Marin Home / backstory
Clock wise from top
left: The private,
windows from the
kitchen look out
at the pool and
the bay; a marble
the living room.
At the very top of the book- shelves in her living room, alicia hvistendahl keeps a hawaiian-made wish keeper. It is a vibrant blue, asian-
style ceramic urn with a bamboo-shaped lid
in which you place your wishes. “the artist
believes that if you write down the wish, it’s
more likely to come true,” alicia says.
the hvistendahl family — alicia, hus-
band yngvar, and their three daughters
— must have worked that wish keeper over-
time, because when they moved into their
Greenbrae home last october, they got almost
everything they wanted — good schools, pri-
vacy and a water view.
schools were number one on the list. they
left their home in Novato so that their girls
could be educated in the kentfield school
District, where two of the girls are now
enrolled. as for privacy, they have one of the
rare Greenbrae homes set so far back from the
street that it cannot be viewed from the curb.
a block-long, oleander-lined driveway sepa-
rates the house from the street, and the back is
sheltered by a steeply slanted yard that abuts
san rafael’s bret harte neighborhood. the
setting is quiet and serene. or would be, if not
for a cat, dog and three kids.
but it’s the views in this four-bedroom,
four-and-a-half-bath house that are the
showstopper. “I grew up in Norway,” explains
yngvar, a plastic surgeon, “and I’ve always
been on the ocean. I told alicia that if we
moved again, I wanted somewhere where I
could see the water.” and see it he can: the
floor-to-ceiling windows that ring the living
room, dining room and kitchen offer encom-
passing views of the san Francisco bay. they
bathe the open and airy floor plan in what
alicia calls “a bright and energizing” light.
the family loves to entertain and showcases
the view when they have friends over, hanging
out on the wicker couch and chairs on the deck
or assembling around the fire pit that sits in the
middle of a ceramic-tiled table there, all while
soaking in the sight of the water.
sheltering indoors, however, is not a hard-
ship. From the entryway’s vintage cowhide
rug to the 125-year-old chinese chest that
doubles as the vanity in the half-bath, the
house exudes elegance and warmth. the work
of alicia, an interior designer and personal
stylist, can be felt every where.
because it’s the home of a plastic sur-
geon, it’s not surprising that the house
is about to undergo a slight face-lift.
something tasteful, of course. alicia and
yngvar plan to knock down the partition
that separates the family room from the
small kitchen, to create a larger cooking
area and replace the two ovens that, yngvar
jokes, “ were “high-end back in 1964.”
yet even pre-face-lift, the house brings the
family joy. especially at day’s end, when alicia
and yngvar climb the gravel steps of their
steep backyard to a sitting area and savor the
most sweeping views on the property. they
unwind and talk about their days while star-
ing at the boats, the bridge and, unfortunately,
an eyesore of a water tower.
so no, you can’t have everything. but if you
wish hard enough, you can get awfully close. M