The perfect embodiment of old and new, we venture to Fisherman’s Camp – a 1900s Victorian home once part of a historic fishing village on the California coast. Over a century since its construction, co-owner of Heath Ceramics, Cathy Bailey, has captured the spirit of the space through thoughtful interior updates that preserve the past. Inspired by her originality and design intention, we asked Cathy to take us through her cozy retreat and share a few project highlights and challenges.
Tell us more about the space! How did you find it, and what inspired this creative project?
The property is right on Tomales Bay in West Marin, just an hour from San Francisco, but it feels like you’re much more remote than that. Once there, you can connect with nature, live outdoors, gain perspective, and learn to live more creatively. I tried to design the whole property around these ideas and make the process part of the creative project.
At its core, I wanted to make Fisherman’s Camp into a small retreat — a place where I could connect my personal and work lives and provide inspiration for both. So, it started as a personal quest, but I also knew it should be shared, and that was part of its purpose.
"By stepping outside of our daily environment and culture, we see where we want to be a lot more clearly."
How would you describe the interior aesthetic in five words (or less)?
Nostalgic, cozy, authentic, and of this place.
What are some of your favorite design details of the house?
The old wood ceilings are wonderful and tell the story of the history of the house. The home is actually made of three separate wooden “shed” structures that were connected with a single roof. The ceilings were originally covered with drywall. When we removed it, we noticed three distinct original wooden ceilings (one in each shed). You can see the color change accordingly.
My favorite added details are the fireplace mantel and the kitchen tile. There was a gas stove when we got the property, but no mantel. This mantel was part of a demo of a house in San Francisco. The Heath tile in the kitchen is made of triangles that create a pattern, so it has a graphic read, but it’s subtle, and the nature of the hand glazed pattern tile balances with the graphic impact as you live in that room.
What were some of the challenges in designing and renovating?
To me the biggest challenge is environmental impact. Construction waste and materials choices can both have a negative impact, and it’s challenging to understand their scope during the process. My evolving philosophy is to change as little as possible: fix, refresh, and figure out how to be creative with what you have.
How do you know when a space "works," so to speak. Could you share a little more about your creative process?
One part of my process is to first create the whole color and material palette. I take small swatches of each element and see if they look beautiful together, and create the mood that I would like the environment to have. Consider color, contrast, and texture. I always have one object that I build around. In this case it was the salvaged 1930 “spring green” Kohler toilet and sink. The color was so nostalgic, but also fresh when paired with other colors. Everything needed to work with that core color. This property was part of a simple old fishing village. So making sure that the new design for the property kept that in mind was an important part of the process.
"I’m drawn to old spaces that have had former lives. I like to understand what they were and see how a bit of their past can be made visible."
What are a few of your favorite Schoolhouse picks, and why did you select them for this space?
I wanted all the ceiling fixtures to feel compatible with the age of the house, but to add the right contrast & color to balance out the space. The Otis fixture with the Fluted Deco Shade is so perfect for the kitchen, it looks like it has always been there. The large scale makes a nice impact and the details on the glass shade create texture and draw your eye to the old ceiling, which is an important part of the space.
In the rest of the house, I used Alabax fixtures on the ceilings. I love this fixture and used small and medium ones in different areas throughout. I used black in some rooms where I wanted the fixtures to stand out and grey in others where I wanted less contrast. I also selected two different matte porcelain LED bulbs (Acorn and Drum), to add a modern vibe to the traditional fixture. The bulbs dim beautifully, and the light quality is perfect.
Heath and Schoolhouse both hold an immense appreciation for the art of slow living. What are some ways you practice this in your own life?
Some of this appreciation shows through in the objects we choose — especially those that are from people and places we know and want to remember. I’m always trying to follow my advice of acquiring fewer things, and only things that I really love. I don’t want anything I’ve purchased to make its way to the landfill.
Finally, what’s something you're looking forward to this year (or next)?
We look forward to creative projects that do not have to do with fixing or improving the property! Less painting walls, and more painting the water and landscape. Less tending to termites and dry rot, and more tending to the garden.
Shop Inspired Picks
Photography by Laura Resen