“WE’RE PLANT COLLECTORS,”
Silvina Blasen says. The landscape architect, who lives in
this Marin County home with her husband and professional
partner, Eric, means it literally. The two collect rare, unusual
and sometimes more common plants — first in their experimental nursery, which makes up only part of this lushly landscaped retreat of a permanent residence — and eventually in
locations scattered across the expansive site.
“We kept all the trees, we kept all the ground cover,”
Silvina says — even the ivy, though they didn’t love it,
because it helped control erosion. But within that framework of trees and ground cover, the pair, who have designed
landscapes for local firms like Fougeron Architecture and
Aidlin Darling, slipped in a number of surprising — and
defining — additions.
“We did a lot of native plants, plants that would take the
water during the summer and fall seasons,” Silvina says,
addressing California’s long-standing cycle of rains and
droughts. Yet the landscaping choices are all precise, specific
and part of a whole. The overarching idea was to preserve the
feeling of being in a treehouse, framing the home’s sweeping
views of Mount Tam while protecting the sense of seclusion
pervading this hilly landscape. There’s an ease to the experience of being here, a feeling of having just discovered a secret
corner of land at the foot of the beloved mountain.
They’re not sure who designed the house, but the flow
between one room to the next and clarity of spatial organization suggest some sort of relationship to Joseph Esherick;
they hypothesize either the noted Bay Area architect or
someone in his office might have been involved. The couple
bought the house in 2012 and, in collaboration with Doug
Burnham of Envelope A+D, have been working on some of
the interiors; Fisher Architecture renovated the bathroom.
Alongside these changes, taking their time to study and work
with the site, the two of them have slowly and deliberately
shaped the landscape.
There’s a sense that this is their laboratory for ideas. They
met at an architecture conference more than 25 years ago,
when Silvina had her own landscape design and construction
business in Buenos Aires. They married, moved to Amherst,
and quickly realized that the New England winters did not
suit Silvina. They knew no one when they first moved to
Marin 20 years ago, but in the years since settling in the
area, their business has grown to have a staff of six, with such
major projects as Marin Art and Garden Center’s master
plan, the AT&T Ballpark edible garden, and the Stanley
Saitowitz San Francisco Beth Sholom synagogue design.