Moving Mountains

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By Aileen Kwun / Published by Dwell
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Rebuilding on a challenging site in Mill Valley, California, a couple optimize a winning view that was there all along.

Jack Dangers and Ellen Corrigan had one cat, a load of oversize vintage synthesizers, and a music library of more than 10,000 records to consider when they decided to build a new home in Mill Valley, California. It was a long haul, but not a long distance, to the finished result: a two-story structure with a standing-seam metal roof, nestled along a cascading hillside where their previous house once stood, with views of Mount Tamalpais to the northwest. A member of the British electronic group Meat Beat Manifesto, Jack had moved to Marin County in the early 1990s after meeting Ellen, who works in digital marketing, at a music festival in San Francisco. 

At the Mill Valley home designed by architect Chris Deam for residents Jack Dangers and Ellen Corrigan, the view begins from the top. Sun studies of the steeply sloped site informed the choice for a standing-seam metal, diagonal ridge roof, which Chris refers to as the home’s "fifth facade". 

At the Mill Valley home designed by architect Chris Deam for residents Jack Dangers and Ellen Corrigan, the view begins from the top. Sun studies of the steeply sloped site informed the choice for a standing-seam metal, diagonal ridge roof, which Chris refers to as the home’s "fifth facade". 

"I met Ellen there—and that was it, really," he recalls. "He told me he was going to move over to the Bay Area, so I made him actually do it!" Ellen adds, with a laugh. For more than 20 years, the couple had lived in a nondescript, one-story midcentury home tucked into the sharp, nearly 45-degree slope. Like other properties nearby, their lot lies in a wildland urban interface (WUI) zone, a designation for sites that are in close proximity to undeveloped areas. 

Together with Nick Dine, Chris also designed the concrete planters, pillows, and powder-coated steel lounge chairs on the front deck; all are part of the Modern by Dwell Magazine home collection for Target. Predominantly native, fire-resistant plantings dot the property, which sits in a wildland urban inter-face (WUI) zone. 

Together with Nick Dine, Chris also designed the concrete planters, pillows, and powder-coated steel lounge chairs on the front deck; all are part of the Modern by Dwell Magazine home collection for Target. Predominantly native, fire-resistant plantings dot the property, which sits in a wildland urban inter-face (WUI) zone. 

"In this area, there are so many environmental factors to your lot," Ellen explains. "You get to know those factors well when you live here for a while—and those are things that you learn to ask about." Though they had grown attached to the home, over the years the couple had also become well-acquainted with its pain points, including drainage problems and groundwater leaks that had begun to take a toll on its structural integrity—most crucially at the back deck, where they loved to host friends. 

After deeming the original structure unfit for renovation, Chris worked with the couple to raze it and rebuild. With the addition of a lower level, the top floor now sits higher, with clarified sight lines. In the kitchen, a pass-through window connects to the deck, where the couple often entertain; Chris, Jack, Ellen, and Lara Deam enjoy the view. 

After deeming the original structure unfit for renovation, Chris worked with the couple to raze it and rebuild. With the addition of a lower level, the top floor now sits higher, with clarified sight lines. In the kitchen, a pass-through window connects to the deck, where the couple often entertain; Chris, Jack, Ellen, and Lara Deam enjoy the view. 

As she and Jack considered other options in the area, along the way they consulted their longtime friends Chris and Lara Deam, who also live in Mill Valley and are familiar with the idiosyncrasies of buying and building there. It helped, of course, that Chris is an architect who had renovated his own home with Lara, who founded Dwell in 2000. 

The barware, candle holders, dining set, lantern, terracotta planters, outdoor seating, and side table are all from the Modern by Dwell Magazine collection for Target. The fire pit is from Restoration Hardware.  

The barware, candle holders, dining set, lantern, terracotta planters, outdoor seating, and side table are all from the Modern by Dwell Magazine collection for Target. The fire pit is from Restoration Hardware.  

The couple toured nearby properties for nearly two years but found that most required extensive updates—and nothing compared to the mountain view outside their window. They resolved to stay put. "We had been talking to Chris for many years about how to restructure the house, and he was super passionate about it. It just made sense to work with him to rebuild here," Ellen says. "And Lara was obviously inspiration for getting the motivation to redesign. Just knowing her pushed me to think more about design and the home." 

Walnut panels make up the floors and ceiling, in a subtle material nod to the former home’s midcentury provenance. Jack and Ellen lounge on a Thayer Coggin sectional, which is joined by a Barcelona chair by Mies van der Rohe and a coffee table by Brad Ascalon; Chris designed the custom built-in shelving.

