Santa Rosa natives and high school sweethearts Brad Villeggiante and Caroline Hall were happy in the snug 1,200-square-foot West Petaluma cottage that they had renovated top to bottom. But when their daughter, Cecily, arrived six years ago, the couple was prompted to dream bigger.
As in, really big. What they found was an eight-bedroom, 3,800-square-foot Queen Anne in Petaluma’s historic Brewster-Oak Hill neighborhood. The home was founded as a private hospital and later was put to work as a group home for youth and a bed and breakfast inn.
But Hall, a freelance art director, stylist, and producer, could tell the house had potential, both for a new chapter as a single-family dwelling, and also as a new income stream as a location for filmmaking and photo shoots.
“We went to an open house and looked at it and just loved it so much more than we thought she would,” Hall says. “Initially, my husband took some convincing, mostly because it was so big.”
Hall immediately noticed that the home, built in 1905 and graced with large windows throughout, was much brighter than other Victorian-style homes, and it still had highly sought-after original features, including wood floors, crown molding, antique chandeliers, and stained-glass windows.
“What I loved about it was all the amazing light,” Hall says. The couple didn’t want to change any of the good stuff. Their mission was to freshen up the interior and make it more appealing for commercial photography work as well as their own family life.
Hall and Villegiante ripped out dated wallpaper, restored the floors, and repainted the entire home.
“We were scraping paint for a year,” laughs Hall. “We kind of just took it one room at a time.”
Decorating such a large space was an adventure— one that was no problem at all for Hall, who had a large collection of accessories and furniture she’d used at work and on photo shoots over the years.
Overall, Hall and Villeggiante created an eclectic blend of ornate Victorian and contemporary industrial, like metal airplane chairs from Restoration Hardware paired with a tufted sofa. Hall leaned into her love of botanicals with terrariums, bell jars, indoor plants, and scientific posters. “The house was amazing, like a sponge,” she explains. “We found a way to fill the space really quickly.”
“The nice thing about Victorians like this is that they embrace a lot of different styles,” Hall says.
“You get a midcentury modern house, and you feel like you have to put midcentury furniture in there. With Victorian you can get away with many different kinds of styles.”
The family has found uses for the multitude of rooms. Downstairs is a formal living room, a playroom for Cecily, a family room, a formal dining room, a kitchen, and a guest bedroom. Upstairs, in addition to the family’s bedrooms, Villeggiante and Hall each have a home office. Villeggiante went for a midcentury modern look with abstract wallpaper, sleek Scandinavian furniture, and a restored console stereo. Hall chose a mod British urban loft look with a teapot lamp and a vintage World War II flag.
Now that much of the restoration work is finished, the family can relax and simply enjoy being in the space. “Usually there’s something cooking or being prepped all day that we’re working on for dinner. We both really like to cook, so he’ll often smoke something, and I like to make bread or sourdough pizza,” says Hall.
“And we do actually use the dining room every night.”
Weekend days revolve around the garden: feeding the birds, collecting eggs from the chickens, and peeking into the palm tree out front, where a barn owl — which Cecily has named Owl-bus Dumbledore — is nesting. This time of year, the backyard is filled with tulips and daffodils they’ve planted as a family.
Cecily creates mud projects in her outdoor play kitchen while Hall works nearby. “She’ll hang out with me while I garden all day,” says Hall. “Everything gets kind of overgrown and wild for a little bit with all the bulbs in bloom, but I kind of love it. I don’t like it when things are too manicured.”
The couple sees themselves staying in the home for the long term, bonding with their neighbors and fellow parents. “We’ve met a lot of people who are similar to us, creatively—and it seems like so many people we’ve met here have kids our kid’s age,” says Hall. “I don’t really know what it is specifically, but it’s special here. It just feels like home.”
What’s it like to rent out your house for photo shoots?
Freelance stylist and art director Caroline Hall once worked as a photo director for a large housewares company, working with location companies to find interesting homes for product photo shoots. “That was my job — to look at locations and book them. I initially thought I would book this house,” she says.
Renting out your home for a photo or film shoot can mean $1,500 to $5,000 a day of extra income. Crews take over the home for the day, though, requiring the homeowner to find somewhere else to stay during filming.
What are location scouts looking for when they book a home? It’s not just the architecture or design.
It’s also about beautiful light and plenty of space for camerapeople to move around. There’s also the issue of ease of access and convenient parking. It’s nice to have neighbors on board who won’t complain about shortterm disruptions. And access to gardens and outdoor space is helpful. “It’s great especially if they’re doing outdoors stuff, to have a nice yard you can shoot in.” Interestingly, a home’s décor isn’t usually as important; most crews bring in their own stuff, explains Hall.
Hall lists her Petaluma Victorian with two area companies: Scout Napa Valley and Mint Locations in Marin.
To learn more, check out carolineavhall.com.