“You just sort of gulp,” Marino explains of projects like the sprawling 1916 San Francisco mansion that he labored on for more than three years, overhauling its nearly two dozen rooms for effervescent East Coast transplants with three teenagers, two French bulldogs, and a passion for pedigreed real estate.
“It was a Herculean task,” Marino continues. “There was no roof, the exterior walls were under boarding, and there were no floor slabs. It all looks so pretty now, but it was painful.” And, he quips with a laugh, “if there’s an earthquake anywhere in North America, from Vancouver to Teotihuacán, for God’s sake run here.”
Not only is the house in the city’s Pacific Heights enclave, one of the most theatrical residences ever conceived by the genius society architect Willis Polk, the Spanish Renaissance Revival palacio—wrapped around a two-story courtyard crowned with a vast glass roof—had long been home to one of Marino’s friends, Georgette “Dodie” Rosekrans.
The husband and wife also possessed phenomenal sangfroid, accepting with barely a blink the seismic requirements that demanded gutting the house and driving concrete pilings 30 feet into the ground.
She was a tiny, couture-clad movie-theater heiress, while her husband, John, was a Spreckels sugar–fortune scion who also manufactured, of all things, Hula Hoops and Frisbees. As for the four-story house where they lived from 1979 until their respective deaths (his in 2001, hers in 2010), it’s been described, with good reason, as the most beautiful house in America.