Williams-Sonoma Returns to Sonoma

It’s cool that Williams Sonoma is back in Sonoma.

The new landmark Williams-Sonoma store is part retail store and part museum, located in the exact spot that housed the original, a house that transformed American cooking in many ways.

It’s a tribute to Chuck Williams and the Williams-Sonoma lifestyle experience.

After operating a hardware store, Williams opened Williams-Sonoma in 1956, selling French kitchenware. He lived behind the original house with his mother. He relocated to San Francisco in 1958. He’s 99 now and going strong: the opening of the new store coincided with his birthday.

The new store is a shrine to American ingenuity, to a guy who saw the world the way we use it now, starting in the 1950s, when America was eating frozen dinners. Williams recognized a whole beautiful world of food that America hadn’t caught onto at the time. Now Williams-Sonoma is a $4 billion company.

The original sign from 1956 is hanging in front. The original door is still in place. There’s a lovely garden space and outdoor cooking area in the back.

Here are a few pictures I took during the pre-opening reception and birthday celebration:

Check out Chuck’s desk calendar from 1958.

Monica Bhargava, who heads the design team for Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn, said that while there are many modern furnishings in the Williams-Sonoma home catalog,the team was cautious not to infuse that into the house.  The upstairs bedroom includes classics such as the Bedford sofa, Atherton chair, and the La Courte Upright Desk. There’s a natural feel that comes across in the choice of linens, hand-mounted rugs, signature cowhide, leather and suede that the company is known for. The design team went for a very neutral color palate of linens. “We wanted it to feel more like Chuck,” Bhargava said. “We went back to his roots as we were looking for things.”

“Comfort is the biggest luxury,” Bhargava said. “If you’re not comfortable what’s the point of all the fancy stuff?”

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Partnering with a Leader in Outdoor Living

The show garden we’re putting together for next week’s San Francisco Garden Show wouldn’t be possible without our wonderful partners and suppliers, including Outdora, a company that supplies an incredible array of products for outdoor living.

They have a wonderful selection of luxurious home and garden merchandise:

You name it: fire pits?  greenhouses? outdoor furniture? high-end BBQ grills?

Outdora’s own president Stuart Sager will be at the show too.

Outdora is providing a new freestanding Lynx 36″ Grill and Rotisserie for the show garden display. It’s a gorgeous grill.  Below is a picture of me taking a picture of a very similar grill from Lynx that’s in Outdora’s showroom window. The one we’ll have is a tad bigger: Perfect for the California Dreaming Garden. Learn more and purchase here.

Outdora is also supplying two other key items for the garden: an Earthmaker Composter and an outdoor shower from the Outdoor Lamp Company.

The extra eco-friendly Earthmaker aerobic composter is a three stage composter that can produce 10 gallons of compost each month. The chambers keep the fresh waste, the digesting waste, and the maturing waste separate. This makes the Earthmaker Composter twice as fast as regular compost bins. Learn more and purchase here.

The outdoor shower will be placed behind a claw-foot bathtub that will be decorated with sea shells. Learn more and purchase here.

Outdora has had a presence online since 2005 and last May officially opened the Outdora Showroom, located a half block off the historic Sonoma Plaza in Sonoma – a fabulous location.

Come to the show and check it all out in person.

New Life for Classic Country Barns

The landscape of Sonoma County is dotted with barns from old times, as are rural areas across America. These romantic old barns all too frequently are in a state of disrepair. Majestic though they may be, they  are often on the verge of collapse. That’s why its inspiring to see these old treasures given new life.

Sonoma Architect Adrian Martinez has laid the groundwork for saving a some of these barns at a site in Sonoma California.

The large one is most likely more than 100 years old and is about 42 feet wide by 40 deep.

It  has been raised in order to build a new foundation. First, however, a wood framed structure was built inside to stabilize it.

The original foundation was stone and the new concrete foundation will be faced with thin cut stone to emulate the original.  Old barnwood will be used to infill as needed and new barn doors of old planks will be made. There will be new multipaned dark green windows.  The deteriorated tin roof will be replaced with a new red corrugated metal roof.

The smaller barn is the Garden Barn, which is new construction but with old barn-wood siding, new dark green windows and a red corrugated roof.  It will be used in conjunction with an extensive vegetable garden & pumpkin patch, a place for potting, storing tools, equipment & will be a nice place for lunch & resting.

Here’s to seeing these and other barns given new life.

These Guys are Giants Fans

Sonoma Materials provides a variety of landscaping and building materials and unless you’ve been under a rock you probably know that the Giants just won the World Series. Well, check out the orange truck at Sonoma Materials

What to do about deer

I’ve put forth a great deal of effort researching and designing with plants that are considered “deer proof.” On a couple of occasions, though, I’ve been quite frustrated.

It’s annoying when deer chow down on landscape plants, especially when its a new plant installation because the deer want to taste what’s new on the block. Younger plants, even if they’re deer reistant, are tastier to the deer.

It happened again this last week. Our crew applied coyote urine as a precaution but that didn’t stop the deer from feasting on the newly installed deer resistant plants.

The deer don’t read the lists. In fact, many of the plants that were once considered bullet proof have been taken off the lists.

David Arnold, who has 40 years in the business, tells me most of the eating habits of different herds of deer are determined by learned behavior and/or availability of native food sources.  It’s not consistent either. Many times deer will experiment with a newly installed landscape and then never bother it again. David at one point got lion feces from the San Francisco Zoo but the deer weren’t phased.

This 76-year old woman went overboard.

This article from the Washington Post calls deer “rats with hooves.”

Deer fences are sometimes an option but often are not.  I have also heard that there has been success reported by those that have installed motion sensor sprinkler heads along the traffic patterns of the local deer.  The sound of the water surging through the sprinkler head when activated spooks the deer enough to change their route.

If anybody has any ideas that work please let me know. Comments?

No Blow Sonoma!

How much sense to leaf blowers make? They usually blow the leaves into the mulch and leave them there. I like rakes. Better to remove the leaves and take them away. Leaf blowers are noisy and suck up gas. They’re a waste of time. The wind blows the leaves right back again. Some cities in Marin County already ban blowers, as do several U.S. cities, both large and small. Palo Alto banned them five years ago.

I know they’re necessary in some situations, like on golf courses where rakes just aren’t practical, but near residences?

Well, a friend of mine has taken up the cause in Sonoma. She calls it “No Blow Sonoma.”  Sonoma has been considering a blower ban but it has been quite the issue in our little town. The latest installment on the issue in the Sonoma Sun newspaper is this rebuttal, “Beware the Leaf Blower Man.” Well, my friend thinks this guy is blowing some hot air out of more than one end of his equipment. Here’s the NoBLOWnoma  Facebook page. I say no blow in Sonoma.

A Fairy Garden and Harvesting Grey Water

This article appeared in the local Sonoma Sun Newspaper, where my client has a column. It has been such a pleasure working with her. This is a fun project. We designed a fairy garden!. Next up, we’re designing a greywater harvesting system. This is breaking new ground. Sonoma County permit folks are just starting to get their heads wrapped around greywater because it is becoming more popular. It saves water! Inspiration for the fairy garden came from my daughter’s books. More on that later.