This project is a consideration of two acres perched on a slope overlooking the idyllic hamlet of Mill Valley, California. The assignment was to create a series of garden rooms that could be for small family gatherings or large celebrations and keep the landscape open and connected to the architecture while providing small intimate moments to get away with a friend.
The globetrotting owner of this unexpected, modern residence commissioned the house overlooking Mount Tamalpais as the setting for a new chapter in life and a home base for herself and her children between travels. The design responds to the dramatic white architecture with simple, bold terracing and sweeping drifts of textural ground covers that showcase a strong hybrid of woodland natives and sculptural exotics like specimen agaves and yucca.
The property’s surroundings provided the framework for our approach. The house floats above and gazes across the valley at the massive form of Mount Tamalpais. By screening some nearby houses and removing a handful of existing trees, we created a more cinematic experience of the garden, most notably with the sacred Mount Tam reflected in the long view across the pool.
Our design works to complement the simple, bold white house with equally simple, bold plant statements, balancing largely indigenous plantings with exotic plant forms and impactful focal points. This landscape plan fosters a modern, otherworldly aesthetic while creating a rich, layered garden that doesn’t require much water and feels rooted in its environs. It’s a garden that’s thriving without being thirsty, and is well-suited to the environmental challenges of Northern California without appearing dry or stingy.
It was our pleasure to collaborate with a host of local craftspeople on this project who share our philosophy of lush minimalism. We worked in concert to define the landscape with a trio of outdoor rooms that provide flexibility for engagement and repose for all members of the family and guests.
Following the perspective of the visitor from an awe-inspiring locale to the details of the garden itself, we invoked the art of ikebana by arranging simple visual altars to produce striking seasonal shapes – like the often-overlooked Blue Agave as a stunning centerpiece alone in a field of fully blooming California Lilac. These themes of modernity, simplicity and surprise are what informs our work at Green17 and are integrated throughout the project to create a garden that feels playful and unpretentious while maintaining a heightened sense of being engaged in the multilayered natural world.
Other designers involved in the design of landscape: Lutsko Associates, John Greenlee Associates
Project location: Marin County, California
Design year: 2016
Year Built: 2017