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Californians at Home: Intimate Portraits by Leslie Williamson

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Californians at Home: Intimate Portraits by Leslie Williamson

March 17, 2018

In chef Alice Waters’s house in Berkeley, California, “a small table…has a view out to her edible garden. This is where Alice likes to start her day, with a cup of tea and some reading,” writes the photographer Leslie Williamson, who visited the Chez Panisse founder (and a dozen other eminent Californians) at home for her new book.

Williamson’s book is titled Interior Portraits, but some of the most telling images are of the gardens that are part of daily life. In addition to Waters’s wild tumble of backyard roses and raspberry bushes, Williamson offers us an intimate tour of the poet Robinson Jeffers’s coastal cottage in Carmel; architect Donlyn Lyndon’s favorite windswept trails at the Sea Ranch, and artist Alma Allen’s desert studio, at the end of a dirt road.

Let’s visit Alice Waters at home, and in the garden, with the author.

Photography by Leslie Williamson.

The perfect paint color to complement the wild purple and plum color palette in Alice Waters&#8\2\17;s garden? Farrow and Ball&#8\2\17;s Carriage Green is on the facade, with dark gray trim.
Above: The perfect paint color to complement the wild purple and plum color palette in Alice Waters’s garden? Farrow and Ball’s Carriage Green is on the facade, with dark gray trim.
On her first visit to Waters’s house a few years ago, Williamson photographed the garden for landscape designer Janet Hankinson, who created an artful mix of ornamental and edible plants in the backyard. Heirloom roses, cherry tomatoes, and a patch of mint are equally at home.

The garden was designed to accommodate the needs of a mature redwood tree (its trunk is visible at left).
Above: The garden was designed to accommodate the needs of a mature redwood tree (its trunk is visible at left).

On her most recent visit, Williamson found Waters working at home and photographed the garden and interiors of the house during a day of “meetings, phone calls, visitors, and more,” she writes. “Yet even with five people milling around, the house was still remarkably peaceful, a classic Craftsman with all its dark woodwork and details restored to their original luster.”

A riot of purple morning glories are in their glory and nasturtiums take up the call at the edge of a winding path in a corner of Alice Waters&#8\2\17;s backyard garden.
Above: A riot of purple morning glories are in their glory and nasturtiums take up the call at the edge of a winding path in a corner of Alice Waters’s backyard garden.
Still life with bird bath; nasturtiums, Alpine strawberries, and rose bushes all bridge the gap between ornamental and edible plants.
Above: Still life with bird bath; nasturtiums, Alpine strawberries, and rose bushes all bridge the gap between ornamental and edible plants.
A brick path is bordered by clumps of exuberant Japanese anemones.
Above: A brick path is bordered by clumps of exuberant Japanese anemones.
Alice Waters looks out onto her garden in Berkeley, California.
Above: Alice Waters looks out onto her garden in Berkeley, California.

For photographer Williamson, “editing the hundreds of images down to the mere twenty or so that will share each person and his or her home story in a compelling and beautiful chapter is one of the challenges of making these books.”

It’s a challenge she met admirably.

A hardcover copy of Interior Portraits: At Home with Cultural Pioneers and Creative Mavericks (Rizzoli) is \$34.43 from Amazon.
Above: A hardcover copy of Interior Portraits: At Home with Cultural Pioneers and Creative Mavericks (Rizzoli) is $34.43 from Amazon.
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