My friend Thayer Allyson Gowdy is one of the most talented and hard-working photographers I know. But she’s also a pretty incredible visionary. So, when I heard the rumors that she was working on renovating a beat-up old place in Bolinas, my need for inside info got the best of me. This past fall, I was able to stop by and check out the light-filled sanctuary she now calls Camp Wilder, her home, studio and venue.
To say this place has good energy is an understatement. Light pours in from every angle, healthy plants fill corners and countertops, plush vintage Moroccan rugs and tons of natural wood and woven textures fill the spacious rooms. There are nooks and hidden rooms and the house seems to meander till you reach a hammock strung across a balcony or the wide-open outdoor entertaining area.
Thayer’s been working on getting Camp Wilder up and running for the past two years and is now hosting retreats and renting the space as a workshop destination and photo studio. As for that whole thing about her being a visionary, we’ll let you decide what you think about that once you’ve seen the before and after photos. Read on below for more about the property, the renovation and Thayer’s tips for anyone facing a remodel.
AB: First off, what and where is Camp Wilder?
TG: Camp Wilder is the name for my home and retreat space. I have a photo studio here, and I host creative and wellness retreats. It’s in a tiny hippy surf town in West Marin, California called Bolinas.
AB: How did you come up with the name?
TG: I always said if I had a son I would name him Wilder, but instead I have a country home and a puppy named Wilder.
AB: How did the idea come about and how long has it been in the works?
TG: I bought it two years ago and have been renovating it ever since! I have for years had a photo studio, my home and a New York apartment. I wanted to merge them all into one place and add into the mix some creative wellness retreats for all of us creatives craving work life balance.
AB: Tell me about what the property was like when you found it. What made this place feel like it was "the one" for what you wanted to create?
TG: I walked by the house a few times and it was like a West Coast Grey Gardens. I dreamed up fixing it up and when it quietly went on the market I jumped on the chance to work my tail off to make the dream happen. As a photographer I needed a big open, light and airy space, as well as a place I could have my home and office. I also wanted room for my pups to run free and have long tables filled with food and friends in the summer. This was the just the place to do that.
AB: Was it mostly a demo from there or were there some things you restored in the process?
TG: Mostly a makeover. Demo for the bathroom and kitchen, but I kept the old tub.
AB: With all the design decisions you made along the way, is there anything you'd recommend to others headed into a big renovation project?
TG: Buy your appliances, fixtures, windows and doors first and have them on site for measuring, etc. Makes things faster for install!
AB: And – I have to know – where did you get all the gorgeous rugs?
TG: I got them in Morrocco, the best place on earth to buy rugs!
AB: Since the space is also your home and studio, how do you see others using it?
TG: I host retreats for others as well as my own workshops and retreats. I also rent the space for other photo shoots and use it for my own. It’s a wonderful energy here.
AB: It really is! Anything in the calendar we should know about?
TG: I typically have a retreat monthly with yoga, sound healing and tea ceremony mixed with self-care like hot baths, creative writing and an infrared sauna.
You can find more info about upcoming events by visiting the Camp Wilder website.