Set in a garden of clambering roses, our charming circa 1903 Mill Valley cottage is an elegant, comfortable home away from home filled with antiques, books, art and a grand piano. It is convenient to all that San Francisco has to offer as well as to the shopping, dining and entertainment pleasures of the Bay Area’s loveliest small town.
Located just 9 miles north of San Francisco across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge in scenic Marin County, Mill Valley Cottage is nestled at the foot of Mt. Tamalpais with its miles of hiking trails, minutes from Muir Woods, the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. The cottage is a short walk to downtown Mill Valley, in the quiet residential Homestead neighborhood, a block from the Miller Avenue shopping district. We are ideally located for easy jaunts to Napa and Sonoma wine country, the spectacular coast of West Marin, and the lively East Bay cities of Berkeley and Oakland. It’s a 2 hour coastal drive to Mendocino and Santa Cruz; 4 hours inland to Lake Tahoe and Yosemite.
Mill Valley Cottage has been a favorite of artists seeking a quiet retreat, couples enjoying a romantic getaway, local residents hosting out-of-town guests, and families and good friends gathering for a special Northern California vacation. It has been featured in numerous publications, including Better Homes & Garden’s Creative Home, American Express Departures, Matchbook, the internationally acclaimed design book California Interiors and the San Francisco Chronicle’s Home Section.
The artist/owners, Philip and Dale Going, have designed a luminous, textured setting for an assemblage of charming furnishings and collections, reflecting decades of eclectic interests and a passionate love of “home.”
The cottage embraces a classic California permeability of indoors and outdoors. Generous windows, French doors, and a glass solarium ceiling flood the interior with warm light, filtered through the verdure of a mature garden whose climbing roses and wisteria clambering over rooftops and arbors. Old-growth redwood walls and beamed ceilings gleam with white enamel. Douglas fir floors are whitewashed to a soft pink glow. Everywhere you look, there is something to sooth and please the eye.
The cottage’s vintage warmth is enhanced and enlivened by an open floor plan, creating an experience of both intimacy and sociable flow, with comfortable places to gather and scatter; to cook, to eat; to relax with books, music, media and nature; to recall the wonderful events of the day and to plan for the wonderful day to follow.
Entering through a rose-covered arbor in a weathered stone trellis wall, Mill Valley Cottage is set in a brick-terraced garden with seating for a tete-a-tete under a cork oak tree. French doors, smothered in a bower of Cecile Brunner roses, open onto an entrance alcove with a direct view through the cottage, aligning with another set of French doors that open onto the rear courtyard garden.
An antique French chandelier with ceramic roses hangs in the entrance alcove above artwork by the owners - Philip’s pen and ink sketches, Dale’s letterpress poetry broadsides. The French doors are flanked by a coat closet stocked with day packs for hiking, rain ponchos and beach gear, and a utility closet with linens, paper products and non-toxic cleaning supplies.
A banquette with down pillows, a French Louis XV style silk brocade love seat, and a 19th century English reading chair circle the living room’s fireplace with duraflame logs. Philip created the coffee table from a single massive plank of salvaged antique mahogany. Built-in bookshelves house a collection of art and design books. A bird’s eye maple dropleaf desk holds Bay Area trail maps and guidebooks. Artwork includes some of our collection of works by Santa Cruz artist, James Turner McElheron.
The living room opens seamlessly into the music room, which features a 5 ft. grand piano and an overstuffed velvet chaise. Philip built the ornate framed mirror over the George Smith style English sofa to reflect a wall of 1920’s steel casement windows, whose green view is softened with antique lace panels that pool to the floor, found in the Tuscan hill town of Orvietto. A gallery wall is hung with a series of Philip’s green landscape paintings in gilded frames.
A step down from the music room is the solarium dining room, with a rough-hewn antique farm table and vintage metal Chinese Chippendale garden chairs. The solarium continues the music room’s windows, wrapping around to the back of the cottage, where French doors open to a porch furnished with teak garden benches, Adirondack chairs and a marble coffee table. The dining room and porch share the solarium roof, covered in white roses and wisteria each spring, and a view of the courtyard garden, with its tinkling, tiered fountain, a favorite of local songbirds, hummingbirds, and visiting toddlers, who find gravel and water irresistible - scoop, toss, splash!
The galley kitchen is a pleasure to cook in – or to tastefully arrange take-out from nearby Whole Foods, the farmers’ market, or one of Mill Valley’s excellent restaurants. Custom mahogany cabinetry is topped with pink marble counters and a clay-fired English butler’s sink. Stainless steel appliances include a Bosch dishwasher, Gaggenau gas cooktop, Italian range hood, electric oven and French door refrigerator with filtered ice and water. Small appliances include a microwave, toaster, Francis-Francis espresso machine, Chemex manual drip-filter coffee maker, coffee grinder, Electric tea kettle, Cuisinart food processor, blender, rice cooker, waffle iron, ice cream maker and immersion blender. There’s a full complement of cookware and bakeware, sharp knives and handy gadgets. The pantry and a vintage cabinet with its original blue paint house Dale’s truly extensive collection of vintage English china circa 1840-1940.
The kitchen’s library/breakfast nook is wrapped in white-washed pine bookcases with a brass chandelier and reading lights replicated from those in the library of Rex Harrison. Here fiction, poetry, cookbooks and reference volumes abound. An antique pine table is drawn up to a Harlequin-cushioned banquette. Residing over all is a blissfully smiling marble Buddha in the window.
