There’s a deep connection you make while spending an entire weekend with your best friends–and their spouses and children–that you can’t achieve during a mere afternoon barbecue. With that mindset, a Bay Area couple decided to build a Napa Valley retreat for solidifying friendships and making memories. “It’s a place they can share with others,” says designer Penny Shawback, who previously worked with the owners (parents of two young girls) on several other projects. To achieve this relationship-building goal, Shawback assembled a top-notch design team that included members of her own family as well as father-and-son architects Stan Field and Jess Field.
Shawback’s son and business partner, Damon Savoia, helped the clients find the land, which had good karma from the start. As the wife says, “It’s surrounded by trees that have been here for hundreds of years, and when you set foot on the property, you instantly feel grounded and relaxed.” Yet at first, the built environment was not as remarkable. The only structure on the property was an old barn that, while beyond repair, was filled with inspiration. It was the muse for a new barn built for guests and entertaining, and that aesthetic continued to the main home, which was created as a modern version of a traditional farmhouse. “The design was born out of extending the heritage of the site,” says Jess Field who, with his father, designed the compound within one of the valley’s oldest zinfandel vineyards. “It’s hard to talk about the house without talking about the land. We worked rigorously to eliminate boundaries and make the buildings feel like they are part of the place.”
The Fields coordinated with landscape architect Roderick Wyllie and his team so the home’s enclosed breezeways and strategically placed windows would perfectly frame the landscape. “There was a lot of thought given to how close we could get the buildings to the vineyards, and how they would open up to the landscape. We wanted the residents to feel like they are sitting in the vineyards, even when they are sitting inside,” says Wyllie, who also designed an infinity pool and the surrounding terraces. The water anchors the main patio and, since it captures images of the surrounding mountains on its surface, it is a reflecting pool as well as a place for recreation.
Building the house and barn required a small army of craftspeople. “It is some of the most amazing carpentry I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been doing this for 30-plus years. It’s flawless,” says general contractor Paul Niles, whose firm collaborated with Spearhead Inc. in British Columbia to mill all the structural beams and columns.
Meanwhile, for the color palette, Shawback looked to the wife’s personal style to select materials and finishes for the house and barn. “She prefers blues, grays and shades of lavender,” explains the designer, who worked with the entire team to make sure those hues flow inside and out–from the wood siding to the kitchen cabinetry; from the stone terrace to the concrete floors; and from the flower beds to the furnishings.
Shawback also enlisted top artisans to fabricate the furniture, such as the master bed and the barn’s huge central dining table. Savoia and his wife, Julie, who is also a designer, collaborated with Will Kavish and Nicole Cornell in Brooklyn to create a cascading light fixture in the barn, which is meant to echo the nighttime constellations that glow over the valley. The team also designed pendants over the dining table in the main house with the help of San Francisco artist Windy Chien, who tied and draped the knotted rope that anchors the blown-glass globes. “My favorite homes are the ones where everyone involved has such talent,” Shawback notes.
After three weeks of installing the decor, the designers hosted a Champagne-lunch reveal for the clients, collaborators and their families. “It’s a nice way to celebrate turning a house over to the owners–and it’s very emotional. There are happy tears!” Shawback says. The residence came together just in time for the couple to launch their own party a day later, hosting dozens of friends and family members for the Fourth of July holiday. The memories made that weekend include poolside lounging, shared meals and nighttime dance parties in the barn. As the wife says, “There were so many moments when I was seeing our vision become a reality.”