Interior designer Alden Fletcher was given the unique opportunity to create a space for her sister—a dream project, since they’re so close, but especially so considering she bought the house next door. It was in rough shape, and budget was of the utmost importance, but she was able to create a home that was inspired by their favorite author—Jane Austen. Though it’s vintage inspired, it’s perfectly on-trend with modern amenities. She tells us more:
Tell us about this home. Where is it located? How did the neighborhood influence the design?
The home is in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. It is located right next to my childhood home, where my parents still live. I live in the backyard cottage behind my parent’s home. Historically, the neighborhood was predominantly a working class, Irish community. The home was built before the 1906 earthquake and was originally a hauling and transport business. It still has the old cobblestone on the garage floor, where horse drawn carriages once passed through to the carriage house in the back (where I now live). In my sister’s new home, we wanted to highlight the original Victorian-era features, like the pocket doors and the tall windows in the sitting area and make decisions that complement the character of older homes.
This wasn’t a typical client! Tell us about your relationship with your sister, the decision to live next door, and her goals for the kitchen redesign?
My sister and I have always been close. We actually were married in a double wedding, á la Pride and Prejudice. But the decision to move next door wasn’t an easy one for her family—the purchase of the home was contingent on them selling their previous home under a tight timeline. The prospect of living next to family, and having the cousins be able to roam freely between the houses, was too good to pass up. The home itself was in a rough state when they moved in. The kitchen and adjoining living space is the hub of their home, so it had to be the first place we tackled. The priority was to create a comfortable, well-organized space where they could spend the majority of their time, while gradually working on the rest of the home.
In a few words, how do you describe the style? What inspired the concept?
The style of the design is vintage, and Jane Austen inspired. We are both drawn to comfortable rooms, with character and patina. And we love the settings of Jane Austen novels and films, so this was an obvious jumping off point. We both also love the design of Wes Anderson’s films, and wanted a nod to that- the pink and white checkerboard backsplash by Fireclay was our callout to the colors of The Grand Budapest Hotel.
What was your scope of work? Could you “walk us” through the kitchen and share a few of your favorite details?
The scope of work involved a complete overhaul of the kitchen. The floors were sloping and dipping in places and needed to be leveled and new flooring installed. We brightened up the room by adding a larger window above the sink. We also took out a non-structural dividing wall to increase the amount of counter space. We removed a funky pantry closet and gave them more efficient pantry storage with two large pantry cabinets from Boxi. We also switched out the old gas stove for an electric one, which improved their interior air quality and greenhouse emissions.
One of my favorite details is the white shelf. I was looking for a traditional style shelf with a brass rail for hanging space, and I couldn’t find one readymade. So, my husband built this for the project, and it came out just how I had imagined it. We also referred back to the pink tiles by painting the original pocket doors in a similar shade.
Did this project have any challenges? If so, could you tell us how you overcame a few of the hurdles?
One of the biggest challenges for this project was working within a limited budget. We kept costs down by sourcing secondhand and vintage—this is my favorite way to design because it means utilizing materials that already exist in our environment; and I love unexpected finds. People often think that designing more sustainably has to be more expensive, but that isn’t always the case. The two overhead lights were found at a salvage yard for about $40 each, and the industrial school table base was found at the same salvage yard for $15. My husband helped us out by creating a new wood top for it. We also saved on cost by using Boxi cabinets, which are made in America and have a quick turnaround.
How long did the project take, and what did your sister say when she saw the finished space?
We started designing the project at the beginning of 2022 and completed the space in August of the same year. When my sister saw the finished space, she couldn’t believe it was hers. Her favorite part was the tile, which totally represents her personality. She has a jacket with a pink and white checkerboard pattern, and she said, “Now I can camouflage myself in the kitchen and hide from my kids when I need to.” She loves that her family has such a happy space to live in—they cook, eat, play, watch TV and read in this room. The children are building memories in this space, and I love that the background of those memories will be covered in pink and white checkerboard!