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Mid-Century California Cool

A family finds a modern, warm and playful Terra Linda home.



It was late summer 2012 when Phil Alwitt and Natalie Kitamura Alwitt were about to go into escrow on a Lucas Valley house — and felt like something wasn’t right. Yes, they wanted to leave their big home in Larkspur and simplify their lives, returning to the mid-century architecture they loved. But this house wasn’t it.

So Natalie checked online and found a Terra Linda Eichler that excited her so much, thoughts of it ruined her sleep. What’s more, there was an open house the following day. Phil advised her, “Be cool; don’t let the agents know how much you love this house.”

She was about as cool as a nerd at a sock hop, and they made an offer the next day. If the other house was the jilted bride, this was the perfect match. The 1960 home, which had been exquisitely redesigned by former owner (and realtor) Marika Sakellariou, resonated with the Alwitts, creative people themselves. Natalie is a graphic designer, Phil an industrial designer and entrepreneur.

Their home is the epitome of mid-century cool, with 21st-century updates. Its lines are clean, the floors are white and emanate radiant heat, and the home is bathed in the natural light that’s at the root of Eichler’s indoor/outdoor living. “As designers, we appreciated all the details,” Natalie says.

Even the exterior gives off a contemporary-art-museum vibe. The garage door is a sleek brushed aluminum, and a huge white ceramic urn sits dramatically by the entrance, like sculpture. The front door gives way to a white stone Zen-like atrium that’s planted with black bamboo.

Inside is where it feels most serene and warm. The open, airy living space is backed by glass walls, overlooking the Terra Linda– Sleepy Hollow hills, where deer and wild turkey saunter by. A small but functional kitchen consisting of two 12-foot-long Treefrog Veneer islands divides the room, and it’s fitting that this is the focal point. The Alwitts and their teenage son are avid entertainers. Their Design Within Reach table, way too big for three people, fills up the room.

In the summer, the Alwitts’ parties spill out into the backyard, which creates the wonderful illusion of this being the only house for miles. The space has simple landscaping and a dark gray perimeter wall that has been artfully placed so you see nothing behind it but hills.

OK, yes, there is a ping-pong table on the deck, which effectively disrupts the perfect lines. But it announces that even in this most exquisitely designed house, a happy, playful family lives. And that’s pretty cool in itself.

 

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