The Perfect Home Creates Roots in Mill Valley
A couple discovers that in Marin, a view, a garden and a fantastic kitchen are not that hard to find.
WHEN BARRY LACK and Jeff Wainstein’s Mill Valley home was built in 1947, the original owner added a sentimental touch: he planted three Monterey pines in the backyard, one for each of his daughters.
It’s a fitting legacy for Lack and Wainstein, whose reason for moving here was family. The longtime couple had lived in Atlanta for years, most recently in an industrial-style loft, when Wainstein, a medical director for a health care organization, was given a job transfer. The employer’s marching orders for Wainstein? Move any place west. They chose San Francisco because two of Lack’s three sons live in Cow Hollow.
After a brief stay in the city, they created a checklist of what they wanted in a home, including a view, a garden, a kitchen that works for two, access to BART and proximity to the kids. “Mid-century modern” was not on the list. Neither was Marin.
When searches in the city and East Bay proved fruitless (thus taking BART off the list), they started to look in Marin, where — they guessed — they’d have to compromise on the view to find a house they could afford. Then their agent, Anna Pennington Boucher, found this home.
The house was hand-built by the original owner and had much of what makes California mid-century so appealing, including floor-to-ceiling windows that face southeast with views of Alcatraz, Treasure Island and the Bay Bridge. Beamed ceilings reminiscent of Eichler. A sun-drenched, workable kitchen. “It had almost everything on the checklist,” says Boucher.
Alas, says Wainstein, “it was also a mess.” The master bedroom was painted deep burgundy and had black carpet. The dining room was painted bright yellow, even on the ceilings. But the Atlanta transplants could see it had good bones. Before they moved in in May 2014, they replaced the carpet with wire brushed oak floors and painted the entire home in a neutral palette.
They found their existing furnishings — including a couple of Eames-style chairs from IKEA — worked well, despite the relocation from a loft. And they’ve covered the walls with period-perfect paintings by abstract expressionist Ary Stillman, who was one of the New York School artists and was Lack’s great-uncle.
Wainstein and Lack, a business consultant, have filled the home with family whenever possible, hosting a seder for 27 this spring. When they’re alone, they spend time restoring the home’s garden, creating a patch of succulents and tending the orchids left behind. So when Lack’s sons asked what they wanted as a housewarming gift, they didn’t hesitate, asking only for symmetry: three fruit trees. One for each of the boys.
WHERE THEY PURCHASED The Almonte neighborhood of Mill Valley
WHAT THEY BOUGHT A two-story mid-century home
LISTING AGENT Robert Craig, Decker Bullock Sotheby’s International Realty
SELLING AGENT Anna Pennington Boucher, Sotheby’s International Realty
STATS Price per square foot for homes in the neighborhood: $725
This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition under the headline: “Planting Roots.”