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C At Home

Ground Control

The simple beauty of a family’s bucolic West Marin utopia shines through a landscape architect’s restraint.

In West Marin, a contemporary family home, designed to evoke the area’s rustic agricultural vernacular, is sited on a gentle knoll amid hundreds of acres of pastureland. The owners, who camped on the property before breaking ground in order to understand it intimately, chose “less-is-more” as a fundamental design principal. “There was no reason to over-develop when the views were the priority,” says William Hynes, a landscape architect with SWA design firm who collaborated with partner Lawrence Reed on the project. “The challenge was to convey the essence of the land minimally and with purpose.”

The pool in the main courtyard is a sleek take on agrarian water troughs; its raised limestone perimeter doubles as bench seating. Native grasses sown on nearby slopes filter rainwater and thwart erosion. Considering the arid region’s risky sparkability (summer temperatures will occasionally surpass the century mark), the landscape around the home is irrigated, and for additional insurance, featured plants such as California lilac are fire-resistant. Just a smattering of trees were rooted: Coast live oak and buckeye provide shade and wind buffering. And, as a seasonal touchstone, a single Marina strawberry tree stands in the courtyard. The home’s architect, Eric Haesloop of Turnbull Griffin Haesloop, has quipped that Hynes’ job was easy: One Arbutus Marina in the ground—check! “He’s just joking, but I’ll take it as a sign that we did a good job leaving a light mark on the land,” says Hynes. 

Written by  Leilani Marie Labong.
Photography by  Tom Fox.

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