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This California Home is Pretty in Purple

Interior designer Kendall Wilkinson reinvents a young family’s historic California home with classic style and plenty of whimsy

Written by Mara Boo
  • John Merkl

    To fully appreciate the stunning transformation of Jessica Herrin’s historic California home into a lively nest for modern-day living, it helps to know she once hosted a cocktail party in her clothes closet. That her 10-year-old’s birthday celebration included a cupcake-decorating war waged in a dining room that’s so storied, United States presidents have eaten in it. And that in spite of the house having been converted to a hospital during the influenza epidemic of 1918, it retains much of its original architectural integrity. “This house has a soul,” Jessica says. “It spoke to me almost immediately.”

    A vine-covered pergola stretches over the side porch of Jessica and Chad Herrin’s 1902 home in Hillsborough, California. A sensitive overhaul modernized the interiors while leaving the outside of the home—governed by strict historical regulations—largely unchanged. 

    Photography: John Merkl 
    Produced by Jenny Bradley Pfeffer

    Architect: Farro Essalat, Essalat Architects, 312 N. San Mateo Dr., San Mateo, CA 94401; 650/348-3223,
    Interior designer: Kendall Wilkinson, Kendall Wilkinson Design, 3419 Sacramento St., San Francisco, CA 94118; 415/409-2299,
    Contractor: Wilkinson Construction Inc., 206 14th Ave., San Mateo, CA 94402; 650/212-5617,

  • John Merkl

    Artful Entry

    Built in 1902 for industrialists Daniel and Margaret Drysdale, later occupied by noted suffragette Cecilia Casserly, and later still, home to the daughter of legendary decorator Frances Adler Elkins, Hillsborough Manor, as it was christened, enjoys a rich history. None of which was in evidence the first time Jessica and her husband, Chad, laid eyes upon the place. “We pulled up and debated whether we should even go inside,” Jessica recalls. “Chad was shocked at the level of disrepair. It was a wreck.”

    Art by Joshua Meyer, a custom-painted silk wallpaper, and a velvet-clad bench by Wilkinson offer a spirited greeting to guests.

    Wallpaper (custom, painted pattern on silk); bench (custom): Kendall Wilkinson Design,
    Bench fabric (“Fleming Velvet”/Pepper #8881-12, by Larsen): Cowtan & Tout,
    Pillow (“Satara”/Syrah #7095/08, by Castel): Donghia,
    Art (oil on canvas, by Joshua Meyer): Dolby Chadwick Gallery,  

  • John Merkl

    Formal Living Room

    But Jessica—an entrepreneurial visionary who, at 24, co-founded a wedding-gift registry website and later founded the social jewelry selling business Stella & Dot—is hardly averse to a challenge. “I fell in love with its property,” she says. “Once I convinced Chad it wasn’t total madness to take this house on, we dedicated ourselves to making it a comfortable and inviting home for our family.”

    A custom Cavello rug  and Stark fabrics on the sofas were kept neutral while art and accent fabrics add high voltage. The chandelier is from Niermann Weeks. 

    Wall and trim paint (“Shale” #861, pearl finish); ceiling paint (“White Swan” #927, pearl finish): Benjamin Moore,
    Chandelier (“Madeleine Ceiling Fixture”): Niermann Weeks,
    Drapery (“Soiree”/Crystal #3901/06, by Great Plains): Holly Hunt,
    Banding (“Sylvania”, by Nina Campbell, discontinued): Osborne & Little,
    Area rug (custom, “Cavello”/Silver #2125): FloorDesign,
    Sofas (custom); chairs (custom); coffee table (custom, with silver leaf finish); étagère (custom): by Kendall Wilkinson Design,
    Sofa fabric (“Taos,” by Old World Weavers): Stark,
    Chair fabric (“Avadi Shine”/Berry Crush): Robert Allen,
    Stools; end table; table between chairs; piano; butterfliesbowl on coffee table; fire screen; andirons; fire basket: owner’s collection.
    Art above mantel (acrylic resin stains, spray paint on wood panel, by Jaq Chartier): Dolby Chadwick Gallery,

  • John Merkl

    Formal and Inviting

    Indeed. With two young daughters, Charlie and Tatum, Jessica and Chad wanted their new home to cocoon their immediate family as easily as it would welcome large groups of nearby relatives for holiday gatherings. Not to mention daddy-daughter backyard camp-outs for an entire Brownie troop, end-of-year classroom swim parties, seated dinners for 35, and charity galas for 400.

