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Interior Designer Glenda Martin's Last House Was Also Her Best

Interior designer Glenda Martin worked on the offices of some of Silicon Valley’s largest tech companies and, later, on the luxurious homes of the people who founded them. But what she considered her best work was her smallest—a 650-square-foot barn-turned-house that she designed for herself in Sonoma County. Halfway through the six-month project, Martin was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She lived in the home for only eight months before passing away. Through the windows Martin had carefully placed at each end of her bedroom, her family could see the sun setting in the west and a full moon rising in the east.

Mary Jo Bowling
  • Photo credit: John Merkl
    Floating Stairs
    Designed by Glenda Martin

    Martin came to design in a roundabout way. She was born on a tiny Missouri farm to a family of German-American winemakers and farmers, and she grew up tending chickens and driving tractors in the hay fields, seemingly a world away from high-end interior design.

    But on many evenings after coming in from the pastures, she and her grandfather would sit together on the front porch and silently pore over a book on Japanese antiquities. “Where a farmer in rural Missouri got such a book is a mystery,” says Jessica Martin, her daughter. “But it definitely left an imprint on her life and helped her develop a love for the Japanese aesthetic.”

    “The orignal staircase was really a ladder,” says Jessica. “I had a hard time imagining how my mom would fit proper stairs into the space, but I had no doubt they would be beautiful.” Minimalist floating stair treads were Martin's answer.

Glenda Martin

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