Low-impact and low-maintenance, an architectural gem sparkles with light, art and laughter
By Mandy Behbehani.
The grand copper front door to Tawnie and John Farmer’s Tiburon showplace, which slopes gently down to a small beach on the eastern side of the peninsula, opens onto a long gallery that frames an unimpeded view of San Francisco Bay in the distance.
That was intentional (of course), as is everything else in this peaceful, light-filled corner of heaven that celebrates nature with glass walls and Zen, citrus and fruit gardens; preserves it with renewable materials; and harnesses its power with custom exterior steel trellises of small solar photovoltaic cells that run the length of the house, providing shade from the sun while converting its energy to electricity.The senior director of Goldman Sachs and his wife, and their Italian architect Andrea Ponsi, left nothing to chance in creating this serene 6,000-square-foot home, whose center is a glass-walled courtyard garden from which four wings with individual copper roofs radiate outward. (The wings house guest quarters, service areas and garage, master bedrooms and living area.) The living area opens out to a waterfront deck and beach through a wall of sliding glass, and a naturally lit gallery encircling the interior courtyard displays the Farmers’ extensive modern art collection featuring works by German artist Joachim Bandau, African tapestry artist El Anatsui and several Britons, including ceramic artist Edmund de Waal, and painters Bill Jacklin and Andrew Mackenzie, whom the Farmers grew to love during their decade living in London.
“Andrea wanted everything long and low,” says Tawnie Farmer of the one-story house, which sits low to the ground and steps down the four-acre site mirroring its sloping topography. The idea, she adds, was to mitigate the environmental impact of this ultra-modern house.
To this end, Ponsi created the house with natural materials. Exterior walls are made of slatted renewable Brazilian ipe wood that are detached from the walls behind them, thus using ventilation to help passively cool the house. In fact, the house is bio-climatic, with natural ventilation from sliding glass walls and solar power-generating electricity.
Floors in the public areas of the house are laid with large, sleek ceramic tiles in a smoky anthracite that looks like slate, while all the bedrooms have cork floors. For the kitchen, Ponsi ordered custom-built pieces from the eco-friendly Italian company Valcucine, whose stylish and high-function Ricicla cabinets, jumbo drawers and pull-out pantries are all made of recycled, nonpolluting (no formaldehyde or synthetic varnishes) and energy-efficient materials. Counters are made of Eurostone, a quartz-based surface that is resistant to impact, scratching, staining, acid and abrasives.
“It’s the lowest maintenance ever,” says Tawnie Farmer, who moved into the home with her husband in 2008. “Just heaven. We wanted to take advantage of all of the opportunities to build in a responsible and environmentally sensitive way,” she adds. “And I wanted ongoing maintenance to be at a minimum. We want to live in the house … not spend lots of time caring for it.”
Living in the house is exactly what they do, with their kids and grandkids often coming to visit.
With that express purpose in mind, the Farmers built an enfilade of accommodations in one wing for their and their friends’ families, consisting of an adult bedroom right next to a bathroom, then a children’s bedroom that sleeps five kids and a baby, another bathroom next to that and another adult bedroom finishing up the row.
“The adults are at each end, and the kids are in the middle,” Farmer says. “It’s perfect.”
“I had wanted a beach house all my life,” she adds, “and especially now, it provides a place for my children and grandchildren to come and play on the beach; use the tree house; have sleepovers; pick blackberries, apples, tomatoes and more. Our priorities were for light and good ’art walls,’ and Andrea did a beautiful job of creating a house with lots of art walls and windows and not broken into lots of small rooms. John and I just love the feeling of just living here … the beautiful views and the beautiful spaces.”
Category: Home & Design