From Past to Present

KERRY ROCKERS AND Witek Sobanski had looked at 40 properties when their realtor, Courtney Whitaker, learned something. “We’d already made several offers,” says Whitaker, “before Sobanski said, ‘I want something that’s unique in some way. I don’t know what it is, but I want something special.’”

Hearing this, Whitaker showed the couple a house atop Miwok Ridge that had been lingering on the market and was slightly out of their price range. It was also completely unique.

The home, which the couple bought last February, was built in the 1940s as three separate structures. The original owners thought it would be fun to have the living room, bedroom and dining area in separate buildings — like camping — until rainy season changed their minds. After that, they linked the buildings with a few hallways, the result being a nontraditional layout that most modern homebuyers “couldn’t wrap their heads around,” Whitaker says.

The San Francisco newlyweds, however, saw the home’s charms immediately, starting with fireplaces in each of the original buildings, as well as a fireplace in the master bedroom that was added in the late 1990s. Rockers and Sobanski were immediately taken with the home’s nods to the past, like the alcove off the dining room where a tiny kitchen once stood, with an interior window that looks out on a stone-step hallway — steps that were, at one time, outdoors.

The dining room also offers a whimsical ode to marriage. At one end of the dining room there’s a white wooden cabinet with 12 grooves, which once held the original owner’s extensive rifle collection. At the other end is a built-in secretary desk, which his wife demanded in exchange for having to look at guns at dinner. The cabinet now displays Polish pottery, reminiscent of Sobanski’s upbringing in Communist Poland.

The living room is also steeped in history, with soaring cathedral ceilings, exposed ceiling beams and wide-planked oak floors. It once held an enormous, lodge-style fireplace, replaced years ago. But the 98-inch brick hearth still juts out about a third of the way across the floor.

If the past is always present here, so too is a sense of peace. Often the only sounds heard throughout the ridgetop house are birdsong, providing a respite from the couple’s corporate city jobs. “Quiet was important to us,” Rockers says. “We didn’t want to move to a place just as noisy as San Francisco.” Nor did they want a cookiecutter home. They were willing to wait for, and fall in love with, something all its own.

The Details

WHERE THEY PURCHASED The Miwok Ridge neighborhood of Mill Valley

WHAT THEY BOUGHT A renovated 1940s shake-roof home

LISTING AGENT Matthew Pouliot, Pacific Union International/Christie’s Great Estates

SELLING AGENT Courtney Whitaker, Decker Bullock Sotheby’s International

STATS Price per square foot for homes in the neighborhood: $748

Click through this gallery to see all the photos of this great 1940s home.