Houzz at a GlanceWho lives here: Gerard Garbutt Location: Kensington, CaliforniaSize: 630 square feet (58 square meters); 1 bedroom, 1 bathroomYear built: 1956A photograph from the 1959 Sunset magazine article shows the home as it looked right after it was built.© Sunset, 1959
The timeless design and landscaping feels just as fresh today as it did in 1956. The previous owner did not have a car so there was no need for a driveway or garage. Instead, the front landscaping consists of varieties of manzanitas, inspired by the environment on the upper slopes of Mt. Tamalpais and the High Sierras.
One of the original conceptual drawings of the house from 1955 clearly shows the inspiration that Frank Lloyd Wright’s aesthetic played in architect Henry Hill’s design.
A photograph of the main room, also from the Sunset article, shows the original living room design. “I took out the 12’ long bookshelf shown,” the homeowner says. “Luckily, there was a stash of original cork tiles to fill in this new space.”
A table now sits where the bookshelves were located, providing the perfect spot to enjoy the spectacular view of the neighborhood, the San Francisco Bay and Berkeley. “It was foggy when I first walked into the house so I couldn’t see the view,” says the homeowner, “but I could imagine what it looked like.”
An original architectural drawing depicts the design concept for the living space.
The Roman tile fireplace was the centerpiece of the house.© Sunset, 1959
The fireplace remains a focal point today. The home’s new owner also kept the color of the beams in the house, which were stained violet. “At first I thought this was a bit gaudy, but quickly grew to love it,” Garbutt says. When the stain needed to be updated he used a coat of Benjamin Moore Aura acrylic paint matched to the original. “The original oil stains are banned now,” he adds, “but the paint did an amazing job.”Stressless Diplomat chair and ottoman: Ekornes
The gold leaf used to cover the wall above the fireplace is original.
In 1959, the compact kitchen contained the oven, fridge and washing machine.© Sunset, 1959
The kitchen has not changed much in the past 60 years. Even the cork floors, which were one of the architect’s signature touches, are intact, though the homeowner did replace the stove. He says, “I sold the original stainless Art Deco electric oven to a judge in Los Angeles. It looked almost new.”
A chair sits in front of a second door to the outside. “The design of the house is so sculptural I didn’t think any additional art was needed,” Garbutt says. The walls are finished with American Clay earth plaster.
The bedroom was placed five steps above the living room. The Golden Gate Bridge is visible from the bed.
The house underwent a seismic retrofit in 2009. That’s when some small windows were added above the desk. To keep with the style of the house when contemplating the change, the new owner asked himself, “What would Henry (Hill) do?”
The bathroom window opens up to the Japanese-inspired tsubo (small enclosed) garden. Sheets of antique metallic wallpaper were used to line the cabinet door under the mirror.
This photo from the original magazine article, taken from the back of the garden looking west, captures the original landscaping. Henry Hill was an avid gardener, and gardens were integral to his designs.© Sunset, 1959
The style of the back landscaping remains much the same as it did in 1959. Some plants and paths have been added and structures have been modified, but their relationship to the home’s design remains the same.
A collection of plants sits on a small bench by the side of the house.
A copy of the original plan for the house, including the landscaping designed by Garrett Eckbo. The garden is currently filled with native and drought resistant plants. Garbutt found the plans easy to follow. “The gravel patio and walkways were easy to build and they are self-leveling,” he says.
Garbutt, pictured at right, and his friend Mindy Mull, left, enjoy breakfast together with a view of Berkeley and the San Francisco Bay.My Houzz is a series in which we visit and photograph creative, personality-filled homes and the people who inhabit them. Share your home with us and see more projects.Browse more homes by style:Apartments | Barn Homes | Colorful Homes |Contemporary Homes | Eclectic Homes |Farmhouses | Floating Homes | Guesthouses |Lofts | Midcentury Homes | Modern Homes |Ranch Homes | Small Homes | Townhouses |Traditional Homes | Transitional Homes |Vacation Homes...