Sacred Mountain Beauty
Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.
– Frank Lloyd Wright
Marilyn and Bob decided to build their dream home on top of a mountain.
Marilyn had a special relationship with Mount Tamalpais. She was executive producer of the legendary Mountain Play for 22 years where renowned Broadway musicals take place every summer. Today, families from throughout the Bay Area make an annual journey to spread their blankets while they feast on music and the majestic beauty of the mountain as they savor fresh local bounty from their picnic baskets. This mountain is indeed a special place.
Legend has it that its earliest inhabitants were the Coast Miwok Indians. Marin County, which Mount Tam presides over, was named after Chief Marin, whose Native American name was Hurricane. The Coast Miwok Indians believed in the sacredness, bounty and spirituality of Marin – the first county north of the Golden Gate Bridge – where the Mountain Play continues to thrive today.
Good Design Repeats Nature
I was privileged to work with Marilyn and Bob in the hills above Mill Valley, California, on a spectacular site with breathtaking vistas of Mount Tamalpais as our inspiration. The couple was dedicated to honoring the beauty of the surroundings and designing the home’s interiors to reflect and harmonize with the views. We used a neutral palette to create a backdrop for the colors, textures and shapes of the landscape, so we could repeat – not compete – with the miracle of nature.
The contemporary design of this stunning home provides a perfect frame for the splendor that is visible outside. Tall, sleek architectural posts and framed windows in the living room repeat lines of towering adjacent redwood trees beyond the terrace. Inside, neutral colored stone flooring connects indoors and out, while deep green aluminum doors blend with verdant hues of the mountain. The vertical glass panes of the doors mirror Mount Tamalpais, as the pool at the edge of the terrace reflects it horizontally.
Giving Nature Center Stage
Observing nature is how I learned my most trusted mantra – good design repeats itself. Nature’s design is flawless –always – and I continue to be mystified by the endless ways in which I see this manifested every day. When I’m given the gift of a spectacular natural setting, my desire is to step back and create an environment that allows the outdoors to be the rock star, and the furnishings the band.
The simple, straight lines of this home’s interior are the ideal complement to the colorful and diverse scenery. The effect is warm and welcoming with light streaming in through tall doors and clearstory windows while taking nothing away from the magnificence outside. The living room serves as a wonderful place to entertain guests while Marilyn, who has a degree in music, plays the piano. Light plays a key role in design, evident here as evening shadows reflect the violet shades of the chairs and rug while the couple enjoys dinner with a view.
A neutral palette is an effective way to showcase an element other than furnishings, such as the view from a home, a treasured art collection or dramatic architecture. Marilyn wanted a bed that she and Bob could roll out onto the terrace and sleep under the stars. We had a custom iron bed made for them with wheels that locked in place. Again, the colors are neutral and simple with only the bed, a chair, ottoman and an alcove to hold books. The vertical and rectangular lines of the bed harmonize with the doors and transom windows above. The magical view of the mountain from the bed, whether inside or out, is vast and unimpeded on a moonlit night.
Everybody Has a Bad Day
Mother Nature is part of every living thing and affects and inspires all our senses. We each have the beauty of nature inside us and around us every day. But she has two very different faces, as we witnessed these past few weeks. Nature can be passive and nurturing, and she can be wild, uncontrollable and destructive. Despite her dark side, nature provides the backdrop for all life on this planet.
Marilyn and Bob, Chief Marin and the Coast Miwok Indians revered the beauty of Mount Tamalpais, each in their diverse ways and during different times on earth.
What beauty do you revere in nature? Look outside your windows and be grateful for the extraordinary gift that surrounds you. And despite the endless news of the day, as witnessed above by Wright, Emerson, Einstein and Newton, nature is and will continue to be the source of all beauty.