Upstairs, the master bedroom has a comfortable, Edwardian-era English mahogany king bed with a hand-made mattress from McRoskey, a venerable San Francisco institution. A wedding cake confection Murano chandelier hangs from the peaked ceiling; flexible halogen lamps provide reading light. Antique Japanese and Chinese cabinets act as nightstands. A shelved closet and a red lacquered dresser store clothes.
A Dutch door opens onto a private sun deck and wisteria arbor. Chaise lounges and a built-in seat make this a perfect spot for morning coffee or afternoon sunbathing, overlooking the rose-covered rooftops and the garden below.
The second upstairs bedroom is furnished with an antique white iron full (double) bed and an Italian marble-topped dressing table. A wall of casement windows looks out on a rooftop covered with climbing roses, a bower of pink blossom in late April and May. A maple-framed wall-size mirror at the foot of the bed enhances the sense of space in this small bedroom.
A large built-in armoire has ample drawers and closet rods, as well as a gas fireplace and flat screen TV. The yellow and white rose wallpaper is a vintage pattern that appeared in the grander setting of Scarlett O’Hara’s home, Tara, in Gone With the Wind.
The first floor media room has a daybed that can be made up as a twin bed. A half-wall behind the daybed opens onto the dining room, where its shelves hold gardening books and a serving counter. A vintage floral chintz drape can be drawn across the opening for privacy.
The first floor bathroom with shower is en suite with this room.
The beds are dressed with memory foam mattress toppers, luxury linens, cotton quilts, down pillows and duvets.
Robes are provided, as well as slippers for this “No Shoes” Policy house.
The shell-pink upstairs bathroom displays an extensive collection of shells and shell-craft, and a delicate brass chandelier found on a beach vacation in Key West. It features a wonderful vintage clawfoot tub with hand-held shower spay. (Shower lovers, please note that the cottage’s only shower is in the first floor bathroom.)
The first floor bathroom has a shower tiled in sea-green glass mosaic, with hand-held and massage shower heads and a steel casement window whose panes of vintage Chicago art glass are patterned in watery tones.
The layout of the first floor bathroom is one of the more unusual design solutions in this cottage with its yacht-worthy use of space. With the doors closed in one configuration, it’s a full-sized bathroom with a generous shower and a red crystal chandelier. Closed a different way, the bathroom disappears and it’s a hallway connecting the kitchen to the media/twin bedroom and the laundry room beyond. This is difficult to describe. But when you see it, you’ll say, “Ah!” It is many people’s favorite clever detail (along with the stair-steps Philip hinged for storage).
Bath amenities include hair dryers, first aid kit, soaps, shampoo, cream rinse, and other toiletries.
Beyond the media room is a laundry room with full-size Bosch washer/dryer, folding counter, iron and ironing board, and room to store your luggage.
The media room/twin bedroom has a 42” Plasma HDTV with home theater sound system, CD and DVD players, and a stereo jack for your personal music device.
The full bedroom has a small LCD HDTV with DVD player. There’s a CD stereo in the breakfast room.
Media include WiFi, a selection of CD’s and DVD’s, and premium cable including HBO and Showtime.
Low-tech entertainment options include Scrabble, cards, and wooden puzzles.
Garden and Grounds
Mill Valley Cottage is surrounded by Philip’s long-evolving garden of roses, wisteria, hydrangea, herbs, Mediterranean perennials and California natives.
Along with the brick terrace in the small front garden and the deck off the master bedroom, the cottage’s exterior space includes the furnished back porch and the rear garden with its graveled courtyard and fountain.
To the left of the courtyard is a narrow building with French doors, its rooftop covered with roses and autumn clematis, which houses the cottage’s laundry room as well as Philip’s painting studio and an office where our bookkeeper works occasionally on weekdays.
A sidewalk to the right of the cottage leads to the rear garden courtyard and beyond that to another small cottage and private garden that is the on-site residence Philip shares with his Tonkonese cat, New Moon. There is occasional foot traffic past Mill Valley cottage to reach Philip’s home and office.
We are very respectful of the privacy of visiting guests. We expect you to regard the cottage and its gardens as your home. We keep our comings and goings as unobtrusive as possible.
That said, Philip is a delightful and knowledgeable host who would be happy to chat with you about recommendations for making the most of your stay in the Bay Area - anything from where to eat to the best trails to hike on Mt. Tam for the time of year, length and effort of hike, etc. Feel free to call him on his cell, or give a shout if you see him walk by.
Traveling with Children
Children are most welcome.
Please note, however, that there are many French doors and windows, as well as low glass cabinets, that could be a hazard to careening toddlers.
And, because most of the upholstery fabrics and the antique carpets are of unforgiving materials, we request that art and food activities be limited to the tables in the kitchen, the dining room, and the porch.
A pak-n-play portable crib is available in the master bedroom closet.
There is a neighborhood playground a couple of blocks away.
Bits of Business
Arrival is 3 p.m. or later; departure is by 11:00 a.m. If that doesn’t work for you, please ask and we’ll see what’s possible.
Sorry, no shoes in the house, no pets, no smoking.
Parking is on the street. There is often a spot directly in front of the property just before our neighbor’s driveway. If it’s available, that’s the spot to grab, as it makes for very easy parking and leaves space behind it for Philip’s car.
We have a cat. Cats nap. Everywhere. Every chance they get. Including, occasionally, in Mill Valley Cottage, when it’s not otherwise occupied. So although the cottage is kept scrupulously clean, we can’t guarantee a dander-free zone.
While Mill Valley cottage is not ADA compliant, it is on level ground with only two steps up to the house, a step down to the dining room and the porch. There is a first floor bedroom and bathroom with shower.
If there’s anything we haven’t thought to mention, please ask!