Magazine article Sunset

Art House

Magazine article Sunset

Art House

Article excerpt

A husband-and-wife team turns their home into a design lab

By acting as their own clients, landscape designer Jennifer Madden and architecttrained sculptor Jeff Reed enjoyed the freedom to experiment as they remodeled their 90-year-old bungalow in Albany, California.

Over five years, the couple added a 400square-foot master bedroom and bath to the upper floor and opened the lower floor to a new garden. The process turned the home into a kind of design laboratory, showcasing ways to intertwine indoors and outdoors.

The extended construction period "gave us time to stand back and refine things," says Reed. It also gave them the chance to capitalize on surprising finds, like the Douglas fir plywood that surfaced during the demolition of the upper floor. This spirit of discovery, found beauty, and ingenuity is evident throughout the home.


New layers and textures soften and upgrade the house while remaining true to the character of the neighborhood. Next to the street is a parking area of Connecticut bluestone and a concrete walkway through a landscape of dripirrigated plants. The new front porch is framed by a trellis over three tapered columns on high bases that create a sense of privacy without blocking views. Shingled walls and crisp white trim reinforce the bungalow look.


The garden table is one of many that the couple designed and built for the house. It includes an everchanging centerpiece: A tapered, square stainless steel pedestal rises through the center of a green glass top-supported on hidden stainless steel arms-and contains a water basin for floating blossoms. An uplight and a recirculating pump give the water an alluring shimmer. (For information on purchasing Reed and Madden's work, turn to page 167.)


The new master bedroom and bath on the top floor overlook the rear garden. The adjacent deck, with a bench built into the stainless steel railing, crowns a new porch over the doors to the dining room. Slateclad stairs lead down to the garden between pairs of columns that echo the style of those at the front of the house.


A slender row of Equisetum hyemale (horsetail) creates a low "fence" in the front garden that defines the new entry walk. The upright plant grows in an elongated galvanized metal box set into the ground. "We learned their roots are invasive and travel farther and faster than bamboo," Reed explains. "Besides, they are a bog plant and don't mind having wet feet."

The eclectic garden uses Mexican pebbles as a groundcover and is punctuated with yellowblooming kangaroo paws and purpleflowered hebes. …

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