MARIN COUNTY, Calif.--With one of the highest per capita incomes of any U.S. county, and real estate prices among the steepest in the world, this lush, beautiful area just north of San Francisco is home to some of the most striking architecture to be found.
Views to die for--of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, the Pacific Ocean--and endless open green space, help put Marin high on many people's list of dream destinations. So it's no surprise that the founder of Dwell magazine, which focuses on clean, modern design, lives here.
Later this month, Dwell is co-hosting, along with Marin magazine, a tour of some of the most breathtaking houses in the area. As part of my Road Trip at Home series, I got to visit four of the best of those in advance.
This is the Bridge House, designed by architect Stanley Saitowitz "on a site without any flat surfaces and with a creek cutting straight through it," according to the tour brochure. "Saitowitz ignored what other designers had attempted--forcing an even plane with costly grading and excavating. Instead, he laid a rectangular structure across the river's small valley that, quite literally, bridges the gap."
Many elements of the Bridge House, including the barbeque shown here, are raised off the ground. This approach allowed Saitowitz to fit both the stairway and the fireplace that the home's owners wanted. After that discovery, the architect applied the same idea to other parts of the house.
The Tiburon Residence, designed by architect Ron Sutton, is located high above Richardson Bay and has stunning views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, Oakland, and more. It is adjacent to lovely green space, and features wide-open west-facing rooms that can be opened when weather conditions are normal, and closed when the wind picks up. It also has a large sheltered back area that allows the owners to be outside even when it's windy.
Sausalito, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, is famous for, among other things, its houseboat communities. There, several docks of these floating homes can be found just blocks from million-dollar mansions.
This is the Gate 5 House, owned and designed by architect David Spurgeon. Built by hand over three years from 2002 to 2005, the houseboat features two wide-open floors, a gourmet kitchen, huge amounts of light, and two decks. It also has its own boat, allowing Spurgeon to set sail right from his living room.
This is the main floor of architect David Spurgeon's Gate 5 House, a houseboat in Sausalito, Calif. The house has two floors, and is connected by a stairway. The floors are made from bamboo, and the beams are crafted from new growth wood. The house is designed to be extremely energy efficient.
This is the upper deck of the house. With the doors open to the water, Spurgeon can enjoy the warm weather without having his view obstructed in any way. When it's cold, he can close the doors and stay warm inside.
The Pfau House is designed and owned by architect Peter Pfau.
Located atop a hill in leafy San Anselmo, Calif., about 20 minutes northwest of San Francisco, the house is a modern take on a 1950s-era house that used to dominate this hill. Now, with contemporary updates done by Pfau and his wife when they remodeled the building in 2008, it features stone from the original building and new features like large windows and metal beams.
This is the front of the Pfau House. The building features solar panels on the roof of its garage that heat water stored in a small tank inside, allowing the occupants to have hot water and radiant heating all year without a hefty energy bill.
Pfau's idea for the redesign of his house was to make the outside and inside complementary. That's why almost every room in the house features large windows through which it's possible to see outside to the deeply green hillside covered in trees, as well as the valley below.