Emily Ward, one-half of the buzzy AD100 design firm Pierce & Ward, was first smitten with Northern California while at school in Berkeley. Trips up to Mendocino and Big Sur further stoked the Angeleno’s interest, but it wasn’t until she stumbled upon a Zillow listing during the early days of the pandemic that the relationship was made official: Emily purchased a dreamy West Marin house set amid the redwoods, outfitted with a bunkhouse and a guesthouse ideal for sharing with her family. “I feel most myself here,” she says of the property, where she has a view of deer nibbling on crabapple trees. “My family's from Scotland, and there are some parts of the landscape that feel like Scotland to me. I felt like I belonged here.”
I feel most myself here...My family's from Scotland, and there are some parts of the landscape that feel like Scotland to me. I felt like I belonged here.
As for the aesthetic, the designer had a vision from the outset. “I knew what I wanted the vibe to be,” Emily reflects. “I wanted it to be really earthy, lived-in, and not perfect.” Learn more as the designer delves into the rustic escape’s unassuming charms, and how the design has evolved with time.
The wood, the windows, the lawn, the proximity of the beach. The area is laid back, majestic, organic, fresh-feeling and cozy. The house is built from all the redwood that you see from the property, which is so cool. All the kitchen cabinets are made from fallen trees. It brings me back down to earth from having a busy life in L.A., with a lot of clients and putting out fires all the time. It's really settling to be here — I think it's because the trees are so big.
The process is so different when it's for your own home versus when it's for a client. I didn't want to do much, because the house is so perfect. The only thing that I knew I needed to do was add window coverings — and I didn't really know that until I lived here for a minute!
The temperature regulation was such a difficult problem. That's when I got these Duette Honeycomb Shades for the kitchen and dining room. These are the first ones that I ordered. They’ve been such a game-changer. In the summer, when the heat is coming in, it is just like an oven in here. But the shades cut it by 15 degrees.
I've moved the pieces of furniture in this house 100 times by myself — like a psychopath carrying a sofa on my head! You keep trying until it feels the best for your family. People often buy a new home and they want to design it immediately. But the best thing that you can do is live in a space and figure out how exactly it is that you're using the space.
There wasn’t always an island in the kitchen, for example, it was just this big, open space, which was great when my kids were little and crawling around. Now, it's great because I have an island for more storage for pots and pans. It’s best to just keep adding, layering and shifting things around.
We want it to feel like our clients have been curating and collecting pieces over a long period of time. Textured window coverings are always the first line item in a budget for us because it's the way to filter the light. We love doing a bamboo roman shade with big, thick curtains over it; that's how to make a space feel like it has character, especially in a new house. It might feel like a white box but if you add a bamboo shade, and then beautiful curtains over that, instantly it feels a little bit older, a little bit richer, more layered and more textured.
For my house, I chose the Provenance Woven Wood shades because I wanted an option that looked like it was almost emerging from the wood. I also wanted shades that I could see outside and inside, but with coverage for heat and cooling. I love them so much that we've since used them in every project we've done.
My best friend Louisa, my business partner, gave me a hand-me-down collection of pottery that she inherited from her mother-in law. I never really felt like I had it in the right spot, but now it's really on display. I am also a big fan of Elsa Peretti. She was a designer for Tiffany & Co. and did some terracotta in the 1970’s. I have that piece [pitcher on the dining table], and a bowl over there. It's a collected group of things that I like; there's not one thing. I only brought things here that I really love.
I knew what I wanted the vibe to be...I wanted it to be really earthy, lived-in, and not perfect.