California Home + Design
by Abigail Stone
Round The Old Oak Tree, October 2015

When placing her children in a convenient school proved to be a challenge, San Francisco architect Barbara Shands of Shands Studio grabbed it as an excuse to move her family to Marin. “I always tell my friends I had to move to the suburbs to become a pedestrian again because we were driving the kids all over the city.” The parcel she found, a hillside location situated a mile from two towns, was exactly what she had been looking for. “We really wanted to build from the ground up.”


“There was a structure on the property that was originally a guest house for the hunting lodge,” says Shands. The Mediterranean building, which had been built in the early 1900s, had been neglected and was completely dilapidated. Shands salvaged the framing, old growth Douglas Fir. It was reused to create an outdoor patio table, fence, and the planters in the vegetable garden. “We really wanted to repurpose it because we didn't want that wood to end up in the landfill or somewhere else.” The stools are by Room and Board. The cabinets are made out of plain sawn walnut and are custom.


One of the dramatic features of the location is the grove of oak trees that surround the property. “There's one particular oak tree, a valley oak, which is very visually prominent. There are also coastal oaks that are on the northwest side of the property that frame the patio. It became very important for us to really celebrate those oak trees.” In addition to their beauty, the large leafy trees provide shade during Marin’s hot summers.


The shape of the house is generated from how Shands wanted the house and her family to be able to interact with the landscape. “We wanted to step down the hillside and have direct access to the outdoors and really have this indoor/outdoor experience.” With the bedrooms upstairs, the main living areas are connected to the deck and the patio space. “With all the sliding glass doors open, it’s as if the outdoor spaces are an extension of the house.” The L-shape also frames the oak trees that are in the patio area. Both the sofa and the chaise longue are from Ligne Roset. 


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