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This Vintage-Filled San Francisco Studio Looks Like Something Out of a Nancy Meyers Movie

written by SARAH LYON

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Source: Kate DeWitt Design | Photos by Pat DeWitt
Source: Kate DeWitt Design | Photos by Pat DeWitt

Kate DeWitt knows a thing or two about how to make a small space sing. As the twenty-something founder of her own interior design firm, she’s managed to turn her 400-square-foot studio apartment into a charming oasis filled with meaningful art and furniture, eye-catching textiles, and beautiful vintage accessories. “Interior design has always been my north star,” said Kate, whose passion for planning and decorating spaces started when she was a child.

Read on for a full home tour of Kate’s light-filled space. The San Francisco designer spills all the details about the special heirloom items in her apartment, home decor retailers she frequents, and the paper- and fabric-wrapped picture frames she can’t stop making.


Kate DeWitt’s Vintage-Filled Apartment Tour


The Details:

Name: Kate DeWitt
Location: San Francisco
Square Footage: 400
Rent/Own: Rent


You’re originally from the Bay Area—did you always know that you wanted to end up in San Francisco as an adult? How long have you lived in the city?

I have lived in San Francisco for the last five years or so. Growing up in the suburbs just outside of the city, I always intended to move to San Francisco after graduating from college. I would love to live in another part of the U.S. at some point, but at this point in my life, San Francisco is pretty hard to beat.



What led you to pursue interior design as a career? Did you always enjoy redecorating your room as a kid, or did your interest in design come later in life?

I remember going over to friends’ houses in elementary school and being so fascinated by how other families decorated their homes. I studied the Pottery Barn Teen catalog each season, spent hours rearranging my doll house, and stole my dad’s graph paper to dream up imaginary floor plans. My childhood bedroom had so many different iterations over the years, it’s hard to keep track!

Then, during my senior year of high school, I took part in an independent study project where students got to choose their subject for the entire semester. I, of course, chose interior design. So at 17, I landed my first design internship with a family friend and got a taste of the professional design world. That experience was definitely the catalyst for everything I’m doing now.



We hear you recently expanded your team—congrats on the new hires! What has been the most rewarding part about running your own design business? What about the most challenging?

Thank you! I hired my amazing design assistant in January and just brought on my very talented CAD consultant this spring. I trust and respect them both immensely, which I have found to be the key to a successful working relationship. Leading the KDD team has helped me with consistency—and procrastination, which has always been one of my challenges. As a creative person, I constantly find myself abandoning one project to start another. But having weekly check-ins with my team has forced me to stay on track and complete one task before starting the next.

The most rewarding part about running my own business has been the freedom. I spent five years in the 9-to-5 world and remember feeling so much anxiety about asking for time off, scheduling personal appointments, or even committing to after-work social plans. It never felt right to have to ask my superiors permission in order to do regular life things. Being in charge of my own schedule is something I hope I never take for granted.



How would you describe your design style? Where do you draw your inspiration from, both when it comes to your own home and working with clients?

My personal style is constantly evolving, but I always find myself coming back to words like cozy, eclectic, minimal, and feminine. Travel is a huge source of inspiration for me, and I am constantly daydreaming about my next European adventure. I tend to hone in on different cultural aesthetics every season, and they inevitably inform my creative pursuits. Right now, all I can think about is Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast. Earlier this year, I was fascinated with everything about French culture, and before that, my mind was consumed with Indian block prints and colorful South Asian architecture. Routine and normalcy can often stifle creativity, and I’ve found that experiencing different places and cultures (even if it’s just on Pinterest!) is the most effective way to shake things up for the better.

In my work, I am inspired by the diversity of my clients. In this age of Instagram, it can feel like everyone’s home looks the same, and I think that’s such a shame! Because of this, I start each project by analyzing my client’s unique personal style and studying what they are naturally drawn to. From there, I’m able to use their individual style as a base layer and build from that. I often find myself latching onto fun stories my clients share about family antiques, sentimental pieces, or personal interests, and I have fun designing their space around that. Home is such a personal thing, and I want my clients to walk away with a space that feels true to them with a hint of the Kate DeWitt Design aesthetic sprinkled in, not the other way around.

Plug-in Swing Arm Sconce
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Urban Outfitters
Marisol Coffee Table
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Etsy | atlinia
Linen Pillow Covers
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Rattan Table Lamp
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As an interior designer, you’re constantly keeping tabs on design trends and new products. Do you often feel the urge to redecorate your own home? 

