Magazine article Sunset

Kaleidoscope Cabin: In the Woods of Northern California, an Intoxicating Mix of Elements-Vintage Goods, Global Treasures, and Natural Found Objects-Creates a Home as Rich and Colorful as a Magic Carpet Ride

Magazine article Sunset

Kaleidoscope Cabin: In the Woods of Northern California, an Intoxicating Mix of Elements-Vintage Goods, Global Treasures, and Natural Found Objects-Creates a Home as Rich and Colorful as a Magic Carpet Ride

Article excerpt

Pieces of home

Putting together a dream retreat

The background

Mario Kashou and Gaetan Caron refer to their property simply as "the land." Up a steep and winding road in the hills of California's Mendocino County, the old apple and pear orchard was originally settled by 19th-century Portuguese immigrants. After years of camping on the 105-acre site they purchased in 1999, Kashou and Caron decided to build a house that drew from a diverse patchwork of influences and inspirations. "I've always preferred the old to the new," says Caron, cofounder of San Francisco's Lost Art Salon. "And we were both so in love with the land that we knew whatever we built would have to respect its beauty." With the help of Berkeley's Arkin Tilt Architects, the couple devised a plan for an off-the-grid, straw bale-insulated, 1,450-square-foot retreat that feels both cutting-edge and timeless.

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The design

The hub of the house is the living/dining area and kitchen, which Caron describes as a kind of "sheltered courtyard." Interior windows and a balcony look down on the action; two bedrooms flank a stairway that "looks a little like an alley in an old village in Turkey or Greece," Caron says.

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Global travels informed much of the home's aesthetic. "We were inspired by the houses in the mountains of Morocco, which are made out of clay to keep warm in the winter and cool in the summer," Caron says. This green-building technique, known as pise, transformed soil from the property into an earthen material for the walls. Kashou and Caron spent weekends for a couple of months helping the construction crew sift dirt; the natural reddish orange hue of the walls comes from the mineral-rich clay.

The mood

Coziness and conviviality radiate from every room, thanks to the rich, warm color of the clay walls and the unmistakable patina of salvaged wood. It's house built for long weekends with friends, casual dinner parties, and nights huddled by the Rais wood-burning stove sharing a bottle of wine. "We really wanted it to feel communal," Caron says.

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Kashou and Caron's other goal was to fill the house with simple, meaningful decor in keeping with their values. "Everything here comes from a thrift shop," laughs Kashou, a statement that's not far from the truth. Found objects from the woods of Mendocino meet secondhand pieces from San Francisco's Mission District and lavishly patterned rugs from far-flung places such as Iran, Morocco, and Turkey. Even the redwood used for kitchen shelves and a daybed has a provenance (the planks, some bearing nativity scenes, were salvaged from a church). "All these little elements add up to make the house feel like it's been here forever," Caron says.

How to buy vintage

Sources and secrets to scoring the best secondhand goods

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As flea-market and eBay aficionados know, nothing beats the thrill of a secondhand find. But buying vintage is not always cheaper than buying new. …

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