A Charmed LifeAuthor:Lindsey Shook
Alison Pickart finds all she needs in an idyllic Marin Tudor
When it comes to finding the perfect home, many factors are at play. For some it’s proximity to work, for others it’s safety or walkability. However, when purchasing their forever home, Bay Area designer Alison Pickart and her husband, who owns a construction and development company, fixated on the best school district and the overall charm found in a quaint enclave of Ross. “This neighborhood’s deciduous oak trees, which drape over sidewalks, made me feel like I was at home,” says the Wisconsin native.
The original Tudor-style cottage, which sits on a prominent curb, was built in 1932 by an iconic local architect and was in need of a complete overhaul. “Part of the approval to get the job done was contingent upon maintaining the character of the original structure,” Pickart notes. “I believe it was designed by Bernard Maybeck because the millwork and gingerbread details are consistent with his landmarked home and a number of surrounding structures.”
Everything was demoed except for three exterior walls, which helped shape the new, lifted structure while maintaining the rustic charm. The seismic requirements included removing the exterior stucco of the original house to add new shear wall. The original roof was also removed in order to replace it with a new slate roof. When the “exo-skeleton” (roof and stucco) of the house was removed, the interior studs were completely deteriorated and in need of replacement. “Our carpenter said ‘It’s either going to fall down, or we are going to take it down’. We erred on the side of safety, and brought down the majority of the house, save for three walls [front corner]; and rebuilt according to our original plans and guidelines,” says Pickart.
Having grown up in a more spacious Midwestern home, Pickart always envisioned herself living in a stately colonial manor and was devising design concepts that just didn’t fit the bill. “I had a vastly different image of what I thought I would be living in,” she notes. “I had detailed a lot of crown molding, then my husband said, ‘I think you’re trying to make this something it’s not.’” She went back to the drawing board by revisiting the historic millwork and decided to enhance the original home but make it code compliant. “The house has been here longer than I have,” says Pickart. “I had to love it back to life rather than try to change it.”
The now 3,000-square-foot home has an additional one-and-a-half bathrooms and a pool with stunning landscaping. “I used to complain that our home was not big enough and was ragging on the space,” she says. “However, throughout the shelter-in-place order, the one fascinating realization I had was, this home has everything we need.”
Each room is filled with treasures the couple collected along the way, set against Pickart’s signature classically cool style. Her husband inherited rare antiques, including a grandfather clock from 1790, that echo the structure’s classic architecture, while contemporary elements like wallpaper from Phillip Jeffries, lighting from Urban Electric Co. and furniture from Coup D’Etat add modern edge. “People react to the lifetime’s worth of collecting,” she says. “My team and I are always trying to create that look for clients without making it feel contrived.”
The kitchen, which is everyone’s favorite, is visible from the entry vestibule, which keeps you warm as you enter during the winter. A 10×12 room upstairs was converted into a family media room which, while small
in size, provides a cozy environment for connecting. “There is a reason why rooms have meaning,” says Pickart. The dining room now doubles as her daughter’s virtual school station, and a loft above the kitchen that once served as the dumping area for mail is now the designer’s home office. “Prior to the pandemic, we really didn’t spend much time as a family here due to travel and sports,” she notes. “Now I finally feel like we live here, and I really appreciate how hard we have worked and that the home has provided more than I could have expressed.”