At first, there wasn’t much to see here beyond a flat, open field on the Napa Valley floor–but bordering vineyards and ridgelines to the north and south offered irresistible landmarks for a Los Angeles couple looking to put down roots in Calistoga. “We wanted the landscape to take precedence, and we wanted to add to the experience of it,” says designer Lauren Geremia, who worked with architect Luke Wade, landscape designer Bernard Trainor and builders John Rechin, Mark Rechin and Hank Rechin to create a new homestead from the ground up. “Everyone wanted the house to blend in,” Geremia says of the design philosophy, explaining that each team member committed to a respectful approach that wouldn’t overshadow the views.
Geremia’s clients had gotten to know the area as longtime visitors to the Calistoga Ranch resort, and they were particularly inspired by the modern farmhouse architecture of nearby Constant Diamond Mountain Vineyard. The couple asked Wade to develop a like-minded plan that spoke to their new property’s surroundings. “The best vantage point looks across the neighboring vineyard to the northern ridgeline,” Wade says. So, he created architectural portals that capture the landscape and bask in the sun’s soft, indirect light. With ample space to stretch out on the flat property, Wade designed a low-lying compound that includes the main house, a guesthouse, a pool house and a car barn–all along an east-west axis so that each structure opens north. “The design is focused on the view, and the house seems to lead you outside,” he says.
The designer and Trainor came onboard early to develop interior and exterior palettes that would create even clearer ties between the house and its grounds. Geremia, who is trained in fine arts and takes a painterly approach to design, sought out locally sourced materials with finishes that are tactile and organic–describing the process as “curating the house.” For example, the main living space has just one partial wall dividing the living and office areas, and she wrapped it in plaster. “It’s an artistic intervention where I wanted something that would feel soft and bounce light around so there wouldn’t be any hard corners,” Geremia explains. She also designed custom cabinetry and millwork as a creative flourish. The gray-washed, European white-oak on the built-ins mirrors the tones of the exterior cedar cladding and also, according to the designer, “serves as art” because there’s precious little wall space for the more conventional variety. Geremia selected handmade furnishings and tile to further amplify the home’s bespoke sensibilities.
The owners were adamant about using large, metal-framed windows and doors–a move that serves Wade’s purpose, as the openings frame scenes from one side of the valley to the other. “Every space is a breezeway that connects to the outdoors,” he says. “It’s all very porous.” Trainor then created a landscape plan that contextualizes the home within its Napa setting, an agrarian valley surrounded by verdant, wooded hills. “They wanted to celebrate the landscape and have an authentic experience,” Trainor says. That’s why natural limestone (as opposed to concrete or tile) runs inside and out, and the hardscape materials hew closely to the color and texture of the home’s building materials. The landscape designer chose Mediterranean plantings– wild grasses, olive trees, lavender and rosemary–to pick up where the vineyards leave off. He gave the buildings a feeling that is seamless with the landscape by having plantings that are more refined close to the manmade structures, but allowing the garden to take cues from nature on the farther edges.
It’s no surprise, then, that the wife demurs when asked about her preferred space. “I don’t really have a favorite room. My favorite room is the view,” she says. Constructing a house that’s so transparent, with spare ornamentation and a lot of attention to materials was no easy assignment. That’s where the builders’ expertise was employed. “Everything has to line up perfectly,” John Rechin says. “You don’t get any wiggle room whatsoever. Everything’s fully exposed, so it’s a much harder home to do than something that’s more traditional.”
Geremia exercised similar discipline. The neutral palette is an extension of the home’s architecture, she says, and the furniture plan was kept to beautiful essentials. As a proponent of emerging young artists, Geremia selected custom tables, chairs and rugs by small workshops–calling the pieces “a mix of fresh sources I’m really excited about.” Topping it all off are sculptural light fixtures, also made to order. The focus was creating an aesthetic derived from the mix rather than an individual piece, she explains, and keeping it consistent “so that anywhere in the house you can have the same response to the environment, and I think that’s kind of amazing.” After all, Geremia says, “This is wine country–the people, the views and the experience should take precedence.”