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A Design Expert Makes Space for Tools and Memories

  • May 04, 2021

The studio, which is just behind the house, “is who I am,” Mr. Kelley said. The “organized clutter” in the 25-foot-high space includes objects like tools and bicycles, that “bring up a story, or recall a memory.” Its unusual form was not part of the original design, which was a glass box, and was rejected by Stanford planners, who said that the building had to have a pitched roof and wood siding — “which led to something more interesting,” Mr. Jensen said. He designed a cedar rain screen — a waterproof membrane with Eastern red cedar boards over it — that looks as if one side of the roof just kept on going, down and outward. (A separate workshop, for activities like sawing and drilling, is tucked behind the garage.) “The project went from being a remodel with an addition to becoming a total live-work compound. Or village,” said Ms. Grawunder.

Mr. Kelley’s lifelong attachment to meaningful possessions is epitomized by the assemblage of things — including, but by no means limited to, his grandmother’s match holder, a clutch pedal from the Caterpillar factory where he worked as a student, his childhood sled and the Ohio license plates from his family’s car — that are mounted on one wall of the atrium and framed. In his minimalist white bathroom is a Ruth Orkin photograph of Albert Einstein “which I’ve had in my bathrooms since 1988,” he said.

When Sottsass was designing the old house, Mr. Kelley wanted to bring in some of his collections (which also include vintage tractors, pickup trucks and sports cars, like the 1961 Mercedes 300SL convertible now parked in his driveway.) But Sottsass said no. “I will build you a house for the present,” he declared, so Mr. Kelley stored his collections in a barn on the property. “I didn’t want his big ideas watered down by a kid from Ohio,” Mr. Kelley recalled.

“He was Picasso, and who was I to say that he should put more green in the painting?” Still, the maestro, who died in 2007, might have considered that someone whose head is very much in the present (and the future) could also have a heart that cherishes the past.

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