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Goodbye, City Life

In Nevada City, an artistic couple embraces the solitude and beauty at the end of a gravel road.

By Marybeth Bizjak
Photography by Kat Alves

When Sarah Coleman and Akim Aginsky left the bustling Bay Area and moved to Nevada City, they agreed they’d give it a year.

But then the couple—she’s a painter, he’s a commercial photographer—fell in love with the simple pleasures of rural life. That was 12 years ago—and now they wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else. “We are at the end of a gravel road and have only one neighbor,” says Coleman. “Even though we’re only about five miles from downtown Nevada City, it feels like we’re in the middle of nowhere.”

They bought an A-frame cabin on 10 acres, complete with a large, fenced-in garden, a separate workshop for Aginsky and a studio for Coleman. Built in 1979, the cabin was dark and choppy, so they took down walls to create a large living space with a 22-foot ceiling and a wall of windows that bring the sunlight streaming in. That’s where Coleman and Aginsky spend most of their time, hanging out with their 8-year-old son, Judah. “Winter’s pretty great because our house is really cozy,” Coleman says. “We have an old wood-burning stove that cranks out the heat, so we can sit inside and be comfortable while we watch snow flurries outside.”

Aginsky did much of the remodeling work himself, and the couple decorated the house in an eclectic style, using vintage furnishings, colorful textiles, found objects and art made by friends and family.

Aginsky did much of the remodeling work himself, and the couple decorated the house in an eclectic style, using vintage furnishings, colorful textiles, found objects and art made by friends and family. A Formica dinette table that belonged to Coleman’s grandmother serves as a sofa table, and a cuckoo clock made by an uncle hangs on the wall, chiming every hour. “I like to be surrounded by old things,” says Coleman. “I love the way they were made, and I have a lot of nostalgia from growing up.”

In the main living space (above), a loft provides a place for the family to watch TV and play games.

In the main living space (above), a loft provides a place for the family to watch TV and play games.

She’s also a fan of creative reuse. One clever example: Coleman and Aginsky sank a pair of vintage bathtubs into the wood deck off the back of the house and added hot and cold running water. “It’s our take on a hot tub,” Coleman explains. “Sometimes a whole evening’s activity is bathing. We have a naked parade from our house to the tubs. Total freedom—it’s a great way to raise a child.”

Coleman exhibits her work at galleries in Los Angeles and San Francisco; celebrity designer Nate Berkus owns one of her paintings. Her subject matter is always the sky: sometimes cosmic and starry, other times stormy and cloudy. Living at the end of a gravel road in Nevada City, she doesn’t want for inspiration.

“We are at the end of a gravel road and have only one neighbor,” says Coleman. “Even though we’re only about five miles from downtown Nevada City, it feels like we’re in the middle of nowhere.”

“In terms of the skies, we have an amazing view,” she says. “We can watch the storms roll in, and we can see the stars at night.”

Built in 1979, the cabin was dark and choppy, so they took down walls to create a large living space with a 22-foot ceiling and a wall of windows that bring the sunlight streaming in.

The couple decorated the house in an eclectic style, using vintage furnishings, colorful textiles, found objects and art made by friends and family.

Artist Sarah Coleman relaxes at the dining table in the open living space. ‘With design, I don’t want to be limited by any one style,’ she says.

Artist Sarah Coleman relaxes at the dining table in the open living space. ‘With design, I don’t want to be limited by any one style,’ she says.

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