Keep What You Love

OVER THE YEARS, realtor Scott Kalmbach has bought, rehabbed and resold a dozen properties. He planned to do the same to a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath Mill Valley fixer-upper he and his business partner purchased together two years ago. “Our intent was to remodel and expand the property,” Scott says. “But I fell in love with the place and decided to buy my partner out so I could make it my family home.”

Scott executed his style — let’s call it bohemian wine country — on both the macro and micro levels. “I used to have a home up in Healdsburg, which we ended up selling, but the idea was to make it feel like we had a little bit of Sonoma here in Marin.”

And while he didn’t end up expanding the footprint, every surface, every fixture, and every cabinet was swapped out or refinished. On the main floor, for example, he sourced 100-year-old redwood from a mill in Ukiah. “We put it on the ceilings and on the floors to give the space a tavern-like feel.” The kitchen also got a redesign, with an island at the center fashioned from a vintage mercantile counter retrofitted with a soapstone top.

The most significant structural change: Scott knocked down a wall between the main home and an attached guest cottage. The cottage “used to have its own kitchen, but I got rid of it and repurposed the area into a master suite with a TV room, and billiard’s room.”

Scott’s soft goods choices are as integral to the home’s design as the architectural details. In the billiards room, for example, the bookshelves — repurposed rope ladders from an old ship — were procured from an antique fair. Other flea market finds include a wasp’s nest and a mounted deer head. The cobra skin pelts, which hang off a post in the living room, come from a trip Scott’s dad took to Africa.

What truly makes the home exceptional, however, is the transformation of the outdoor spaces. Bifold doors off the dining room open to a deck with a poured concrete bar and grill area, a steel fire pit, and a Balinese-inspired pergola. But that’s just the beginning. The 18,600-square-foot property also includes a pool, a henhouse, several rope swings, and even a zip line. “It goes down the hill and over a creek to the far end of the property,” Scott says. “My daughter uses it to shorten her walk to school.”

Future plans include a pool redesign. For the moment, however, Scott decided to embrace the pool’s retro vibe. “I found an old pool slide from a guy in Sacramento through craigslist,” he says. “The guy said ‘if you pick it up, it’s yours for free.’ ” More proof that one man’s junk truly is another man’s treasure.

WHERE HE PURCHASED Homestead Valley neighborhood in Mill Valley
WHAT HE BOUGHT 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath California bungalow
LISTING AGENT Kathleen Clifford, Pacific Union International
BUYER AGENT Scott Kalmbach and Radhi Ahern, Ahern + Kalmbach, Pacific Union International
THE STATS Price per square foot for similar homes in the neighborhood: $875

Dawn Denberg

Dawn Margolis Denberg has worked as a professional journalist for 20 years. Her work has appeared in top publications, including Wired, Shape and Parenting. She has also written several books for children including, The Men in Black Agent’s Manual The Official Godzilla Movie Fact Book. And, most recently, an episodic audio series for Tales Untold.