Name: Katie & Soloman
Location: Arcata, California
Size: ~750 square feet inside
Years lived in: 5.5; Owned
Have you ever dreamed of getting away from it all, maybe living in a little house with a big garden, growing your own food, making your own clothes? That's life for Katie and Soloman, whose home in Arcata, a California college town 280 miles north of San Francisco, is full of color and warmth and the sense of a life well lived. There's dinner growing in the garden, clothes hanging on the line, and friends just across the fence. You won't find a TV here — but there is a piano.
Katie and Soloman have a creative, anything-goes approach to food, and the same is true for their home. In their little cottage, they've abandoned precedent to create a unique space that works for the way they live. You might notice that there's no bedroom — instead, they sleep on a Murphy bed in the sewing room. In their own words: "Bedrooms are overrated. Every room has to be multipurpose or it's a waste of a room." (Curtains close off the space for a little privacy when the couple has guests.)
Everywhere you turn, there are scraps of wallpaper (recovered from the home's past), reminders of family and friends, musical instruments, tools, and kitchen tools hanging about. Everything has its own purpose, and everything is loved — it's the friendly clutter of a happy and creative life.
I was introduced to Katie and Soloman through Marianne Brown, whose sister Kate is a friend of Katie and Soloman's. Marianne and Kate create a blog called The Whole Family's Food, which is full of (as you might guess) gorgeous and tasty pictures of food. One day in Arcata, Marianne and Kate went over to Katie and Soloman's for some duck eggs, which is when Marianne took the lovely photos of the house and garden that you see here. You can see more of Marianne's photography on her website.
Here's a little more about the house from Katie and Soloman. On the kitchen:
The kitchen should be a place of working, not of storage. It is your food workshop. It is the workspace that gives you life. The more special it is, the more special your food will taste. If you have all of your implements in front of you, they cannot get lost in the back of a drawer. Focused lights over the work spaces are important, because otherwise you are working in a shadow. Overhead lighting should only be from the sun.
Raw redwood covers every wall in the old houses around here, so we only had to uncover it. Postcards and mail-art make great wallpaper because you surround yourself with messages of love from those who love you. Our friend and mycological super artist chef Willoughby Arevalo made the giant boletus edulis. We got the sink at the scrap yard.
On the living/dining room:
The living room and dining room are the same because really you want to be in the kitchen and the next room over is the next best thing when you are hanging out. This dining room fortunately has a great original built in for the dishes and silverware. We painted the room Benjamin Moore's Ceremonial Gold after the wall at the Morris Graves Art Museum in Eureka, California, after playing a music gig there.
On the luxury of having such a big yard:
The yard brings the farm to the city. A great thing about our place is the outside to inside ratio on our lot for being downtown. There is room to dabble. We've got 15 apple trees, blueberries, asparagus, raspberries, perennial peppers and tarragon in the cold frame, strawberries, hops, annuals, dahlias, bamboo for privacy, and all of our curtain and towel rods, bees, ducks, a dog, a greenhouse, rabbits, a quackaponics system, and more. Our best friends Brooks and Carolyn live through the back gate and when the house came up for sale, we jumped on the opportunity to be so close. Our friend Sean bought the house through the backyard to the south, and we will soon take down the fence between us. If we share, we all get more. We trade help, honey and duck eggs for tools, music, pickles and applesauce with Jim on the north. Our neighbors enrich our lives exponentially and make our home larger than the box it is.
On their decorating philosophy:
You have to surround yourself with things that inspire you. Old bikes, drawers, footprints up the wall. Everyone needs their own creation station where they can imagineer at their own pace and level of chaos without having to pack it up at the end of the day. Albert Einstein is said to have asked, "If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, of what then is an empty desk a sign?" Thomas Edison said, “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: Mixed media.
Inspiration: Moms and dads, Kettle's Yard, Cathedral of Junk, Joseph Cornell, Mexico, Ben Belknap, Brandon White, Mikael Kirkman, The Kinney Family, hitchhiking.
Favorite Element: Carbon because it is in such good stuff and Argon because it is the third most common element in the atmosphere, comprising 1%. Being that it's inert, and it lasts for 2.5 billion years, we all inhale and exhale it without changing the atoms. We have shared atoms of argon gas with everyone and everything that has ever breathed, that breathes now, and that will breathe.
Biggest Challenge: To always choose love over fear, keeping up with the boring parts of life so they don't pile up like the dishes, charging money for art, deciding life's purpose on how to change the world for the better.
What Friends Say: Enjoy every sandwich. Life goes by quickly. Do it now. It's all in how you want to spend your time. Don't let perfection be the enemy of the good. A dream we dream alone is just a dream. A dream we dream together is reality.
Biggest Embarrassment: That the tv beat the piano at the conclusion of the twentieth century.
Proudest DIY: In order for things to get your personal touch, you must touch them personally. It's about self respect and being proud.
Biggest Indulgence: Flush toilets, and the car is a pretty big indulgence too.
Best Advice: Work out your own salvation. And don't expect it to be for sale.
Dream Sources: Foot Fall, Brooks Otis, Mexico, Jody and Barbara, the Bells
Resources of Note:
Thanks, Katie and Soloman! (And thanks Marianne!)
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(Image credits: Marianne Brown)