Like a theater set, the 20-foot ceilings of this Healdsburg, CA home put every furnishing, accent, and architectural showpiece in the spotlight. The doors and windows span 10 feet high (the standard is seven feet). “It gives such a sense of scale and panorama, very clean and classic, but there’s a lot of drama,” says Sheldon Harte, Laguna Beach-based designer and principal of Harte Brownlee & Associates. Harte fitted out architect Kirby Lee’s sleek new home, formerly of Backen & Backen, for regular clients: a couple with three adult children who would spend a lot of time there relaxing with family and friends.
Located in the heart of California wine country, where old wine barrels are often converted into cocktail tables and corks into trivets, the house could easily have been kitsch. Not in Harte’s hands. “The owner didn’t want the typical aesthetic of the wine region. he explains. “She wanted an interesting mix, revealing her sense of taste and style, and an eclectic way of dressing. It was really important that the house reflect that.
Vital in their quest: three shopping trips to Europe, where client and designer dug up buried treasures in the English countryside, Belgium and beyond. “We have an amazing guide to Paris that I’ve used for years,” admits Harte, pausing before revealing the name of his source. “She is almost 90 years old! Among the many finds the team found during their forays were an old stable door (now a headboard) and a brass-edged steel table from the early 1900s from the Banque de Paris (today in the kitchen). Instead of pendants hanging above it, Harte had a pair of early 20th-century hand-painted zodiac orbs turned into lamps. “We had fun re-imagining and redeploying things from their original use and intent,” he says. Heavy materials – steel, zinc and French oak in abundance – form a grounded backdrop and add to a soothing palette inspired by the surrounding landscape.
The house is packed with so many fascinating artifacts that it doubles as a museum. But each piece is personal. A favorite find is a circa 1950 Japanese cryptomeria woodcarving of a toad, with baby toads on its back; it takes pride of place in the home. “She’s Japanese-American, and that means family and kids to her,” the designer says of his client. “It sets the tone for the house and starts to tell the story that it’s a place for family and friends.”
Custom Backen & Backen steel doors, a table from an old saddle factory, and planters created from French oak fruit crates punctuate the grand entrance of this Healdsburg, CA home. Lanterns: bespoke, Paul Ferrante. Soil: aged brown Sheldon limestone, Concept Studio.
“The house is in the Alexander Valley of Healdsburg and overlooks the Russian River and vineyards,” says Harte. Cabernet grapes grow on the five-acre property.
“We designed the front door on an offset pivot—it probably weighs a hundred pounds,” Harte says of the wood and steel dropper. Chandelier: Patrice Dangel, Passage Gallery, Paris. Planter: Willy Guhl. Console: Philip Stites. Cover: Woven. Plaster foot: Lee Stanton. Cryptomeria wood carving of toads: Japanese, Patrick and Ondine.
“We did a crisp old painted finish on the wood cabinets with steel around the perimeter,” says Harte. Manufacturing: Woodworking Dan Luna. Globes: early 20th century, Paul Ferrante. Backsplash: Hand embossed zinc, Concept Studio. Saddles: Thomas Hayes Workshop. Benches: Natasha Baradaran in Rosemary Hallgarten Bichon Fabricthrough Jean de Merry. Table: old, of the Banque de France, via the Puces de Paris.
A vibrant work of art by Beatriz Milzhazes provides a splash of color in the otherwise earthy palette. Leather armchair : via the Paris flea market. Cover: Woven. Deck chair: BWT London in Lauren Hwang tapestry. Low table: circa 1918 Lanvin, Lee Stanton.
“I call it ‘old scrub brush green,'” Harte explains of the palette for this workspace next to the main kitchen. ‘Ancient.”
“In the summer, the sliding doors open for barbecues, and in the winter, everything closes for the Super Bowl and rainy nights.” Pendants: Vintage Belgian military lamps, Lee Stanton. Recliner: Collection of designer resources. Cover: Perennials. Swivel club chairs: Jasper chair. Side tables: Sutherland.
Keeping it relatively small, the common areas were as large as possible. Lamp, chestand bed in Zak+Fox Manchu Fabric: Paul Ferrante. Chair: John Pompe, Thomas Lavin. Bedding: Barbara Martin personalized linens.
“Approachable, textured, yet appealing,” is how Harte describes the burgeoning space. Lighting, sconces, and mirrors: Paul Ferrante. Plumbing: The bath + beyond. Vanity: custom turtle quartzite, Concept Studio.
A rear terrace offers splendid ways to enjoy the countryside. Learn how to install yours here. Adirondack chairs: Great Camp, Sutherland. Deck chairs : Willy Guhl.
Related: How to build your own bocce court
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