Dreaming Big in a Cozy Cottage Filled with Heavenly Hues and Classic Charm

I am still in my color phase,” says interior designer Kelly Hohla, standing in her dining room beside a pair of chartreuse chairs with plaid seat cushions and floral-pillow backs. “When I was younger, I did a lot of drawing and painting. I’m sure that influenced how I think about color—its layering and pairing, texture and pattern.” The California native, who studied Visual Arts at UC San Diego, continually cultivates her eye, most recently with design studies abroad in London and Paris.

Hohla’s artful, textured approach has endured while her style has evolved. This year, with 14 years in the industry and a reputation for bespoke interiors sporting an unexpected edge, the designer launched her eponymous practice. Hohla and her financial manager husband, Scott Standridge, also recently purchased a two-story 1910 cottage in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset neighborhood—giving her a personal design lab as well.

“When you’re starting out as a design assistant, you can’t afford what your clients have!” she notes. “You try to find fun ways to make things interesting. I loved to collect vintage furniture and clothes, because they add a lot of personality.” Her new home still features favorite vintage finds, but they have been joined by more recent acquisitions. “Now that we are in a place where we want to stay,” Hohla says, “investing in those special pieces makes sense.”

The couple’s quarters total about 1,000 square feet, with a ground-level design studio occupying an additional 700 square feet. Entering through the home’s blue front door, visitors are greeted by a living room sheathed in a dapper blue-gray Phillip Jeffries woven wallpaper. (“Unfortunately, my cats love it, too,” says Hohla of rescues Coco and Oliver.) The designer’s favorite hues—blue, gray and purple—imbue the room with a cool color vibe and are picked up in a Moroccan-inspired rug found on One Kings Lane.

In front of the bay windows, a pair of armchairs—$5 flea-market scores that are upholstered in an orange plaid—happily coexist beside one of the home’s splurges: a Classicon Bell side table, which Hohla likens to a “jewel piece.” The nearby chest of drawers, painted a bright blue, once belonged to Standridge’s grandmother. Overhead, a 1960s Vistosi glass chandelier radiates a pale glow. And pillows in an array of prints adorn a tufted gray Hutton sofa from Room & Board.

Across the hall in the master bedroom, midcentury nightstands flank a bed with a headboard the homeowners constructed by repurposing a wooden desk. Two vintage portraits and a metal sculpture that channels Curtis Jeré are mounted on a wall covered in Trove’s Ahza print. “I love the movement,” says Hohla of the paper’s multitude of fluttering moths. “It’s elegant but also kind of trippy.”

The living room and bedroom are testaments to the designer’s love of fabrics. The window treatments and bedding are the handiwork of Doreen Leong. “I am obsessed with the tiny details that tie it all together,” Hohla notes, referring to Leong’s dressmaker details. “I always advise not to skimp on the fabric selections. They add warmth and really set the tone and personality for your home.”

Hohla’s “little vintage hallway of fashion”—with sartorial illustrations on one side and photographs from a Richard Avedon book on the other—leads to the dining room where vintage furniture dominates. A collection of art includes a Robert Bilensky equine painting that anchors a salon-style display.

While Hohla’s keen design eye is evident throughout, Standridge also contributed in meaningful ways. In the living room, he retrofitted the Art Deco burl-wood armoire to accommodate a TV. In his office, he constructed the industrial brass light fixture. 

Together, the duo has created a home filled with character. “I think we lucked out with the house because it is so small, and that doesn’t work for everyone,” says Hohla. In fact, it may be surprising that the place works for the six-foot-tall Hohla and six-foot-two-inches-tall Standridge. “I feel like we’re these two giants living in this dream cottage,” she says. “And it should be too small for us, but it just ends up being cozy.”

A version of this article appeared in the September 2014 issue of San Francisco Cottages & Gardens with the headline: An Interior Journey.