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Custom Creation

Moving to Marin proves to be a good idea after snagging a San Anselmo home full of handmade details.



CITY DWELLERS MARY Cognat and her husband, Ronny Northrop, spent 16 months planning for an expansion of their 1906 Noe Valley cottage. Unfortunately, the remodeling bids came back three times higher then they’d anticipated. Discouraged by this financial reality, and somewhat on a lark, they decided to cross the bridge and check out two homes that piqued their interest. “We weren’t seriously thinking about moving to Marin,” says Cognat, a holistic wellness coach.

But during the second tour, they struck up a conversation with the homeowner. He regaled them with tales of the home’s rich history. “He told us his family had been there for 41 years, and it was obvious that lots of love had gone into all the various remodels and expansions,” Cognat says. “We came back one more time to do a walk-through and, after that, we just knew it was our home.”

What they didn’t know: dozens of other buyers also felt a connection. All told, the seller received 11 offers. Fortunately, with the help of a seasoned realtor, the couple put together an attractive bid and beat the competition.

And while the house was definitely priced to encourage a bidding war, no one expected it to sell for one-third over asking. However, for buyers who crave charm and architectural details, this house delivers. Many of its finishes, including hand-hewn doors and forged iron door handles, were fabricated by the previous owner, an antique restoration specialist.

Projects the seller couldn’t tackle personally he farmed out to trusted tradespeople, included creating a grand cobblestone fireplace for a living room already blessed with soaring ceilings and oversized sliding glass doors. “They also put in a separate outdoor fireplace,” Cognat says.

Upstairs are custom windows, high openbeam ceilings and thick pine-wood floors secured with square nails, each hand ground to reflect the craftsmanship of a bygone era. One of the two bedrooms on this level also features a loft area built decades ago as a father-son project. The access ladder is constructed out of driftwood collected on a beach trip to Jenner.

The kitchen, a sun-drenched room, features a Mexican tile floor and expansive Carrara marble countertops. There’s also an arched wall there built from bricks repurposed from the home’s old chimney.

The couple didn’t have to buy much in terms of furnishings because the sellers, who have since become their friends, left behind many cherished pieces, including an extra-high platform bed built to optimize the sunrise view.

To date, the couple has done little in the way of updates, although remodeling the bathroom is definitely on the to-do list. “The upstairs one has handmade tiles, which have cracked over time,” Cognat says. “And the downstairs one is cute, but I think reconfiguring it will really improve the flow.” But for now they’re just relishing all the positive energy the place exudes — and working on making their own happy memories.

WHAT THEY BOUGHT A four-bedroom, two-bath English Tudor with a detached studio
WHERE THEY BOUGHT The Sequoia Park neighborhood in San Anselmo
BUYER’S AGENT Butch Haze of Compass
LISTING AGENT Fletcher Irwin of Pacific Union International
THE STATS Price per square foot for homes in the neighborhood: $800

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