    Glimmering fabrics and lighting set a romantic mood in the dining room, frequently used for everyday family meals. A hide rug from Decorative Carpets grounds an espresso-glossed custom dining table by Kendall Wilkinson Design; custom chairs are covered in platinum vinyl. The three-tiered “Cascata” chandelier is by Wired Custom Lighting.

    Wall and trim paint (“Shale” #861, at 50 per cent); ceiling paint (“White Swan” #927, pearl finish): Benjamin Moore,
    Chandelier (custom, “Cascata Chandelier” with hand-cut octagon crystal shades and polished nickel frame): Wired Custom Lighting,
    Area rug (patchwork leather hide with a 4-inch border, style#RP-PW): Decorative Carpets,
    Dining table (custom, walnut with starburst top): C. Mariani Antiques,
    Dining chairs (custom): by Kendall Wilkinson Design,
    Chair fabric (“Mirage”/Light Ray #501/02, by Great Plains, faux leather): Holly Hunt,
    Art at left of archway (original resin on paper, by Markus Linnenbrink): Patricia Sweetoh Gallery,  

  • John Merkl

    Stylish Buffet

    It was a tall order for a 10,000-square-foot house that had once received dignitaries, but since had been neglected. “It was pretty decrepit,” says interior designer Kendall Wilkinson, whom the couple tapped to reimagine their home. “We wanted to honor its heritage and keep its old-world charm, yet update it to feel youthful and fresh.”

    A custom buffet is paired with a Venetian-style mirror in the dining room. 

    Buffet (custom): by Kendall Wilkinson Design,
    Mirror (Venetian-style, c. 1945): High  Style Deco,
    Wall sconce (custom, “Cascata Sconces”): Wired Custom Lighting,
    Wing chairs (custom): by Kendall Wilkinson Design,
    Chair fabric (“Apamea”/Turquoise #30070385): Camengo,
    Candlesticks: owner’s collection.   

  • John Merkl

    Her Office

    And so the historic house was almost completely gutted, “brick by brick and wall by wall,” Jessica says. The painstaking process—regulated by historical protections—took three years, resulting in open spaces more conducive to entertaining and abundant indoor-outdoor access among all first-floor rooms. Still, its architecture was respected, even revered. Moldings and trims were replicated, doorways embellished, and original millwork salvaged whenever possible. 

    Jessica's home office is clean and feminine. The neutral space is dressed up with black and brass accents. 

    Wall paint (“White Dove” #OC-17, satin finish): Benjamin Moore,
    Decorative moldings (metallic glaze in gold on all panel molding details): Willem Racké Studio,
    Area rug (custom,”Chained” hide rug with gold metallic flecks): company no longer in business.
    Swivel chair (custom): by Kendall Wilkinson Design,
    Chair fabric, interior (“Melbourne”/Pearl White Marine): Keyston Bros.,
    Chair fabric, exterior (“Siesta”/Salt #32338.101); black trim fabric (#29429.8): Kravet,
    Desk (custom, black lacquer with inset leather top and brass details); credenza (custom, black lacquer with satin brass square pulls): by Kendall Wilkinson Design,
    Lamps on commode (“Modern Glamour Mary McDonald Table Lamp”/Cream #TL11082 CM): Shades of Light,
    Art above commode (Elsa, 2012, Big Blooms Series): Langescapes, LLC,
    Sculpture of legs on desk: owner’s collection. 

  • John Merkl

    Plum Pretty

    It also evinces Jessica’s “profound feminine aesthetic,” according to Wilkinson. “This house sparkles,” Wilkinson says.

    The new kitchen is warmed by custom ash-gray cabinetry and mink-tone arabesque backsplash tile. The extra-large island is adorned with linear detailing, carved legs, and built-in wine storage.  

    Wall and ceiling paint (“White Swan” #927); trim paint (“White Dove” #OC-17): Benjamin Moore,
    Island cabinet and finish: custom.
    Counter stools (discontinued): Henredon,
    Counter-stool fabric (“Epitome”/Plum #EPITOME.10): Kravet,
    Pendant lights (“Carlton”/Polished Nickel and Glass #44330): Arteriors,
    Accessories: owner’s collection.   

