Today I took a walk with my friend Anna, and felt myself merge with the oneness of the Universe as I surrendered to the quiet stillness of the redwoods deep in the Oakland Hills. I witnessed myself as the Universe through my breath, and through the words I spoke into the woods. I realized I was having an epiphany. An epiphany that the story of life is being written through me, and that the magic of being a beauty maker happens when I can tap into that knowing as I create anything… and especially when I’m creating interiors for my clients.
For the past nearly two years, we have been working on a special project that has stretched me into new levels of creativity and leadership. We are infusing new life into a Maybeck Craftsman home in Berkeley, formerly inhabited by the late famed author Ursula K. Le Guin and her father Alfred Louis Kroeber, the anthropologist who started the department at UC Berkeley. Our goal is to maintain the integrity of this original craftsman while designing it in a way we imagine they would approve of. We are getting to work with clients who deeply appreciate quality, and are willing to invest in pieces made by true artisans who have honed their crafts just as Ursula did, over time and with soulful intention. Many of the vendors we work with inherited their crafts through their respective lineages. The slow art of creating beauty over time with mindfulness and excellence, exactly how I like it.
“If I recall my childhood, I recall that house. Writing this, I wonder if much of my understanding of what a novel ought to be was taught to me, ultimately, by living in that house. If so, perhaps all my life I have been trying to rebuild it around me out of words.”
– Ursula K. Le Guin
Included throughout the rest of this blog are images from our design inspiration presentation, which we based on the history of the home and Ursula’s love for the Bay Area, stretching into rural Napa Valley before it became what it is today. During our design inspiration process, Hannah Gipperich, who has been an instrumental part of this project as a designer and project manager, brought forward the concept of using regions of the Bay Area to fuel our vision for the home. We contemplated the idea that each room represents the feeling tone of various regions throughout the Bay. History and characteristics of the land and its indigenous people were incorporated through color palettes and materials, as well as the beauty that Ursula references frequently in her work. We feel the same connection to this landscape, and pay respect to the tribes who were forcefully removed from their homes. The Shuumi Tax is something we contribute to annually in reverence to the native Ohlone people, which we wrote about in our 2022 blog, All I Want for Solstice.
“Growing up in the hills on the edge of the continent, looking out to the west must have been influential. Berkeley was a beautiful place in which to live. The light reflecting off the water, the fog, the massive groves of trees… it was a magical place.”
– Ursula K. Le Guin
In the process of working on this project, I have been met with opportunities for growth I haven’t encountered before. I have stepped into a version of myself who is far more expanded than I was before my team and I embarked on this journey. But not simply for all the reasons I would have expected. Yes, I have had to stretch into being even more of a Beauty Maker, taking responsibility for handling countless custom details. But the biggest surprise came out of left field after my walk, when I stumbled upon a copy of Ursula K. Le Guin’s interpretation of the Tao Te Ching.
“True leaders are hardly known for their followers. Next after them are the leaders. The people know and admire; after them, those they fear; after them, those they despise. To give no trust is to get no trust. When the work’s done right, with no fuss or boasting, ordinary people say, ‘Oh, we did it.'”
– Lao Tsu, as interpreted in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Tao Te Ching
I thought this project was just about getting to create a truly bespoke interior, but as I stood in the woods taking in the beauty, I recognized a deeper meaning for me as I have researched the story of the history of this home, and the truly notable people who inhabited it. Whenever I visit the house, I can feel the essence of Ursula’s spirit. After watching the PBS special about her life journey and learning the topics she explored with her extraordinary imagination, I feel humbled and honored to be bringing our soulful, intentional designs to a home so infused with the energy of Ursula and her luminary family. It all made sense when I learned that she grew up with her father’s copy of the Tao Te Ching.
I will share more in the months ahead because there is much to say about the joy and the emotional richness of working on such a project. But even at this point, my biggest takeaway from the human experience of designing and building a home with so much soul is to understand that we are woven together through history and time, and stories are what unite us as humanity. The story of Ursula’s life, her activism, her spiritual practice, her willingness to stretch into unchartered territories during her life, allowing her imagination to create worlds of mysticism and fantasy, are incredibly meaningful to me. This discovery has inspired me to read her interpretation of the Tao Te Ching, and has infused in me a new passion for stretching my own spiritual practice and creativity, and letting my own imagination run wild with what else is possible.
What else is possible? How does it get any better than this? These are questions I ask myself daily, and they are met with a renewed vigor to create from taking in the story of Ursula’s life. What a joy to introduce new life and craftsmanship into the home where she grew up, in service to clients who love and appreciate quality on this level. Being a beauty maker stretches to new depths when I attach meaning to it that inspires me.
By Laura Martin Bovard.