Open House: Marla and Cate’s Noe Valley Views

Friends come and go. It’s just the ebb and flow of life, and it’s perfect. Because people change over a lifetime, sometimes dramatically, and sometimes the new you doesn’t get along with your old friends. But my friend Marla and I didn’t evolve away from one another. Circumstances just got the best of us; life swept us in different directions. Other than a chance  encounter in a random diner in the South Loop 13 years ago, we completely lost touch. For years, I’ve been looking for her, googling her name and calling disconnected numbers. I even Asked Jeeves. But other than an article she’d written during a college internship, I found nothing. Frankly, I wondered if something might have happened to her. Sure, it’s a horrible thought, but horrible things happen in this world. (Remember Domino?)

I grew so desperate in my search that several years ago I even tracked down the people organizing her class reunion (we went to different schools) but to no avail. Even Facebook proved fruitless. At least until one year ago when the social network finally grew powerful enough to entangle Marla Marcianelli in its insidious web. I was shocked when her name popped up and I excitedly dashed off a quick note. She accepted my e-friendship within a few hours, but she didn’t reply. One day passed, then two.  So I sent her another message: I can see by your rapid response that you were excited to hear from me after all these years. Or something like that. It was only then that Marla realized that I was the same impatient, sarcastic SOB I’d always been, and she phoned me promptly.

Marla and Cate, whom I’d actually met briefly at that South Loop diner, had gotten hitched and settled down in San Francisco’s lovely Noe Valley. But I soon learned they’d lived at most five or six blocks away from my Edgewater condo in Chicago for several years in the early zeroes. Five blocks! During that same period, I’d seen Oprah designer superstar Nate Berkus twice at Scout. (Twice!). Soon after we reconnected, Marla visited Chicago and stayed with me. Inspired by the T she slept under, Marla even bought a large salvaged letter M from Mariano at Agent Gallery. Hanging out with Marla and Cate was largely why I spent so much time in San Francisco during my recent visit, and I was very happy they agreed to an Open House.

Located atop a hill nestled among hills in the neighborhood bordered by the Castro and Mission Districts, Marla and Cate’s late teens, early twenties-era, one bedroom apartment might feel like a traditional Chicago unit were it not for the spectacular views of the nearby hills, downtown and the Bay. Their kitchen has an original stove and sink, and the pantry’s still intact. Unlike their upstairs neighbors, Marla and Cate’s place even has a separate water closet, a toilet at the end of a long, narrow room with a small window at the end and an old-fashioned chain flush toilet. Who knew trying to turn on the light could be so noisy? (Not to mention the wasted water). Just out the front door and down a block is Noe Valley’s commercial strip. And just a short walk down a steep hill in the other direction is the neighboring Mission District’s very hip Valencia Street, which has home stores galore (some of which I’ll post about over the next couple of weeks).

Neither Marla nor Cate obsess about interior design, but they love beautiful things and sensual comforts that make life not just bearable but pleasurable. For example, each of them has a little fur rug next to their side of the bed, and according to Marla, feeling the softness under her toes helps her start the day off on the right foot (so to speak). And the girls (sorry, grrrlz) love their cats so much they bought a carpeted kitty staircase, so the eldest (15) can still get in the bed to sleep with them. That’s why I call kind design, and I say, I say, I do believe I like it.

On one of my first nights in San Francisco, Marla and Cate prepared a delicious homemade dinner (spaghetti bolognese with an orange and fennel salad), which they served by candlelight in their gorgeous dining room (the original wainscoting intact). The kitchen window was open, the music was mellow and the conversation was so easy. While the topics had changed, the energy was exactly the same. And I realized that I had to be dreaming, because everything was too perfect. But some things just are.

Click here for past Open House tales.

Recalling my vignette roundup post, Marla told me this was her favorite.

This was staged for comedic effect, but I’ll confess that there may be a tiny kernel of truth in the joke.

I bought this as a birthday gift for Marla at San Francisco’s The Other Shop.

Cate at Roswell

Cate and Marla

The old days

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7 Responses to “Open House: Marla and Cate’s Noe Valley Views”

  1. Great original kitchen – I think people pay big bucks for those stoves now. I love the rug under their dinig room table!

  2. There’s lots to like in this apartment. And the views are amazing.

  3. Thanks Tate! I love their apartment and look forward to visiting again. The toilet is a hoot!

  4. I love that place…especially the kitchen and all the cool lights in the bedrooom. Water closet pic please!!

  5. Noe Valley is a great area!!! And their apartment is really sweet and alive.

  6. Wowee! I was so enthralled with the rugs in the living room and dining room I didn’t even notice the views. Can I ask where they got the poster called “A Signal from Mars”? Marla and Cate look like great friends. don’t let them get out of signal range again.