Spring Issue: The Benefits of Beauty

The new spring '18 issue of CA-Modern delves into such topics as nature and architecture, nature and art, and allowing for natural influences in your home.

Spring is a time for cleaning the house, cleaning out the mind by communing with nature, and focusing on beauty after a sometimes wet, sometimes disappointingly dry winter.

In the new spring ’18 issue of CA-Modern magazine we focus on beauty – the beauty of an intact Eichler neighborhood, of work by one architect and one artist that harmonizes with and is inspired by nature, and with a useful how-to piece about achieving a harmonious look in your home’s interior.

One of the most intact Eichler neighborhoods you will find anywhere is in one of the last places you might think to look, as you will learn in ‘Harmony in the Hills.’ Oakland is better known as an edgy metropolis than as an idyllic suburban.

But Sequoyah Hills, off Keller Avenue above I-580, retains its historic look, with house after house (with two or perhaps three exceptions) looking much as it did when built in the mid 1960s.

Many of the homes have intact mahogany paneling and grass cloth closet doors. Some even have intact kitchens. Theresa and Gordy Wray are pleased that their kitchen has the original breakfast table with a wing that slides out from the counter and pivots.

Gordy and Theresa Wray and their girls Helena and Gabrielle in their Eichler home in Oakland. Photo by Sabrina Huang

“We were here for a year before we even knew we had it,” Gordy says. “A neighbor said, 'You know, you can pull [the table] out.'”

In ‘Learning from the Land’ we meet Obie Bowman, one of the most original and prolific of the architects at The Sea Ranch, the utopian community on the northern Sonoma Coast.

Bowman’s architectural aesthetic grows from his appreciation of the environment. He is completely attentive to the site, and even feels guilt at replacing open spaces with buildings. His buildings are often fun and quirky, and have many Bowman-only touches that provide delight.

He’s a pioneer of sod roofs, for example, and we visit one home with such a roof in Sausalito. Deer and foxes often walk across it, peering into the owners’ windows.

“It’s a very site-based modernism,” architect Andrew Scheidt says of the work, adding, “A lot of modern architecture is seen as cold and not related to its surroundings."

Architect Obie Bowman calls this house of his design 'Sea Meadow,' and indeed it fits right into the meadow at The Sea Ranch. Photo by Dave Weinstein

Scheidt recalls one project he worked on with Bowman: “He was working with the site, not trying to dominate it. The other rooms were appendages, crafted for views and circulation. There are a lot of different types of views in his buildings. They’re not all facing one way. Every window had sort of a different view of a different, unique thing. There are far views and views that are closer in.”

“One thing I’ve taken from him,” Scheidt says. “People buy a site and say ‘Build the house here.’ He challenges that. Why should we ruin what is the nicest spot on the site by building a house there?”

In ‘Jewels of the Earth’ we follow the career of the late Milton Cavagnaro, a man who achieved evanescent fame in the late 1940s through the ‘50s before retiring from art to become a gardener and landscape designer.

For a time, the Mill Valley-based Cavagnaro turned out custom jewelry, pendants, earrings, necklaces, cufflinks, and more, including freestanding figurines that suggest ethnic art or creatures from another world. He also painted and illustrated.

Like Bowman, his work was all about the natural world.

Milton Cavagnaro's jewelry often evokes objects created by different cultures, and nature. Photo by Ernie Braun

“Milton Cavagnaro is an industrial designer, but he is also an unusually interesting artist, whose paintings in gouache are now at the [California Palace of the] Legion of Honor,” critic Spencer Barefoot wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle in May 1948.

“He has found the sources of his subjects in natural forms, rocks, ferns, leaves, and wood, and has painted these – sometimes realistically, sometimes almost abstractly – in wonderfully beautiful and subtle colors and design.

“In some respects Cavagnaro is a member of the ‘maze and labyrinth’ school of current painting, but he is actually allied to no particular group or manner, and one feels that these gouache paintings are uniquely and basically the creation of his own imagination and his own artistic sensibility.

“The detail is delightful, and the over-all picture wonderfully effective. The exhibition has been well displayed, with the driftwood, shells, stones and leaves of Cavagnaro’s paintings used as backgrounds.”

In ‘Staged for Living’ writer (and San Jose Eichler homeowner) Cathye Smithwick talks to designers and home stagers people who suggest ways residents of Eichlers and other modern homes can beautify them for daily living. Here too, nature plays a role.

Eichler homes are all about light and space and connection with the out of doors. How they are decorated needs to take that into account. Photo by James Fanucchi

"Eichler's architectural features were fashioned to highlight each home's natural elements," Smithwick writes. "The outdoor-in glass aesthetic invites light and fresh air—nature's disinfectants. Open floor plans and simple, clean, angular lines help to gently define spaces that flow one into another. Natural materials such as wood, cork, and stone harmonize to create interesting, yet surprisingly tranquil spaces.

"It's helpful to keep these natural elements in mind when designing and decorating your home's interior spaces—organically planned so long ago and so highly sought after today," she writes.

“Staging for sale is all about de-personalizing, decluttering, and creating a minimalist showroom-styled environment,” says East Bay stager Camila Baum. “When done well in Eichlers, it also draws attention to your home's architecture.”

Among the good ideas in this article: Layer your lighting to avoid harsh light and shadows. De-clutter. And allow space to be visible underneath and around your furnishings.

The new spring ’18 issue of CA-Modern is a beautiful object and altogether harmonious. Order your copy of the print issue today.

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