The two men were polar opposites—but they bonded over a shared passion: a small home on a hill in Sausalito, Calif.
a prominent smooth-jazz musician, has a personality to match his genre: He’s a warm, friendly, happy guy who likes to keeps things real but light. He collaborates with artists such as Johnny Mathis and Stevie Wonder, and plays at wineries and on cruises.
John Marsh Davis,
in contrast, was a renowned San Francisco Bay Area architect who cherished confrontation and agitation. His buildings, wineries and houses were eclectic and vibrant, often using wildly different vernaculars in one structure.
Dave Koz was inspired both personally and musically while living in the late John Marsh Davis’s home in Sausalito, California. More than two decades later, he is renting the house again. Photo: Chloe Aftel for The Wall Street Journal.
The home, built in 1906 and renovated in 1975 by Mr. Davis, is a simple wood house, painted blue and hidden from a steep, twisting street by ivy-covered walls. Mr. Davis lived there until his death in 2009. It is now a second home for Mr. Koz, 51 years old, who rents it from Mr. Davis’s niece for $3,100 a month. (A similar-size house nearby sold recently for $1.4 million.)
The one-bedroom, one-bathroom house feels like a boat, with walls of windows that look out to the Sausalito Bay, wood finishes, skylights and a galley-like kitchen. But that boat effect was very different under each occupant: “With Dave, it feels like a schooner in Sausalito. With my uncle, it was like a fishing boat in Japan,” says Mr. Davis’s niece,
who inherited the house. Mr. Koz’s version is calm and serene; Mr. Davis “wasn’t afraid to paint a wall black.”
Like Mr. Davis, Mr. Koz lives on the top half of the two-story, 1,750-square-foot house (a couple rents the bottom). He didn’t change any of the intricately carved wood walls, windows or mantles, and he placed his furniture exactly where Mr. Davis’s had been. But Mr. Koz’s furniture is very different: instead of a severe, cognac-colored leather sofa, he put in a soft, slipcover sofa with lots of pillows; where Mr. Davis had a wood sleigh bed, Mr. Koz has a modern bed with a linen-covered backboard.
The walls went from black to soft pale greens, taupe and soft creams—a palette also used for the upholstery and what Mr. Koz’s designer,
calls “Koz colors” because he used them in Mr. Koz’s primary home in Beverly Hills.
Ivy-covered walls hide the house from the street..
Chloe Aftel for The Wall Street Journal
Mr. Koz grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, and started playing the saxophone in seventh grade to get into his older brother’s band. He practiced hours a day in his room, using it to get through what he calls an awkward adolescence. After college at UCLA, he played with musician Bobby Caldwell and his career took off, with nine Grammy nominations, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and 17 albums. His latest work, “The 25th of December,” will be released Sept. 30.
Mr. Koz initially rented the house in 1993, when Mr. Davis was still living there. The musician had traveled to Sausalito looking for a couple months’ rental to do some songwriting. He met a real-estate agent in line at a deli who knew Mr. Davis had been thinking about leasing. That agent, David Grega, with Decker Bullock Sotheby’s International Realty, said Mr. Davis gave him strict instructions to find someone who would approach the space with a similar creativity. “It was a perfect fit,” says Mr. Grega.
The two months turned into 11 months and Mr. Koz became good friends with Mr. Davis, who would stop by often to visit. Mr. Koz says the house inspired him personally and musically. It was there, during this period, that Mr. Koz came out to his friends and family as gay—something he had been reluctant to do in his industry. It also is where he wrote his album “Off the Beaten Path,” released in 1996.
He describes the architecture as like a symphony, with a flow going through it, and every part telling a story—like the mirror below a skylight that reflects the sun in the day and the moon at night.
Mr. Koz aims to spend about a week a month there; when he can’t make it he looks at photos of the house on his phone. “I don’t need to even be here to access the way it makes me feel,” he says. “If I’m in a bad hotel on a highway in some city, all I need to do is think about this place and it picks me up. There’s great energy here and I tap into it.”
In 1994, Mr. Davis decided he wanted to move back into the home; it would be another 15 years before Mr. Koz was able to live there again.
After Mr. Davis died, his niece offered the house to Mr. Koz as a long-term rental. Ms. Song, a financial planner who lives in nearby Mill Valley with two children, sees the home as a place where she might one day retire. She knew Mr. Koz would take care of the home and love it.
“This is the one great extravagance in my life,” says Mr. Koz. “It doesn’t make any sense on a ledger, but it makes complete sense because of how it makes me feel.”