Over the years, I’ve lived in diverse locales around the globe, from big cities and teeny villages to remote areas of mountains, lakes, seasides, and deserts; places from modern apartments and vintage houses to hotels or conference centers that seemed like permanent homes for awhile.
Those that were really interesting have found their way into my books. For instance: my eclectic studio apartments in New York City and Algiers became Cat’s abodes in The Eight; my freezing-cold basement flat in Idaho became Ariel’s underground pad, buried in snow, in The Magic Circle; my all-white, orchid-filled photographer’s penthouse in Denver transformed itself into Verity’s glamorous San Francisco aerie in A Calculated Risk. While several formerly creepy locales, located in the (now restored) alley behind my former riverfront apartment in Washington, DC, miraculously transformed themselves into Alexandra Solarin’s open-hearth workplace, and her unique living space in The Fire.
As for my actual residences, which I rented or owned, the only common elements have been: lots of indoor greenery; lots of art (African, Native American, Oriental); and lots of books!
I’ve shared photos and stories of some of these places here, click on each house to read further.
I saved a house that had been hand-built, in the 1960s, by Teruo Hara, a famous Japanese potter from the Corcoran School of Fine Arts, and his students. When Mr Hara died in the 1980s, the grounds and buildings– house, studio, pottery and kilns–went through a long period of neglect, and then had been boarded up for many years. The property was targeted by developers for demolition and grading, to use as a site for clustered townhouses.
In the 1980s, while working in San Francisco, I rented a 600-square-foot tree house on a hillside estate, high above the fishing village of Sausalito, overlooking San Francisco Bay. The tree house was surrounded by acacia trees, giant eucalyptus trees grew through the decks, and the steep driveway up to our gravel parking lot was lined with 30-foot-high hedge of night blooming jasmine. It was like a houseboat surrounded by a deck, that had somehow landed in the trees. I awakened every morning before dawn to the sound of sea lions barking on the rocks of the Bay below.
Because Santa Fe, New Mexico, is in “the high desert,” people often imagine that it’s hot and dry like neighboring Arizona. But Santa Fe is chilly–at a 7000 foot altitude, nearly a mile and a half high, up in the Rocky Mountains–we’d get four-foot deep snowfalls, even as late as mid-April!
For fifteen years I lived in a Gothic house presided over by Tyger my cat and Esmé the resident ghost. Each Hallowe’en, more than 100 children would arrive to receive apples, oranges, nuts and chocolate kisses.