LIVING IN MARIN had long been Linda Johnson’s dream, but she never expected it to come true in her lifetime. For starters, it seemed financially unattainable. Also, her husband, Chris, wasn’t interested in anything less than a brand-new home. “I knew that would be hard to come by in Marin,” Linda says. So when they began thinking about trading their Castro District condo for a suburban house, they set their sights on the East Bay.
“We went out one weekend and viewed three homes,” Chris says. “Two in Moraga, one in Lafayette.” Nothing stirred them. There was, however, a fourth property, still under construction, that Linda had been secretly coveting. “It was a town house in a new housing development in San Rafael,” she says. “But it was over budget.” Knowing Chris would balk at the price, she hadn’t bothered mentioning it. “But I thought to myself, if I could just get him out there to see it, maybe, just maybe, he’d change his mind.”
And so she casually floated the idea of driving out to Marin for a late afternoon lunch. “To check out another house — just for the fun of it,” she said, noting it was near the water and would make for a beautiful drive.
Chris said yes and they set out, stopping for a leisurely meal at Larkspur’s Farm Shop. “I suggested a cocktail because I wanted him liquored up,” Linda recalls.
It worked. “I took one look at the place and said, ‘Yep, we gotta do this,’ ” Chris admits.
During escrow, they began picking out finishes: premium appliances, quartz countertops in both the kitchen and bathrooms, and wide-plank red oak flooring on the main level. For the bedroom level, they chose wall-to-wall Berber wool because “it’s cozier than hardwood,” Linda notes.
At their realtor’s suggestion, they shelled out $10,000 to have their S.F. condo professionally staged. “Within a week we had several offers,” Chris says, “one of which was for an ungodly sum. This allowed us to take out a smaller than expected mortgage.”
Now beginning their second year as Marinites, the Johnsons couldn’t be happier. On weekdays they commute together by ferry to the city, returning each evening to their bayside digs. “Our work life is very stressful,” says Chris, “but as soon as we start heading up San Pablo Road, the blood pressure starts coming down.” On weekends they walk the breakwater path adjacent to their property, watching the fisherman and taking in the views. “We feel incredibly lucky, like we are always on vacation,” Linda says.
This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine's print edition with the headline: "Head North".