A client of ours with a project in Hawaii mentioned her role as the long-time official family whistler to summon people in from the beach. (Yes, she demonstrated her impressive whistle right in our office.) Her humorous description suggested an unexpressed desire to have a beautiful way of letting everyone know it was time to gather. This inspired us to design a bell with a distinctive tone that can be rung to call family members and guests back to the house. We designed a bracket that both complements the architecture and allows the bell to be brought inside when the family is away.
Our antennae are always up for casual comments and personal anecdotes from clients about how they live. Our process of listening is the prelude to our process of designing. We listen with no preconceived ideas, without a checklist or formula.
We are delighted when ideas are sparked by listening—or even by overhearing. At the same project site in Hawaii, the electrician mentioned that a monkeypod tree nearby had fallen. As serendipity would have it, the electrician’s brother is a woodworker. We were able to get in touch with him (almost instantly!) and explain our interest in making a large tabletop. The tree was just tall enough to yield the perfect length for the lanai bar area, and the wood was finished like a beloved boat.
Wishing you a new year of felicitous listening in nature, in conversation, and in captivating entertainment —
Last weekend, I was driving home along the lagoon between Bolinas and Stinson Beach. Suddenly, the view was so spectacular that I pulled right over. For perhaps a minute, I wavered between soaking in the beauty and trying to capture the scene with my phone. Everywhere I turned, I saw breathtaking combinations of the sea-and-skyscape.
Some kind of reflection was coming from somewhere. I think the sun filtering through the clouds turned them pink, but was the reflection on the lagoon simply pink clouds, or the light of the sun turned pink by filtering through the clouds? Either way, it was truly an Impressionist moment. If I had left my sister’s five minutes later, the whole magical effect would have looked completely different, as the sun’s angle would have shifted. It might still have been beautiful, but perhaps not stop-worthy.
Light and lighting can be everything. We are always thinking about how interior spaces are lit. Lighting and its levels can change the mood of a room. In my photos above, the diffused light makes everything seem so expansive. I felt surrounded by the depth and richness of an immersive colorscape. When designing interiors, we can create such expansive moods, by introducing different layers and levels of lighting. We decide where to direct the light—to illuminate, to reflect, to highlight, to soften.
When we designed the Sweetwater Music Hall, we wanted to overcome the boxiness of low ceilings and create a feeling of expansiveness. We exposed the joists and ran a border of crown moulding, providing a golden surface for reflective lighting. We introduced a coved ceiling and customized wall sconces to shine light onto the gold-flecked wallpaper. The light continues softly, spilling upward, uninterrupted by corners—like an indoor sky.
May your summer be full of expansiveness,
I’ve described our deck at home as The Place where we gather. It is intentionally designed for us to be totally comfortable outdoors at any hour, to savor the light, the view, and the sounds.
I also have a favorite non-gathering outdoor spot. It is for talking, but not for socializing. I discovered it during the pandemic and spent many hours there, for a change of pace and a change of place. Now, I spend time there primarily on non-studio days. My al fresco phone booth is actually my phone bench, a length of long ago fallen trunk. This perch offers great views, constantly changing natural light, and excellent reception. I love to talk on the phone here, where I can be perfectly focused. I walk down through some brambles, and in a Marin minute, I am in my space, just out of sight for anyone on the trail: my private outdoor room. Nature is gifted at creating spaces that simply feel good, and I chose my spot because of how it felt.
The cloudscape from my phone bench on a brisk Saturday afternoon. With the return of daylight savings time this month, I am looking forward to après-work interludes on my bench, with or without my phone.
Wishing you a verdant spring —
Our deck has always been The Place for our family and friends to gather. When our son was small, he loved to “overnight” on one of the sofas. We have a pair of them, and the larger is actually a teak wood pallet that I built with a young neighbor some years ago, put wheels on, and had an outdoor mattress made for.
We are perched just above the surrounding tree canopies. To me, it feels like being at the bow of a ship, nestled into the view of Mt. Tamalpais, amongst many, many creamy white pillows. The aged redwood of the rail now blends perfectly into the background. The mountain has many moods, and nature provides an ever-changing canvas of color and shifting light patterns.
Our furnishings have evolved naturally over time. But the intention has never changed: to be totally comfortable outdoors at any hour, to savor the light, the view, and the sounds. Often, as the sun goes down, we hear voices in the distance, and a few little birds. And then, the crickets pipe in, and if the breeze picks up, the leaves all rustle in their distinctive keys.
We hear some maple trees, an enormous oak, and full-blown palm trees planted by a neighbor many years ago. (We have a portable fire pit off to the side, for when there’s a chill in the air.)
And below the deck are our raised planting beds, where the cosmos are in full bloom. (I console myself with the prospect of dahlias when the summer wanes.) We have made our first salads of lettuces from our garden, and the tomatoes and squash are well on their way. A few may be ready for our summer solstice dinner, when we will toast the season.
I love the longer days of May and June— and will start missing them soon.
With gratitude from my perch,
Spring has officially arrived, and the new season feels fresh. As I was marveling at these ranunculus, I reflected on the happy occasions this bucket has been part of over the years. The bucket (and its relatives) held flowers on the tables at my son’s high school graduation party in our garden. Then, they became the floral centerpieces for the baby shower I hosted for my sister. I’ve given away several of the buckets, usually bearing flowers or fresh produce.
And now, just this one well-weathered bucket remains. Almost exactly two years ago, when the pandemic became “official,” the bucket assumed a new role. Bloomers, a glorious shop full of flowers, plants, and branches, is just across from Stone Interiors. Patric Powell had to close his shop for who knew how long, and he invited his friends and neighbors to take home everything living. What a lovely gesture on a nerve-racking day. I chose a rubber tree plant, and it fit beautifully in My Bucket. It has thrived in my home for two years, a reminder of the neighborhood, my co-workers, and the easy camaraderie we have all missed.