Walnut panels make up the floors and ceiling, in a subtle material nod to the former home’s midcentury provenance. Jack and Ellen lounge on a Thayer Coggin sectional, which is joined by a Barcelona chair by Mies van der Rohe and a coffee table by Brad Ascalon; Chris designed the custom built-in shelving.

After determining the structure was unfit for renovation, Chris razed it and set out to rebuild it from scratch, repositioning it to include an additional lower level and to enhance the mountain view. The first wall to go was in Jack’s studio, where the only option for getting out a giant, 650-pound synthesizer from 1969 was straight through the side of the house. While Chris worked to complete construction in the following year, the couple rented a home in Sausalito, just 15 minutes away by car. 

The three stoneware vases featuring an abstracted wood-bark pattern are from the Modern by Dwell Magazine collection.

The three stoneware vases featuring an abstracted wood-bark pattern are from the Modern by Dwell Magazine collection.

As an artistic household, the couple held great respect for the creative process and "let Chris do what he does, without putting too many parameters on him," says Ellen. "He definitely pushed us to do something different, and we gave him the freedom to do that—he had the vision." 

Chris designed a custom built-in desk in the den for Ellen, who often works from home. 

Chris designed a custom built-in desk in the den for Ellen, who often works from home. 

With the home’s front entry leading downhill and into the top floor, the architect approached the roofline as "the fifth facade," designing a clean, standing-seam metal structure with nary a fenestration in sight. "There are no vents or stacks coming out of it," says Chris, "whereas in a normal house you have all the ‘chicken pox’—the chimney and all of that." Conducting sun studies of the roof’s impact on the lower deck and working within the constraints they generated helped inform the distinctive roof form, he explains.  

The pillows, wooden animal figures, and tray-top side table near the large window.

The pillows, wooden animal figures, and tray-top side table near the large window.

Bifurcated by a diagonal ridge, the roof geometry is equally striking inside, where warm, neatly delineated planks of rich walnut mirror the floors and converge at an uncanny angle to form the ceiling. "This place is built like a boat," says Chris, who worked with local craftsmen at Braintree Woodworks to execute the highly technical build. 

Webbed-seat chairs by John Vogel bookend an expandable walnut dining table from West Elm.

Webbed-seat chairs by John Vogel bookend an expandable walnut dining table from West Elm.

The upper floor measures roughly 1,000 square feet and contains all of the public areas, centralized around a walnut staircase, which is joined to a long row of custom casework filled with LPs that are now on proud display at the heart of the home. 

The adjacent volume houses the galley kitchen; the Ball clock is by George Nelson Associates.

The adjacent volume houses the galley kitchen; the Ball clock is by George Nelson Associates.

The rich material palette extends from the stairwell and into the adjacent galley kitchen to form what Chris refers to as the "datum line"; in a modern twist on traditional wainscoting, it forms a crisp, trimless border of walnut paneling from the countertops down, with expanses of white above it.

The adjacent volume houses the galley kitchen; the Ball clock is by George Nelson Associates.A portion of Jack’s massive collection of more than 10,000 records is displayed in a low-slung walnut shelving unit built along the upstairs stairwell entry. 

The adjacent volume houses the galley kitchen; the Ball clock is by George Nelson Associates.A portion of Jack’s massive collection of more than 10,000 records is displayed in a low-slung walnut shelving unit built along the upstairs stairwell entry. 

Entering the kitchen reveals the home’s most winning feature—an expansive deck that sits perched atop the new lower level, with framed, elevated views of Mount Tam. "The connection between the indoors and outdoors is such a celebration of the mountain, and of Mill Valley," says Ellen. Furnished with a full dining and lounge set, as well as a gas fire pit, it effectively doubles as an outdoor living room. 

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Downstairs are more shelves of records, the master and guest suites, and Jack’s music studio. 

Downstairs are more shelves of records, the master and guest suites, and Jack’s music studio. 

Downstairs are the master and guest bedrooms and Jack’s sound studio, an audiophile haven flanked by two floor-to-ceiling shelves stacked with even more vinyl. A custom, extra-wide set of double doors—made to accommodate the reentry of his prized vintage equipment—leads to a revamped space that’s filled to the brim with gear. Built with a wood slat ceiling, acoustic wall panels, triple-glazed windows, and walls composed of double layers of Sheetrock sandwiched with mass-loaded vinyl over sound-isolating resilient channels, the studio was designed to be soundproof for Jack, a night owl, as well as for Ellen, an early riser. 

