unexpected guests: jamie and michael.
by Leslie Santarina comment


morccan decor details. / sfgirlbybay

The moment I stepped into this house, I knew I had to feature it. This dear couple are friends of mine in the Bay Area and I’m delighted to take you inside their dreamy little cottage today. Meet Jamie and Michael. Jamie is a writer in the world of experience design, as well as a ghostwriter of books. Her husband Michael is a CPA by day and a talented musician throughout. This is the home they bought together in Mill Valley and I’ve invited Jamie to tell us more about it.

jamie + michael's modern bohemian home. / sfgirlbybay

Where are you originally from and how did you two meet?
I was born in Virginia, but I grew up in Italy, Iran and Greece. Michael is from Belfast, Northern Ireland. We met through mutual musician friends in ’90s San Francisco and moved to Mill Valley fifteen years ago.

moroccan decor inside jamie + michael's bay area home. / sfgirlbybay

How did you find your house and how did you know this was the one?
We decided to look at houses in Marin on a lark—we weren’t actually prepared to make the leap. This home wasn’t on the agent’s list, but we drove past and saw the open house sign. After an afternoon of seeing depressing spaces, we walked through the gate, saw the outdoor space, and fell in love with it. We weren’t yet approved for a loan, but we went home, made calls, and by the next morning, we’d bought a house.

modern bay area home tour. / sfgirlbybay

I’m seeing lots of Moroccan touches throughout. What else influenced your personal + home style?
Living abroad. My childhood homes were filled with treasures my parents collected from our travels. Our house was filled with Tunisian birdcages, Persian rugs, camel bells and Italian demijohn wine jugs. And Michael grew up in Ireland and London so he also has a more European sensibility. We both prefer small, cozy spaces built around a fireplace to large, airy homes.

writer in her modern bay area home. / sfgirlbybay

So many beautiful treasures indeed! What are your most beloved pieces in your home and why?
This is a funny answer, but I have a Laguiole bread cutter—a sort of baguette guillotine—that Michael got me in Paris on our fifth Anniversary. I was admiring them in all the cafés and he found one for me while we were there. Michael adores his ’71 Gibson Les Paul Gold Top guitar.

white brick mantle in bay area home. / sfgirlbybay

What part of the house do you spend the most time in?
We have tea together every morning in the living room, so we’ve clocked some hours on the couch next to the piano.

I see one little fluff perfectly blended into the carpet. Any other inhabitants hiding here?
That’s Ruby, an aged, deaf terrier. And there’s Dino, a teenaged Australian shepherd.

pet and home decor details in bay area home. / sfgirlbybay

What space and decor challenges did you have with your home when you first moved in?
Despite the inherent charm of the cottage, it was dark. We’ve added skylights, large windows and glass doors to bring the garden inside. There was a half wall panel dividing the kitchen and living room for no apparent reason, so we took it out. And the kitchen was original, which might sound appealing, but it was, let’s say, “rustic.” We gutted it and started over. Also, the garden space was large and nicely tiered, but the plants were all low-maintenance shrubs. We’ve spent the last 15 years adding palms, ferns, succulents and climbing vines to make it feel like a lush oasis.

And what improvements have been made since?
We’ve renovated the kitchen, the bathroom and the guest room. Added all new closets and doors, installed skylights and large glass panel doors. Also, the exterior was a dirt-colored stucco. We painted it bright white and added Moroccan sconces and spiky green Spanish Bayonet yucca plants. It’s changed the exterior appearance radically.

modern dining nook in bay area home. / sfgirlbybay

A renovation or redecorating project you are most proud of?
From a practical standpoint, it would be the built-in dining banquette with bench storage. Our living area is a tiny room with a junior baby grand piano, so we had to find a way to make dining space. But the project that gives me the most joy is our entryway, where we have a bold palm print wallpaper. It’s the one zone of the house that I went for a dramatic, maximalist statement. I was inspired by all the dreamy wallpaper and copper fixtures at the Hotel Providence in Paris.

And any future plans for your home?
We’d love to add a Kithaus garden shed one day. It could serve as Michael’s music studio, and also a second guest room.

barcart and decor details in bay area home. / sfgirlbybay

Adore the bar set up! What’s your cocktail of choice? And his?
For me, it’s a Brooklyn, which is a less-sweet cousin of the Manhattan, using Amer Picon, a French apéritif. (You can see the bottle on the bar. They don’t sell it in the U.S. anymore, so I had to smuggle it home from France). Michael loves a vodka martini: Grey Goose, up, slightly dirty, heavily bruised, with a twist.

versace palm print wallpaper. / sfgirlbybay

Going back to that wallpaper…because I know folks will ask. Who designed it and where can we get it?
The wallpaper is Versace. I searched online to find the perfect palm print, but it wasn’t stocked in the US, so I ordered it from Lancashire Wallpaper in London. It was reasonably priced for a small section of wall and it arrived in under a week.

minimalist wood guitar rack. / sfgirlbybay

How many instruments does Michael play? Who’s his band and how would you describe the music?
He plays guitar and piano. His band is called An Intimate Evening with Michael Shaw. The sound is super harmony-driven ’70s pop. It’s Beatles-esque with nods to Harry Nilsson. He’s releasing his next EP soon.

