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Handsome Updated Home in California

A California home nestled in a grove of redwood trees

Written by Amy Elbert
  • John Granen

    Why would anyone willingly give up a California hilltop house with views of San Francisco Bay to live in an area called “the flats”?

    The three reasons for Eric and Erin Fish were Lauren, 13; Julia, 12; and Ainsworth, 8. “We wanted a house where the kids could walk and bike to school or have a pickup game of football in the front yard,” Erin says. “We wanted them to grow up having the sort of independence we enjoyed as kids.”

    Children living in Marin County’s hillside homes are generally dependent on their parents to transport them, and it’s difficult for them to have casual neighborhood get-togethers, Erin explains. “After our third baby was born, we decided we wanted to be in the flats,” an area in Kentfield named for its level terrain.

    The couple’s search led to an old Georgian Revival house that was once part of an estate built by William Kent, an early conservationist for whom the town of Kentfield is named. In the early 1900s, the California congressman and civic leader donated hundreds of acres of redwood forests in Marin County to the United States government, establishing Muir Woods National Monument (named for Kent’s friend and famous naturalist John Muir).

    “We found this house nestled in a grove of redwoods and oak trees, and it had this magical feeling,” says Erin. The house sits on  about 1½ acres of level land at the base of Mount Tamalpais, a Marin County landmark and mountain-biking mecca. The 1890s house, however, was showing its age. Rooms had been added over the years, making for an awkward layout. “It just didn’t flow the way a family home needs to today,” says Erin. “You could tell it had been this grande dame in its time, but it was tired.”

    Enter Wendy Posard, a Marin County architectural and interior designer, who combines a love of history and classical architecture with an understanding of the needs of today’s families. “Our first on-site meeting was to discuss how we could preserve the historical elements of the original home while really opening up the plan for informal gracious living,” Posard says.

    The structure was taken down to its foundation, and within the year, a new 6,000-square-foot Georgian Colonial replaced it. But the new home took more than design inspiration from the original. Much of the old-growth redwood used for framing the old house was re-milled and used in building the new structure. The contractor painstakingly removed and reassembled each piece of trim from the original front entry, which is now the home’s back door.

    Staying within the footprint and honoring the colonial architecture of the old Kent residence, Posard designed a two-story wood-frame home with wings extending on either side. Interiors are trimmed with elegant crown molding, coffered ceilings, and tongue-and-groove plank walls and ceilings. “The new house speaks to a lot of the details of the original,” notes Posard.

    The floor plan is a nod to formal design, too, with a dining room and living room on either side of the center staircase foyer. But a casual attitude quickly takes over, thanks to an abundance of sunshine, multiple views to the outdoors, a layout that puts the kitchen in control, and an upbeat blue, white, and lemon yellow palette.

    “Erin wanted a fresh and breezy feel,” Posard says. The designer kept interiors open with long stretches of uninterrupted sight lines through the house providing visual and physical connections to the landscape. Exterior walls are lined with tall windows, as well as French and Dutch doors that stand open in good weather, so the kids, their friends, and Bones, the family’s Goldendoodle, can run in and out freely.

    “There are always children playing at the house,” Posard relates, adding, “Erin didn’t want to worry about wet bathing suits or the dog scratching the floor.” The spacious kitchen and breakfast room are grounded with an indestructible Connecticut bluestone floor that continues outside on patios surrounding the house.

    The family eats most meals in the window-lined breakfast room at a 10-foot-long double pedestal farm table with chairs slipcovered in a mix of four patterns in easy-care, indoor-outdoor fabric. Bones keeps an eye on the dining, draping his paws over the breakfast room’s double Dutch doors to peer inside.

    Posard designed interiors mindful of Erin’s desire for a “wine-country-meets-the-beach look.” Yellow upholstered chairs and a blue-striped woven area rug in the living room have a relaxed beach feel, while vaulted ceilings with trusses reflect the rustic look of wineries in Napa Valley, Erin explains.

    Blue-and-yellow dishes that Erin bought on a trip to Italy sparked the sunny palette, which takes an energetic spin in the dining room. Posard papered the walls with a lemon yellow grass cloth and laid down a graphic yellow-and-white area rug. A breakfront that Posard designed (after Erin admired a similar one in the movie Something’s Gotta Give) grounds the room in tradition.