  • John Merkl

    Breakfast Room

    “We have mirrors, we have Lucite, we have gold, we have platinum—it’s a lot like Jessica’s jewelry.” In fact, the design process involved excursions to Stella & Dot’s headquarters, including a study of Jessica’s office, along with examinations of the company’s jewelry lines. “They played a big part in how we designed things,” Wilkinson says. “A lot of the furnishings feel like jewelry, and much of the color palette came from her jewelry.”

    Wilkinson added a hint of contrasting color to the palette with artwork by Paule Marrot from Natural Curiosities. A “Flower Drop” chandelier from Ruby Living hangs above a custom white oak, wire-brushed pedestal table from Las Palmas Collection. The crumb-proof ikat chair fabric is from Kravet.


    Wall and ceiling paint (“White Swan” #927); trim paint (“White Dove” #OC-17): Benjamin Moore,
    Dining table (custom, round “Trestle Table”/random white oak in “Granada” finish with heavy wire brushing): Las Palmas Collection,
    Dining chairs (custom); by Kendall Wilkinson Design,
    Chair fabric (#31446.10): Kravet,
    Chandelier (“Flower Drop Chandelier”/Frost White, resin): Ruby Living,
    Pedestal dish on table: owner’s collection.
    Art by French doors (“Paule Marrot Yellows”): Natural Curiosities,

  • John Merkl

    Colorful Family Room

    That neutral palette is subtly punctuated by all manner of plums. Ranging from aubergine to lavender, orchid, and raspberry, they wash over rooms that, upon close inspection, reveal tonal surprise. “I was attracted to things that felt youthful, as a counterpoint to an otherwise mature home,” Jessica says. She also notes the versatility of that approach. “Maybe one day you’ll walk in and the family room will be blue,” she laughs. “Our intention was to make the furnishings neutral, and then layer color in minimally on draperies or chair fabrics.”

    Wall and ceiling paint (“White Swan” #927); trim paint (“White Dove” #OC-17): Benjamin Moore,
    Area rug (custom, “Top Spin”/Cream #1691): FloorDesign,
    Sofa (custom); chairs (custom); coffee table (custom, with gray wash wax finish); ottoman (custom): by Kendall Wilkinson Design,
    Sofa fabric (“Belize”): Casamance,
    Sofa trim (“Coco”/Sand #11174-04): Cowtan & Tout,
    Chair fabric (“Suzani”/Pink Passion #10128-001): Donghia,
    Ottoman fabric (“Reynolds”/Crystal, discontinued): Highland Court,
    Photograph over mantel; accessories: owner’s collection.

  • John Merkl

    Classic Mantel

    Largely textural, featuring an occasional statement-making print or pattern, upholstered furnishings accommodate Cheetos-eating children and the family’s Goldendoodle with nary a shrug. “To me, a home is meant to be lived in,” Jessica says. “I care more about people connecting in my home than I care about the carpet.” She admits her daughters don’t eat pizza in the living room, but points out the family room sofa—a deep, sprawling invitation to nap, snuggle, and yes, eat—is covered in fabric dark enough to secret spills and muddy paw prints. “You want things to be inviting,” Wilkinson says, “but you don’t want to police people about whether their glass forms a ring on the tabletop. Everything in this house will stand up to wear and tear.”

    The classic carved mantel is paired with pops of color and pattern in the Donghia suzani-clad armchairs and a custom sofa.

  • John Merkl

    Dramatic Library

    That includes the library—scene of Chad’s card games with friends, but also where the girls enjoy playing games of their own. The most well-preserved room in the house, its original casework is painted high-gloss black to confer unabashedly dramatic style.

    Located off the living room, the masculine library boasts floor-to-ceiling built-ins original to the house. A. Rudin swivel chairs and a Rug Company rug play with pattern—anchored by an ebonized oak game table by Kendall Wilkinson Design. The chandelier is from Remains Lighting. 

    Built-in shelving: original to house.
    Chandelier (“Veronique 12 Chandelier” #HL0967.12): Remains Lighting,
    Wall paint (“Black” #2132-10, pearl finish); ceiling paint (“White Swan” #927, pearl finish): Benjamin Moore,
    Area rug (“Rif Light,” hand-knotted Tibetan wool): The Rug Co.,
    Swivel chairs (#788): A. Rudin,
    Chair back fabric (“Fortress”/Tuxedo #28680.81, by Michael Weiss); chair front leather (“Old West”/Ebony, colorway discontinued): Kravet,
    Game table (custom, in ebonized oak finish): by Kendall Wilkinson Design,
    Striped candleholders on game table; white bird: owner’s collection.

