More than just
a rebuild, this
Marin home was
the first in the
country to use
a new bamboo
BY LAURA HILGERS • PHOTOS BY ERIC RORER
LESLIE AND JACQUES LESLIE HAD A SIMPLE goal when they decided to renovate
their home in the hills of Mill Valley. “We wanted the greenest house we could build,” Leslie says.
Both are committed environmentalists. Jacques, an award-winning journalist who covered
the Vietnam War for the Los Angeles Times, now writes about water and energy issues. Leslie, an
artist who creates works based on the Buddhist loving-kindness prayer, has long been involved
with nonprofits like International Rivers, for which she sits on the board.
The couple wanted a home that reflected their passions. The result exceeded even their greatest
expectations: a stunning modern home that stands at the intersection of the environment and art,
as eco-friendly as it is serene and visually arresting.
It’s also a healthy home, which distinguishes it from the Southwestern-style house that stood
on the property before. The Leslies loved that home, which they bought in 1983. It was cozy and
had arches and they raised their three (now grown) children there. But the house was dark and
cold, and Leslie and the kids suffered from asthma, bronchitis and sinus infections while living in
it. It was only later that they learned the walls were filled with black mold.
The Leslies had wanted to renovate the home ever since becoming empty nesters. They took
the plunge in 2012 but the architect they hired proved to be such a disaster that they filed a lawsuit
against him (and won). They considered moving but couldn’t find anything they liked better.
Finally, they decided to stay and tear the house down. This time, they struck gold with an architect:
they hired Daniel Weaver, of Sausalito’s 361 Architecture, whose specialty is sustainable and
net-zero energy homes.
Weaver sat down with the Leslies and asked for their wish list. “They told me they wanted a
home with a lot of light that took advantage of the site,” says Weaver. “But in terms of the style, they
were a fairly open book. They didn’t come to me and say, ‘ We want a warm modern house’ at all.”
Weaver spent time surveying the half-acre property, which had a house closer to the road and a
yard that sloped down to a level area with a pool and dilapidated tennis court below. He observed
Leslie as she moved a chaise lounge around the yard, trying to find the sun. He realized the house
was in the wrong place.