Renters live with the notion of accepting what they cannot change on a daily basis. For Noreen McGuire, a part-time resident of Napa Valley, she had to be equally accepting. Although she liked the scale and L-shaped layout of the shingle-style home she rented in St. Helena, she found the Tuscan-inspired interiors dark and the color scheme busy. When McGuire got the opportunity to buy the house, she was ready to change things up and put together a team including designer Kara Mann, architect Andrew Mann, builder Wes Thollander, and landscape architect Scott R. Lewis to create a home more in tune with its surroundings.
“The light is so beautiful in Napa, it makes the colors almost ethereal,” says Kara Mann, who is based in Chicago and New York and had worked with McGuire on two of her previous residences. “The client has a pared-down, sophisticated aesthetic and likes palettes that are subtle, a little earthy. I wanted to take what she likes and merge it with the colors and textures of Napa.” But first there were additional matters to deal with. The house, along with its guesthouse, was spacious enough to accommodate visits from McGuire’s daughters and to host lunches with friends, but it didn’t engage the property. And the 1-acre grounds, with its formal boxwood hedges and putting green, left a lot to be desired. “She saw herself doing more entertaining outdoors,” Kara Mann adds. “She really wanted to use the whole property.”
To handle the structural transformation, McGuire turned to Andrew Mann. “She wanted the same feel of the house, but a crisper, more contemporary version of it,” he says. “It was all about paring down and simplifying.” The architect kept the basic footprint of the main house, but gutted the structure to redesign the kitchen, put in new floors, and eliminate one bedroom to create a new master suite, complete with a luxurious master bath. “We spent a good deal of time with the limestone wall in the bath, as it wraps with miter cuts into the shower,” says Thollander. “Tolerances needed to be spot-on to look correct.” While Andrew Mann kept the shingled exterior, he added V-groove paneling to accent the main public rooms inside. “It’s evocative of a traditional farmhouse, but used in a contemporary manner,” he says.
The architect also ramped up the home’s connection to the outdoors by adding French doors to all of the main spaces, allowing them to spill onto a large deck. And the outdoors were transformed as well. In reimagining the grounds, Lewis kept only six mature olive trees and the swimming pool, which was retiled. The landscape architect replaced the front lawn with native grasses and, in the back, suggested adding a pavilion. Sited far from the main house, it takes advantage of the “borrowed landscape” of neighboring grapevines. “It looks back at the house,” he says, “yet you feel as if you’re in the middle of the vineyards.”
Inside, Kara Mann worked with a Napa-inspired palette of creamy white, weathered taupe, smoky lavender, and chocolate brown. Known for a luxurious yet edgy style, the designer kept the interiors simple but worked with eye-catching accents and tactile materials. A marble pedestal table pairs with sculptural wing chairs in the dining room, and the designer centered the living room with gray selenite-topped tables. “The selenite shimmers in the light and feels very glamorous yet earthy,” says Kara Mann. “The tables elevate the space with an elegant edge.” She finished the room with sinuous sofas by Ochre covered with a taupe-hued fabric and draperies woven with metallic threads.
Lighting was also an important component of the design. “It’s like jewelry in a space,” says the designer. “It can change the whole mood of a room.” A striking metal-and-blown-glass chandelier hangs in the dining room, and Ingo Maurer’s Birdie fixtures lend a whimsical touch to the master bedroom. A calming monochromatic scheme marks the private space, and the designer chose equally serene hues to appoint the guesthouse and pavilion. In both cases, she created “simple, comfortable and sophisticated spaces” with slipcovered sofas to keep things feeling relaxed.
“I wanted the home to honor the beauty that surrounds it, not compete with it,” says McGuire of the finished product that does just that. “It’s quiet and understated, just like the Northern California lifestyle.”