Property History and Client Goals

This Queen Anne Victorian mansion was originally designed and built in 1906, as a San Francisco family’s weekend retreat. My clients came to its rescue several years ago, purchasing it and the adjacent Carriage House, which is a designated historical building. They commissioned me and Landscape Architect Richard Vignolo to design a swimming pool area, complete with gardens and cabañas, which would maintain and complement the elegant and historic integrity of the property. They envisioned a family setting in a resort atmosphere.

Design Focus

Richard and I immediately focused in the re-creation of “historical value” for the property, which would give it a sense of completeness, wherever the grounds were not living up to the beauty of the mansion. I particularly focused on using the new buildings to visually shelter the property from the adjacent road and on creating a festive environment with Queen Ann elegance in a relaxed atmosphere.


Richard and I collaborated on the site plan design, in which we utilized a classical approach of a central axis. Using the mansion’s entry hall bay windows as a starting point, we located the gardens, swimming pool and cabañas symmetrically with the central axis. The spa/fountain at one end of the pool and the views of Mount Tamalpais at the opposite defined the downhill terraced effect of the design.

I selected all new design features to provide the mansion with Queen Ann Era continuity and the client’s desire for modern life comforts. For the building designs, I borrowed elements from both the main house and the Carriage House: their columns and dentils make them appear like miniature replicas of the main house, and I based the cupolas on those used in the Carriage House. Inside, I designed exposed ceiling dormers decorated with batts that also mimic the renovation of the Carriage House. The overall effect is one of total integration.

I ensured that the cabañas serve more than just a decorative purpose. One cabaña contains a small kitchen and a bar area for refreshments; the other contains a bathroom and changing rooms and is decorated to resemble a Victorian bathhouse. The outdoor fireplace and trellises separate the cabañas and create an inviting seating area, while sheltering the property from the road.

Front entry way to a high-end house in Saratoga
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