  • John Merkl


    “I love the mix of black and yellow,” Wilkinson says. “It elevates the space from feeling Old World to Mad Men-ish. That way, it’s a little more fun.” Just like the house itself.

    Homeowner Jessica Herrin in the striking library. 

    Leather chair (“Barcelona Chair,” vintage); side table owner’s collection.
    Art (original oil and ink on Mylar):  by Katina Huston, Through Dolby Chadwick Gallery,

  • John Merkl

    Purple Powder Room

    Classic black-and-white marble floors set the tone for the glamorous powder room. A high gloss finish on walls painted Benjamin Moore's "Bordéaux Red" completes the look.

    Wall and trim paint (“Bordéaux Red” #1365, high gloss finish): Benjamin Moore,
    Vanity cabinet (custom, black lacquer with gold molding details): Kendall Wilkinson Design,
    Mirror (Queen Anne-style Horn Mirror, #20203, discontinued): Mirror Image Home,
    Sconces: Atelier Dubois, 212/360-5652.

  • John Merkl

    Dramatic Dressing Room

    Deep purple and gold make a chic pairing in the jewel box of a dressing room.

    Wallpaper (“Chinese Dragon” #W5550-07): Osborne & Little,
    Baseboard paint (“Bordéaux Red” #1365, high gloss finish): Benjamin Moore,
    Console table (custom, mirrored with antiqued gold mirror, Parson style): Kendall Wilkinson Design,
    Mirror (Chippendale-style Horn Mirror, #20202, discontinued): Mirror Image Home,
    Sconces (“Ruhlmann Single Sconce”/Antique Burnished Brass #CHD2460): Circa Lighting,
    Bench (“Collette Stool”/Gold #COL-500-808): Bungalow 5,
    Bench fabric (“Serpent”/Natural Linen #GWF-3114.616, by Kelly Wearstler for Groundworks): Lee Jofa,
    Box on console; brass cachepot: owner’s collection.  

  • John Merkl

    Master Bedroom

    Silver leaf glams up the contemporary bed, a riff on traditional four-poster style. Chairs are upholstered in Kravet “Venetian” velvet; rosewood-veneered nightstands punctuate the tone-on-tone room. Bedside smoke-glass lamps are from Arteriors. 

    Wall and ceiling paint (“Linen White” #912); trim paint (“White Dove” #OC-17): Benjamin Moore,
    Area rug (custom, “Annandale Integration”):  FloorDesign,
    Chandelier (“Light Drizzle,” extra large): Ochre,
    Drapery and window shades (“Chic”/Blanc #F2589001): Pierre Frey,
    Window-shade trim (“Matilde Embroidered Border”/Bisque #977-55060-02): Samuel & Sons,
    Bed (custom, in silver leaf finish); nightstands (custom, in faux Rosewood finish with silver accents); chairs and ottoman (custom): Kendall Wilkinson Design,
    Chair and ottoman fabric (“Venetian”/Mica #31326.1611): Kravet,
    Trim (“2-inch Hannah Border”/Canvas #977-46576-02): Samuel & Sons,
    Pillows on chairs (“Ceylon Key”/Darjeeling #31459.616); bed fabric (“Here I Am”/Ecru #31131.16): Kravet,
    Bed linens; bed cover: owner’s collection.
    Rectangular pillow (“Hollywood”/Wilshire White #10208-010): Donghia,
    Table lamps (Mya Lamp” #49897-359): Arteriors,

  • John Merkl

    Pretty Vanity

    Mirrored drawer fronts and a Lucite bench add sparkle to the vanity area of the master bathroom.

    Wall, ceiling, trim, and vanity paint (“White Dove” #OC-17): Benjamin Moore,
    Vanity (custom); mirror (custom, Art Deco style): Kendall Wilkinson Design,
    Vanity fabrication: Wilkinson Construction,
    Bench (lucite vanity stool): Sloan Miyasoto,
    Bench fabric (“Queen Victoria”/Pewter #960033.21): Lee Jofa,
    Sconces; hanging light; accessories:  owner’s collection.