Now we are back to the new normal. My rubber tree plant has relocated to the backyard, and My Bucket is brimming with ranunculus from Bloomers—and cautious optimism.
What now feels like forever ago, I visited Lake Lugano en route to the 2019 Salon del Mobile in Milan. One morning I took a walk, with no destination or purpose beyond absorbing the landscape. Until I came upon a gate and beyond it, a simple little house. Vines had grown across the gate, so someone, at some point, must have pulled them.
I think it was the layered history of the gate and its artful “undoing” over time that captivated me. The painted metal where the vines had been pried off revealed tiny glimpses of the earlier vermilion paint. The combination was irresistible: the texture and the totally unintentional “artful” layering. I loved that gate.
When you notice something, and start to think about what you are seeing, you can also think about what you aren’t seeing: its story. As we begin a project, we look back—to a place’s history—and we look ahead. Thinking about what a place will feel like over time inspires us.
Many things have slowed down all around us, providing time for both reflection and groundedness. I have spent more time out of doors, closer to home, than in longer than I can remember. I’ve also thought about things that develop over time, in nature as well as in the things we create.
One afternoon a couple of months ago, I enjoyed an interlude full of a sense of timelessness, on Agate Beach at Duxbury Reef. I was so happy to be there with my family and my sister and her family, on a beautiful afternoon. The cliff is crumbling, and the visual effects are almost otherworldly, or maybe lunar. And I was intrigued when I realized how little I actually understood about every little thing around me.
The tide was out, and I took many, many photos. Some scenes looked fairly static, but as my bare feet moved from spot to spot, and ever closer to the water line, my perspective changed. I kept click-click-clicking, wanting to capture these inspiring palettes and patterns of nature.
What are agates made of? Do they have blue mineral components and green mineral components of different weights, so that they deposit themselves together when the water withdraws? How else could this happen? Would it disappear five minutes later, or overnight?
All these scenes will change over time, as another layer is applied or washed away. In a sense, the same is true of this past year and its myriad losses. Let’s hope that we will all find solace and beauty… and cautious optimism for the New Year.
One of our recent projects is featured in the current issue of Modern Luxury Hawaii (Nov/Dec 2020). We partnered with Walker Warner Architects on this Kauai oceanfront home, which gracefully grew into a compound when the adjacent property became available. Reading the article took me back to its incredible beach views—which you can spot in two photos on our homepage.
One of the particular joys of working with these clients was designing enhancements to day-to-day living for a family that loves to gather—sometimes in groups of four or five people relaxing, sometimes 20 people having drinks on the lanai at sunset. From a lovely, loud bell we designed to summon everyone in from the beach, to a dazzling array of glassware to handle every beverage preference (and fit beautifully in custom cabinetry): delight is in the details.
Now that we are well into autumn, the days are definitely feeling shorter. This season is such a glorious time for light from the sun in California. The ash in the late summer skies prompted me to reflect on how we rely on natural light for our psychic energy and sense of well-being.
When I was ten or eleven, I loved to sneak into the backlot of an enormous lumberyard. I would move smaller pieces of wood and place them between the large stacks to create hut-spaces in which I could lie down and gaze at the light filtering in through my ceiling. I built many of these, experimenting with the ceilings. I probably didn’t yet know the words motes or dappled, but I was fascinated by controlling the feel of the space with nothing but light.
At the studio, we are hyper-attuned to the essential power of natural light and continue to explore unexpected ways to introduce it in our work.
Summer has arrived, after the stormiest of springs. As the world swirls tumultuously around us, I’ve also been thinking about the calm, the respite, the interlude of reflection that bathing can inspire. As designers, we have an opportunity to elevate this experience. I’d like to take you on a detour to my largest bathing experience ever.
Vals, Graubünden, Switzerland, 2019
We have traveled to Vals to experience the thermal baths designed by one of my favorite architects, Peter Zumthor. We arrive at the end of the afternoon and eagerly wait for the baths to open for us at 11 pm. The baths are municipal, for the people of the town. Guests at our hotel are able to enjoy them late at night and early in the morning. At the appointed hour, the hotel is full of guests wearing robes, all heading to the baths. As we enter, we are reminded that talking is not permitted inside.
The baths are completely built from thick slabs of local quartzite. The walls above us and the walls below the water are continuous stone, so the water is almost one with the architecture. Everywhere is stone: it feels like a cave, and it sounds like a cave. My experience is intensified by the quiet—the only sounds are “watery.” The baths are actually a succession of dimly lit pools of varying temperatures, shapes, and sizes.
My friend and I exchange wide eyes of wonderment each time we meet up in one of the pools. It’s fluid, it’s light, it’s magical. Our experience is one of discovery. We wade through a channel that leads us to the large outer pool … where we discover the dramatic nighttime silhouette of the Alps. Everyone shows such respect for the experience, using mute communication to share their wonderment. People are pointing, and raising their eyebrows, and nodding with their chins.
When the baths close for the night, my friend and I go to our rooms. We can’t wait to get up in several hours, to “spa” again in the morning. Vals is 5,879 miles from San Francisco, but the summer of 2019 seems much farther away. My experience in those pools was spiritual and powerful, and has become part of my design ethos around “bathing rooms.”
At Stone Interiors, we create ways to elevate your experience in any room. In a bathroom, where there are functional requirements, there is still so much room to make a place for connecting with the beauty and restorative powers of bathing, whether you are a soaking tub devoté or an outdoor shower aficionado. Perhaps you will be the primary user, or perhaps it’s a bathroom for two (double sinks are not the only option!), or perhaps it’s shared by five houseguests. Any bathroom holds the potential for functional superbness and unexpected delight.