In real estate, as with any life-changing investment, it pays to strike while the iron is hot. But for stylist, illustrator, and creative director Kate Schelter, the iron may as well have still been in the fire. It was on a Sunday stroll during an annual vacation on Cape Cod—Schelter and her family, all of four generations, have spent every summer there since her childhood—that she and her husband noticed a “For Sale” sign outside a traditional 18th-century saltbox just three houses down from her grandmother’s residence. So she did what any self-respecting would-be homeowner might do: She took matters into her own hands and knocked on the door.
“I didn’t even know how much we had in our bank account,” says Schelter, author and illustrator of the recently published book Classic Style: Hand It Down, Dress It Up, Wear It Out, who made an offer right then and there. “We just had to have it. It was in great condition, but I think I went in with a paintbrush on every single wall.” It’s not surprising given Schelter’s reputation for embellishing pastel flora and fashion accessories on everything from collaborations with hotel brands (she’s currently partnering with the Colony Palm Beach in Florida) and clothing labels (Toms, Bonpoint) to her loft apartment in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, where she emblazoned a large-scale mural of geraniums on a door in a hallway between the master bedroom and living room.
In her Cape Cod home, too, hand-painted botanicals transform traditional spaces into playful rooms filled with personality. Poppies appear here in the master bedroom, while Schelter’s daughter Charlotte’s room features larger-than-life red geraniums. “It was my way of making the house my own,” Schelter says, noting how the forms add warmth, play with scale of the room, and give the impression of pushing back the dimensions of the ceilings. In other rooms, that was achieved by covering walls in historically accurate colours inspired by Schelter’s mother’s renovation of her grandmother’s house.
“I’m not big on brand new, except maybe rugs and upholstery,” she says. “This is a very do-it-yourself house.” To that end, Schelter’s home is furnished with a beach-friendly mix of family heirlooms, found antiques, and items purchased from estate sales—all recovered in what she calls “cheap and cheerful” fabrics and patterns. “I check those sales practically more than my email,” she says. Public spaces are wide and airy to accommodate her large family.
“It’s been a real labor of love,” the multihyphenate says of the two years spent revamping the house, working room-by-room around her then one-year-old daughter’s four-hour nap schedule. “At first it felt like we were camping out in the house—I didn’t want to buy furniture that I didn’t love. I was still on my hands and knees sanding and painting floors last Christmas break,” Schelter says. “But that’s part of my design process. I have to work it out myself.”
In the master bedroom of her Cape Cod family home, stylist turned illustrator Kate Schelter hand-painted colorful poppies on the walls to add warmth as well as play with scale of the room and give the impression of raising the dimensions of the ceilings. “It was a nice way to push back the angles of the ceiling and make it feel like you’re lying in the garden,” Schelter says of the mural. The vintage bed is dressed with Lulu DK for Matouk pillows and sheets and a Roberta Roller Rabbit quilt. The settee is upholstered in silk damask with a vintage Brunschwig & Fils panel and topped with John Robshaw pillows. The floor is covered in Benjamin Moore’s Waterbury Green.