EXPLOREMY LIBRARY
Natural Selection
A bungalow renovation reflects a young family’s outdoorsy lifestyle with earthy materials and light-filled spaces. It was all about seeing the forest for the trees.

With white trim, black-frame windows stand out against any color siding.

John and Valerie Hansel designed their front stoop low and without rails to create a welcoming entry on their walkable street. Wide steps topped with 3-inch-thick bluestone provide space to sit, and they speak to the couple’s love for natural materials.

(FIELD EDITOR: SARAH ALBA)

John and Valerie Hansel love being close to nature. They chose their 1938 bungalow in Mill Valley, CA, for its sycamore-canopied street near hiking and biking trails. But as they patiently planned a renovation, they suddenly found themselves a little too close to nature, waking up to rainwater dripping from the ceiling onto their bed. “We always knew we’d have to remodel someday,” John says. “But I didn’t want to put one cent into it until we had a big-picture plan.” That plan, executed with the help of architect Erika Shern and residential designer Annie Lazarus, centered on improving the layout and bringing the outdoors in.

They fine-tuned an efficient, open-concept floor plan. Large windows and minimal color keep the focus outside. John also zeroed in on materials like solid woods and imperfect stone reminiscent of his childhood home on a New England farm.

“We wanted everything to feel real,” Valerie says, noting the barefoot-friendly wood floors and smooth stone countertops. “Plus, we have an unbelievable number of windows so the house is bright. Whether it’s sunny or rainy, we can enjoy the outdoors.” And now the rain stays outside.

Upper cabinets hold cooking essentials that don’t make the cut for the open shelving.

The new peninsula gives Nolan and Parker an informal breakfast spot, which the old kitchen lacked. The openness of floating walnut shelves maintains an airy look. Unpolished soapstone counters and a matte finish on the backsplash tile reflect the Hansels’ preference for no-shine surfaces.

“THE NEW KITCHEN WORKS SO MUCH BETTER. I’M ACTUALLY COOKING AGAIN.”
VALERIE HANSEL
Tall windows, transoms, and French doors open the living room to light and views. The fireplace wall stayed understated with a pale limestone surround and an unadorned mantel.
The ultrapractical mudroom and laundry combo, with concrete floor tiles, handles cleanup needs. A stylistic painted wall of a mountain scene nods to nearby Mount Tamalpais, where the family frequently hikes.
“HAVING TWO WALLS OF WINDOWS CREATES MY VERSION OF AN ENGLISH CONSERVATORY.”
VALERIE HANSEL

HIGH-GLOSS PAINT ON THE CEILING REFLECTS THE LIGHT.

Solar shades in the dining area filter sunlight without blocking the view. Building up standard window trim gave it a high-end look.

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