Bringing the outdoors inside can create welcome tranquility
My first visit to Mike Crandall and his wife Connie Suddath’s Banner Mountain area home in Nevada City was last summer when I attended a meeting there.
It was a baking hot day, and I was told we would meet outdoors on the deck. “Much too hot,” I thought with dismay.
As I pulled into the circular drive, however, my spirits lifted. Set in the heart of the pines, I knew instantly this home was special. The one-story, four-bedroom, two-bathroom home seemed to extend a country kind of welcome. Its natural, heart redwood exterior blended perfectly with the earthy elegance of the woods that surrounded it.
My peaceful first impression was also full of color. Coreopsis, impatiens, gladioli, coleus plants and other botanical delights decorated the tranquil setting with their loud, proud hues.
As our hosts greeted me and offered a tour of the home, I sensed it was an extension of their own graciousness and warmth. My first impressions were spot on. As the 25 others arrived, I couldn’t help but notice how each seemed to swap stress for tranquility almost from the moment they entered.
The large deck area in back added to our newfound state of relaxation. “We designed the deck area to offer different perspectives of nature in action,” Crandall said. “See the deer. The young ones will arrive with their mothers first, then a little later, the big stag will arrive. He’s magnificent, and we’ve named him Big Daddy.”
Sure enough, about 30 feet away, the first deer were arriving, enjoying the shade as much as we were.
The surrounding woodland revealed beautifully tended oaks, pines and cedars with a wood chip path around most of the five acres they own.
Thanks to Crandall’s maintenance, the woods offer a gentle collage of sun and shadow. He has made benches from trees that came down last winter.
The deck is punctuated with many strategically-placed, wine barrel flower tubs that brighten the dark wood decks with contrasting colors and shapes. The flower displays that separate the deck from the woods and walking path act as a partial frame for the living mural beyond.
“In the summer, this is where you’ll find us,” Suddath said. “It’s also the view I enjoy from my kitchen window year round.”
With most homes, there’s a clear distinction between indoors and out. Crandall and Suddath’s home is different. You get the feeling that nature is a vital part of the interior of their home, as well. But here’s what makes it extra special Ð they’ve combined the earthy beauty outdoors with traditional elegance inside.
Lured by the charm and dramatic landscapes, Crandall and Suddath moved to Nevada County from Santa Maria about five years ago.
“The moment we saw this place, both Connie and I knew it was right for us,” former computer engineer Crandall said. “We experienced the same thing you just did. It’s a place that nurtures and refreshes. Even when we’re snowed in during the winter, we feel comfortable, relaxed Ð and always at home. Every day here feels as if we’re living in our own private sanctuary.”
Suddath’s tour of the home gave us the chance to notice many touches that have added warmth, character and charm. The mahogany wood floors, for example, feature rustic shades of gold and red. The slate hearth, with its rich textures, is part of an impressive, natural-stone wall that separates the great room from the kitchen, creating subtle drama. Its height accentuates the vaulted ceiling.
“Although the windows are large, we wanted this part of the house to have even more natural light. Last year we agreed that skylights would provide the perfect solution. The paintings, artifacts and antiques we love have more prominence now,” Suddath said, “yet they’re not in direct sunlight.”
A long, narrow glass atrium acts like double glazing at the back of the house, yet it is wide enough to walk through and enjoy the large potted plant displays that link the indoors to the outdoors. The glass lets in plenty of natural daylight Ð and makes the bedrooms and office appear lighter, as well as larger.
The atrium provides insulation all year round, making it the ideal environment for Suddath to write her short stories and poetry, many of which have been published.
Another area where glass works wonders is the large master en suite bathroom. The spacious shower is enclosed by translucent glass bricks which allow light in, yet retain privacy. Around the corner in the L-shaped bathroom, there is a step-up Jacuzzi that features a stunning view of the woods.
There is also a custom-made stained glass window that measures 7 feet by 2 1/2 feet. The window is a colorful tribute to Northern California history and includes images of a covered wagon near Donner Lake in the snow-covered Sierra, California Poppies and the Gold Rush drama at Sutter’s Mill.
Walk outside and you’re steps away from a gazebo with a large, inviting hot tub surrounded by colorful flower boxes and the magical woods of cedars and firs.
By the time the meeting was ready to begin, I was amazed at how efficiently we worked in this relaxing environment. The ideas we shared seemed bigger and more creative. There was harmony and purpose in the way we achieved our objectives.
When it was time to leave, each of us commented on what a delightful morning we’d shared and how relaxed we felt.
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