Robin Engelman has lived in the Los Angeles area for 30 years, longing for a sense of belonging that never came. Psychologist Dr. Engelmann, 56, said: “I grew up in rural Pennsylvania and wanted a greener, friendlier little town, surrounded by seasons and trees. I wanted to find a home.”
Her husband, Tom Engelman, a film producer who has worked on movies like The Last Samurai and Pitch Black, was born and raised in Los Angeles, but considered a career change. . “Given my lifestyle, I was driven primarily by Robin,” Engelmann, 62, said.
For years they daydreamed about real estate and saw several houses. Then, in early 2019, while driving north to visit family in Marin County, the two stumbled upon an intriguing spot in Mill Valley. Explaining how the sun’s rays cut through the majestic redwoods, Engelman said, “We hit this grove of trees looking through the trees with God’s light.
They also saw another one, an 800-square-foot ramshackle shack for sale on 0.1 acres. . “End.”
They had little time to inspect the facility and were unable to get inside before Dr. Engelman had to return to Los Angeles. Nevertheless, they took a big chance and bought it for $836,000.
“It was a leap,” Engelmann said. Both of them had busy jobs in the city and had to think about their son, Reese, who turned 13 (they had two older children who had already moved away from him). there). I wouldn’t say we’re the kind of people who always take the leap like that, but in this particular case we did. “
They started using the cabin as their second home, getting a feel for the property and planning their next steps. A few months later, I sold my house in Santa Monica and moved into a rented apartment nearby.
“We found that the house was old, not historic, and hadn’t collapsed,” Engelmann said. “I was able to follow a dream I’ve always had: to build something from scratch with my own vision.”
But while they had the enthusiasm and experience to remodel homes, neither were architects.To help realize their vision, they hired Richardson Privas Architectsa local company that has built many modern homes in the area.
When they sat down with the firm’s founding partner, Heidi Richardson, she explained that the square footage of the home would depend largely on what was already there. “We didn’t want to cut down a single tree, so the site itself dictated the shape of the object. Redwood is sacred.” “By the time we followed the retreat and dodged the sequoia trees, this was pretty much the shape left.”
The resulting two-story, three-bedroom, 1,600-square-foot home is nestled between tree trunks, with windows and decks that offer near and far views. Some windows were intentionally designed to look straight into tree trunks, Engelmann said, “so it feels like we’re there and living with these creatures.” said.
Richardson described the concept as a “borrowed landscape,” and said a long view of the forest makes the site feel larger than it actually is.
The circular skylight above the living room was a request from young Reese after seeing a picture of a modern house with circular windows at a nearby Sea Ranch. Also, “Light from both the sun and the moon travels through the living room floor day and night.”
In order not to disturb the tree roots, the architects set the house on a slab foundation higher than the forest floor. For fire safety, they avoided using wood for the exterior and instead covered it with cement board and painted metal siding.
Inside, plenty of wood was used for visual and tactile warmth, including white oak floors and cabinets and a fireplace surround made of charred pine cedar. , has the look and feel of a strip of hardwood.
After the old cottage was demolished in June 2020, it took about a year and a half to build the new home, completed in January 2022 at a cost of about $600 per square foot. Although the builder, Hays and Associates, was responsible, Mr. Engelman threw himself into the project, visiting the site almost daily and working alongside the contractor.
“I had neuropathy in my hands from using things like sledgehammers and jackhammers, which crippled me,” he said. “I had tennis elbow in both arms.
“But I must say,” Dr. Engelman interjected.
Now that Mr. Engelman has recovered, the couple has had plenty of time to appreciate what they’ve accomplished.Each morning, Dr. Engelman says, they look out the window and can’t believe their eyes.
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