DURING THE EARLY ’80s I encountered an essay by Cicero titled “The Joys of Farming,” and it wasn’t until I moved a few years later into my San Francisco house that I fully grasped that the essay wasn’t merely about husbandry but was also a treatise on the merits of indoor/outdoor living.
The house was a late Victorian, probably completed in 1904, and it had been poorly altered and added onto during its lifetime. But it had light streaming in from windows on three sides, and in back, high up on the 50-foot-wide up-sloping lot and disconnected from the building, was a garden.
There, I found cobbled-stone retaining walls, gravel beds, a gnarled old heirloom apple tree whose fallen fruit regularly fed acid-loving camellia shrubs as tall as trees, and evergreen drought-resistant plants that kept roots cool. Someone long ago had created this charming, all-American enclave with love, and after I’d cared for it a season or two it occurred to me that its wise and perhaps patriotic author had also made the organic garden bountiful and seasonal in unexpected ways. For instance, during the first weeks of July the flowers that bloomed — and still do — were all shades of red, white and blue.
Over the years, I remodeled my home and opened it to this special garden and fully realized Cicero’s truths on the finest ways to live.
So, this midyear issue celebrates inspiring indoor/outdoor homes, in Healdsburg, Napa, Muir Beach, Corte Madera, Tiburon, Sausalito and San Francisco, that run the gamut in design from midcentury modern to Victorian, yet fully engage their environment. In Makeover, our new column that will regularly highlight masterful alterations, you’ll find a front garden that has become an outdoor room. And in Landing, yet another new department, we transport you to Borgo San Felice, a Romanesque-era Italian hill town that was transformed into a remarkable hotel campus. It counts on its surrounding vineyards, olive groves and orchards to supply a tableau vivant and remarkable food for its tables, as many home gardens do in the Bay Area.
In this issue, we also glance at restaurant Volta in San Francisco; at refurbished terrace spaces in the Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghirardelli Square; at a cafe with views at BAMPFA; and at the new SFMOMA, whose Norwegian architects will soon bring high style to The French Laundry in Yountville. All this because Bay Area restaurants — whose interiors I first started to write about and feature prominently during the early 1990s — now also boast modernist home-style kitchens and dining rooms alongside farm-to-table culinary traditions.
With that in mind, while Braden Summers snapped this photo at the Henrybuilt showroom in Mill Valley, I dreamed in turn of my next home project: a modern, handcrafted kitchen that opens to the garden.
ZAHID SARDAR EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, SPACES