In Northern California’s wine country, close to Sonoma’s town square, is an 11-acre hillside haven covered in 250-year-old oak trees. “Once you come up the driveway and enter the courtyard surrounded by wide-canopied native trees, you’re in the middle of their secret garden,” says Jim Stafford, who lives on the property with his family. When he acquired the place a few years ago, it included four stucco-clad structures, one of which was the main house—a 5,500-square-foot villa that opened onto a swimming pool terrace. Pyramidal tiled roofs defined each corner, and the axial entryways and square layout recalled Palladio’s Villa Rotonda in Vicenza, Italy.
To remedy some aesthetic anomalies and fulfill his vision of “a modern country home with natural textures and colors,” Stafford commissioned San Francisco architect Ken Linsteadt, a protégé of Philip Johnson, and St. Helena interior designer Erin Martin. Linsteadt clad the ancillary buildings with reclaimed barn timbers and Colorado sandstone, and he opened the house up to the outdoors with large steel-and-glass windows and doorways. He unified the entrance facade by creating a tall portal defined by a boxy wood frame that “announces unexpected changes within,” Linsteadt says. Inside, the architect and designer reconfigured the floor plan, strategically adding or subtracting walls to mitigate dark, monumental spaces. “We wanted a natural, organic flow and not a processional quality inside,” Martin says. Indeed, subtle but elegant furnishings from the likes of Axel Vervoordt and Holly Hunt throughout add a layer of chic comfort. But it is the master bedroom that perhaps best personifies the house’s place among the forest. “The best thing about the master bedroom is that you feel like you’re in a tree house,” says Martin. “It’s calm and subdued, but it’s also a space where you can be a kid again, and that’s a good feeling to have at all times.”
Text: Zahid Sardar
Photography: Matthew Millman
Originally Published: December+January 2014