortment of postcards from friends. "Old-school mail is the best," Chrissy declares.
Decorating In, Around, and Through Literature, on Design*Sponge
"This room I (laughingly) call The Lover in honor of Marguerite Duras’ book set in colonial Vietnam," Chrissy reveals.
Decorating In, Around, and Through Literature, on Design*Sponge
Found on the street, Chrissy painted this bookshelf white and fills it with green spines, which make her feel like she's outdoors.
Decorating In, Around, and Through Literature, on Design*Sponge
The guestroom is Chrissy's The Sheltering Sky suite. "I don’t typically tear up books, but I don’t feel a whole ton of guilt about ripping apart Norman Peale’s, The Art of Living, which during its heyday was basically the equivalent of Chicken Soup for the Soul (this is where 'making lemons out of lemonade' came from -- I figure I made lemonade out of his book)," she shares. "Either way, book art overhead is safe in case of an earthquake."
Decorating In, Around, and Through Literature, on Design*Sponge
In the bathroom, the old iron tub was resurfaced a few years ago, and linoleum flooring was replaced with ceramic tile appropriate to the era of the home.
Decorating In, Around, and Through Literature, on Design*Sponge
The 1,495-square-foot flat is arranged around a central hallway, which Chrissy adores. "I feel like most people who renovate homes like mine would want to tear down walls and (maybe?) take out some of what I consider the best details," she imagines, "Like my pass-through in my kitchen. I consider this little doorway something unique."

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    • Hi Katy! Yes, that’s exactly what we mean. The caption has been updated to reflect the correct author’s name. :)


  • Oh my, the The Sheltering Sky suite with the book pages above the bed is simply dreamy. Thanks so much for sharing! Would love to do something similar one day!

  • This is the loveliest house with the loveliest host! A meal around this table truly is an event filled with love and laughter. Great job Chrissy!

  • Really lovely to see someone buying a SF Victorian and keeping so many of the touches that make these homes unique and special. Gorgeous apartment and really well done updates – kitchen and bathroom especially. I spent many years living in run down Victorian apartments with the dream of buying and renovating one in a similar way, sadly so many of them have been gutted!

  • I love the layout of this home and the long hallway! She’s right… most people would make it more open but I love the idea of a defined, limited space when decorating.

  • I am so glad she kept that long hallway and the passthrough – and added a butler’s pantry! What a beautiful place.

  • Oh my gosh, this post made my heart ache a little. For a long chunk of my San Francisco tenure, I lived in an apartment that was laid out just like this, but it was just a bit smaller. My place was also more run down, but nevertheless, I loved that place! I’m so happy that you’ve kept the structural integrity and little details intact. That’s becoming such a rare thing to do in SF these days. Enjoy your home – it’s fabulous!

  • BEAUTIFUL home! Every piece is thoughtful and tells a story! Thank you for sharing your home! Can you tell me where you got the frames for the photos hanging above your pass through? I’ve been looking for that exact shape and size forever! Thanks :)

    • Thank you, Jenny! I looked for quite a bit, too, but surprisingly found those frames at Pottery Barn about 8 years ago. They were just the right size for medium format photos (I had a bunch of photos I’d taken through the years with either a Holga or a Yashica Mat and was looking for a cheap fit). Good luck in your search!

  • C’est un pari gagné! Car cette maison est tout simplement magnifique! Elle est aérienne, elle respire la fraîcheur de par le choix de tout ce qui la caractérise. Choix de qualité mais qui la garde simple et agréable…et quoi de plus pratique et serein pour une famille! Elle est ordonnée, réfléchie. On s’y projette et l’on ne voudrait rien y changer…Bravo!

  • I love this home! Can I ask – are the runners down the hallway identical or just 2 that work together? I have a hallway just like that and am struggling with rugs! Thank you

    • They aren’t exact matches – they just work together (I think). Thanks for the kind words. : )