Filoli Garden Estate

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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Fabulous Filoli

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

Ever wonder what it would be like to live in a 36,000 square foot Georgian country house surrounded by a spectacular English Renaissance garden and 654 acres of wilderness?

Filoli is one of the finest remaining estates of the early 20th century, and is located 30 miles south of San Francisco, California. Take a peek inside a remarkable home with it's captivating gardens. Truly a National treasure.


I learned of Filoli from my Leader-of-a-Jazz-Band Brother- in-Law who told me it was not to be missed. On this solid recommendation, I contacted the Public Relations Department at the estate. Arrangements were made for Tom Rogers, Curator of Collections, to give us a private tour.

From the beginning, it was like walking through Wonderland.


Construction of Filoli began in 1915 and two years later, Mr. and Mrs. William Bowers Bourn moved in. The Bourns were prominent San Franciscans whose chief source of wealth was a hard-rock gold mine in Grass Valley, California.

Both of the Bourns were from English ancestry; families that had originally immigrated to America in the late 17th century. Their choice of understated elegance that reflects this English ancestry is evident in both the house design as well as in the manicured gardens that surround it.


In the 1920's ice was delivered daily to the kitchen, and all food for family, guests and staff was prepared here. This particular stove was installed during World War II after the original oil-fired stove could not be repaired.


There are two small rooms in the kitchen: the one on the left was a walk-in cold storage ice room, the other a pastry room. The wing beyond the kitchen contained servants quarters: ten bedrooms, three baths, and a combined living/dining room. This part of the house is now used for membership and administrative offices.

The Butler's Pantry, which is located just opposite this part of the kitchen, was the operational heart of the house. A family member would press a button which rang a bell and lit up a board, indicating the room location. At this point someone from the staff would be sent immediately to that room to provide service.


This bankvault-like safe located in the center of the kitchen contains a variety of plates, glasses, pewter and silver.


The south end of the grounds was reserved for the large working kitchen garden and was called the panel garden. Its function was growing fruits, vegetables and cut flowers for the kitchen and home alike.


Filoli's library is replicated from the library at the famous Denham Palace, England. The plan and arrangement of wall panels, bookcases, and borders carved in a floral pattern were copied from this English house which was built in 1690.


The Study is the most intimate room in the downstairs area. When Mr. Bourn was alive, he used it as his home office. When Mr. and Mrs. William P. Roth (of the famed Matson Navigation Company) purchased the estate in 1937, it became a favorite gathering place for their family. When we walked through we easily could imagine the families gathering here for social time.

Concealed in the paneling is a door to a safe that was converted to a wine cellar by the Roth family.


One of my favorites; A writing desk with a window view. Perfect!

Take a look at the unusual oak floor patterning made with a gouging plane and then stained. It was a popular style from the early 1900s.


All families of wealth had secret places in their homes to store valuables or important papers.

Here in the Trophy Room, Tom is showing us the hiding places inside this desk.


Another example reveals a book that has been carved out with pages to spare. The items concealed within are safe from intruders who would not know to look inside, as it would appear to be just a normal book on a shelf.


Speaking of secret hiding places, the extensive gardens offered many restorative locations to sit, relax, read and to disappear from view.


Clipped hedges are the hallmark of an English style garden. Filoli has many formal hedges, which along with the brick walls, divide the garden into compartments. This guaranteed the seclusion and privacy desired by the Bourns. There are discoveries and surprises around every corner.


The ballroom is the largest room in the house. The crystal chandeliers are copies of those that hung in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles during the signing of the Peace Treaty in 1920.

Movies like Heaven Can Wait, The Game, Joyluck Club, Rent and Wedding Planner are just a few that were filmed at this magnificent estate.

The flowers you see here are grown in the garden. Notice the gold leaf trim on the borders of the walls.


The murals in the Ballroom are of the pastoral landscape surrounding the Lakes of the Killarney in Ireland. Mr. Bourn purchased the Muckross estate in Ireland for his daughter as a wedding gift in 1910.

 These scenes were painted only after Mr. Bourn's stroke when it became apparent to the family that he would never be able to travel to his beloved Muckross estate again.


During the Holidays, Filoli offers tickets to elegant dining events with live music and dancing in the Ballroom. You can shop at the boutique while performers sing and play seasonal melodies on the grounds. What a way to spend an enchanting evening with loved ones and friends!


During the days when the family lived at Filoli, in winter the fireplace was kept burning twenty-four hours in advance of any entertaining event.

The fireplace is made of marble with a mural of Muckross Abbey above it.

On the left you can look down through the rooms of the house to the outside. Lovely views from everywhere in the home were an important feature to the Bourns.


After the Bourns died in 1936, the Roths purchased the estate the following year. Mrs. Roth had an avid interest in gardening and guided the formal gardens into worldwide recognition. She ordered seeds, kept records of everything she planted and began adding new plants to the gardens.


In 1973 Mrs. Roth was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal of the Garden Clubs of America for her achievements as a collector.


Today, Filoli has 32 full-time staff of which 14 are horticulturalists. In addition, there are 33 part-time staff and over 1,400 volunteers, more than any other National Trust Property in the USA.


Filoli is a living treasure which takes year-round care to preserve it. Insect infestations and severe weather events can cause havoc to the grounds. The replacement of plants and their continuous pruning keeps Filoli looking as it did in the early days of the estate.


Mr. Roth had a minor stroke in 1943. In 1946 the swimming pool was added for his exercise and rehabilitation, and quickly became a favorite summer gathering spot.


Here I'm taking a quick break by the sculptured tree alongside the pool.


The beauty of Filoli is not one dimensional. Tours of the House and Garden are available mid-February through the end of October. Special Holiday events are are offered in December. One can volunteer as a docent, take classes, or bring schoolchildren to Filoli for educational events. 


Filoli is open to the public for the enjoyment of its beauty and serenity. It provides many opportunities to the community for learning and development in subjects including history, art, architecture, design, landscape preservation and conservation. There are classes in calligraphy, water color, photography, embroidery, floral design, horticulture, birdhouse building and botanical art.


To plan your visit, to take a class, to attend an event, visit Filoli on their homepage. If you want to receive the latest news about special events, educational programs, special presentations, gallery exhibitions, garden happenings or more, sign up for their free e-newsletter .

The essence of Filoli cannot be found through one visit. It will call you back again and again.


My special thanks to Christina Syrett and Tom Rogers for generously giving me their time and in answering my many questions.

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About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on

Retire Early Lifestyle appeals to a different kind of person – the person who prizes their independence, values their time, and who doesn’t want to mindlessly follow the crowd.

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