Oh gosh, I feel the urge to redecorate all the time! But as I’ve gotten older, I try to do it with as much intention as I can. As a kid, I was constantly dreaming about buying new things for my room. When I started making my own money as a teen, I would quite literally buy things just to buy them. But eventually, I learned these shiny new things usually didn’t hold any real value for me in the long term. Nowadays, I’m much more intentional with my home purchases.

When thinking about making a significant purchase, I’ll ask myself one question: “Can you envision this working in your next apartment/house?” If the answer is no, then I won’t buy it. For me, it’s all about longevity. In 50 years, I fully intend on being a cool grandma with a cozy house full of interesting treasures I’ve collected over a lifetime. So I’m starting now!


What do you enjoy most about your current apartment? 

The natural light is what first attracted me to my apartment. Studios can often feel small and dungeon-like, so when I toured this place it felt like a needle in a haystack. My windows are fairly low to the ground, measuring about 24 inches off my floor, and each one is complemented with beautiful molding on all four sides. Something about the oversized scale and detailing creates a charming and timeless feel that I fell in love with.



We’d love to hear more about the architectural features in your apartment. We’ve spotted wood floors, original door knobs, wainscoting, and more—how do you highlight these features or design around them?

Luckily, all of the architectural features in my apartment are very in line with my personal style, so designing around them hasn’t been an issue. There are many different ways to highlight these kinds of features in an old apartment like mine: paint, wallpaper, custom hardware, just to name a few. But I made the intentional choice to let the features shine in their most natural form. I left my walls, wainscoting, and molding white and chose to highlight with artwork, lighting, and accessories instead.

One of my biggest splurges was a 1920s crystal chandelier for my entryway. It elevates the other original features in my apartment, and it looks like it came with the apartment… but I will most definitely be taking it with me when I move out!


White Round Tulip Table
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Set of 2 Cane Side Chairs
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Fine Little Day
White Flower Poster
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Clear Hurricanes
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Can you tell us about the secretary desk that was passed down from your great-great-grandmother?

My grandparents’ house is full of old family treasures, and I came across this craftsman-style secretary desk one Sunday afternoon while visiting. It was purchased in 1906 when my great-great-grandmother Amelia emigrated from Austria to San Francisco with her three children. She was a short woman (just like me) and this secretary desk was the perfect size for her petite frame. As the story goes, it was one of the first pieces of furniture she bought for her new American life, and she was very proud to own it until the day she died.

When my grandfather told me the story behind the desk, he beamed with pride remembering his beloved grandmother, and when I asked him if I could take it back to my apartment, he beamed even brighter. My grandfather passed away earlier this year, so having this special desk in my home reminds me of him every day.



You always seem to have plenty of fresh flowers in your home! What are some other little luxuries that can make a space feel more welcoming and complete?

I do my best to incorporate little “signs of life” wherever I can in my apartment. Flowers, candles, and houseplants are my go-to ways to create that sense of livability. I also think having a well-stocked kitchen is an underrated way to add that sense of warmth. As a single woman, I’m usually only cooking for one, which can be tricky with food waste and whatnot. Because of this, I used to find myself with a near-empty fridge, ordering take-out most weeks. But recently, I’ve adopted a more liberal approach to my weekly grocery store runs, letting myself stock up on beautiful veggies, grains, and proteins. Not only has it improved my eating habits, but also made my little apartment feel so much more homey throughout the week.



What tips do you have to keep a space feeling fresh and new even if it’s small in size?

I think small changes to your home decor can make a big difference in the day-to-day. Whenever I’m feeling bored with my apartment decor, I do small things to scratch my redecorating inch. For example, I might rearrange couch pillows, change up how I make my bed, stack coffee table books in a different order, buy a new scented candle for my coffee table, or play musical chairs with my many table lamps. I also love the idea of refreshing small accents in your space every season. Things like kitchen towels, bed quilts, and throw pillows don’t have to be extremely expensive but have the power to change the entire feel of your space.


Etsy | BugsUnderGlass
Framed Butterfly
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Reclaimed Elm Side Table
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Brown on Cream Splatterware Dinnerware
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What are some touches to add to a rental unit so that it truly feels like a home?

No matter what size your windows are, I’m a big proponent of window coverings. Roman shades or drapes have the power to turn an ordinary window into a cozy statement wall. If you want to go one step further, try introducing different textures. This will amp up the homey feel while also adding visual interest and depth. For example, jute Roman shades paired with linen drapes. Or velvet drapes styled next to a cotton upholstered sofa. Too much of the same texture in a room can start to feel flat so try mixing things up where you can!



