Rose Cottage Redux
Although botanist Ida Geary had lived in this house for more than 62 years, little in the way of a garden footprint existed when the present owners bought the property three years ago. Long admirers of the British designer, David Hicks and his garden designs, they felt the formality and balance of his work mimic exactly what this small cottage is all about. They envisioned a garden of English Roses for the front garden and potted camellias in the shaded back garden that would provide the color year round.
Believing that for privacy it is best to plant the perimeter first, the owners made creative use of Indian and English Laurel providing an evergreen frame to both their front and back gardens. In one section of the front garden, the owners began planting whatever interesting succulents they saw at the local nurseries. Almost everything thrived, and very little has since been removed. They have enjoyed watching this small garden change seasonally and have been amazed at how lush it appears.
Although when purchased almost everything needed repair and restoration, the owners chose not to modernize. Instead they have kept the style and charm of the original 1918 cottage with inventive use of mirrors, charming window treatments and by resisting any removal of original walls. The kitchen remains close to the original style. Initially, the condition of the living and dining room floors suggested replacing, but then were discovered to be teak! All of the original hardware in the kitchen and on the front door has been kept.
Three years ago, much of the back yard was covered in asphalt. After considering bricks, cobblestones, etc., they realized that whatever was put down, without grass it would always look like a driveway. Now, the owners feel the yard really does look like Mrs. Geary might still be living in the house.
A Series of Garden Vignettes
The owner/designer took a creative approach to the house and long-neglected gardens set in a triangular swatch of land wedged awkwardly between a creek and two streets. She embraced this challenge by transforming the parcel into a series of organic garden vignettes, each one unique, and replete with surprising twists like edible leaves, blooming fruit trees, hidden patios and old stone statues juxtaposed against modern ceramic sculptures by the owner/artist. Beyond visual and textural concerns, splashing fountains, shushing leaves, and hidden speakers sedate the sound of passing cars.
The Sky Parlor (front garden)
Replacing a tired lawn and scraggly plants, the front walled garden now allows palm fronds, bamboo leaves, edible and ornamental vegetables, and Bird-of-Paradise flowers to present distinct silhouettes against the sky, and encourages visitors to sit in sun or shade around the central fountain.
Euro Eden (back patio garden)
An ancient-looking stone bench occupies a special place beneath the natural awning of a fig tree. This open air living room melds fruit trees and vegetables, sculpture, plants in handmade pots and flowers with functional and oft-used seating that supports both group conversation and private tete-a-tete intimacy. The carefully placed furniture creates, as if by accident, natural al fresco dining for eight.
Botanical Artwalk (Exterior Gallery Garden)
Past the cluster of floating water plants is the Artwalk, using fresh thyme, parsley, cilantro, spinach and onions from a thriving herb garden to frame the owner’s sculptures.
Creekside Cottage (Guest House)
This two-bedroom guest cottage features an enclosed patio and views out over the seasonal creek, accented by tall bamboo stands, abstract sculpture and bright yellow Fijian prayer flags.
Where do you go when you want to get away? For these owners the answer is "The Bubble," a home that represents their peaceful haven away from the hectic outside world.
Renovated and expanded in 2005, the former 1941 structure presented a design challenge – How can you transform a small, dark structure on an exposed corner lot into a larger, lighter and more private space? The challenge was met by wrapping the house with an abundance of glass and then encircling the main living area with three limestone patios raised even to the level of the home's floor. The result is a home which feels larger than its modest size, where the house and garden now seem extensions of one another, making it easy to envision living both indoors and out.
The building is finished in a modern style with crisp, clean lines and makes use of soft, warm materials like bamboo for flooring, cabinetry and furniture. The garden is truly a marriage of natural and architectural elements. Massive ceramic pots create structural integrity and provide a visual extravagance. Decorative plants, mostly native and Mediterranean, are interspersed with organic edible plantings. Walking through this house and garden, it's easy to imagine a life where one's sanctuary easily combines the natural world as well as shelter from the elements.
Using advanced green building practices and sustainable technologies, the home was featured in the 2007 Build It Green Home Tour where it garnered the "Best Home Renovation" and "Peoples Choice" awards.
This 1929 craftsman house was completely remodeled in 2001-2003. While the original footprint was not enlarged and from the street the house does not overwhelm the lot nor the street, a single story 1,000+ square foot cottage was transformed into a 2,500+ square foot home on three floors. A pleasing arch in the original bay windows inspired the owners. Arching, curving lines are now reflected throughout the house and garden-sun porch windows, French doors, arched walls and in the garden gates designed by the owner populated with cast-iron birds, insects and frogs.
The remodel opened up the kitchen creating a flow between living room and dining areas and added an upstairs master bedroom/bathroom, downstairs office, den space, and guest room/bathroom. Radiant heat was installed throughout. The original brick fireplace and English walnut mantle were kept.
The previous owner was a welder who had laid a small-gauge railroad track along the east side of the house from the front sidewalk all the way to the back. He operated an electric train that he let kids ride on. A section of that track can still be seen.
