Chaplin Slept Here: A Vintage Studio Apartment with Hollywood History

Chaplin Slept Here: A Vintage Studio Apartment with Hollywood History

Minette Hand
Mar 5, 2017

Name: Catherine Masi
Location: Santa Barbara, California
Size: 650 square feet
Years lived in: 1.5 years, rented

Designer Catherine Masi's small studio apartment is in the historic Eastside of Downtown Santa Barbara. The area is beautiful and full of history — and so is the building she lives in. Not only is it bursting with architectural integrity, her apartment was actually built back in the 1920s to house the cast and crew for a Charlie Chaplin movie, which was a thrill for Catherine to discover (she's a Chaplin fan). And the original details that are still intact, like built-ins, a vanity room, and a (now) sealed-off dumbwaiter, are beautiful bonuses to an already lovely home.

Catherine's grandfather brought his decorative furniture business with him when he immigrated from Italy to Brooklyn, New York. When her mother passed away, she became the recipient of not only her grandfather's beautiful bureau, but Hummel art pieces, beautiful antique dishes and teacups, and floral chandelier remnants. Her storied furnishings mesh effortlessly with the home's architectural history.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: If I had to venture, I'd say that about 90% of the pieces in my home are either vintage/antique or hand-me-downs/gifts (most are a combination of both). The other 10% are special new pieces I've picked up along the way or things I made from this and that to fill in the gaps. That said, my home feels filled with love and friendship, which is really nice.

Inspiration: The sentimental nature of all things

Favorite Element: Charlie Chaplin is a big deal to me, so you can imagine the thrill when I was told that the 1920s bungalow apartment complex I moved into was built for his cast and crew to stay in during the filming of his own, as well as, other silent movies of that era. The architectural integrity is still intact; including ample built-ins, a small vanity room, and now sealed-off hatches, like the dumbwaiter in the kitchen.

It's a relatively small space, but the eat-in breakfast nook, the bathtub, and walk-in closet made the minimal square footage doable. Add to that a stream of natural light and the historic Eastside Downtown Santa Barbara location and I was hooked.

I'm a designer and work from home, so just knowing that I'm creating in a space so connected to a genius artist really has its magical moments.

Biggest Challenge: It's technically a studio, and I work from home, so I really have to make sure everything's in its place (plus side: it forces me to be organized and this place has great built-ins!)

What Friends Say: I hear variations of how one friend in particular described it, "It's so YOU. Welcoming, uplifting eye-candy, and a safe haven from the world." (I'll consider that a home success.)

Biggest Embarrassment: I'm really thankful for this home, so I don't feel too shy about it. But…It's a studio. I could really use a one bedroom. In order to accommodate friends hanging out, I've had to choose a smaller bed to make room for more inviting sitting areas. So okay, actually, maybe I'm embarrassed about my bed size (I affectionately call it a toddler-size twin)

Proudest DIY: I like that I can somehow create a cohesive style with a hodgepodge of random hand-me-downs. Both my maternal and paternal heritage is Italian. My mother's family handcrafted decorative furniture, an art and business they brought with them when they immigrated into Brooklyn at the turn of last century, backed by a heritage of five generations of craftsmen before them. My mother passed away when I was very young, so to have artistic pieces from her lineage (a delicately painted bureau, floral porcelain chandelier remnants, and twin sofas; all crafted around the 1930s) present in my day-to-day life is so incredibly special. I also treasure the antique dishes + tea cups passed down from that lineage; and too the sweet little original Hummel art pieces passed down from my paternal grandparents who lived the most admirably modest life (so those are reminders of living a full life regardless of wealth)

And I almost always have materials out for constructing the wares for my shop orders so it's a constant cycle of designing and making.

Biggest Indulgence: Does coffee count? Close second is paper and pens.

Best Advice: Best home advice: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was, in fact, life changing. Best life advice: Go for a walk every day. It connects you to the world in just the right way and, hands down, whenever I return home, I feel appreciation for this space. All of this simplifies my life and reminds me of what's important (thankfulness, love, and friendship…and coffee)

Dream Sources: I am not a shopper, by nature. But a few times a year, I love checking out vintage shops (local and on Etsy) to add something fresh to my home. I'm also a sucker for a once in a blue moon splurge at Anthropologie.


I left the paint color as is when I moved in because I love a good white base from which to decorate. The colors of my own pieces pop in contrast and I don't have to worry about anything clashing if I feel like adding to or changing the color story.

White bookshelves — IKEA
Sofas — made by my grandfather in the 1930s
Pillows/Bedding — West Elm + Urban Outfitters + World Market
Floral wall screen — Vintage find circa 1930s France
Large square coffee table — built and decorated by me and my ex-husband
Shelving trinketry + artwork — vintage/gifts
Record Player — Crosley
Pictures above the sofa near the bookshelves — found in Geraldine + Lula magazines with decorative tape from Paper Source
Geisha painting — Shannon O'Sullivan
Mannequin form — Vintage 1950s (gift from a friend's mother)
White side table — World Market (bought a few years ago)

Vintage tray/ kimono
All hair adornments made by me
Bureau — made by my grandfather in the 1930s
Vanity table bench — Ross (bought several years back)

Window fans — made from materials at Paper Source
Gold Polka Dots — Paper Source
OK vases — Oh Joy for Target
Table Cloth — vintage
Purple velvet cushions — World Market
Dishes/etc — antique family heirloom /vintage finds + Anthropologie + Target
Fridge artwork — courtesy of nephews and friends' kids :)

Mood board images — from The Gentlewoman, Geraldine, Lula, Flutter, Acne Paper, my own photo art prints + fabric
Velvet Stool — Target
Curtains — Amazon
Desk Organizers — Anthropologie, Paper Source, Staples, Vintage finds

Thanks, Catherine!

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