This Midcentury Rose Garden in Marin County Was Inspired by Le Corbusier

Second-hand House

This Midcentury Rose Garden in Marin County Was Inspired by Le Corbusier

When I do something, I go deep. So, when it came time to finding a new home in Marin County last October—after selling a much-loved 1894 Ernest Coxhead in Pacific Heights—it was time for an architectural palette cleanser. (Goodbye lead pane windows and hand-carved moody majesty; hello open floor plan , democratic design, and glass walls.) I wanted midcentury.

In California, midcentury modern often means Eichler . The 1957 specimen I found was pure—with original luminous Philippine mahogany walls and sapphire wall-to-wall carpet (a dream manifestation).

BEFORE: The original walls left something to be desired, both in paint condition and color choice. “The green walls competed with the greenery,” says Lauren, who wanted a backdrop for the roses to be the star, and that kept the historical integrity of the 1957 space. Swiss architect Le Corbusier, a pioneer of midcentury-modern design—also a painter and color theorist—was top of the list when it came to a choosing palette. “Le Corbusier was a primary inspiration for the house. Working with his pigment-rich, pure color, historical paint was a dream.”

AFTER: Beneath the eye-popping spectrum of color, Lauren and rosarian Jennifer Board replaced the stone ground cover with black shaggy mulch. The rose garden at Sunnylands, the Annenberg estate in Palm Springs, designed by A. Quincy Jones, was a major inspiration for the project. Black mulch (also used at Sunnylands) both unifies the graphic space and allows the rose beds to retain moisture in the heat.

The garden was flat and linear, with square shapes, entirely different from my former tiered romantic city garden, which was formal—to go with the Tudor home. And since I am a renter this round, the improvement strategy is another ballgame (i.e., hold off on big investments, but not on drama!).

I envisioned the courtyard-like garden off the living, dining, and main bedroom (really, the heart of the indoor-outdoor promise of modern architecture) as a colorful rose garden. There were five inherited roses there already, but room for many more.

Roses thrive in Marin—with sun and airflow. (In San Francisco, roses are prone to mold, the air is foggy and damp.) Sunnylands —the midcentury Annenberg estate in Palm Springs, was a major inspiration. The rose garden there is filled with heirloom breeds named after presidential wives. So, I began planting.

“Marice Utrillo’s red kitsch is off-set against deep turquoise blue,” Lauren explains.

“Blue Girl—one of my favorites with her rich eerie glow—was so weird and vibey in front of Le Corbusier’s cobalt,” says Lauren. “How could I not?”

“Doris Day yellow feels less twee and more modern against gray and black, but Limoges-chic against the celadon green,” says Lauren.