  • John Merkl

    Master Bath

    Marble floors, a paneled soaking tub, and simple linen window treatments wash the bath in classic style. 

    Tub surround (custom): Kendall Wilkinson Design,
    Window shades (“Verona”/Natural #30816): Coraggio,
    Window-shade trim (“15/8-inch Tape”/Embroidered, Pewter #78044H-296, by Highland Court): Duralee,
    Prints of sea fans: owner’s collection.

  • John Merkl

    Ethereal Bedroom

    A custom four poster bed draped with breezy bed curtains adds an ethereal touch to this cheerful and girly bedroom.

    Area rug (“Retro”/Oyster, discontinued): FloorDesign,
    Bed (custom): Kendall Wilkinson Design,
    Bed linens; pair of pillow shams: owner’s collection.
    Pillow and window-shade fabric (“New Nice”/Snow, discontinued): Clarence House,
    Remaining items: owner’s collection. 

  • John Merkl

    Little Girl's Room

    Crisp white tempers the playful purple hues in the bedroom. Walls painted Benjamin Moore's "Beach Plum" pull out the lighter colors in the upholstered headboard.

    Wall paint (“Beach Plum” #2072-60); ceiling and trim paint (“White Dove” #OC-17): Benjamin Moore,
    Area rug (“Retro”/Oyster, discontinued): FloorDesign,
    Window shades (“Lismore Linen Plain”/White #62012): Schumacher,
    Window-shade trim (“11/2-inch Stitched Tape”/Fig #78050H-776, by Highland Court): Duralee,
    Bed (custom): Kendall Wilkinson Design,
    Headboard fabric (“Francesca”/Berrylicious): Amanda Nisbet,
    Headboard trim (“Dirillo,” by Designers Guild): Osborne & Little,
    Bed linens; duvet: owner’s collection.
    Pair of pillow shams (“Appia”/Lilac #F1743/13, by Designers Guild): Osborne & Little,
    Rectangular pillow (“Caterpillar”/Pink #2644184, discontinued): Schumacher,
    Trim on pillow shams (“2-inch Hannah Border”/Canvas #977-46576-02); trim on rectangular pillow (“Au Naturel Brush Fringe”/Natural #983-37175-001): Samuel & Sons,
    Bedside tables; table lamps: owner’s collection. 

  • John Merkl

    Guest Room

    In a departure from the rest of the purple-hued rooms of the house, cool blue colors the walls in the guest room. A Lucite bench at the foot of the bed is a nod to Jessica's love fors sparkle.

    Wall paint (“Iced Cube Silver” #2121-50); ceiling paint (“White Dove” #OC-17): Benjamin Moore,
    Bed (custom): Kendall Wilkinson Design,
    Headboard and drapery fabric (“Cadence”/Ivory #3654703): Fabricut,
    Bed skirt; bed linens; duvet; bedside tables; table lamps; bench: owner’s collection.
    Pillow shams (“Diamond Back”/Lapis #800257H-563, by Highland Court): Duralee,
    Bolster pillow (“Bloom Emb”/Slate, Indigo #GWF-3108-550, by Kelly Wearstler for Groundworks): Lee Jofa,

  • John Merkl


    Easy living is a must in the poolhouse. Pillows are upholstered in appropriately named "Don't Fret" fabric from Schumacher.

    Chandelier (“Waterloo Chandelier”/Antique Gray Wash #9010): Currey & Co.,
    Sisal rug (“Madagascar”/Glacier, with smooth linen binding in color Quarry): Merida,
    Art over mantel (archival pigment print, by Barbara Vaughn): Dolby Chadwick Gallery,
    Sconces (“French Deco Horn Double Sconce” #S2021): Circa Lighting,
    Sofa and chairs: Restoration Hardware,
    Green pillows (“Don’t Fret”/Lettuce #66180): Schumacher,
    Striped pillow (“Tyneham”/Cilantro #7224/58): Romo,
    Coffee table (custom, oak in white-washed finish); display cabinet (custom, laser-cut perforated wood panels below, mirrored doors above, cream lacquer finish); round table in corner (custom); chairs at round table (custom, Elkins-inspired): Kendall Wilkinson Design,
    Large clam shell; lanterns on display cabinet; side table beside chair: owner’s collection.

  • Lisa Mowry