Pacific Grove Wonderland
Thursday, January 6, 2005
Robin and Corky Johnson live in a house on a hill above Monterey Bay, encompassed by an old stone wall, its thick spill of rosemary fulminating overhead. Looking up through the high wrought-iron gate, up the sets of stairs, up past the expansive veranda to a single glass door that reveals nothing but reflections, an adventure seems afoot.
On the other side of the looking glass door, reality shifts into the peerless wonderland of Robin and Corky, possibly the happiest retired couple in town. “We just have a ton of fun living here,” says Corky, the lady of the house. “Of course, it didn’t come in one piece,” says Robin. “It took a year and a half from the time the whole house was lifted up and a foundation poured till the place was finished.” Though built before WWI, the house seems meant for them.
It waited unceremoniously through the Roaring Twenties, the Depression and the boom of sardine factories on Cannery Row, when everything was inundated by what some called ‘the smell of prosperity.’ Through it all—including hippies and yuppies—the house stood either well-looked after, empty, or falling into decay, as when the Johnsons bought it. It was worth the wait.
Two stories tall, in the style of important homes of the era, the exterior is gray/green with white trim, a stately presentation. But beyond the glass door there must be a white rabbit somewhere. Deep purple walls and a box-beam ceiling, so great for upside down tic-tac-toe, introduce the treats to come, each room tastefully thematic to the max. The purple living room is gorgeous and vast with a fireplace and many big windows for the rising sun on the bay. There are thirty eight windows in all.
Up the original staircase are two bedrooms and baths. The master is plum with floor-to-ceiling windows that seem to make one suddenly tall, laying the bay at one’s feet. The small guest room is deep moss and, like the rest, superb detailing is too plentiful to list. But one must note the master bath floor.
Downstairs, the dining room is the color of mild curry with two tall stained glass hangings over the picture window looking onto a side garden. Blink once, the windows are art, blink twice, the windows are clear. It’s not a dream. The stained panes swing away.
Corky’s delicious apple-green kitchen is replete with state-of-the-art appliances and floored with battleship linoleum “guaranteed to last two hundred years,” she says. Robin explains this super tough material was used for Navy war ships and isn’t a color designation. “We’ve lived on this battleship for seven years now and love it,” he says. French doors eight feet tall, removed to expand the living room, are reinstalled under even higher glass at the end of the kitchen. Beyond those portals yet another vision begins.
There, an immense private back yard stretches far to a secluded, diminutive studio with original plank floors and stunning decor. Like the big house, the gardens with meandering stepping stones and remarkable fireplace, giant teak tables and chairs and little antique ones, anywhere everywhere is just perfect for ‘half a cup of tea, please.’