Never Say Never

The view of the Belvedere Lagoon from the couple’s
terrace-top fire pit.

WHEN TOM STEELE and Kris Iwasaki started looking for a home in August 2013, they were, says Steele, “a little schizophrenic” in their search. They were moving out of Steele’s Russian Hill Victorian, where they’d lived since marrying in 2009, in order to make room for more of Iwasaki’s belongings and to find a place with fewer steps. But they didn’t really know what they wanted.

They looked at homes in San Anselmo and Larkspur. They looked at three-story homes. They considered buying a family compound, so people could come for extended visits. There was only one thing they knew they didn’t want: a home in Ross or Belvedere. “We’re kind of working people,” say Steele, a lawyer (Iwasaki is a hairstylist), “and we thought these places would be too expensive.”

So, of course — welcome home, Belvedere. Shortly into their search, their realtor, Sylvie Zolezzi, brought them to see a mid-century home located just across the street from the Belvedere Lagoon. It was one story, had a great kitchen (Iwasaki is also an avid baker), a place for an art studio (she’s also a very talented sculptor), and plenty of room for Tom’s kids, grandchildren and other friends to visit. “As we started checking, it had all of the things on the list,” says Zolezzi. “All of the things kind of fit.”

Iwasaki was taken with the home immediately. “It was really open and airy,” she says, “and I thought, ‘Oh, good, you can move your arms around without hitting anything.’” For Steele, who loved his cozy Victorian, the airiness was less appealing. But the couple remedied that quickly, filling the living room (which has wood-planked, Eichler-like ceilings) with the possessions that express their personalities. Steele’s Persian rugs cover the floor and his bold paintings by the Belgian artist Cole Morgan cover the walls. Iwasaki’s smallish sculptures of nude women sit on the built-in bookcases. Toys for Tom’s grandchildren fill the hidden cabinets that flank the fireplace. And the home’s four bedrooms are often filled with the people they love.

The pièce de résistance of the property, though, is the yard. After Steele and Iwasaki moved in, they set to work — with the help of landscape architect Hilde Simon and gardener Barry Cohen of Moliver Landscape Company — ripping out ivy and creating a California-native drought-tolerant garden. They placed modern Corten steel planters on the deck and, at the top of the terraced garden, a cement fire pit. It’s a great place to watch waterfowl fly by and enjoy the views of the lagoon — views that, yes, can only be found in a place like Belvedere.

The Details


WHAT THEY BOUGHT A renovated 1955 home

LISTING AGENT Timothy Hachman, Hachman Properties Inc.

SELLING AGENT Sylvie Zolezzi, Decker Bullock Sotheby’s International Realty

STATS Price per square foot for homes in the neighborhood: $1,000

View the gallery below for more photos of the couple's Belvedere home.