A Milly Valley cottage gets an enchanting makeover.
Sometimes, a small lot can work to a home’s advantage.
Such was the case with a house situated on a not terribly large piece of wooded property in Mill Valley. Residential designer Leigha Heydt and interior designer Benjamin Dhong were brought onboard to help the owners create a spacious family home that blends indoors and out.
“It was a little house deeply set back on the lot,” explains Heydt, owner of Heydt Designs in Sausalito. “There was really no backyard, just a front yard.”
To begin with, the house was 2,000 square feet, with only two bedrooms and two baths—definitely not enough room for a family with four young children. A remodel added 700 square feet and reconfigured the existing rooms to open them up. Then, Heydt used balconies, patios and porches to extend the house’s livable spaces.
“The indoor-outdoor connection is something I really stress with clients on all my projects,” she says. “Because the weather here in California is so fantastic, they can use those porches and patios for the majority of the year.”
The house is surrounded by large redwoods and other trees that give it the feeling of being nestled in an enchanted forest. Balconies off the master bedroom and a child’s bedroom provide tantalizing glimpses of greenery. “You can have a tiny bedroom, but if you add a balcony, you feel like the home is twice as large,” says Heydt. “And you’re much more connected to the natural environment.”
Large picture windows and French doors bring even more light and greenery inside. Unusual round and oval windows frame the views. Every room looks out onto something verdant and beautiful. Kids can spill onto the front porch and a porch off the TV room. Another patio off the kitchen nook supplies spaces for barbecues and parties. The way the house is nestled into the landscape, says Dhong, owner of Benjamin Dhong Interiors in San Francisco, “it’s like you’re in a fairytale. It’s very charming. With the doors open, it’s like you’re outside.”
In order not to obstruct the views, Dhong used roman shades for privacy in the bedrooms and left the other windows uncovered. “Nothing makes a home more alive than light,” he says.
The homeowners, originally from the East Coast, are “preppy, young and adorable,” says Dhong, who has done interiors for the CEO of Sony Corp. and Fox Studio’s chairman of the board. His goal was to give the couple a traditional house leavened with big doses of fun. “I wanted an effortless elegance,” he explains. “Every time you turn around, there should be something that makes you happy.”