Walking down the street in a residential neighborhood, you think that all the houses are pretty much the same and there isn’t anything special happening. You sure can be wrong.
Our friends Kevin and Dave took us to see the incredible home of Paul and Robin Cowley, in Oakland’s Fruitvale district. A 700 square foot Sears Roebuck house, the kind you bought from a catalog and they shipped pre-fab on a train, the house was built in 1927. Robin and Paul have remodeled and expanded, of course, and now have a 2000 square foot one bedroom home with extensive studio space for both of them–Paul is the wizard behind Potomac Waterworks, which designs water features for places like the deYoung museum. Robin is both a garden designer and a textile artist.
The house is wonderful, but the garden is spectacular. As you would expect, this house has the most astounding water features I’ve ever seen. Essentially, Paul has created a bog with flowing water, grasses, reeds, a koi pond, some waterfalls, a fountain or two and enough machinery to launch the space shuttle. Robin has created a variety of garden types, utilizing plants from all over. The stands of bamboo are so dense I was looking for a herd of pandas.
I’m don’t know much about plants, so instead of speculating wildly and being wrong, I think I’ll just show you a ton of photos of this magnificent place. Enjoy them all, and when you drive down a quite residential street, remember that this is what might be lurking behind the gate.
After touring the garden, we went into the house to visit their extensive collection of art, mostly ceramic.
Incredible gardens outside, formidable ceramic collection inside; the Cowley’s have an astonishing home. Gail realized that she had seen it before–two years ago on a day trip with the Oakland Museum Art Guild. She enjoyed this time more, because there were just the 6 of us instead of a busload trying to make their way through the space.
After our visit, we returned to Kevin and Dave’s house behind the Apple store in Berkeley. Dave, a former Apple executive, spent some of his vacations at the Cordon Bleu in Paris taking cooking lessons. He delighted us with lunch:
Sated with great art and stuffed with Dave’s formidable cooking, we wandered home and collapsed. Life is good.