It's not the iffy San Francisco weather that keeps Pamela and Richard Kramlich indoors most of the time. Two of the world's foremost collectors of media art, they have filled their house with avant-garde video works. A screen in the living room displays Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle, starring the artist as a satyr, a diva, a magician and a giant. Bill Viola's The Greeting, a slow-motion staged version of a Renaissance painting, plays in another room. (Part of their 280-plus-piece collection will be on view next month at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.)
All that time spent indoors and in the dark helps explain why the Kramlichs are so passionate about the outdoor kitchen in the garden of their weekend home in the Napa Valley. Perched on a knoll, the house has expansive views of the vineyards around it. But it's too small for the big parties the Kramlichs like to givewhich is one reason they decided to build an outdoor kitchen. "Also," Pam explains, "we liked the idea of the chef being part of the experience, rather than hidden away in the kitchen." And they welcomed the opportunity to bring guests into their garden. Created over a decade ago by famed landscape designer Roger Warner, it is a serene space of pale greens and grays, based on the ethos "simplify and repeat," with closely cropped boxwood and spheres of lavender and bush germander.
In 1998 Pam turned to a friend, Paul Bertolli (now chef at Berkeley's Oliveto), and charged him with creating the new kitchen. "You know the garden, and you know equipment," she told him. "Design what you need." Bertolli placed a wood-burning pizza oven, a grill and two propane burners along the back of the kitchen; in front, facing the view, he installed a long, angled counter with a sink, refrigerator and freezer. Gray and ocher stone from the property and concrete and plaster stained in pale tones with matte finishes make sure the look fits into the garden's muted color scheme. Anything shiny, like the metal refrigerator, is hidden below the counters behind wooden doors. Stereo speakers and lights focused on the counters are secreted in live oaks nearby. The kitchen seems to have grown out of the hillside.