    The Fishes frequently host fund-raising events for charities and political campaigns. “Even though we kept saying we want casual, we didn’t want the house dressed down too much,” Erin says. The powder room got special attention with a large antiqued mirror, textured wall covering, and a marble-topped vanity because, as Posard says, “President Obama might be washing his hands in this room!” He hasn’t yet, Erin says, with a laugh.

    Throughout the project, Posard and the contractor kept the environment in mind, and the house meets Platinum Level standards—the highest—under the national LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green-building program.

    That seems fitting for a house built for a young outdoor-loving family on redwood-shaded land once owned by an early conservationist. 

    Photography: John Granen 
    Produced by
    Eleanor Roper

    Architectural designer and interior designer: Wendy Posard, Wendy Posard & Assoc., 112 Pine St., San Anselmo, CA 94960; 415/456-2020,
    Contractor: Gary Suhrke, CDK Builders Inc., 44 Greenfield Ave., San Anselmo, CA 94960; 415/419-5643,
    Landscape architect: Warren Simmonds, Simmonds & Assoc. Inc., 330 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Suite B, San Anselmo, CA 94960; 415/460-0460,

    Paint (“Simply White” #OC-117); shutter paint (“Black Iron #2120-20): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667,
    Wall lanterns (“Ventana” #4019): Paul Ferrante, 323/653-4142,
    Plant containers: Munder-Skiles, 212/717-0150,

  • John Granen

    Classic Portico

    The house’s Georgian Revival style is a nod to the original structure’s design. French doors in the master bedroom open to a small balcony above the entry porch.

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    Curling Molding

    The portico’s columns are appointed in classic dentil and curling volute molding.

  • John Granen

    Inviting Foyer

    Doors at opposite ends of the entrance hall provide views through the house and bring in natural light.

    Drop-leaf table: antique.
    Table lamp: Formations, 310/659-3062,
    Rug on stairs (custom); rug runner (custom): Stark Carpet, 212/752-9000,
    Paint (“Cotton Balls” #OC-122): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667,

  • John Granen

    Entry Hall Side Table

    The mirror's distressed wooden frame, glass lamps, and a simple side table are comforting touches that invite guests into the home’s foyer.

    Rug runner (custom): Stark Carpet, 212/752-9000,
    Paint (“Cotton Balls” #OC-122): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667,
    Console tablemirror: owner’s collection.
    Table lamps: Hollywood at Home, 310/273-6200,
    Candleholders: Paradise Flowers, 415/456-8566,

  • John Granen

    Bright and Open Living Room

    Moroccan-style ottomans covered in bright fabrics were found in the West Hollywood design district.

    Beige sofa: Restoration Hardware, 800/910-9836,
    Gold-and-white pillow on beige sofa (“Smokebush”/Lemon): Galbraith & Paul, 215/508-0800,
    Blue sofa (#2481): A. Rudin, 310/659-2388,
    Sofa fabric (“Santa Anna”/Malibu #11121): Calvin Fabrics, 888/732-1996,
    Blue-and-white lumbar pillow on sofa (“Marjorelle”/Azure #MLB1801, by Martyn Lawrence Bullard): Hollywood at Home, 310/273-6200,
    Coffee table: Victoria Hagan Home, 212/888-3241,
    Large vase on coffee table: March San Francisco, 415/931-7433,
    Gold lounge chairs (“Clayton Chair”): Patricia Edwards, 562/776-1771,
    Lounge-chair fabric (“Montego,” discontinued): Cowtan &  Tout, 212/647-6900,
    Pillow on lounge chair (“Links”/Midnight, linen): Galbraith & Paul, 215/508-0800,
    Mantel: custom design by Wendy Posard & Assoc., 415/456-2020,
    Ottomans: Nathan Turner, 310/275-1209,
    Blue-and-white fabric on ottoman (“Arabesque”/Indigo #AB04): Peter Dunham Textiles, 310/432-0944,
    Gold-and-white fabric on ottoman (“Zanzibar”/Saffron #MLB1609, by Martyn Lawrence Bullard): Hollywood at Home, 310/273-6200,
    Painted stool beside sofa: Paul Ferrante, 323/653-4142,
    Striped area rug: Patterson, Flynn & Martin, 212/688-7700,
    Drapery: Pindler & Pindler, 805/531-9090,
    Paint (“Cotton Balls” #OC-122): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667,  

  • John Granen

    Rustic Touches in the Living Room

    Rustic trusses made with salvaged lumber and a whitewashed tongue-and-groove ceiling relax the living room.

