Kate Schelter’s business card reads “creative girl,” and it will never need to be changed. An artist, creative director, stylist, and brand consultant, Kate is a jack-of-many-trades and a master of all. After a robust career in fashion taking photographs for Vogue and assisting names like Annie Leibovitz, Kate returned to her first passion: painting—watercolors, to be precise. Blotted beauties of Belgian shoes, garden blooms, and Parisian boutiques are her signature; an ode to both Americana and Continental finesse, they represent a person who sees our world as one of beauty. It’s a vision she’s managed to morph into a career, selling pieces on her website, creating work on commission for such design notables as David Netto, Julia Chaplin, and Rebecca de Ravenel, and putting it all on display in her first book, Classic Style: Hand It Down, Dress It Up, Wear It Out. Classic Style: a title that suits her work and life as much as it does her apartment.
It’s where her aesthetic materializes: American classic with a bohemian sensibility. She mixes high with low, old with new, and has a passion for reinvention—to make things her own. This is Kate’s modus operandi, and it’s evident in the way she decorates (freehand murals, custom upholstery) and dresses (think Oscar de la Renta with bare feet). It’s an eclectic ethos that has evolved over time, and her Chelsea loft marks a high point in that journey. She and her husband, Chris Schumacher, found the space when Kate was pregnant with their daughter, Charlotte. A Manhattan prewar with strong bones, it’s large, open, and bathed in light. “It has an energy that works for our family,” says Kate, and creativity can be found in every nook.
Two settees found at auction were recovered in coral Belgian linen by Kravet. Between, a custom ottoman from John Derian contrasts ever so slightly with the dusty-pink rug below. Layering colors and patterns, even if they’re similar, “creates richness,” Kate says. “There are all these different shades, one on top of another, but they bring out the best in each other… like a painting.”
I look at the walls and the furniture as one big collage. There’s an artistic energy that goes into my decorating. I just move things around until it all feels right.
With art, “buy only what you absolutely love and pay no attention to what other people say,” Kate advises. In terms of placement, she employs a method based on “balance, color, and courage.” She moves things around, she makes mistakes, but her conviction to try new things and her dedication to proper display are unwavering. After all, at the end of the day, “it’s only a nail head.”
An arrangement of seemingly disparate objects—scattered shells, a book of fashion photographs—comes together on an oversize lacquer tray. Pink ranunculus, one of Kate’s favorite flowers, are a common fixture throughout the apartment.
In a living room corner, a custom-made saddle by Berney Bros. sits atop a stitching horse, both of which belong to Kate’s husband, Chris. “It’s a nice moment in the apartment,” she says. “Everything in that corner is his, and they all live together. It just so happens that they’re beautiful to look at too.” The eclectic gallery wall includes an Arthur Elgort photograph of Kate Moss riding an elephant, Damien Hirst’s Spots, and vintage finds.
Photography is the number-one influence on my style... It was the first influence, before I even knew how to dress myself or experiment with clothing. It all started with the fantasy of a photograph.
The entry was painted in Farrow & Ball’s Breakfast Room Green. The color choice—one that shows up frequently in Kate’s murals—was purposeful: “The smaller the space, the darker the color because it will make the corners and the wall disappear,” Kate points out.
In a hallway connecting the master bedroom to the living room, Kate transformed a seldom-used door with a mural of geraniums painted in her signature larger-than-life scale, creating “a nice focal point.” She adds, “I never sketch my murals. They’re always improvised in the moment… I’ll climb up a ladder with a bunch of plants or flowers nearby and paint how I see them up on the wall.”
I always paint things freehand. If I make a mistake I’ll just let it be a little bit irregular. That’s the whole fun of making something by hand... part of its beauty is that it’ll never be perfect.
In the dining room, a bench bought at an estate sale in Cape Cod was one of Kate and Chris’s first joint furniture purchases. “We actually bought it for his apartment before we lived together, and then the table came along once we were married,” she recalls. Painted in a shade just shy of pure white, it complements the Scandinavian scrubbed-pine table and the walnut sideboard. “It’s been with us in a lot of different apartments and has stored a lot more than just the family silver,” Kate laughs.
Kate likes to layer for tea, but she’s not one for a tablecloth. Dishes are usually stacked (one vintage, one new) atop place mats—these were inspired by Pierre Frey napkins. The embroidery, found by her mother while traveling in Tulum, guides the eye to ceramics and candlesticks that “are just as important as the flowers.” Kate purchases colorful beeswax tapers from Paris and eBay packs at a time to coordinate with whatever blooms she has on display.
A Scandinavian pine plate rack from Design Works in Cape Cod hangs on a wall adjacent to the dining area—a perfect piece for someone with a penchant for painted plates (the ones with hearts are her own design). Below, a table painted by a family friend hosts a silver fox and an antique vase. The lamp? Vintage, crowned with a shade Kate made with folded paper, velvet ribbon, and Scotch tape.
A silver tea set passed down from Kate’s great-grandmother maintains a place of prominence in the dining room. “My mom thought it was too fancy to have in the house growing up, so it just lived in one of those felt bags in a closet,” she says, “but I thought it was just too beautiful to keep hidden.”
“In previous apartments, our furniture lived in separate rooms, and now it all lives together. That’s loft living—everything’s kind of thrown in.”
The bedroom takes us back to when Kate first moved to New York and was working as a photographer for Vogue. On walks home from the magazine’s former Times Square address to her Upper East Side apartment, she made a habit of popping into the thrift stores lining Third Avenue. Her four-poster bed was a serendipitous find during one of those walks. “Sometimes you just get lucky,” she says. Years later, her husband installed brass rods along the top from which panels of John Robshaw fabric now hang.
A monogrammed leather jewelry box by T. Anthony sits atop a dresser in the master bedroom. The wall behind is dedicated to family photographs displayed in silver frames given as wedding gifts, “that’s our little family shrine area,” she says.
Liberate yourself from the constraint that things should look decorated and perfect. Make every decision based on what you truly love, and don’t try to impress anyone except yourself.
Candid moments courtesy of Bear, the family dog.