Hilltop home boasts music of outdoors

In tech, he’s on top of the world.

After work, Ben Nelson is happy to be on top of another world, residing on one of San Francisco’s highest hills — less known than the glitzy, glamorous ones, but a place where the outdoors breezes in with the fog.

The president of Snapfish and a member of the board of directors of the San Francisco Opera revels in the space and calm of Fairmount Heights and the trees and wild grasses he can view from every window of his three-story home.

Melody for him exists in nature and in the concert hall.

Born in Israel, Nelson, 33, moved to the United States when he was just 8, and began attending performances at Lincoln Center with his uncle Sam.

Recruited to the San Francisco Opera board by General Director David Gockley, Nelson has created Orpheus, a matching-funds vehicle for young patrons. “It’s my passion,” he says. 

Nelson swears there’s music from the wind on his hill, he says, “because in this neighborhood it’s extremely quiet. We can hear nature even though we’re in The City.” His yard has a rustic terrain and plantings, which are inviting to birds that frequently come to perch.  

Nelson and his wife, Marina, have created an enclave that is in harmony with natural sounds, sights, foliage and colors in the surrounding fields and open areas. The exterior of the residence and three slate decks replicate the environment, with warm terra cotta and earth tones such as umber, auburn, russet, beige and gray.

The home has a southern exposure, and planters are placed strategically in all outdoor areas so that views of The City, including Glen Park, the Mission and Bernal Heights can be enjoyed.

The couple has chosen to grow succulents and all-weather perennials, noting, “It’s half sun, half fog here.”

Key floral colors of reds, pinks, yellows and mauves complement the prevailing green palette.

An indoor room with “perfect acoustics” opens to a broad deck with ferns that rustle in the wind. 

The main outdoor entry area off the street houses annuals and florals that contrast with the bright hues of the home and the view beyond. 

A steep drop beyond the lower back deck is populated by windswept pines and evergreens, which, together with a profusion of wildflowers, resembles a setting from Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights.

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