An Architect’s Garden in Mill Valley


This post was originally published by Gardenista

You know that house with the beautiful garden you always walk past and admire (or, in my case, covet)? In Mill Valley, it belongs to architect Barbara Chambers, who had the future garden in mind before she ever started drawing plans for her newly built house in San Francisco’s North Bay. The result: a garden that comes indoors, to every room.

Behind the front gate, the bluestone path leads to a patio and the front door, which is technically a side door. Chambers sited the house “sideways” on the lot so the windows in the main rooms would have southern exposures and the garden would enjoy full sun all day.

“All houses should be oriented this way if possible because it gives you the best light,” says Chambers. “With western exposures, you can’t control the light. With east, you get light only in the morning.”

The front door is a dutch door; at dinner time Chambers and husband Guy, an architect who is the other half of Chambers and Chambers, can close the bottom half to frame a view of the garden. 

A patio built for two sits at the edge of the entryway. The architecture of both the house and the garden celebrates symmetry: two lounge chairs, twin topiaries, and identical doorways at opposite ends of a room are echoes of each other. The repetition reminds visitors that the outdoor and indoor elements are connected.

The palette of the garden is mostly green, relying on the shape, texture, and height of plants to create structure and interest. “Everything that blooms is white, except for a few little things,” says Chambers. “White makes the green pop.”

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