Sac Historic House Profile – Katie Denham

This site talks a lot about the exteriors of historic houses, but I thought it would be great to chat about interiors for a bit. I’m a fan of local interior designer Katie Denham and her design blog katiedid, so I contacted her with a few questions about old houses and what she likes best about Sacramento.

Q. Hi Katie, thanks so much for letting me interview you for the Sacramento Historic House blog. First off, how are you?

A. I am great! Busy at work and busy with family life, and busy with our house remodel!

Q. You are a Sacramento based interior designer and you blog about design at… what else should we know about you?

A. Well… I have a great family: husband and two daughters and an Australian Shepherd named Cooper. We are remodeling our house which was built in 1911 in Curtis Park.

Q. How do you generally work? Do you have a studio or home office?

A. I am currently the Senior Designer at Benning Design Associates and I also have a home office/studio that I use for fun and for special little projects… like blogging for example.

Q. Your home was built in 1911. What are some of the challeges you face with owning an older home? What are the perks?

A. The challenges are far outweighed by our love of older architecture. But there are always things that need repair. Closets are not huge. And bathrooms are never palatial without extensive remodeling. On the flip side, you can’t find a more solidly built house than the one we have. Constructed out of what we originally thought was redwood, we found out was clear Douglas fir which hardens with age. There was no termite or dry rot in any of the structure when we opened up walls for our remodel. And you cannot find the molding and architectural details in new construction that our house has. When I passed by the “for sale by owner” sign when I first saw it, it was love at first sight. It is what is termed an “American Foursquare” style house with what looks like some Georgian style detailing: columns and very symmetrical on the front facade.

Q. You have a tie to the Julia Morgan house, can you tell us about that?

A. There was a Designer’s Showcase House put on by the Junior League a few years back, and I had the pleasure of designing the Library with Bruce Benning of Benning Design. It was wonderful getting to work in a house designed by one of the great American Architects.( It was fun to see the living room in your blog banner.)

Q. Do you have any design tips for keeping the integrity/character of a historic house interior and yet avoiding that heavy museum look?

A. Yes! I think everything that is permanent should have strong ties to the original architecture. Windows and door quality are crucial in maintaining the character of the house. If changing windows to dual paned glass, one should be very careful to not cheap out with fake grids. This is where dollars should really be spent to get true divided lite panes. Even better, there are still craftsmen in Sacramento that can build them the old fashioned way. One other thing that I would caution, and that is with recessed lighting. I think it is OK in areas where function is important, like a kitchen. These areas are obviously more updated than the rest of the house. But I would stress that using recessed lighting in other areas can compromise the integrity of an older home. Use VERY sparingly.

And to keep things fresh and more current, my own personal aesthetic is to combine old and new but without being trendy. If something is well designed, it transcends being the fashion of the moment. With this is mind I like to mix up periods of furniture and throw in the unexpected. Interiors should always reflect the interests and personality of those who live there. If you like contemporary furniture, I say go for it! And maybe throw in an antique to tie things together. Have fun!

Q. Design blogs have really taken off in the last couple of years… why do you think so many of us are drooling over blogs like Decor8 and Yvestown and katiedid? 

A. Well thank you very much for including me in that list! Maybe it’s the age we live in. Information is readily available through the Internet and it is immediate. People can interact directly with the authors and ask questions. It is a great networking tool and a place for people that have common interests to connect in a way that is really impossible any other way. I get to connect with people from all over the world, see what is going on in Morocco, Sweden, Australia, India. It is just an amazing thing. And loads of fun!

Q. What are some of your favorite things about Sacramento?

A. When my husband and I first moved to Sacramento, I was struck by all of the trees in Midtown and the sidewalk cafes. It is a very charming pedestrian downtown/Midtown and it has only gotten better over the years. Second Saturday Art Walk is one of my favorite things. It is so fun to walk around midtown and see the people, art and music. The energy is wonderful. We are really getting some great restaurants downtown as well. I also appreciate the size of Sacramento. It has alot of the bigger city attributes: theater, orchestra, galleries, restaurants, etc… but it also has a very small town feel. I always run into friends at the grocery store and walking around town. I also love much of the architecture in the areas surrounding downtown and midtown. The Fab Forties, Land Park and Curtis Park remind me of Pasadena where I grew up. There is that nostalgic connection.

Thank you for taking the time to have this chat, Katie. Check back with the SHH blog for future profiles.

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