Welcome Home: Designer Kate Grenier's Mexican Art-Infused Space

Quirky color, bold textiles, and unique art abound at this sunlit Seattle home, where every piece of decor has its own special story.
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Photography: Nicole Rule

Photography: Nicole Rule

Kate Grenier's houses her business (you have likely seen her recycled bottle cap magnet designs at one of your favorite retailers) and her family in their bright and colorful Seattle home. Filled with treasures from a life of travel and a penchant for Etsy finds, Kate likes to think of her space as "a living thing, always changing". Today she takes us on a tour and shares her secret for creating the perfect spot for new items, her interior inspiration and the three surprising items she thinks makes a home complete.  

How long have you lived in Seattle, and how did you find your home?

Six years ago, we decided to move to Seattle so my husband could go back to school. My best friend from high school in Montana lived in Magnolia with her family, and we had fallen in love with the location on past visits. Somehow we managed to stumble into this house, which was just a few blocks from my girlfriend, and we have never left.

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Who shares this space with you?

When we first moved to Seattle, it was just my husband and I. Now we find ourselves in the same house (which feels a little bit smaller) with two kids, four-and-a-half-year-old Colette (Coco) and one-and-a-half-year-old Theo plus Frida, our fish. We also house my business, Kate Grenier Designs, which seems like another person as the studio takes up most of our lower level.

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What is your favorite room in the house and why?

Probably my dining room. We don't eat a ton of meals in there but I love the light and it is the least cluttered of all my rooms, which I love. The elk skull (compliments of my brother) above our bar cart is my absolute favorite. For years it was naked but lately it has become adorned with items that can't seem to find a home anywhere else. 

Plus, from my dining room I can see into my living room and the mantel, which adds a fun burst of color to the vision. The mantel holds my most treasured items: a painting (pink) by my girlfriend, the colorful Frida which Coco and I painted a few months ago, another Frida which I purchased in Todos Santos. [The] candle painting was done by the famous singer Peggy Lee, who was a good friend of my grandparents and [was] inspired by a Christmas poem my mom wrote when she was little. The cow skull (my prized possession) was done by the most amazing Huichol artist who cover[ed] the skull in bees wax and [poked] yarn into it, creating the vibrant pattern you see.

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Tell us about all of your amazing, imported goods and how they were acquired and integrated into the space.

Someone once laughed at me, saying that I have a story for everything in my house, and that seems to be true. It all started when I was young and my family spent a month in South America. Somehow between that trip and other travels as a child, I began collecting treasures from around the world. I think once I moved to the PNW, I realized how much I miss the sunshine – I went to college in Los Angeles – and I have a huge desire to live abroad, but we haven't found a way to fit that into our lives (yet). So I figured I might as well bring [inspiration from] abroad into my home. 

We are blessed to spend a couple of weeks each year in Mexico, where many of my treasures are from, [and we took a] trip to India just before we had kids. I spent plenty of time on bed rest with each of my pregnancies and browsing Etsy filled most of my time, which led to getting to know the DHL man pretty well with deliveries from Morocco and Turkey often showing up at my door. Last Mothers Day, my husband gave me the okay to plan a trip to Morocco, which is thrilling since it feels strange having items in my house from places I have yet to visit – like I cheated. 

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How do you decide what to put where? 

Often when I find something new, it moves around my house until finding its perfect spot – usually thrown over a picture frame or around Buddha or the elk. As much as I want to say I am a minimalist, more and more the house is becoming cluttered with these goods. I love them all and want everything on display at once. 

I read a quote from a designer once that was along the lines of being "afraid people will walk into my house and think it is a shop because I have some many items." That hit home, as I am the same way. I would love to someday figure out how to take that idea and make a shop out of a home and all the goods I collect. For now though, I started a small Etsy shop called Currey Bazaar with some treasures I have picked up, as well as those that have yet to find a home in my space.

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What is your favorite thing to do at home with your children, with your husband and alone?

Some of my favorite moments with my daughter are painting with her. Like I mentioned, we did the large and colorful Frida Kahlo that is on our mantel, and it always makes me smile. Alas, those moments are fewer and fewer as Theo tends to make quite the mess when art projects are involved. 

The kids also adore having dance parties. Coco has quite the imagination, and Theo is a budding performer, though his dance moves mainly involve going up on his toes and shimmying his shoulders. 

Just the other night, I told my husband that I miss having my alone time in the house – it is so rare to find these days. Usually when he goes out of town, he will come home to find the house rearranged with new pillows or couches I have made. (I don't sew but I like to try…just don't look too closely at the hand stitching). The last time he was gone, I made (aka re-covered) the couch in our living room in a Peruvian Frazada. Most of the upholstery and pillows in our house I have made or had my hand in altering in one way or another. He probably thinks it is dangerous to leave me alone, since he may not recognize the house when he comes home!

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How do you want people to feel upon entering your house?

I want people to feel like they are retreating from normal life, like they can toss their shoes anywhere, grab themselves a drink and plop down on the couch and relax – usually having to toss a pillow or two aside first. Those friends that know me just laugh at seeing "another new pillow" or a piece of furniture replaced. Most friends arrive with kids, so we want to be sure the house is ready for kids but doesn't have the vibe of being childproofed.

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What are three essentials items you think a home should have to feel "complete"?

Once when I was laughing at myself for always replacing things, my girlfriend told me that "a house is a living thing, always changing." I think that is true, and so a home will never be complete. But loved ones, running water and a bottle of bubbly in the fridge, just in case, are always pluses.

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What or who has been your biggest influence in the way of aesthetics and design?

My travels, gypsy heart, Montana roots and the colors and people of India and Mexico are the biggest influences – hence the mix of textiles and skulls all over. Lately we have been heading to Sayulita every year – if you have ever been there, you can see its essence all over my home. My husband and I were there when I got the photos back from this photoshoot, and I was laughing at how once I see my house in 2D, I realize that it is covered in Sayulita design. I have to give a shout out to one of my favorite shops and designers down there who inspired the large paintings of Zapata in my house. I bought some t-shirts from his shop and loved the designs so much that I decided to blow them up and paint them. To that artist…sorry if you are reading this for copying your designs! I asked and couldn't buy any original art and always give you props when someone asks about them – I promise to never sell them. 

p.s. Make your home extra cozy this winter with a little hint of Hygge