AS I PUT my home up for sale this month, the October issue is arriving in yours. Home is where the heart is — it’s the place you feel safe, where you retreat from the outside world. It’s also a personal aesthetic statement. My soon-to-be-ex-husband, Peter, and I have had two homes here in Marin. The first, on Plymouth Avenue in Mill Valley, was idyllic, with many young families raising children together. We joked that it felt like living in a dorm, since the city limited expansion and mandated that homes in the neighborhood remain as starter homes. After we remodeled our “shotgun shack” as we called it (we could vacuum the house without unplugging the cord), I loved creating hidden nooks and crannies within the walls, and we designed the space to support our favorite pastime of entertaining. I was addicted to remodeling.
In 2005 we moved into a fixer-upper in Strawberry. I think the way my friend, a realtor who spotted it in a broker’s open house, described it was “Total fixer, it’s horrible, every room is a different color, good bones, sort of has a view, you’d love it.” She was right, I did. We lived there, took down some trees to open up a jaw-dropping view, added a bit of square footage, raised the ceiling to bring in the light, and created the ultimate family party house. Each paint color was obsessively pondered, doors were chosen for weight and feel, windows were placed to capture the view, and a kitchen nook, ideal for kids to do homework in while I cooked dinner, was added. It’s a privilege to design a home.
As we move out more than a decade later to find our own new homes and start new lives, I’m finding the process bittersweet — grateful for the years we spent here and sad to leave it behind. I would love to pass on the “if I had more money, I would…” list to the next family, because much to Peter’s chagrin, I had an ongoing list of to-dos. Reflecting on my job, I’m sure being surrounded by continuous shelter porn (industry term for all the beautiful homes we feature in this magazine) was partly to blame.
To get my head around this stage of my life, I’ve started writing about the deconstruction of our house (and marriage) room by room. I created a Google doc that I have shared with close friends to keep me on task. The therapeutic value of sharing memories that honor the time, love and humor that has gone into making this house our home has kept me sane.
In this doc, I’ve rehashed mundane details, like how we got our gorgeous cypress dining room table while visiting my mother-in-law’s place in San Miguel de Allende. We thought we had found the deal of the century, purchased and delivered from Mexico to Mill Valley, for under $1,000. Turns out the shop was a drug front. In the bathroom, we didn’t initially consider that the pointy sink in the powder room is the ideal height to impale a toddlers’ temple or a pregnant women’s belly, and men taller than 5-feet-9 needed to also be careful. The boxes of Christmas-light polar bears I bought on sale 10 years ago, still unopened after Peter pointed out the ironic fact that these energy-sucking pieces of plastic were actually part of the reason these majestic creatures were dying out.
In the month leading up to our own broker’s open house, we spent hours tending to some easily handled deferred maintenance — cosmetic stuff we should have done years ago. I urge you to take care of your homes, refresh that paint, re-sand those railings, polish those floors and enjoy living in your home’s potential before you turn around and sell it. Come to think of it, this kind of attention is important to apply to a spouse as well.
We hope you enjoy the inspiring home design in this issue, and as always, we appreciate your feedback — let us know how your home reflects your philosophy.
Mimi Towle has been the editor of Marin Magazine for over a decade. She lived with her family in Sycamore Park and Strawberry and thoroughly enjoyed raising two daughters in the mayhem of Marin’s youth sports; soccer, swim, volleyball, ballet, hip hop, gymnastics and many many hours spent at Miwok Stables. Her community involvements include volunteering at her daughter’s schools, coaching soccer and volleyball (glorified snack mom), being on the board of both Richardson Bay Audubon Center. Currently residing on a floating home in Sausalito, she enjoys all water activity, including learning how to steer a 6-person canoe for the Tamalpais Outrigger Canoe Club. Born and raised in Hawaii, her fondness for the islands has on occasion made its way into the pages of the magazine.