FIVE YEARS AGO, the Forrest family — Todd, Jackie and their two children — moved from San Francisco to Mill Valley. Their new home’s bedrooms and baths were reasonably well updated. The kitchen, living room and decks, on the other hand, needed a little TLC. “I’m guessing these parts of the house were last renovated in the late ’80s or early ’90s,” Jackie says.
Rather than jump right into any remodeling or major structural change, the couple agreed to first see how they used the space. Over time, they decided a straight-up kitchen remodel wasn’t going to cut it. “We discussed our needs with an architect and then realized that if we were going to go through with a remodel, it probably made sense to also expand the home’s footprint,” Jackie adds.
Their plan called for 660 more square feet of living space. For the main floor, that meant adding an office/TV room for the kids, adjacent to a new open-concept kitchen. They also added a walk-in pantry, as well as a laundry room that doubles as the home’s mudroom. “We were then able to turn the old laundry room into a separate office for Todd,” Jackie says. Downstairs, the Forrests expanded a small rec room into a larger hangout space for their children and added a wine cellar. The master bedroom also got a minor facelift.
The heart of the home, and the crown jewel of the remodel, was the new kitchen. “I love to cook. It’s how I relax,” Todd says. With an eight-burner Viking stove, two dishwashers, two sinks and an expansive island for food prep, they could easily feed a football team. And while the footprint of the kitchen didn’t change significantly, knocking out a structural wall separating it from the living room dramatically changed the feel of the house. “One of the reasons we bought the place was for the views,” Todd says. “And now we can enjoy it from the living room as well as the kitchen.”
For help with finishes and soft goods, the couple turned to San Anselmo–based interior designer Ann Lowengart. They weren’t exactly sure what they wanted, but they trusted her instincts. So when Lowengart suggested they splurge on a few statement pieces, including handblown glass pendant lights by John Pomp over the kitchen island, they gave her the thumbs-up. Ditto for the Christopher Boots interlocking brass ring light fixture in the living room and the Urban Electric one in the family room. “We definitely splurged on the lighting,” Jackie notes. And while many of the soft goods were custom made, they managed to integrate a few retail pieces, including the RH Modern sofa in the family room.
One aspect of the design that defies convention: “We don’t have a formal dining room, or even a dining room table,” Jackie says. The Forrests like to entertain but prefer the informality of gathering large groups around the kitchen island. So an extra-long one that seats up to 10 people was essential to the design. “The first time we had company over, I was certain we made the right decision,” Todd says.
WHERE THEY LIVE
The Country Club neighborhood in Mill Valley
WHAT THEY OWN
A four-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath contemporary
Shay Lyons, Cairn Construction, San Francisco
Steve Geiszler, Geiszler Architects, San Francisco
Ann Lowengart, Lowengart Interiors, San Anselmo
“The light fixtures,” says Jackie. “All of them. I’m obsessed.”
This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition under the headline: “Island Life.“
Dawn Margolis Denberg has worked as a professional journalist for 20 years. Her work has appeared in top publications, including Wired, Shape and Parenting. She has also written several books for children including, The Men in Black Agent’s Manual The Official Godzilla Movie Fact Book. And, most recently, an episodic audio series for Tales Untold.