From dirt lot to dream home |

From dirt lot to dream home

When Cynthia and Edward deJong built their Nevada City home in 1999, the couple’s goal was to architecturally integrate the house with the three beautiful ponds and natural landscape surrounding the property. After living in San Jose for more than 20 years, a friend told them about this special property.

“When our Realtor drove us up to the dirt lot, my first reaction was this is Shangri-La,” says Cynthia. “I told my husband, Edward, ‘This is it! I love this!’ “

Since the land had not yet been cleared, the couple had to forge their way through overgrown bushes and poison oak to see the ponds and try to get a feel for what the view would be like after the house was built.

“We had to envision everything. Knowing we had water surrounding the house and 140 wooded acres complete with wildlife made me feel like I was away from the city and away from having neighbors right on top of you,” says Cynthia.

As they set out to build their dream house, with the help of Mother Nature’s beauty, the duo worked with the builder to achieve their goals. “Our Realtor showed us a house in the area and told us that the builder could build us a similar home. We took liberties with the builder by changing the floor plan to included a home office for Edward,” said Cynthia. The couple also worked with the builder to try to preserve as many of the beautiful oak trees on the property as possible.

Although a busy, working professional, Edward did all the natural cobblestone work surrounding each side of the driveway. “He set each stone in place, piece by piece, giving it the feel of a running river,” says Cynthia. “We rented a tractor to move 10 to 15 tons of dirt to level off the front yard.”

Cynthia operated the tractor and Edward began the arduous process of building a retaining wall in the front and back yard. “It took him all summer to do it. It was a lot of work, but rewarding,” she says.

Within six months, the three-level, 2,700 square foot home with three decks came to life. Blazing with the warmth and cheerfulness of spring, the home has a low key, yet elegant, spacious feel. The eclectic blend of furnishings evoke a fresh, comfortable simplicity.

“We both wanted something light, open and airy,” said Cynthia, who does all the decorating herself, passionate about the details. “I love the kitchen because it has a fresh, open feel and leads out to the deck that overlooks one of the ponds. We often entertain outside, especially in the summer.”

The kitchen looks out onto the living room, with warm gold walls and a marble fireplace, decorated with stylish, cost-conscious furnishings. “I tried to keep it light by mixing and matching furnishings that are a blend of old and new with a lot of inherited antiques that I love,” she says.

The home’s master bedroom has vaulted ceilings and a large sliding door that looks out onto the pond across the street. “I love our bedroom. It is like a retreat. I compare it to living in a bed and breakfast without the customers rolling through,” she says. The attached bathroom is complete with a sunken Jacuzzi tub looks out over one of the gardens.

The couple’s do-it yourself spirit and hard work show in the many gardens surrounding the home. With spring being their favorite time of year, gardens were first priority. The results is live, rich color and spring blooms everywhere.

The backyard features an herb garden, a cutting garden with 40 assorted rose bushes, Japanese maples, and an orchard with 12 fruit trees – plum, apricot, apple, and cherry pear. There are 12 planting beds that include summer dahlias, soft lilies, large showy gladiolus, strawberries, pot carrots, squash, potatoes, and watermelon in the summer.

Cynthia also designed a loving, memorial garden in honor of her sister Pamela, who died of cystic fibrosis at the age of 11. “The concept of Pamela’s Garden came up one day when we first moved here and I was looking at a patch of weeds and poison oak,” she says. “It was a very uninviting area and the idea came to dedicated this area to my sister.”

The shady garden has a variety of plants, meandering paths, and soothing places to sit and reflect. “It’s my favorite spot for a mid-afternoon break. Often deer come through and it is always full of chirping birds – robins and finches,” she says.

Recently the couple built an addition over the garage and added a forth level to the home to expand the living space. “I wanted to create a special room to entertain in that has access to the outside as well,” says Cynthia.

The new room has limestone floors, bright skylights, and French doors that open onto a balcony allowing the natural breeze to flow in. It also has a full bar, state of the art entertainment center, and a gym that includes Pilates, a high tech weight machine, and an elliptical trainer.

“All of our hard work has paid off,” Cynthia said, sitting quietly outside on the deck with her two cats, Corkey and Sean. “We went from a town home in San Jose to this. I still have to pinch myself, even after living here for seven years. I can’t believe the beauty that surrounds me.”


Susan Schrag lives in Grass Valley.

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