The front yard landscaping in 1996 transformed a front lawn into a drought-tolerant, mediterranean-inspired garden with olives, grasses, lavender and rosemary. A Manzanita grove was planted to create a native California area. Irrigation, lighting, brick walkway, Sonoma fieldstone retaining walls and boulders were added. Shaded by a large southern magnolia, the backyard was re-landscaped in 2005 with both sun and shade planting zones, bluestone patios, steps and walls, cedar fence, deck and pergola, gravel paths and dog run. An old golden delicious apple tree was saved.
Spaces in Constant Creation
Having outgrown a nearby residence, these owners grabbed the house when it went on the market in the late '80s. In a rundown condition, it needed a lot of work, but was perceived as a gem waiting to be uncovered. However, the escrow process did not uncover a reality discovered soon after moving in: this 1909 house had no foundation! In order to build one, the entire house had to be raised. All the brick, originally from the Remillard Brick Kiln in Larkspur, had to be removed and hand-cleaned before reassembly. During this process, the owners raised the ground-floor ceiling thus creating studio space for the artist/owner as well as a family room and guest bath.
Since the family fortune had been spent on the foundation work, few funds were left to furnish what was now a house of three stories. This artist/owner did not hire a designer but instead set about discovering treasures at the old Marin City Flea Market: a dining room table made from old railroad ties, a coffee table refurbished with hand made gold stamps, a chair made out of old tires. These treasures then became a canvas for artistic embellishments, (e.g. note the star lily designs painted on the dining room table, and then echoed on the upper walls of the living and dining rooms.)
Everything in the downstairs "Fish Bathroom" either came directly from the flea market or was made from something purchased there, (e.g. the toilet-paper holder made from an old metal ice bucket/diving helmut. An old mirror was used as armature for the Mermaid mirror, a old chair was painted with an underwater motif, the hand painted floor matt was designed to create a faux koi pond.) An old table now sports found shells. Most of the remodel budget was spent on the kitchen. The only thing that is original remains the floor and the old threshold.
In addition to being a painter, this artist/owner does clay work. Note the ceramic busts in the dining room, and the ceramic hands in the living room. The hands are part of an ongoing hand collection housed on the living room shelves. Mosaics are another art form this artist/owner enjoys. Note the mosaic fish at the front door and the many mosaic pots in the yard. Her most recent mosaic is the "Crow Ball" on top of the old well.
The lawn was sodded about 15 years ago. The owners added the fence, gate and garden beds. In this large yard with shade and sunny zones, the old oak trees, camellias and rhododendrons thrive as do the roses. The slowly deteriorating original asphalt is periodically repaired with bits of gravel. In time, the owners know they will have a completely graveled driveway.
Artists in the Gardens
John Deckert was born in Munich Germany; Naturalized Citizen of the United States; Bachelor of Arts from Austin College; Lived in New York City more than 20 years. He participated in group and one man exhibitions during this time including the Allen Stone Gallery and Tiffany's on Fifth Avenue. He worked as preparator for the Allen Frumkin Gallery and wrote essays on the contemporary scene for ARTS Magazine. John's work has recently been influenced by images coming from the Plein Air tradition throughout California and he continues to enjoy this celebration of the outdoor environment.
"The Art of Painting is a continuing exploration. I am heartened by the energy pouring into the arts of our time. We are privileged to be part of it."
Ellen Levine Dodd www.ellendodd.com
Ellen Levine Dodd has been doing artwork all her life. She has had extensive education in painting, photography and fine art printing, studying with many well known painters, photographers, and digital printers. Her travels and studies have greatly influenced her art.
"Art is the magic of creating something tangible from thoughts, passions, and emotions, using color and forms to shape abstractions into an inspiration."
Sue Lassetter www.suelassetter.com
Sue Lassetter owes her interest in painting to her children. Whilst helping them with creative projects, they encouraged her to develop her art interests. In 1999 she signed up with the local community college and took drawing and oil painting classes and discovered a passion and love for oil painting. She has been working independently ever since enjoying a creative career, and has shown in New York and Los Angeles galleries.
"I love being able to create depth and feeling on the flat surface, and have a passion for the form and color of flowers."
Linda Rosso www.lindarossostudio.com
California artist Linda Rosso creates luminous landscapes and still life oil paintings in a style inspired by Impressionism and a thoroughly modern Colorist palette. She balances an award-winning career as a marketing and communications professional with an emerging career as an oil painter.
"Discovery is an amazing journey, and I am grateful for the encouragement of my family, friends and teachers, and for the early collectors who responded so enthusiastically to my work."
Tania Walters has a BA in Art and Psychology from Mills College and a Juris Doctorate Degree from USF Law School. After raising her three daughters, volunteering in school art programs and teaching watercolor painting to children for many years in her kitchen, she fulfilled a life long dream of having her own art studio in 2006 and now devotes more of her time to watercolor painting.
"Mostly, painting for me is about beauty and danger. Sometimes I feel like shouting from the rooftop, 'Quick, the flowers are blooming!' There is an urgency about capturing the thrill before it fades or I fade, or the petals drop. And the colors, oh the colors!"