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At just under 2,400 square feet, the home is now flexibly optimized to the couple’s needs. "It’s the perfect size for us, because we use every single room. There’s no forgotten wing here, no unused corner," says Ellen. "The best thing is that Chris knew our kind of crazy—he knew how many pieces of vinyl we had and how important that was to us, and that we had to make it a part of the design." For Jack and Ellen, home is now a place that’s safe and sound. 

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Modern by Dwell Magazine Posture Chair and Ottoman Set
Modern by Dwell Magazine Posture Chair and Ottoman Set
For just $269.99, the Posture Chair and Ottoman Set from Modern by Dwell Magazine is yet another outdoor piece that designers Chris Deam and Nick Dine are excited to share. They were inspired by line drawings and put a lot of thought into perfecting the posture of the chair in order to ensure that the angles were just right—making it ideal for comfortable outdoor living. You can choose to show off the color and lines by leaving it bare (as shown), or you can cover it with a cushion set that comes in either gray or navy.
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Modern by Dwell Magazine Hexagonal Concrete Planter
Modern by Dwell Magazine Hexagonal Concrete Planter
We believe that great modern design should extend to every part of our lives. That’s why we created an extensive number of products for our Dwell x Target collection—even accessories for both indoor and outdoor living. Case in point, the Hexagonal Concrete Planters are clean and graphic containers where you can pot your favorite greenery, either in a sunroom or out on the patio. It’s available in two sizes (small and large), both of which come in a natural gray hue and range from $69.99 to $89.99. The geometric shape allows for a variety of modular arrangements when multiples are grouped together.
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Modern by Dwell Magazine Outdoor Dining Chair
Modern by Dwell Magazine Outdoor Dining Chair
The Outdoor Dining Chairs from Modern by Dwell Magazine for Target feature sleek, slim profiles that take inspiration from line drawings, ensuring that the seats don't obstruct views of the landscape. Ideal for the deck or patio, these minimalist steel chairs have an upright back and raised arms that make them perfect for dining. "The comfort comes from a careful consideration of posture, not thick upholstery," says designer Chris Deam. The Outdoor Dining Chair comes in a two-pack, and cushions are available for extra padding. Photo: Courtesy of Target
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Modern by Dwell Magazine Rectangle Dining Table
Modern by Dwell Magazine Rectangle Dining Table
In designing the outdoor pieces for the Modern by Dwell Magazine collection at Target, Chris Deam and Nick Dine prioritized the ability to integrate with the setting. As Deam explains, "The outdoor furniture is a favorite because of the slim profiles that don’t block your view of the landscape." Made of rust-resistant powder-coated steel, the Rectangle Dining Table features a slim base and a thin profile. It comes with a cap that covers the umbrella hole when not in use. Ideal for entertaining or everyday al fresco meals, the table pairs perfectly with the other outdoor pieces in the collection for a modern, streamlined outdoor setup. Photo: Courtesy of Target
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Modern by Dwell Magazine Wingnut Candleholder
Modern by Dwell Magazine Wingnut Candleholder
Frustrated with candleholders that fail to keep the taper snugly in place, Chris Deam and Nick Dine designed a better solution for the Modern by Dwell Magazine collection, available exclusively at Target. The Wingnut Candleholder features a built-in pin that can be tightened to secure the taper candle, and its copper-tone shine adds a bright accent to the room. The broad, funnel-shaped iron base adds volume and support. The candleholder comes in black and copper finishes and in small and large sizes. Photo: Courtesy of Target
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Modern by Dwell Magazine Terracotta Planter
Modern by Dwell Magazine Terracotta Planter
The Terracotta Planters from Modern by Dwell Magazine come in a number of different colors and configurations (6", 9", 12"), and are perfect to mix and match. With complementary colors on the upper halves and terracotta on the lower halves, they make a modern statement on their own or as a container for small plants or succulents. Place one at the center of your coffee table, or arrange a set on your balcony without taking up too much space.
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Modern by Dwell Magazine Outdoor Side Table
Modern by Dwell Magazine Outdoor Side Table
Designers Chris Deam and Nick Dine took inspiration from line drawings to create the Outdoor Side Table, which features a slim base that provides support without obstructing the view of the landscape. Adding function but not bulk, the powder-coated steel table pairs perfectly with the couch, lounge chairs, and posture chairs in the Modern by Dwell Magazine home collection at Target. The table is available in white and gray to fit in with a variety of patio setups. Photo: Courtesy of Target
