While I visited my family in Santa Cruz, we took a day to drive down the coast to visit one of their favorite restaurants in Big Sur, Nepenthe. The restaurant is a major tourist destination now but has a long and rich history as an artist community spot since it was built. I puzzled and ammused my aunt by asking to sit inside the building rather than on the patio – its a lovely and inventive wood and glass structure that seems to cling to the cliff edge. Over lunch we wondered aloud what growing up in a place like that might give a person – what artistic and creative freedom. Then when we stopped into the beautiful gift shop after the meal I found it packed with Kaffe Fassett quilts and pillows and his autobiography in a big display pile and realized he was one of those kids. I’ve love his knitting and quilting books since I was a teenager and made a quilt inspired by his Glorious Patchwork book for my freshman dorm room bed.
On the way back we stopped to spend the afternoon wandering Carmel. I know this is some of the most expensive real estate anywhere but I was very impressed with how humble the scale seemed. The lots and buildings were small and they must have truly draconian building and zoning codes to prevent new buildings from stretching upwards to snatch a little more view. As it is, the gently sloping hill lets each successive street of small and beautifully crafted houses have its own glimpse of the ocean and I found it remarkable how little of the McMansion I found as we wandered the neighborhood. The whole area should be cited as an example of “not-so-big” design in action. Not inexpensive, to be sure, but very well designed.