A Transitional Tuscan-Style Rancho Santa Fe Home


Transitional Brown Family Room with Decorative Millwork

The alder-paneled study holds a custom Hagan game table with a pie-cut top and center pedestal in a natural crotch-mahogany finish from Keith Fritz; it’s surrounded by custom-made side chairs upholstered in Romo’s Melton viscose-linen blend in a cocoa tweed. The Ashlyn sofa from J. Robert Scott and the custom-designed armchair from Lozano Upholstery are both covered in Rose Tarlow’s oat-colored Making Waves ribbed cotton. The wing chairs in the corner have nailhead detailing along their frames.

Transitional White Bedroom with Double Doors

Lady, an ink-and-gesso painting by Kiah Denson, hangs above the upholstered A. Rudin bed in the master bedroom; a pair of Lewis Mittman Xavier benches with an antique brown-walnut finish upholstered in Mokum’s linen-colored Saba fabric sits at its foot. Marseilles table lamps from Formations in LA top the Minton-Spidell nightstands. Pattern and texture are provided by Manuel Canovas’ sable-colored Zara fabric draperies.

Transitional White Bathroom with Mirrored Alcove

A Carrara marble floor and surround encases the tub in the master bathroom. They join custom sand-blasted and wire-brushed alder cabinetry, hand-turned wooden sconces from Designer’s Furniture Manufacturing in Houston and a David Sutherland bench upholstered in a mocha-colored indoor-outdoor canvas/linen weave from Perennials. Glass shelving against a recessed mirror next to the tub holds a garden of succulents in glass containers, adding color to the muted space.

Transitional White Great Room with Double-Height Ceiling

To maintain the living room’s light earth-tone palette and elegant personality, a 60-inch television was recessed into a wall niche above the limestone fireplace. When not in use, it remains hidden behind a commissioned mixed-media painting on eight wooden bi-fold panels created by Kiah Denson of Segreto Studios in Houston. The tight-back sofas with waterfall skirts and down-feather cushions, covered in Coraggio Textiles’ Soho Old Steel Gray indoor-outdoor chenille, were custom-designed by Sandra Lucas and made by Neal & Company Upholstery.

Transitional Neutral Exterior with Jacuzzi

After enjoying the view from the covered limestone porch outside the living room, family and friends can take a dip in the rock-encased Jacuzzi or the 30-by-40-foot vanishing-edge pool, surrounded by an exposed aggregate surface.

Transitional White Hall with Arched Doorways

The hallway is lit by natural light streaming through skylights during the day and by Dennis & Leen’s Louis XIV chandeliers at night, found at the company’s Los Angeles showroom. Coordinating Saletta wall sconces of custom-painted, hand-carved wood torchières with iron supports are from Murray’s Iron Works, also in LA. A Niermann Weeks demi-lune Frascati console with a walnut finish, topped by an oil painting of a French bistro scene by Marko Stupar from Houston’s Nolin-Rankin Gallery, anchors the space. The large horse painting is from the homeowners’ collection.

Transitional Front Elevation with Red Tile Roof

The curated landscaping in the front of the home makes for a warm and welcoming entrance.

As the owners of this Rancho Santa Fe vacation home discovered, some of the best things in life come along when you’re not looking for them. The couple—an oil executive and his wife—already had a primary residence in Houston and a weekend escape in Colorado when they happened to drive through the area to drop off a daughter at summer camp. Much to their surprise, they found a virtual paradise they hadn’t even realized they were seeking. “The temperature is perfect, the architecture is beautiful, the people are lovely— what’s not to love?” says their interior designer, Sandra Lucas, of Lucas/Eilers Design Associates in Houston. 

The couple chose an acre-and-a-half parcel in an idyllic, gated golf-course community and sought out an architect and builder who was an expert in the high-end Tuscan-style homes that account for three-quarters of its landscape. They found one and the same in Jim Sylvester, of JS Design Group and Sylvester Construction, both based in Rancho Santa Fe. Sylvester was an especially wise choice—he had already built 10 other custom residences in the neighborhood, including his own. “Over the last decade, Tuscan homes have been a big hit here,” Sylvester says. “People like the casual but elegant living.”                 

Sylvester’s new neighbors and clients could have opted for one of the pre- designed homes the enclave offers among its 540 acres of coastal foothills, but they wanted a larger, more personalized retreat with lighter wood floors and trim and an abundance of ambience. “Their one directive was, ‘We want the architecture to show—we want it to be light and airy and serene,’” says Lucas, who has worked with the couple on various homes over the past 17 years.                    

The home’s exterior of stucco, natural stone and custom-made mahogany doors and window frames, topped by terra-cotta roof tiles, was designed to mesh well with its Tuscan neighbors. But, instead of filling the interiors with traditional dark-wood beams and stone floors, Sylvester accented eggshell walls with blond woods—stained Douglas fir beams from an Oregon lumber mill; alder paneling, baseboards and window frames; and white oak floors—as well as milky limestone fireplace surrounds and Carrara marble in the master bathroom.                     

Taking her color cues from the airy interior and sun-washed hills outside, Lucas selected a palette of light, neutral tones. “It’s quite a large house, but it feels like one big, cozy space because the finishes are consistent,” Lucas says. “We looked to the landscape for the green granites in the kitchen and powder bath, and the wood tones came from the color of the soil and the natural elements that are part of the setting.”

Lucas continued that organic program when selecting furnishings and accessories. The custom slipper chairs in the living room, for example, have carved oak frames with a distressed finish; they flank a Mecox Gardens triangular, bronze-plated, stick bamboo side table. Lucas also designed the coffee table, which has a hammered-iron base made by Houston’s Peck and Company and a hand-beveled walnut top in a basket-weave pattern fabricated by Custom Floors Unlimited, also in Houston. In the master bedroom, Perennials’ Rough ’N Rowdy fabric in Honed Limestone covers the headboard, chairs and ottoman. 

And, since the family had recently downsized from a formal 4-acre estate in Houston to a townhome, Lucas also culled some of the beloved prints, paintings and furniture they’d placed in storage to make their new getaway truly feel like a home away from home. “If you invest in great pieces and artwork that you truly love, they can just follow you anywhere and work in a variety of settings,” she says.

One new addition to the couple’s art collection is an ink-and-gesso painting of a graceful woman in a full skirt that reminded Lucas of the lady of the house—a regular on Houston’s best-dressed list—when she spotted it in a gallery. The piece now has pride of place in the master bedroom. Her client “loves all things beautiful,” says Lucas. “In her Houston home as well as in this new place in Rancho Santa Fe, all of the furniture has a historic reference, but it’s very clean-lined and fresh, and extremely warm and livable.”