A new book reveals the stunning architecture that goes hand in hand with the setting of California's wine country.
A modern masterpiece in Sonoma
Exceptional home design is almost always a response to setting. In fact, a mindfulness of place among architects is typically at the root of every masterpiece, from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands to Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann vacation home in Palm Springs. The hills, trees and topography speak first, and architects listen.
In At Home in the Wine Country: Architecture & Design in the California Vineyards (Gibbs Smith, 2021), authors Heather Sandy Hebert and Chase Reynolds Ewald take readers on a journey through breathtaking scenery that’s framed perfectly by homes created by many of California’s top architects. While the home styles are all over the design map—including unapologetically modern and updated agrarian—they embrace the idea of blending indoor and outdoor living spaces seamlessly.
One staple of wine country homes: the merging of indoor and outdoor spaces.
And, of course, these homes look as though they’ve always been here. Hebert, a former architect raised in Marin County, and Reynolds Ewald, a senior editor at Western Art & Architecture, discuss the bounty of design beauty among the hills of wine country.
Sunrise seen from an expansive en suite bath
Is there a common design aesthetic for wine country?
HEATHER SANDY HEBERT: It’s less about a specific aesthetic and more about an authentic response to the landscape, climate and culture of hospitality that are so ingrained in the lifestyle of this region. Whether the design leans agrarian, rustic or modern, the same ethos applies, with a sense of laid-back sophistication, seamless indoor-outdoor orientation and an effortless flow that facilitates and encourages casual entertaining.
Landscape architects in wine country expand the vision of the design team.
In the design of the landscape, there is an awareness of not only the beauty but the fragility of the natural surroundings. Landscape architects in the wine country not only extend the vision of the architects and interior designers by creating welcoming outdoor rooms, but they take special care with the intersection of planned and wild spaces and employ approaches that help to mitigate the risk of fire—hardscape and defensible spaces play an important role.
When you assembled the book, what surprised you the most about some of the designs you encountered?
CHASE REYNOLDS EWALD: What continues to surprise and delight us both is the passion and authenticity that lie behind the stories of each of these homes, and of the many others that we wished we could have included. The trust and close relationships that formed between design teams and owners—and the passion every owner carries for their place in the wine country—impressed us every time. From Forest Aerie in the hills above Napa Valley, which architect Juancarlos Fernandez calls ‘full of soul,’ to Bohlin Cywinski Jackson’s modern reimagining of a cottage on the valley floor for their friends Tom and Laurie Poggi, the emotion behind these projects was infectious.
Many wine country homes feature a blend of rustic and modern aesthetics.
How has wine country architecture evolved over the past 20 years, and where do you see it going in the next several years?
HSH: Residential design in the wine country has followed a trajectory that’s not unlike the evolution of winery architecture I wrote about in The New Architecture of Wine a few years ago. The primary evolution we’ve observed is a movement toward authenticity and creative confidence, in which the design vision is drawn directly from regional archetypes or from the land itself, rather than from other areas to which we might aspire—an Italian villa, for example.
An open floor plan with abundant light also is a common characteristic among designs in wine country.
Design that draws from regional agrarian traditions or from more recent archetypes, such as Sea Ranch on the Sonoma Coast, continues to find a home here. Contemporary design and construction allow for the immense spans that enable designers to create truly indoor-outdoor spaces. Perhaps most interesting are the approaches that explore a blending of the two; those explorations of form will be fun to watch.
With stunning views in almost every corner of a home, architects take advantage of this element by building in plenty of floor-to-ceiling windows.
Photography by: FROM TOP: PHOTO BY DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN PHTOGRAPHY; AUBRIE PICK PHOTOGRAPHY/MARION BRENNER PHOTOGRAPHY; PHOTO BY; AUBRIE PICK PHOTOGRAPHY/MARION BRENNER PHOTOGRAPHY; PHOTO BY; ADAM ROUSE; PHOTO BY; DAVID WAKELY PHOTOGRAPHYPHOTO BY: CHRISTOPHER STARK PHOTOGRAPHY; PHOTO BY: AUBRIE PICK PHOTOGRAPHY; PHOTO BY AUBRIE PICK PHOTOGRAPHY/MARION BRENNER PHOTOGRAPHY