After looking at more than 80 houses in and around Mill Valley, we knew 227 was “it” as soon as we walked through the door: great bones, a terrific sunny backyard, close to town but with easy access to the mountain. What it needed, however, was a full makeover. Five years and three kids later, we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do – open up the floor plan for maximum light/connectivity and ease of entertaining, expand our views of the redwoods while maintaining a relatively low profile from the street, optimize the utility of both levels and create an outdoor living platform that was an extension of our home – kitchen, “dining room” under the trellis and a flat lawn for games. Completed in early 2013, it has been a dream house for us. We’ve enjoyed the intimacy of game night in front of a warm fire with the kids, had friends over for dinner under a full moon with the doors open and hosted parties for 150 people in the back yard with ease. The cottage provides visitors with access and privacy and can double as an office. Beyond the gate, we’ve come to love our neighbors and the quiet neighborhood, the beautiful strolls into town and the quick access to the mountain(s) and all that the Marin outdoors has to offer. Moreover, we have loved the flexibility and warmth that the house and property have provided.
Just after we finished the remodel, the property next door came up for sale. We had been watching it for several years as it was abandoned and completely overgrown. One day we discovered it was in escrow, then out of escrow and we had 30 minutes to make a bid. We felt like we were the natural owners, and who could pass up the chance to create a street-to-street lot with access to sun-drenched flats, a private redwood grove, the creek, and a bigger lawn for games and unstructured play? And the fact that it was once Bill Graham's home and hosted lots of rock'n'roll parties didn't hurt! We purchased it in 2014 and spent the next few years thinking about how to both maximize the new properties (originally 3 lots adjusted to 2) and integrate them with our existing home. Ultimately, we decided that we wanted to create a sense of space and transition between the two properties while also maintaining our privacy. To accomplish this, we chose a modern design that nonetheless melds into the natural backdrop with the pool and pool house and then slowly transitions into a more traditional “mountain home” feel as you approach the cottage and redwood grove. To a large extent, we were inspired by the Post Ranch Inn (although we don’t claim to have come close to replicating it!).
The combination of 227 and 235 has been beyond what we could have imagined: room for kids to explore nature and to expand their imagination, adult time by the pool or around the firepit, total privacy, indoor/outdoor living, and plenty of room for friends and family. It really took the original idea of “flexibility and warmth” to a whole other level. Of course, no one could have foreseen the current pandemic, and how it has likely changed our lives going forward. But the compound has been a lifeline. We were both able to work full time, manage our kids’ schooling, get outside for exercise and fresh air, take in displaced family members, provide housing for our babysitter and feel completely safe, secure…and productive! Nassim Taleb has talked about how the current situation really tests one’s resilience. Most certainly our good fortune at being able to create this unique array of separate but connected spaces and experiences made us more anti-fragile.
So, if it’s so great, why are we selling? It’s a fair question and one that we wrestled with for a long time. Ultimately, the combination of a desire for a new set of experiences (we are a Bay Area native and a 17-year resident) and a need to be closer to family on the East Coast were the driving factors. But, our three children were born and raised in this home, and it has been filled with laughter, love, music, amazing meals, family and friends. More than anything, it’s been the bedrock of our family. We hope that it can be the same for yours.