We love how you’ve curated the gallery wall beside your bed. How did you go about selecting these pieces? 

My bedside gallery wall took a lot of trial and error! I was very anxious to complete it, but I also didn’t want to pressure myself into selecting all the pieces at once. I wanted to go beyond just buying a handful of pretty framed prints to cluster on the wall. Instead, I decided to feature personal keepsakes, family memories, and DIY projects. A few favorite features on my gallery wall are an oversized postcard I found while studying abroad in London, a vintage photo of my great grandparents riding an elephant on vacation found in my grandparent’s basement, and a framed French bandana I wore all throughout college. All these things don’t necessarily relate to one another, but when hung side by side, they tell a unique story.

I think an interesting gallery wall should take a while to curate and evolve over time. You’re never going to get it right in one go and that’s the fun of it! 



Where do you purchase most of your art?

I tend to mix flea market frames and vintage finds with more modern pieces to create a sense of texture. My go-to “modern” vendors are Artfully Walls, Hôtel Magique, and The Poster Club.



Can you share a bit about your walk-in closet? The space is small, but you’ve done a great job maximizing the space and making it reflect your personality with wallpaper, artwork, and more.

I have always dreamed about having an ultra-feminine walk-in closet. So when I moved into this apartment, I was very excited to turn my new closet—a boring white box—into a cozy dressing area. I first added a peel-and-stick wallpaper to create a sense of texture and add some much-needed color. Then I found a small vintage rug on Etsy to make the space feel inviting and homey. Once the wallpaper and rug were in, I still felt like something was missing, so I started playing around with hanging old frames and prints on a big blank wall that served no purpose otherwise. This is when the space really started to take shape and feel extra special. I hung a photo of my great-grandmother for whom I’m named, along with a few small flea market finds that needed a home.



Finally, the space needed a major mirror update. I’m usually not a huge fan of an entire mirrored wall, but after using the closet for a few months, I knew that was exactly what the space needed. So I saved up money and commissioned a custom mirror to sit on one entire wall of the closet right above my dresser. Just this small change absolutely transformed the feel of the space, making it feel larger and more luxurious.

Now even after all that, I still don’t feel like my closet is complete! I’d love to mirror one more wall and add soft mood lighting, among other things. But just like most of my home projects, the process of what I enjoy the most!


One Kings Lane
Pinstripe Wingback Bed
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Etsy | Matrixglobal
Handmade Bone Inlay Nightstand
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Etsy | kanthaNtapestryart
Indian Block Print Quilt
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Etsy | wallpaperie
Garden Spires Wallpaper
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Natural Marble Vanity Tray
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What are some of your favorite lesser-known home retailers that offer stylish goods for reasonable prices? Where do you enjoy shopping for home decor locally?

France & Son offers affordable alternatives to classic lighting designs, and I am really impressed with what Zara Home is offering at the moment. But my all-time favorite affordable vendors will always be Etsy, eBay, and my local flea market. Not only are the prices usually more affordable than a mass-marketed chain, but you’re also getting a unique one-of-a-kind piece.

The San Francisco Bay Area has so many lovely home decor stores that it can be overwhelming! Whenever friends come to visit, here’s where I send them: MARCH, Anyon Atelier, Hudson Grace, and Heath Ceramics. If you’re willing to venture across the Golden Gate Bridge, Downtown Mill Valley is littered with charming home decor storefronts, Summerhouse being my favorite.



Tell us about the paper-covered picture frames in your apartment! What led you to create these and ultimately sell them to others?

I was scrolling Instagram one day and saw one of my favorite home decor accounts, @shannonclaire, post a DIY paper-wrapped picture frame that she’d created. I am a sucker for any sort of tangible craft project, and I just happened to have some empty frames collecting dust under my bed. So one Sunday afternoon, I rolled up my sleeves and got crafting. Over the next few days, I had so much fun finding unique paper, experimenting with different wrapping/gluing techniques, and documenting the process on my Instagram. To my surprise, I got a lot of interest from my followers and even a few offers to purchase. So I took the idea and ran with it!

Now I sell paper- and fabric-wrapped frames on my website and even take on custom commissions here and there. Last month, I hosted my first frame-wrapping workshop which sold out in 48 hours! It was so fun to see all my guests have as much fun as I did watching their first wrapped frame come to life. I have another in-person workshop scheduled for July 23rd here in SF, and tickets are available on my website! It’s been such a fun side venture, and I’m excited to see how it continues to evolve over time.