Marin Home / BACKSTORY
she could only afford a condo. But when this
property came up — an 1880 cottage with apartment attached — everything fell into place.
It had all the charm of an old East Coast
The attached apartment, where Rowe no w lives,
home, with a rental opportunity that made
it affordable. Even better, the property had a
stream running through it, and the overgrown
yard would give Rowe, who owns Hands-On
Garden Design, a project to work on. “I was so
in love with this house when I went through
it,” says Rowe, “that afterward I couldn’t
remember how many bedrooms it had.”
For the record: the main home, which looks
like a clapboard schoolhouse, has two bedrooms.
has one. Ironically, the apartment, built in the
1970s, looks a lot older than the cottage itself.
The cottage is a t wo-story with dormer ceil-
ings upstairs, old handrails and large, sunny
windows. But the apartment, which Rowe
completely renovated, has the real charm, with
vaulted ceilings in the living room and eight-foot
wood-framed windows that flank the front door.
Shortly after moving in, Rowe and her contractor, D. J. Puffert, ripped up the apartment’s
wall-to-wall carpeting and replaced it with
pecan floors; installed a gray IKEA kitchen;
and painted all the walls in what Rowe calls
“Beth’s blue,” a custom-blended blue with hints
of green and gray. It’s dramatic and soothing.
With the help of gardener Tim Leon, Rowe
also ripped out most of the overgrown yard
and created a lush, East Coast–style garden
that runs alongside the property’s tiny stream.
Where there once were bamboo and ivy, she
planted carpet roses, hydrangea, salvia and
hellebore. She decided, however, to keep the
palm trees that soar over the property and
remind her that she is indeed in California.
Which to her feels just fine. M
WHEN PEOPLE SEARCH for a home, they usually create a list of what they want, from the number of bedrooms to a cer-
tain location to a view. Beth Rowe’s list was
considerably less specific. “What I was really
after,” she says, “was a feel.”
Rowe, who relocated to Marin from Block
Island, Rhode Island, to be closer to her grown
daughters, has a history of living in charming,
historical abodes. In Block Island, home was
an old seaside cottage; before that it was an
1897 schoolhouse in upstate New York. To her,
a cookie-cutter home would have felt off.
“It’s a lot more fun and intuitive kind of
search when you’re trying to find a place that’s
got soul and character,” says Rowe’s realtor,
Scott Kalmbach. The task was challenging.
Rowe wanted to live in Sausalito and thought