Embedded in one wall of the living room is an antique cypress wood tansu built to store futons. The depth is perfect for hiding a TV. Above is a slate mantle with a slight curvature that mimics a curvature of the wooden deck railing above the Japanese garden.
Above the tansu is an exhibition area with a collection of cherished ceramic pieces. The greatest treasure is the smallest: a seemingly unassuming little piece that Brown scored while on a pottery tour of Japan. Not much more than a foot tall, it’s an asymmetrical incense burner with a lid that looks like old iron but is actually wood.
“I just rocked. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Brown said as he held up his award.
When his traveling companions saw what he had, they too rocked. It turned out to be a piece of Kakurazaki, “a living national treasure”.
Brown collects Japanese art from multiple sources, whether Japanese Americans working here or Americans working in Japan.
“Each piece means something,” Brown said, whether it’s something he inherited from his parents or something he collected, from a well-known artist or someone of more modest fame.
Many small details helped Brown bring a bit of Japan to Bodega Bay. The cupboard doors are made of bamboo or are light wood summer doors from Japan. Shoji screens let in light while providing privacy. A round moon window at the kitchen end of the kitchen provides a beautiful setting for the backyard koi pond and a shadow of camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas.
There are tansus for every purpose. A mizuya made for the kitchen serves as a sideboard in the dining room, where Brown had a table custom-made from an antique Japanese door. A kaidan, or step chest, in the entrance serves as additional display space. But at one time it would have served as an interior ladder. And just inside the doorway is a geto bako, or shoe cabinet, though Brown has long since abandoned the practice of removing his shoes upon entering his home.
A very Japanese feature is a tokonoma, a traditional interior alcove created to display flowers and artwork and perhaps a parchment and piece of pottery. Each piece is carefully selected. Brown has one in his dining room.
A special pole is incorporated into it, made from a tree Brown and DeVee salvaged from the beach that had been polished by the waves. Such pieces are often found in tokonomas.
Brown said he often sits in a chair in the living room and gazes through his art-filled space to the tokonoma and feels a deep sense of appreciation for a home that so beautifully reflects and contains everything ‘he likes.
A perfect little garden
Brown started his Japanese garden almost as soon as he sold his Berkeley home and began building his dream Japanese art gallery in Bodega Bay.
The door is open during the gallery’s opening hours, an invitation to visitors to walk through an enchanted world of expertly trimmed conifers and serpentine paths with bends offering different views. At the entrance is a large piece of Johnson, whose signature is typically redwood accented with copper detailing.
Johnson performed the piece for an event at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts where Japanese Americans gave thanks for the support they received from the community while incarcerated in relocation camps during World War II. World War.
Brown curated the exhibit and was captivated by this piece, made of metal with a carved juniper tree growing in the middle. When one of his gardeners complained about the Asian pear tree he had grown at the entrance, he knew exactly which piece needed to replace it. And luckily, Johnson still had the Japanese garden sculpture.
Brown was looking for the best in pruning. The precise carving of trees is a fundamental characteristic of Japanese gardens. Michael Alliger, an aesthetic master tailor who for many years tended the exquisite garden at Osmosis Spa in Freestone, also tends to Brown’s much smaller garden.
Alliger said Brown’s garden is “very authentic.
“Having trees that stand out as the primary function of the garden rather than secondary plants, and the winding path for you to walk through the garden the garden reveals itself to, as well as the use of rock”, are all characteristics of the traditional Japanese. gardens, he said.
Trees, like the Japanese black pine, are carefully pruned to open them up and show off the trunk and branching structure. It’s not difficult, Alliger said, but it takes a lot of focus, focus and timing.
“It’s almost every month of the year here,” Brown said of the garden, which he happily shares with anyone who wants to peek and feel its serenity. “There are different things that are blooming. But the strength and power of the shaped tree is what holds it all together and makes it unified.
You can contact editor Meg McConahey at 707-521-5204 or [email protected] On Twitter @megmcconahey.