Marin Home / BACKSTORY
garage. With architect Charles M. Stewart, they
created a cool and comfortable modern home.
The new house opens into a loftlike great
room, with polished concrete floors, Carrara
fireplace and midcentury-style furnishings by
West Elm and Scandinavian Designs. Tucked
in a corner of the room is a dining alcove,
where the couple has seamlessly blended Sara’s
love of Asian decor into the room. An Asian
étagère stands beside a black table and chairs; a
Japanese ink drawing hangs on the wall.
Across from the alcove is the kitchen, the
room that mattered most to Sara. An entertainer, she wanted a place where people could
gather around, a goal achieved by the placement of a large black granite island/breakfast
bar, complete with slanted black sink. It faces
the kitchen’s most dramatic feature, the
behind-the-stove backsplash, an aluminum
mosaic tile by Soli Architectural Surfaces.
At the opposite end of the great room, a
screened-in porch runs the entire width of
the house, separated from the living areas by
thick sliding glass doors. “I call it our California
room,” says Sara. Because the room is protected
by screens only, the ultimate in indoor-outdoor
living, it’s also equipped with drains.
The only thing missing is landscaping.
The Gabriels have planned a drought-toler-ant garden but are hesitant to plant under
current water restrictions. The interior is so
lovely, though, it hardly matters. “These guys
did what I like most,” says Strodder. “They
took something nobody wanted and turned
it into something everybody wants.” Sounds
like a pretty good marriage. M
AFTER 41 YEARS of marriage, Sara and David Gabriel know the importance of trust. Which is a good thing, because they’re now living in a place David
bought before Sara had even seen it.
The story starts in 1973, when the just-mar-ried Gabriels settled in San Francisco. Three kids
followed, as did five years in Piedmont, 20 years
in Colorado, a few remodels, and then a desire to
move back to the Bay Area — namely, Marin.
They had searched online and come up dry
when their realtor, Ted Strodder — whom they’d
only met by phone — called and said he’d found a
run-down house in a great Novato neighborhood.
“This house epitomized fixer-upper,” says
Strodder. “But it had the three Ls: great lot,
great location and great layout.” David flew
out from a vacation to see it and convinced
Sara. “She trusted me,” he says.
A 1965 U-shaped ranch home on a half-acre,
the home had not been updated in years. So for
the last time, the Gabriels undertook a major
renovation, tearing down every wall except the
So for the
last time, the