    Console table behind sofa: custom.
    Lamps on console: owner’s collection.

  • John Granen

    Zesty Yellow Dining Room

    The lemon yellow wall covering from Phillip Jeffries and a yellow area rug from The Rug Company turn up the energy in the formal dining room, which opens to a front terrace.

    Table: custom.
    Dining chairs (“Mondavi Side Chair”): Patricia Edwards, 562/776-1771,
    Chair fabric (“Bastogne”/Aluminum #7726): Pindler & Pindler, 805/531-9090,
    Chandelier (“Iron Chandelier” #578-W): Rose Tarlow/Melrose House, 323/651-2202,
    Wall covering (“Juicy Jute Grasscloth”/Meyer Lemon #4822): Phillip Jeffries, 973/575-5414,
    Ceiling and trim paint (“Cotton Balls” #OC-122): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667,
    Drapery (“Ghent Linen”/Daisy #9122): Pindler & Pindler, 805/531-9090,
    Drapery hardware: J. Art Iron Co., 310/202-1126,

  • John Granen

    Italian Dishware Collection

    The oil-rubbed bronze chandelier is from Rose Tarlow, and the draperies are a Rogers & Goffigon linen. A custom-designed built-in breakfront displays Erin Fish’s collection of blue-and-yellow Italian dishware.

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    Pretty Breakfront

    The sky-blue of the china collection is a lovely counterpoint to the dining room’s lemon-yellow palette.

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    Butler’s Pantry with Stylish Storage

    Behind the dining room, built-in cabinets line the wide hall that connects the kitchen and foyer. The runner is from Patterson, Flynn & Martin. The table was discovered at Sonoma Country Antiques, and the lamp is from Therien Studio Workshops. 

    Rug runner: Patterson, Flynn & Martin, 212/688-7700,
    Long table: antique.
    Table lamp (“Branch Table Lamp” #SP-512-01): Therien Studio Workshops, 310/657-4615,
    Pendant light (“Modern Schoolhouse Pendant” MS5030, by Michael S Smith): Circa Lighting, 877/762-2323,
    Cabinetry: custom design by Wendy Posard & Assoc., 415/456-2020,
    Cabinetry hardware: Restoration Hardware, 800/910-9836,
    Wall and cabinetry paint (“Cotton Balls” #OC-122): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667,

  • John Granen

    Open and Airy Kitchen

    Wide passageways allow for smooth family traffic. Connecticut bluestone floors flow from the interiors to the outdoor patios. Radiant heat warms the interior floors.

    Cabinetry: custom design by Wendy Posard & Assoc., 415/456-2020,
    Cabinetry finish (“Cotton Balls” #OC-122): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667,
    Cabinetry hardware: Restoration Hardware, 800/910-9836,
    Countertops: Absolute Black honed granite.
    Range (by Wolf): Sub-Zero/Wolf, 800/222-7820,
    Backsplash (“Cottage 1x2-inch Staggered Mosaic Tiles”/Devonshire Cream): Waterworks, 800/899-6757,
    Oven hood: custom design by Wendy Posard & Assoc., 415/456-2020,
    Apron sink in island (“Shaws Original Single Bowl Fireclay Apron Sink” #RC3618); island faucet (“Modern Architectural Side Lever Kitchen Faucet with Sidespray” #LS457L): Rohl, 800/777-9762,
    Hanging light over island (“Glass Bell Jar Lantern” #F-LN16): Formations, 310/659-3062,
    Perimeter faucet (#FFPS1300): Franke, 800/626-5771,
    Rug: Patterson, Flynn & Martin, 212/688-7700,

  • John Granen

    Cheerful Breakfast Room

    Oversized white-lacquered conical light fixtures with brass interiors from Circa add a modern touch. Easy-care all-weather Perennials fabric was used to slipcover the chairs.

    Dining table; dining chairs: owner’s collection.
    Red-and-white striped chair fabric (“Jake Stripe”/Hot Dog #800-94); beige-and-white chair fabric (“Big Stripe”/Oyster #400-24): Perennials, 888/322-4773,
    Pendant lights (“Goodman Hanging Lamp” #TOB5014, by Thomas O’Brien): Circa Lilghting, 877/762-2323,
    Wall and ceiling paint (“Cotton Balls” #OC-122): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667,
    Windows: Loewen, 800/563-9367,  

  • John Granen

    Smartly Organized Mudroom

    A bench is flanked by sliding barn doors that hide the children’s cubbies on one side and a washer/dryer on the other.

