Venice cottages transformed from dowdy to boho chic

Bucking the trend of building mega-modernist Venice houses, Juliette Hohnen instead decided to renovate a property’s two ragged cottages, imbuing them with a dash of the lysergic wonder that is Venice Beach.

“I just thought, I’m going to be the opposite of all the other real estate agents who make a lot of money and live in these modern houses,” said Hohnen, a Douglas Elliman agent and designer who finished renovating the 1920 cottages two years ago — with upgrades ongoing.

“So many in the area would look at this as a cash cow in the grand manner of going lot line to lot line, three stories,” added Brian Mullinix, her architectural designer and builder. “We agreed that these houses spoke to the history of the neighborhood.”

Hohnen bought the Milwood Avenue property for $1.95 million in 2014 and quickly took the homes down to framing, then rebuilt with replicated gables and rooflines. She lives in the front house; the back bungalow is for her teenage sons, Jack and Alfie Hohnen-Weber, from a previous marriage to actor Steven Weber.


Her sons use a now-soundproofed garage as a rehearsal and recording studio for their band, Jack and Alfie’s House.

As an agent, Hohnen draws on connections she made during her former 15-year career in entertainment television and print journalism, now transacting home deals for the likes of Adele, Elijah Wood and Ellen Page, among other notables. Her flip side is the self-described “insane houseoholic,” having renovated 10 homes, including three in Malibu and one in the Hamptons, on New York’s Long Island.

“I must control myself,” she said of buying three houses after her 2013 divorce and throwing the dice again to buy the Milwood property. Hohnen, who studied interior design at London’s Inchbald School of Design, said the shabby Milwood houses had a “terrible layout” with “nothing properly opening out to the garden.”

Rooms were wholly switched around in the main house. Now the kitchen, living and dining rooms all connect in a direct line, “almost like a New York City railroad brownstone,” Mullinix said.

Front and side decks were added to the front house, which still has two bedrooms. The back house’s former one-bedroom layout was expanded to two with a shared bathroom.

The total renovation cost: $700,000, which includes a new zero-edge pool that helps connect the homes.

The houses were also dark — solved after being reimagined with vaulted ceilings punched with skylights. The new height augments the spaces that hew to original footprints, with a combined total of 1,804 square feet.

The new lofty ceilings in both houses are French oak, with the front house floors done in a French oak chevron pattern; the rear house has walnut chevron floors.

Hohnen employed her eclectic design sense to achieve a boho chic look, which she further describes as “happy hippie deluxe.” The kaleidoscopic style is favored by those who dabble in crystals yet “must have all the very best,” said Hohnen, her trademark wry humor out in full force — and flavored by her Chelsea accent.

She said, during a visit, the musician Beck weighed in on the nonconformist design — it reminded him of a boutique hotel in London.

Hohnen both splurged and saved. Extravagances included reams of Peter Dunham and Raoul Textiles that she artfully tailored into shades and curtains — as well as bedcovers from India sourced at Hollywood at Home on La Cienega Boulevard. She augmented the looks with finds from world travels.

The warmly real effect includes splashes of high elegance — pricey spends such as a cluster of 12 ostrich-egg lights hung in the living room and six hand-blown teardrop lights that fall amid the kitchen’s open shelving and Mullinix’s custom cabinetry (Behr’s “Black Boudoir”). The dark cabinets help announce the fire engine red Bertazzoni range.

“Some people have vacations, and I have my light fixtures,” Hohnen mused of the lights bought at Bourgeois Boheme on Sunset Boulevard for $8,000 to $10,000 each.

Hohnen estimates they saved about $100,000 by forgoing metal windows for wood ones painted black on the inside and weatherized with blue metal on the outside. “As far as anyone’s concerned, they look like they’re metal windows but they’re not.” Alas, her secret’s now out.

The front home’s smallish master bedroom is clad in hemp wallpaper, which sets off a custom-built walnut bed made by Santa Monica’s Faithful Roots. The adjoining bathroom now has white paneled wainscoting — background to an elegant Waterworks Empire tub with a brass floor-mounted filler.

In the back house, the French oak ceilings continue down some walls, helping to create a hangout vibe for the “endless teenagers” who traipse through the property, Hohnen said.

A set of three “very, very expensive” Roche Bobois striped couches anchor the teenagers’ living room, which she said she “agonized over buying,” telling her sons: “‘Do not under any circumstances ruin these.’ And they basically used them as a spare bed for every teenager that’s ever walked through my house.”