Tour the California Beach House that Once Belonged to Jerry Garcia
A Northern California beach house with a serious rock-and-roll pedigree finds its 21st-century groove.
By Mimi Read
1 of 11Photo: Erin Kunkel, Styling by Liz Strong
Set atop a sprawling bluff in Stinson Beach, California, an oceanfront hamlet about 20 miles north of San Francisco, is a 1940s ranch house with a psychedelic past. And it's a lineage that could only have happened within the force field of the Haight-Ashbury: Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead used to own it. Even before he bought it in 1971, a sign carved on a tree outside the property dubbed the place Sans Souci, meaning "without a care."
Pictured: The living room opens to a deck over-looking the Pacific. Inside, many of the furnishings hail from a similar era as the house, including a lacquered blue coffee table by 1940s designer James Mont, Mies van der Rohe cantilever chairs, and a vintage Moroccan rug.
2 of 11Photo: Erin Kunkel, Styling by Liz Strong
The singer-songwriter and icon of the hippie counterculture lived in the house for most of the decade. Garcia made at least one album in a still-standing recording studio and was known to wander around the garden playing a banjo, with the Pacific stretching out behind him. Today, decades after that lyrical heyday—and after a previous renovation stripped out much of the cottage's soul—the home has reawakened, thanks to its newest owners and their designer, Allison Bloom.
Pictured: The granite fireplace and bluestone patio overlooking the ocean are original to the property. The teak furniture is by Henry Hall, and the striped cushion fabric is by Perennials.
3 of 11Photo: Erin Kunkel, Styling by Liz Strong
Bloom has built a West Coast clientele of young rule-breakers and creative families, like this couple, "who aren't looking to keep up with the Joneses," she says. "They're nonconformist, they're fun, and they wanted something interesting that expresses who they are." So while neither she nor the owners wanted the house to be a shrine to Jerry Garcia, they did see the era as a jumping-off point for creating a beach escape for the family and their frequent houseguests.
Pictured: Northern California–based designer Allison Bloom in the doorway of the guesthouse (aka Jerry's room)
4 of 11Photo: Erin Kunkel, Styling by Liz Strong
Lively Living Room
Bloom took inspiration from the California of the 1960s and "70s, "when India's textile influence was on the rise, and surf culture was unconventional and free." The Beach Boys and Beatles were on her mind; in fact, she took her dreamy, vibrant palette of bright oranges, yellows, hot pinks, and turquoises straight from the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band satin military coats. "I can get pretty nerdy about research," says the Stanford-educated decorator. "I got interested in what the influencers of the day were wearing and doing."
Pictured: A daybed in the living room is upholstered in a shibori tie-dye velvet. The ceramic disk wall art is by Michele Quan.
5 of 11Photo: Erin Kunkel, Styling by Liz Strong
In the main house, Bloom ripped out the entry's glossy marble floor in favor of patterned cement tile designed by artists in Morocco. For an aged feeling, she planked some of the walls in cedar she had burned with a blowtorch (an ancient Japanese technique for preserving wood called shou sugi ban). "The rooms needed warming up," she says. "The previous owners had raised the ceilings to the roof beams. Normally I'm a fan, but here it created these very high-pitched ceilings in all the wrong spots, which made some spaces feel cold. The cedar made the house feel smaller in scale, more like the beach cottage that it is."
Pictured: Preserved cedar paneling is a warm, earthy backdrop for an arrangement of mod box shelving.
6 of 11Photo: Erin Kunkel, Styling by Liz Strong
Far-Out Dining Nook
For furnishings, she turned to bold vintage pieces from the late midcentury, including the dining room's wildly modernist rattan chairs and the living room's candy-colored lacquer coffee table, a smooth jolt of ocean-inspired turquoise. Indigo and shibori textiles mix with natural-fiber rugs, rattan pendants, and hanging chairs, which add the earthiness that has long been a part of Northern California decor, especially in Stinson Beach. Bright, wall-mounted surfboards and playful macramé hangings lighten the mood and deepen the time warp.
Pictured: Bloom upholstered a set of barrel dining chairs from Jayson Home in vintage floral Indian kanthas she found at a flea market. The Saarinen table is by Knoll, and the art is a reproduction of a 1980s serigraph from midcenturyart.com.
7 of 11Photo: Erin Kunkel, Styling by Liz Strong
Bloom also brought two outbuildings on the property back to life, starting with yanking out Garcia's black bath in the recording studio. She transformed the ebony space into a light, spirited guesthouse with simple, colorful changes: namely, painting the walls and floors (a pure white and a brilliant shade of blue, respectively) and turning a prominent corner into an ebullient Turkish lounge using shipping pallets, custom mattresses, and a mix of jewel-toned pillows made from vintage Indian silks and linens. A trio of woven pendants dangles from the aged-wood rafters.
Pictured: Bloom turned the former recording studio into a guesthouse and lounge. She crafted a sectional out of old wooden shipping pallets, and painted the floors Venezuelan Blue by Benjamin Moore. The ladder leads up to a small sleeping loft.
8 of 11Photo: Erin Kunkel, Styling by Liz Strong
Laidback Bunk Room
"I tried to give the house soulfulness and optimism," says Bloom, adding that much of that character was there all along—just dormant, waiting to rise again. "You know, I never had any trouble getting people out to work on the project. The carpenters, plumbers, and painters were always unusually happy. Not to be too California woo woo about it, but this house has some amazing energy."
Pictured: The bamboo bunk beds in the kids' room were vintage finds at Elsie Green. The kaleidoscopic pendant drum shade is from Summerhouse.