When he’s not playing the piano or one of his guitars, what’s on your play or podcast list?
Night Moves, Niall Byrne, Andy Shauf, Ducktails, Lemon Twigs, Foxygen. And always Tame Impala, our default setting.

minimalist moroccan bedroom decor inspiration. / sfgirlbybay

You’re both avid travelers. Recent trips? Dream trips?
We just went to Nashville and Memphis, where we had our fill of BBQ, grits, pimiento cheese, ham biscuits, hot chicken, and Bourbon. We also saw Tom Petty play.

It was always Morocco for me, and we finally made it happen in 2015. Michael is set on Tokyo, so that’s probably next. We’re also anxious to explore Les Calanques, a series of inlets South of Marseilles, where you can kayak from beach to beach.

moroccan decor details in bay area home. / sfgirlbybay

How would you describe Mill Valley and the vibe in your neighborhood?
We are lucky to be on the edge of the wild coastal hills. We are minutes from Muir Beach and the trails of Mt. Tam. When we first moved here, the town was a sleepy mix of young families and old hippies. Now there’s a new breath of energy bringing great coffee, restaurants and boutique retail to our little village. It’s a great time to be here.

wood and glass bathroom shelving. / sfgirlbybay

A few must-visit spots when visiting Mill Valley?
Equator Coffee has two locations here now. We frequent the Tam Junction spot at the Proof Lab surf shop, but the downtown location has decadent savory waffles, worth the extra drive. Despite the name, Beer Works has the best food in town these days—super fresh, inspired combinations with a bit of Mediterranean influence. Their maitake toast is sublime. Our other go-to, Molina, recently closed, but the original chef, Todd Shoberg, just took over at El Paseo. His Kennebec fries are addictive. For retail, there are some great eclectic boutiques including 7 on Locust, Pollen + Wool, Summer House, Poet and the Bench and Mint. Also, if you want the best haircut of your life, while sipping an espresso in a lovely, bright space, call Julia Danison at Liberty.

inspiring outdoor patio decor. / sfgirlbybay

I definitely recognize the work of some local artist and maker friends in your home. Who are they?
Noah Elias built our dining banquette and table, as well as a mounted ledge desk.
Windy Chien made the Helix Light above our piano.
Justin Godar made our kitchen island and cabinets, as well as our first coffee table.
Richard Peltzman at RMS made our white oak bathroom vanity cabinet and inset shelves.
Yvonne Mouser made Michael’s guitar stand.
Fog & Fury made the felted pillows in the bedroom.
We also have work from local artists including Rex Ray, Francis Baker and Laureano Faedi.
Amy John is a botanical designer and succulent whisperer who helped me design the rock wall.

hammock with moroccan decor in bay area backyard. / sfgirlbybay

Seriously this place couldn’t be more perfect. But if you had one magic wish for your home, what would that be?
Adding a tiny plunge pool with a fountain, all set in Moroccan tile.

• all photography by leslie santarina.

20 responses to “unexpected guests: jamie and michael.”

  1. Hello, “to covet” is to desire something that does not belong to you- you cannot by definition covet something you already own. Lovely home!

  2. Jamie, Your mom shared with me. Your home is beautiful and full of charm and character. I look forward to one day getting to visit with you when you are in VA. But not ONE Lladro! ha


    • What a lovely piece highlighting such a beautiful venue. Jamie
      and Michael have the eye and soul of artists reflected
      In their charming and lovely home warmest regards cherilyn

  3. Beautiful home tour! Where is that light over the piano and Michael’s guitar stand from? I’ve been looking for something similar to hold all of my boyfriend’s guitars.

  4. Where can I get, or how can I build, a guitar rack like that? Now that I’ve seen it, I can’t possibly display and store my guitars any other way.

  5. TU for the mention! Apologies for being a few years late (!!) seeing that we were mentioned by Jamie as one of her fave places in Mill Valley. We moved recently to Downtown Mill Valley in a gorgeous space on Throckmorton and El Paseo Lane and just launched our ecommerce during SIP. Come say hi!

  6. Hi!

    I’m building a banquet, like in a couple days (in the first home I’ve ever owned). For the longest time your banquet has been my inspiration except that I just found out today that it’s yours! (I’m a big fan of your blog for many years just didn’t put two and two together :)) We’re just about to pull the trigger on wood and I’m undecided Red Birch? Yellow Birch? White Oak? We have similar older oak floors as yours. Would you share with me what wood you used? Natural or a stain? And depth (we have a small space and are trying to decide 21 or 22”). Thank you so much for your response in advance.


  7. Hello! Beautiful home and we are now totally inspired to create our own dining banquette. Any idea where the dining table might be from? It’s the perfect color and leg shape! Thank you!!

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