Photos by Vivian Johnson
IN THE IMMORTAL words of Disney’s Queen Elsa, “The cold never bothered me anyway.” So too was the attitude of Lisa Tuttle, who for the better part of two decades owned a 1,500-square-foot home in Sausalito’s hurricane gulch, arguably one of the coldest, foggiest spots in the county.
“I honestly never thought much about the weather,” she says with a laugh. But her indifference began to erode in 2011 when Chuck Spelman, now her husband, moved in. They might have toughed out the cold indefinitely, she admits, but the house also began to feel small: “My husband has kids and grandkids. We wanted room for them to able to stay with us.” Once moving became inevitable, the couple agreed to also seek out the sun.
Finding “the one” took a while. In fact, when their current home first appeared on the MLS, Lisa quickly nixed it. Her reason: it was at the top of their budget and only accessible via a long, winding road high above the town of Mill Valley. But time passed and the seller slashed the asking price. Skeptical, she and Chuck agreed to check it out. As anticipated, the road up to the home was treacherous. “I was like, wow, I’m not sure I can do this every day,” she recalls.
But then they entered the five-story hillside home. And after taking in the high ceilings, open kitchen and bright living room with bifold doors to a terrace, she was sold (especially after learning there was a better route up the hill). “Ideally, I wanted a water view, but being able to look out at a canopy of trees was great too.”
Ahead of their move-in date, there was little to do to prep the house; they loved all its finishes.
What they did need was lots of new furniture — which led to a productive but emotional journey. Two years prior, Lisa and her brother had boxed up the belongings of their deceased parents and put it all in storage. The timing was right to take the family treasures out of hiding.
Lisa’s home is now filled with relics from her childhood, including items from an impressive midcentury modern collection. Her dad’s Eames chair now graces the family room. An oval white pine table built by her grandfather anchors the dining room. The chairs that surround it are Thomas Moser. “I took them in to be repaired and learned that my parents were among the first 500 customers,” Lisa says. Above the fireplace is a portrait of Lisa’s great-great-grandfather, who was president of a bank in Toledo; the painting had hung on the wall at the branch. It all makes leaving the view in Sausalito worth it.
“We love Mill Valley for its warmth and serenity,” she notes. “It’s great to have a downtown that caters more to locals than to tourists.”
WHERE THEY LIVE
Edgewood-Cypress neighborhood in Mill Valley
WHAT THEY OWN
A four-bedroom, five-bath contemporary
Carey Hagglund Condy of Compass
Sherrie Faber of First California
Price per square foot for homes in the neighborhood: $1,000
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.