Get ideas from a creative couple who turned their home into a design lab

Full article: Art House


The garden table is one of many that the couple designed and built for the house. It includes an ever-changing centerpiece: A tapered, square stainless steel pedestal rises through the center of a green glass top – supported on hidden stainless steel arms – and contains a water basin for floating blossoms. An uplight and a recirculating pump give the water an alluring shimmer. (For information on purchasing Reed and Madden’s work, go to Reed Madden Designs ( or 510/384-0804))


A slender row of Equisetum hyemale (horsetail) creates a low “fence” in the front garden that defines the new entry walk. The upright plant grows in an elongated galvanized metal box set into the ground. “We learned their roots are invasive and travel farther and faster than bamboo,” Reed explains. “Besides, they are a bog plant and don’t mind having wet feet.”

The eclectic garden uses Mexican pebbles as a groundcover and is punctuated with yellow- blooming kangaroo paws and purple-flowered hebes. The path zigs and zags through the garden to show off views.


On the front porch, this cast-concrete bench ― designed and built by Reed ― doubles as a storage bin for wood. The 18- by 18- by 40-inch bench features a top made of white cement that has a grid of square openings. The top notches into legs made of multicolored concrete that has a patina. The floor of the porch is covered in green 12-inch square slate tiles.


A pair of recycled, steel-framed windows make a bright, open corner beside the upstairs deck. Madden and Reed designed and built the cabinets and intersecting bench to highlight the view of San Francisco. The vessel-style sink is sunk partway into the ivory-colored, cast-in-place concrete counter. Fir salvaged from the attic forms the cabinet shell and the bench seat and back. The big splurges were the adjustable-height light fixtures from Germany and the nickel-plated faucet.

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Surrounded by small Mexican pebbles, a young sago palm rises from a square, 30-inch-deep stainless steel planter column, one of two flanking the rear stairway. Each planter is built into a square base made of plywood covered with pieces of mitered medium density overlay (MDO) 1-by-8s and metal strips, and each contains a copper drain in its base.


“We like to create places of contemplation, so we built this table as an interior oasis,” Madden says. The 42- by 84-inch table is constructed like the garden one, but with a limestone top. The centerpiece is a 10- by 49-inch overflowing and recirculating trough, perfect for floating blossoms. Two uplights mounted under the trough cast a dancing pattern on the ceiling at night. During the day, sunlight reflects off the burbling surface. The long table seats 10 under a candle-filled chandelier. The base bolts to the floor for stability.


“We found these 5-foot-long terra- cotta drainpipes at a local recycling yard for $5 apiece,” says Madden, who turned them into fence posts. The pipes were put on end and centered around pieces of rebar rising from a concrete footing that follows the property line. Concrete was poured into the pipes to stabilize and strengthen them. The fence is built in sections to stair-step down the slope. Center panels are redwood 2-by-4s framing grids of 1-by-2s suspended from dowels set in the drainpipe posts.