This 127-Year-Old Eclectic Victorian Home is Filled With Boho Style

Designer Patricia Kohlhepp forged a new chapter for her Victorian home while embracing its past.

Crafting a home that tells your story doesn't necessarily mean putting your mark on every item, says designer Patricia Kohlhepp. Sure, personalizing a place requires knowing where to swoop in and change a finish and add a throw. But it's also about knowing where to pull back, embrace the quirks and work around them. "I love the idea of the perfectly imperfect," she says. "Mixing old and new, traditional and modern, is how you give a house soul."

Adding a Chapter to the Home's Story

Striking that balance encouraged Patricia to look at her 127-year-old house in Mill Valley, CA, somewhat like a book, with each previous owner contributing a chapter. "It's a mix of styles and the histories of the people who have lived here," she says. "I wanted to preserve the layers of architecture and those stories."

homeowner and designer Patricia Kohlhepp

Mixing old and new, traditional and modern, is how you give a house soul.

— homeowner and designer Patricia Kohlhepp

Art Brings Personality

kohlhepp house living room picture window
Erin Kunkel

She combines her hippie-chic and midcentury modern styles to create an eclectic Victorian home that has an impact as soon as you cross the front porch and enter the living room. The gallery wall features work by some of her favorite South American artists and reminds her of her childhood in Brazil.

Take the living room's original rich wood paneling, for example. To brighten the space while letting the redwood shine, Patricia painted the trim white and hung gallery walls with bright art.

A Statement-Making Kitchen

kohlhepp house kitchen island seating
Erin Kunkel

Then there's the kitchen's massive black range hood, a quirky piece installed by former owner Sean Hopper, keyboardist for Huey Lewis and The News. To better integrate the hood, Patricia brought in black hardware on the glossy white cabinets and a sculptural pendant that matches its scale. "To me, interior design is all about problem-solving," Patricia says. "I feel extremely satisfied when I think something wouldn't have worked but find a place for it."

Patricia didn't want to rip out high-quality cabinets, but their original wood finish felt too dark combined with the paneled walls, so she painted them white. Black hardware ties in with the existing hood. A walnut and black iron table behind the island pulls everything together.

Additions and swaps, like new quartz to replace rotting butcher-block kitchen countertops and upstairs carpets changed out for hardwood, update the spaces for modern living but are neutral, so don't compete with retro elements.

Eclectic Victorian Bargains

kohlhepp house living room and kitchen with bookcase
Erin Kunkel

But it's Patricia's DIY skills and bargain finds—she calls herself the "Indiana Jones of Craigslist"—that enhance her eclectic Victorian. In the living room, nubby pillows she made from fabrics collected around the world share space with signature pieces like a pair of vintage Jens Risom chairs. She pulled from her childhood in Brazil by bringing midcentury design and vivid color to every room, weaving bits of her past into the home's continuing history.

After removing a structural floor-to-ceiling fireplace between the living room and kitchen, Patricia replaced it with a 13-foot-tall bookcase. The sleek white unit modernizes the wood-paneled space and preserves the continuity of an open floor plan while providing a hint of separation.

Creative Comfort in the Bedrooms

Youngest daughter Kayla's bedroom is also known as the teen lounge. Patricia kept the original loft bed for its youthful charm and so her college-age daughter, Jade, would have a place to hang out when she visits. Black and neon give the decor a punk edge.

kohlhepp house master bedroom
Erin Kunkel

Replacing carpet with light-stained hardwood was the first update to the primary bedroom. Patricia DIYed the headboard to create a focal point. A slab of live-edge black walnut large enough for a headboard typically runs well over $1,000, but Patricia found a coffee table with the right-size top on Craiglist for $300 and attached it to her bed frame. A mix of geometric, tie-dye and stripe patterns in the rug and pillows gives the otherwise neutral space pizzazz.

Exterior Updates

kohlhepp house front exterior outdoor seating
Erin Kunkel

When Patricia bought the house, all the exterior trim was an intense and dated shade of green. Now, the landscaping and textural outdoor decor stand out against a subdued palette of taupe trim and dark brown on the cedar shingles.

kohlhepp house front deck seating
Erin Kunkel

Bohemian flair is alive on the deck, where the casual seating area includes a rattan chair found on the side of the road, floor pillows, and a concrete table. It's the family's favorite spot for dinner; "it's private but not isolated. We hear people walking on the street below."

Updated by
Ryan Reineck

Ryan Reineck is an art director based in New York, New York. His work as a photo stylist and story producer has been featured in national publications, including Domino and Better Homes & Gardens.

Sarah Alba

Sarah Alba is a creative consultant, publicist, and founder of the photoshoot production, photo styling, and scouting agency Albaworks. For close to 20 years, Sarah has placed more than 400 locations in national magazines and styled over 200 photoshoots for editorial features. She has worked with companies such as Dotdash Meredith, Hearst, Hachette Media, and Time Inc. She has worked with titles such as Better Homes & Gardens, This Old House Magazine, Skiing Magazine, and Popular Science. Sarah attended the University of Colorado Boulder, Leeds School of Business, and Tulane University, graduating with a degree in Business and Business Marketing.

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