    Cabinetry and banquette: custom design by Wendy Posard & Assoc., 415/456-2020,
    Cabinetry finish (“Cotton Balls” #OC-122): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667,
    Banquette cushions: Ralph Lauren Home, 888/475-7674,
    Paisley pillow on banquette: Hollywood at Home, 310/273-6200,
    Plain pillow on banquette: Williams-Sonoma Home, 877/812-6235,
    Sconces: Hector Finch, Available through Shears & Window, 415/621-0911.
    Art over banquette: owner’s collection.
    Hardware above cabinetry: Bunny Williams, 212/935-5930,

  • John Granen

    Pool Terrace and Cozy Fireplace

    An outdoor fireplace with nearby comfy seating and a dining set allows the family to relax and share meals on the patio next to the pool.

    Furnishings: owner’s collection.

  • John Granen

    Outdoor Patio with Living-Room Feel

    “We keep the design classical and traditional but created an informality by bringing the outscape inside,” says designer Wendy Posard. The one-story living room wing has several sets of French doors to connect the interiors to outdoor living spaces, including the swimming pool, the outdoor fireplace, and a barbecue are. Adults can sit on the patio or in the living room and watch the kids in the pool.

    Exterior wall paint (“Simply White” #OC-117); shutter paint (“Black Iron” #2120-20): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667,
    Wall lanterns (“Ventana” #4019): Paul Ferrante, 323/653-4142,
    Plant container: Munder-Skiles, 212/717-0150,
    Furnishings: owner’s collection. 

  • John Granen

    Children’s Portrait

    Two of the Fish children, Ainsworth and Lauren, climb on a swing in their yard. “This house is bright, fresh, and light. It’s all about sunshine and whitewash,” says designer Wendy Posard.

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    Stone Path

    A bluestone path wraps around the back side of the living room and toward French doors in the family room.

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    Restful Bedroom in Blue and Green

    Soothing greens, blues, and creams in the bedroom create a peaceful reverie. A tufted settee at the foot of the bed adds a touch of traditional among the patterned fabrics at the bed and chair.

    Bed: custom.
    Headboard fabric (“Katana”/Mocha, Cream #GWF-2812.616, by Groundworks): Lee Jofa, 800/453-3563,
    Blue-and-white duvet: Galbraith & Paul, 215/508-0800,
    Pillows: owner’s collection.
    Bedside table: Ralph Lauren Home, 888/475-7674,
    Table lamp: owner’s collection.
    Upholstered bench at end of bed: Williams-Sonoma Home, 877/812-6235,
    Lounge chair: Patricia Edwards, 562/776-1771,
    Chair fabric (“Katana”/Mocha, Cream #GWF-2812.616, by Groundworks): Lee Jofa, 800/453-3563,
    Table to right of chair: Michael S Smith Inc., 310/315-3018,
    Drapery (“Stratton”/Blue Opal #2002-04, by Kerry Joyce Textiles): Dessin Fournir, 785/434-2777,
    Wall paint (“Carrington Beige” #HC-93); ceiling and trim paint (“Cotton Balls #OC-122): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667,

  • John Granen

    Serene and Light-Filled Bath

    Reflecting the bedroom’s ambience, a calming palette of light blue and crisp white lends serenity to the bath. Large mirrors framed in silver reflect the natural light, which freely floods the space. Intricate tile work lends interest to the floor.

    Wall paint (customized to match Farrow & Ball’s “Light Blue” #22); ceiling and trim paint (“Cotton Balls #OC-122): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667,
    Roman shades (from Kerry Joyce Textiles): Dessin Fournir, 785/434-2777,
    Vanity cabinetry; mirror: custom.
    Wall sconces (“Dean Single-Arm Wall Sconce” #AH2000, Alexa Hampton); hanging light: Circa Lighting, 877/762-2323,
    Basket: owner’s collection.
    Bathtub (“Vintage” #K-700-0): Kohler, 800/456-4537,
    Tub fixtures (For Town Collection, by Michael S Smith  #P22707-AD in Nickel Silver): Kallista, 888/452-5547,
    Flooring (“Mod Rock”/Italian Ice with Ming Green Dot): Global Tile Design, 415/626-8688,