San Francisco designer Katie Raffetto has always had an inherent interest in art and travel. In college, she studied sculpture and art history. She let her passion in the subject take her abroad, spending a semester in Florence, Italy and returning for a year after graduation. Katie held the experience close when she decided to continue her education, turning towards interior design.

Her career began working at design firms in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, with a focus on residential and hospitably interiors. (She even spent a summer internship at a firm specializing in casinos!) Katie decided to take a leap of faith, and opened her own firm in 2007 – Katie Raffetto Interior Design. Since, she’s grown her portfolio with a distinct approach to interiors, combining her design sense with a never-ending case of wanderlust. Today, she opens the doors to her San Francisco rental, and tells us how she transformed the space into her family home.

The architecture of the home is so striking! What can you tell us about it?
Our house was built in 1896 and sits on the border of Noe Valley and the Castro in San Francisco. A skinny three-story Victorian, we love the abundance of original elements such as the colored glass in the windows and the ceiling medallions in each room.

What condition was it in when you moved in?
We rented this house three years ago when I was pregnant with our first child. We could not change the walls or floors as renters so we set out to make this home our own with distinct furnishings and accessories.

Your decor is definitely distinct! We love it all. Any product information you can share?
Our house is a mix of retail and custom goods, layered with vintage and collected pieces. Our sofas are retail with slipcovers I ordered online, the custom pillows I had made are really what make them unique.

So when you set out to design the space, what was your original inspiration?
I was inspired by the character of the 19th century home when we moved in and continue to be each day. Our needs as a family have changed over the last three years, but our aesthetic and inspiration remain the same.

When you first started, what was your top priority?
My priority was to create a home that fits our busy family and our lifestyle. Whether we are spending time at home with the kids or entertaining friends. Creating a home that is equally capable of hosting a dinner party or a stuffed animal tea party was important to me.

We have a feeling this house is host to many tea parties!! Did you face any design challenges along the way?
We faced the typical restrictions most renters do as well a few additional restrictions due to old construction. For example, we were not able to hang anything on our walls, which gave us the opportunity to use brass wire and picture rail hooks – something I now love. Upstairs had wall-to-wall carpet that we could not change so I layered it with area rugs to give it a more unique look. The home gave us a great neutral palette to add color and our personal aesthetic to.

Now that the space is finished, what is your favorite room in the house?
Our living room is my favorite room as it is really the heart of our house. I love the high ceilings and tall windows that bring in a ton of light. We have so many great memories in this room – from watching the buses go by with my daughter to evenings in with friends watching the Giants World Series.

We can’t help but notice the travel theme in the dining room.
Travel is a big part of our lives and we wanted our home to reflect that. The pictures and objects represent the fun times we’ve spent together and interesting places. These pictures and objects often spark an interesting conversation with both my daughter and our guests.

You’re a new mom. Did this influence your design at all?
With kids you need to keep your home design flexible, edited and comfortable. For example the framework of the nursery is gender neutral, which made it easy to switch out the bedding and some accessories for our new baby boy. I started spending a lot more time at home when I had kids so I am constantly tweaking the design to be sure I love each space in the house.

What is your top advice for parents who don’t want to compromise style?
Invest in pieces that you love, and then they will be with you for the long haul. I don’t consider my furnishings to be too precious to live in. A scratch or a ding from your kids using the coffee table as a racetrack is a memory not an imperfection.

Of course, you’re not always designing for yourself. How does your process change when you’re designing for a client?
I often prioritize my clients over my home, so I need to remind myself to take the time to go through the design process. Designing my daughter’s nursery was unique in that it was a completely new space. I took the time to pull together a complete scheme, review and reselect a couple items. In the end I was really happy with how it came together.

Finally, do you have any exciting projects coming up you can tell us about?
I recently completed an extensive remodel in Hillsborough that was just on the CSL Kitchen Home Tour. Now I am focusing on the pool house for the same client.

We can’t wait to see the results! To learn more about Katie, click here. For details on her gorgeous home, start the slideshow!