Styled Simplicity

San Francisco designer Katie Putnam Martinez ’00 MARIA DEL RIO“AS A CHILD, I knew I wanted to get into interior design or architecture, and that became more clear to me in college,” says Katie Putnam Martinez ’00. Having studied studio art at both Taft and Dartmouth, the skills she learned in those classes continue to inform her work as an in-demand interior designer today.

After graduating from Dartmouth, she enrolled in an interior design graduate program at Parsons to “get the specific training and tool set required to get a job in New York,” she says. While at Parsons, Martinez interned in the office of André Balazs, the hip hotelier behind the Standard Hotel brand and the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles.

Her appetite for the hospitality industry whetted, Martinez set her heart on working at the Rockwell Group. Like Balazs’s organization, Rockwell, which was founded by David Rockwell in 1984, is one of the most respected firms in the world of hotels and restaurants.

“It was a really exciting and creative place to begin, and I was given a lot of responsibility and creative freedom,” Martinez says. “In hospitality, you’re trying to create an experience for people that doesn’t exist on the residential side, so it was really a helpful place to start creatively.”

In 2008, she and her then-boyfriend (and now husband) Michael decided to move to San Francisco, expecting to stay for no more than a few years. Nine years later, they are still there and now have two daughters, ages 5 and 2.

After working as studio director at the residential design firm Nicole Hollis, Martinez launched her own business in 2013. Her first major project was Sinegal Estate Winery in St. Helena, California, which “felt residential in a way,” Martinez says, because “one of our design goals was to make it feel more like a living room than a tasting room.” The Wall Street Journal took notice and featured the design in 2015.

While she has also worked on offices and a store, West Coast residential projects are her main focus. Having grown up in New Jersey, she still taps into her East Coast network and recently completed a summer home on Nantucket.

A living room that Martinez designed for a St. Helena, California, residence combining antique and midcentury pieces. DREW KELLY

Martinez describes her design sensibility as “a little bit of everything, in a way. I like rooms and places that feel layered with old and new, and I gravitate more toward contemporary aspects in terms of clean lines and simplicity.” Still, she says she always tries to include vintage pieces, like antiques and textiles, in her projects. And black. “I love using black—it makes every space feel infinitely cooler,” Martinez said in an interview with House Beautiful, which featured her work in the July/August 2018 issue (“On the Rise”).

“I love doing everything from interior remodeling—kitchen, bathrooms, and space planning—to overseeing room details like textiles and custom furniture design,” Martinez says. “I feel fortunate to have started my business in San Francisco during a pretty significant boom time for the city.”

—Sam Dangremond ’05