It had been a pretty typical lunch at Eliza’s, the long-standing Chinese restaurant onCalifornia Street. Toward the end, the server brought Caitlin Flemming and her mother, Julie Goebel, a couple of fortune cookies — and that’s when things got interesting. Flemming cracked open the crispy wafer and stared in disbelief at the message printed on the slip of paper in front of her: “You will write a book someday.”
How could the fortune cookie possibly know that the pair had just gotten off the phone that morning with Abrams, the book publisher? Indeed, the fortune cookie was eerily prescient.
Nearly two years later, on the ottoman/coffee table in Flemming’s San Francisco apartment is a copy of Travel Home: Design with a Global Spirit. The newly released book, a joint endeavor by Flemming and Goebel that marks their debut as authors, takes readers into 20 homes all over the world. The occupants — among them, interior designers Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent, fashion designer Malene Birger, textile designer Carolina Irving, and local designer and artist Erica Tanov— impart travel’s influence on their interiors.
Also in the book are Flemming’s and Goebel’s own San Francisco residences in Presidio Heights and Jordan Park, respectively. While Flemming has lived in the city for 15 years, moving here from Oregon to attend the University of San Francisco, Goebel arrived in 2012 after accepting a job as a humanities teacher at The Girls’ Middle School in Palo Alto. While she was still a student, Flemming started a design blog, Sacramento Street (sacramentostreet.com), which took its moniker from her address. In 2012, she launched an interior design practice of the same name. (She still lives on the street but has moved apartments since college.)
Goebel and Flemming have been travel buddies for years, and the book gave them another excuse to globetrot together. “Our two loves are travel and design,” says Goebel. “It took us a while to figure out how to combine them [into a book].” Adds Flemming: “We had so many ideas! Our agent, Kate Woodrow, honed it; she made it lean and mean.” With San Francisco photographer Peggy Wong on board, Goebel and Flemming were in business. They spent eight months interviewing, writing and shooting in the U.S. (including the Bay Area, South Carolina, New York) and elsewhere (Italy, Mexico, France).
Right now, with school in session for Goebel and Flemming’s husband, Eric, traveling 20 days a month — his role as the assistant director of player development for the San Francisco Giants requires visiting the minor league affiliates in Sacramento; San Jose; Scottsdale, Ariz.; North Augusta, S.C.; and Richmond, Va. — mother and daughter are largely staying close to home. Another reason long trips are currently tricky: The Flemmings are parents to Jackson, who turns 5 in December, and 2-year-old Amelia.
For the family of four, the hub of their home is the living room, which is anchored by a sofa and a tufted ottoman, both from Serena & Lily, and an antique chair — all on a rug from the Vintage Rug Shop in Oakland. (Most of the rugs throughout are vintage.) Above the sofa hangs a painting by San Francisco artist Michelle Tholen. A trio of bins allows Flemming to easily corral the children’s toys and tidy up. (There’s also a small “toy room” in the apartment — what was initially envisioned as Amelia’s room, until the siblings insisted on sharing a bedroom.)
When everyone’s home, meals are enjoyed in the dining room. The rustic table with a wood top and metal base, procured from a San Francisco store that was closing, is flanked by chairs in a pastiche of styles. “I just like a mix,” Flemming explains of the design decision. “I like to add modern and antique together as a visual element.” The table also does double duty as an art-making venue for the kids. The room’s garniture includes a mirror from France (picked up at vintage home goods purveyor Elsie Green), a painting by Heather Day and a rug from Turkey.
Some of Flemming’s travels have been business trips focused on buying items for design clients — for instance, rugs and hammam bowls in Morocco, and wool blankets in Portugal. Her own souvenirs are usually small and can easily be transported in her carry-on luggage. In the entry of her apartment are some of the keys she’s collected from various places, like London’s Notting Hill. In the living room are ceramic vases by Miri Mara, an Italian-born fashion designer turned ceramist now residing in Carpinteria, Calif. Adorning a dining room cabinet is an embroidered Otomi textile from Mexico, a frequent destination for Flemming, who lived in Mexico City until she was nine years old.
So where next for Goebel and Flemming? Over the next few months, a book tour will take them around the country, which means international excursions will have to wait a little longer. High on Goebel’s travel wish list are India and Morocco, while at the top of Flemming’s are Denmark and Australia. They may get the chance to check those off their lists in the near future: The duo already has a second book in mind and, no surprise, it will entail further crisscrossing the world.
Caitlin Flemming and Julie Goebel’s book tour for Travel Home includes these Northern California stops:
Oct. 17: Lan Jaenicke, San Francisco
Nov. 3: Tancredi & Morgen, Carmel Valley
Nov. 16: West Elm, San Mateo (to celebrate the store’s opening)