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Modern by Dwell Magazine Lantern
Modern by Dwell Magazine Lantern
If you’re looking for a tool to create the perfect ambience for your outdoor dining set, the lantern from Modern by Dwell Magazine will do the trick. Available in small or large in either silver or copper (shown here), it can be hung or placed on the ground or table. Chris Deam and Nick Dine designed it to look like a vessel for light that would evoke the image of a chimney.
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Modern by Dwell Magazine Outdoor Sofa and Cushion
Modern by Dwell Magazine Outdoor Sofa and Cushion
Made for the deck or patio, the Outdoor Sofa from Modern by Dwell Magazine is one of Chris Deam and Nick Dine’s favorite pieces they designed. Available in either white or gray—with navy or gray cushions—it's inspired by line drawings and is built with a comfortable, but slim tube frame. Deam explains, “The slim design doesn’t block your view of the landscape.” Both designers put great consideration into the posture of this piece, rather than letting upholstery dictate the shape.
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Modern by Dwell Magazine Geo Pillow
Modern by Dwell Magazine Geo Pillow
To top off the outdoor furniture from our Dwell x Target collection, designers Chris Deam and Nick Dine created the Geo Pillow, shown here in navy and white. Also available in a green color way, the outdoor pillow comes in a pack of two for only $44.99. The cushion's geometric and mathematical form is echoed across the collection and contrasts well with the furniture's soft, organic curves.
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Modern by Dwell Magazine Stoneware Bark Vase
Modern by Dwell Magazine Stoneware Bark Vase
The Stoneware Bark Vase from our Dwell x Target collection takes a recognizable faux bois print, and puts a modern spin on it by making it black and white. Fusing form and style, it uses over-scaled pixelation to create a digital bark pattern and is available in small, medium, or large. Up-close, the design looks pixelated but at a distance, it snaps into focus—which makes for a fresh and unexpected result.
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Modern by Dwell Magazine Side Table
Modern by Dwell Magazine Side Table
The slanted lip on the Side Table in the new Dwell x Target home collection resembles a holding tray, combining two functionalities in one surface for a furniture piece that is as utilitarian as it is aesthetically sleek. The round tabletop also features a carved notch on the side, designed to organize unsightly cords, and is supported by a slim, tripod metal base. It comes in a black or white/natural finish. Photo: Courtesy of Target
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Modern by Dwell Magazine Owl Speaker Figural in Natural
Modern by Dwell Magazine Owl Speaker Figural in Natural
When tasked with creating something decorative for the new Modern by Dwell Magazine collection, Chris Deam recalled the animal figurines done by midcentury furniture designers. The forms of the resulting designs are guided by function. In the case of the Owl Speaker, which uses the curved shape of its body to amplify music or podcasts from a mobile device, Deam associated sound with the figure of the screech owl—after that, the process called for the "most minimal gesture to capture the essence of the animal." The Owl Speaker is made from solid wood with leather and metallic copper accents. Photo: Courtesy of Target
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Modern by Dwell Magazine Elephant Playing Card Figural in Natural
Modern by Dwell Magazine Elephant Playing Card Figural in Natural
"The process of designing the animals was some of the most fun I had on this project," says Chris Deam about the animal sculptures in the Modern by Dwell Magazine collection for Target. Using the animal figures created by midcentury Scandinavian furniture designers as inspiration, Deam drew a web of associations to connect each to its purpose. Made of solid wood, leather, and metal finished in metallic copper, the Elephant Playing Card Figural references the legendary memory of the pachyderm as a convenient case for a deck of playing cards, playfully combining form and function. Photo: Courtesy of Target
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Modern by Dwell Magazine Whale Coaster Figural in Natural
Modern by Dwell Magazine Whale Coaster Figural in Natural
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Nelson Ball Clock
Nelson Ball Clock
Throughout the midcentury era, George Nelson became known for creating everyday objects in order to help bring modern design into American homes. One of the objects he’s most known for, is the clock. Over a number of years, George Nelson Associates designed more than 150 of them for the Howard Miller Clock Company, who sold them through the 1980s. The first creation was the Ball Clock, which was designed by Irving Harper for George Nelson in 1949 and is still produced by Vitra to this day. Made in Poland, it consists of 12 brass spindles that are finished with solid hardwood spheres. With a high-quality quartz movement, you can choose from colorful options, a natural colorway, or a black and brass version. Photo: Courtesy of Design Within Reach
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