Jeff King Talks With

San Francisco Designer Katie McCaffrey

San Francisco interior designer Katie McCaffrey is the Principal at Angus•McCaffrey Interior Design, Inc, the new iteration of Martha Angus Inc. Katie’s known for her bold, vibrant shots of color against neutral backgrounds; large oversized artwork; and mixing antique furniture with contemporary finds. We recently caught up with Katie to dish about her design approach, favorite projects, and how her relationship with Martha has evolved throughout the years.

At the DesignLive event in September, Martha announced that the two of you are forming a new firm, Angus•McCaffrey Interior Design Inc. Congratulations on this new partnership! What can you share with us about this new firm? 

Thank you so much! We are very excited about this new chapter. Martha and I have been working together for over 12 years and we almost finish each other’s thoughts so it seemed like the perfect next step. I have been the Design Director for the firm [Martha Angus, Inc.] for the past three years so it’s a super smooth transition. We also have such a wonderful team of talent that has been with us for over 5-7 years so we really just see this as a continuation of our great teamwork together.

How will Angus•McCaffrey differ from Martha Angus Inc.? What elements, if any, will carry over?

There is not a huge difference and almost all of the elements—including projects and clients—will carry over save for a few. This will allow Martha to focus more on design, art, and travel while I steer the ship and continue to direct the design. The most distinct difference is we now work remotely most of the week and it’s fabulous! About a year ago Martha was really motivated to try a remote working office model where we come together to meet once or twice a week in SF and work remotely the rest of the time as needed. We started implementing it last year and it has been tremendously successful. It saves all of us time from commuting, gas expenses, gives us flexible schedules, and allows us all time to really focus on our work in whatever environment feels best. We are lucky because we all have a super work ethic and fantastic communication skills so it really works well with this team. It allows much greater efficiency, reduces our carbon footprint (we are also almost totally paperless now) and makes for a really happy, healthy, stress-free team.

What can clients and collaborators expect going forward, in terms of the types of projects you’ll focus on?   

Martha and I both have fine arts backgrounds and are aces with color so many people who love color seek us out. We will always have a strong emphasis on art and interiors either working with clients’ existing art collections or helping them build collections with investment potential. I think we will always focus on creating custom homes, businesses, and living spaces which are chic yet livable, timeless, and tailored to the client. We love new builds and remodels and getting into the materials and surfaces and we aim to keep the hard materials timeless to protect our clients’ investments. Our kitchens and baths look great for years and years. We then go as fun as the client wants to go on replaceable items such as throw pillows or wall color. The goal is to give our client’s the biggest bang for their buck and make their investment last.

How do you describe your signature style?  

Signature style is a tough one because I feel our style is constantly evolving. We never want to get stuck in a rut. One thing that always holds true in my mind is a room will always be more interesting if you combine a balance of elements, and eras, highs and lows. I feel like including an antique (even in a modern setting) will always elevate a room, as will good art. Everyone wants the ease of catalog furniture these days but it is really important to balance it out with something special and unique with character, quirk, and personality. Most of all, no matter the type of project, we want to make sure our client’s home reflects their personality, interests, and tastes, and our ultimate goal is to have a home which makes them happy every time they walk through the door.

What are your favorite types of projects to work on—residential vs commercial?

Residential has always been our bread and butter but we have done a fair amount of commercial as well and it would be fun to get back into that. Being that I live up in Sonoma County and I got started with Martha on the Silver Oak Napa project—I would love to do more wineries and hospitality. We will always continue to focus on high-end residential with a focus on new builds and remodels. We really love getting into the architectural materials and working alongside builders and architects to carry out a totally custom home which delights the client with every element, finish, and detail.

How does your approach differ depending on the type of project it is? 

Our approach is always the same in that we need to understand our clients first and foremost. How do they live? What are their wants and needs? What is their dream? We then help identify and execute the client’s vision while also giving them a little something unexpected. We want to give them a WOW. Whether it is a commercial or residential project, the space must not only delight visually but it must perform. It needs to function the way the client wants it to. We hope to improve their life not only through beauty but great functionality, ease of living, and comfort.

What do you do to stay on top of the ever-changing design scene in San Francisco? Are there art events that you participate in/attend, design rules you live by? Where do you look for inspiration? 

I always look to art and nature for inspiration—the contemporary art world is a great barometer for what is to come. Martha and I go to Art Basel Miami every year because it is the most incredible infusion of both blue-chip contemporary art and new up and coming artists. But looking at classical art and antiquities is also important for lessons in themes, color, scale, and timelessness. I use art and painting on my own personal time to loosen up my thinking. I try not to follow trends but think independently yet with the client’s objectives in mind. I am also big on nature—I love being outdoors and nature provides a limitless supply of visual and mental inspiration.

I’m drawn to this statement on your website, “We get that your home is your castle and we want to dress it up.” What’s your process for determining how playful or serious to “dress” a client’s home? 

We always use the client’s personality as a springboard. We personally have a lot of joie de vivre as a team and I think we tend to attract clients with a similar approach to life who want their homes to reflect that, but we also know some clients who want a home that feels serene, with calm neutrals, and a more refined, serious approach especially if they have a major art collection. We can be really brave and colorful, cheeky and chic, sophisticated and serene, modern or traditional. Martha and I have great knowledge and backgrounds with both fine art and antiques as well as all things modern (I worked for Rossi Antiques and C. Mariani Antiques, Restoration & Custom prior to working for Martha Angus) so we can really deliver it all. Again, it is all about the client and how can we make the home timelessly chic, expressive, and totally “them.”

What do you hope your clients take away from their experience of working with you? Do you have advice for potential clients for how to get the most out of the interior design process?

I would say we always become quite close to our clients during the process; the best projects are when you start to feel like family. We hope to make the experience fun—it should be a happy event. Builds and remodels can be fatiguing for clients as they are faced with a mind-boggling amount of decisions and costs. Our goal is to take their hand and guide them through the process in a way which is fun, enjoyable, and stress-free. We always aim to be on time and on budget, which helps immensely.

Advice to potential clients would be to communicate as clearly as possible what your likes and dislikes are and how you want your life to work within the home (or business). Trust in the experience of your designer. A designer with years of experience will help you avoid costly mistakes and will know to avoid trends and how to avoid looking dated. Avoid filling your house with catalog items—they are good only in moderation. Allow your designer to show you something special and you will be happier in the long run.

Do you have any projects in the works that you’re über excited about and can share with us?
We have a project in Sonoma that we are super excited about and we absolutely love the clients and team beyond belief. It’s a ground-up build, with a Spring 2018 completion date. The home is a wonderful combination of elements with a mix of some really great contemporary art which we selected with the client in Art Basel Miami last year.

Before we sign off, do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share with us about the “new” Angus•McCaffrey firm?

We are very serious about what we do, and we work very hard but we are always going to infuse the process with a sense of joy and fun. We have over 75 years of cumulative design experience so we are darn good at what we do!

Thanks for the great conversation, Katie! See more of her fabulous interiors at Angus•McCaffrey Interior Design Inc.

Be sure to check out our some of our other favorite design professionals in our Industry Q&A series.