I'm staying with a coworker for the next three weeks while I work on some books that have come crashing in for Fall.
He's a short New York jew, maybe fifty, and his wife is Japanese. He's a book designer, and she's a printmaker. They have two sons.
The home is enormous, but unassuming from the outside. I think it's the most incredible house I've ever stayed in. So Japanese in it's minimalism, and with hidden corridors.
From outside, it appears to be a small, two-story house. But there are levels upon levels, as the house extends below to fill the space of a sharply sloping hill. From the back patio on the first floor, you overlook a green ravine, houses peppered along the eastern hills and the San Francisco bay glinting to the west. You go down, and down, and at the very bottom is M's print studioâ€”bright with white light, absolutely clean, but also constantly in use as she applies bright yellows and oranges to canvas or works on her prints. You can walk right out of her studio into verdant green, tamed overgrowth. There is no basementâ€”no matter where you go on the six levels of the home you are not far from natural light, greenery, and wood.
The shampoo in the guest bathroom is in a blue crystal container with a push-top, and has an simple white sticker that says "Shampoo", perfectly centered, with a few elegant characters in Japanese below. The green crystal push-top adjacent says "Body Soap."
By the clean white sink, a small closed tin has a piece of paper taped to the top. Inscribed there are three small drawings, little lines with soft oval loops at the top. They mean: Q-tips.
The family room is surrounded by windows on all sides, and has a high, angled wooden ceiling so you feel you are in a tasteful millionaire's luxurious cabin.
The negative space is inviting, made up of oak hardwood. Next to the long curling white sofa: a black telescope.
M has the kindness you would expect from a thoughtful, artistic, Japanese mother. J is a loud, talkative, but also very kind New York jew. And so, as a house guest, everything is perfectly laid out for you in a way that suggests peacefulness, but you're given the tour with a nonchalant attitude that makes you feel truly at home. "So this shit, the herbs, this is where they are, and the glasses and shit are over here, and we have two fucking dishwashers for some reason, but we like to use this guy..."