A Lyrical Balance
Thursday, July 6, 2006
Robert and Inger Gaar’s three bedroom, two bath house near the Monterey Fairgrounds was built in 1941 through the ingenuity and labors of A. Lee Sage and his wife Joanne. They produced a fortressed construction cocooning a home made with the precision normally found in fine musical instruments. Pianos actually. A. Lee Sage was a piano teacher and tuner, Joanne a musician, and their son, Gary, became an internationally renowned piano restoration genius who had Steinway and Sons calling for advice and Alfred Knight of Knight Pianos in London coming to study his technique. Gary also tuned the concert grand pianos and harpsichords for the Carmel Bach Festival for 25 years.
The senior Sages built a two-car garage with a guesthouse on top where they lived while building the main house. True to their gifts, the guesthouse is beautifully refined with tall stairs to a warm, lovely interior and views of the bay through corner windows that also offer views of the US Naval Golf Course. The fixtures in the large bath are all of the era. It’s like being in a cottage in the sky, its use as a fourth bedroom facultative and its inspiration perpetual.
Gary’s family was also raised at 5 Fern St. as it became his piano kingdom thanks, in part, to a palatial addition he created that’s the wonderment of the property. By some wink of life, the present owner, Robert Gaar, does master work himself with a business called “Vintage Restorations” in PG. Gaar says, “I like to say I’m an antique dealer—in houses.” He adds that despite the irony, this house didn’t need his expertise. “It was just as perfect when we bought it as you see it now.” His wife, Inger, brought the front yard and all around gardens into majesty with easy-care fernery and Mexican sage blooming in great spheres and adding high, thin-reed native grasses to symphonic effect.
Inside, each room is unusually satisfying and the whole house “feels” notably good. All the original lift-up windows have finely fluted surrounds, all floors are the original oak, and the kitchen is a treasure of original cabinetry and fixtures. One is hard pressed to find a vintage kitchen as compelling and genuinely beautiful as this is. There’s even a nook (called an exedra) with three lift-ups in a bay where a café table and two chairs stand ready to delay one’s schedule entirely. The house is exceptional for the window placements and from the kitchen and the living room, that means bay views through the solid Monterey front porch and peeks at the fenced lawn and flowers. The fireplace at the far end of the living room is seen from the kitchen as well. Graciously, the bedrooms and bath are not in sight of either.
The placement of doors was done in measured effect, too, with the front entry to the living room, the side door entering the kitchen, and a door from the rear courtyard opening to a large, gracious bedroom. Then the masterstroke. Unseen from anywhere but the courtyard, one discovers Gary’s 600-square-foot, premier restoration sanctuary. Oversized double tiger oak doors swing open to a single exquisite room. Tiger oak wainscoting in concert with the doors surround the oak floor of a slightly lighter shade under the long, peaked roof. The place is now the master bedroom but irrespective of its duty, it’s pure royalty.
Price: $873,250. 5 Fern St., Monterey • Contact Eric Marsh, HomeOffice Real Estate, 655-4708.