Nature in Full Bloom

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth.

 Herman Hesse

Marshall and I are approaching the end of our summer in Santa Fe. The August sun is setting into the Sangre de Christos a little earlier each night, but the high desert days are still hot and dry. I find myself thinking about a cooler palette and remembering the vast green canopy outside the “Tree House” – a home I remodeled in Kentfield, California, for my nature-loving clients a few years ago – and how we honored the expansive vistas by carefully replicating some of the details inside.

Truly Treetop Dining

The home’s dining room couldn’t be closer to nature. From their seats at the table, lucky guests can gaze directly into the 50-foot high spidery limbs, leafy branches, and hefty trunk of an indigenous California oak tree through a picture window that defines the term. I further accented the view by painting the surrounding wall a rich persimmon color that embraces the vertical grain fir beam on the ceiling. The rich wood tones of the walnut table and chairs show beautifully against warm butterscotch walls, and the antique French chandelier is carefully positioned to provide light for the table without obscuring the scenery.

Like a grand plein air painting in a gallery, the window is framed in four-inch white moulding.

On the wall to the right of the window hangs a fantastic find – a round antique drain cover whose heavy, shadowy texture emulates that of the great oak tree. On the left, a rectangular antique ceramic plaque brings in a brick red color that resonates with the deep wood tones in the furniture. Every element of this room, down to the handcrafted wool Kalety rug, is about flattering without distracting from its lofty position in the natural landscape.

Stepping Outside

The deck off the dining room was designed to surround a resident oak tree, and the railings and posts on both decks to emulate the details in the home’s interior staircase and kitchen island. The connection of these spaces to each other and to the rest of the house provides a 360-degree indoor/outdoor environment for family, friends and pets to gather, play and mingle to their hearts’ content all year long.

French doors open to the back deck, where you can reach out and touch the leaves before they drop into the canyon below.
In summer, the dense oak canopy provides shade for all the living things below.

The deciduous California oak trees of Kentfield are a paradise for wildlife. The insects that feed on them and the acorns they drop attract a diverse profusion of wildlife, from jays and woodpeckers to raccoons and deer, and hundreds of species in between.

Hesse Had it Right

Nature is the source of all beauty and the teacher of the principles of beauty. My favorite and long-held mantra, good design repeats itself, is one I learned from observing nature. The repetition of leaves, blades of grass, clouds, mountaintops, waves in the ocean, and petals of a flower are all nature’s way of creating harmony.

I will now retire from my breezy reverie and happily return to my sunny Santa Fe summer day.

In the love of living in harmony with nature,

Linda Applewhite's signature
Showing 5 comments
  • Kirby Kendrick

    Wow! Every window & French door reveals a plein air painting!
    I have so much respect for your honoring nature as you do, Linda.
    Thank you for getting our design priorities in order.

  • Yvonne Danelle Carpenter


  • naomi epel

    Brilliant and beautiful, I find Inspiration and learn a lot just reading your posts

  • Marla

    Another just beyond gorgeous home!!

  • Lynn

    What a beautiful inside/outside connection in this home, Linda! I especially loved the color connection between the inside of the French doors to the caramel/gray palette of the stone siding of the house and the gold of the planter. Your eye for color connections is superb! Enjoy your Santa Fe day 🙂

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Linda Applewhite Designs