Urban and rural style intersect elegantly at a Sonoma farmhouse.
by Catherine Warmerdam
Photography by Cesar Rubio
Architect: Bevan & Associates
General contractor: Landers Curry, Inc.
Interior design: Christine Curry Design
Landscape design: Magrane Associates
Landscape contractor: JKT Associates, Inc.
Pool: Riptide Construction
When Simon and Heidi Williams relocated from New York City to Sonoma four years ago, they fell in love with an idyllic piece of property about a mile from the town plaza. The only problem? It belonged to someone else.
“We used to walk by it all the time. It had a little house on it and was surrounded by gigantic heritage oak trees. We always thought it was the most peaceful-looking spot,” says Heidi. The couple told themselves that if it ever came on the market, they would buy it. A year later, their wish came true. “It was just incredible luck.”
The couple enlisted George Bevan, the principal of Bevan & Associates in Sonoma, to design a modern farmhouse for the site that would combine elements of the sleek urban loft they had left behind and the bucolic surroundings of their new address. For Bevan, the initial challenge was “the heightened sense of context” of the lot itself, which is situated on a corner heavily traversed by walkers, cyclists and tourists driving to nearby wineries.
“It had to respond to a busy corner with lots of foot and vehicle traffic but feel like a complete park setting, like a sanctuary, when you slid open the back doors,” explains Bevan.
For the homeowners, how to site and scale the home was more than an aesthetic consideration. “I feel as though we have a responsibility to the corner. That’s why we put a boulder where people can sit or a biker can fix a flat tire,” explains Simon. “I think that a house should give back, not just aesthetically, but practically.”
Underscaled white shiplap siding and bold black windows and doors lend the 3,800-square-foot main residence and its 450-square-foot guesthouse a distinctive farmhouse feel. “There’s a lot of wood and metal that warms up the house and gives it some unique and human touches,” says Heidi.
Inside, the space reads like a spare cathedral, with soaring ceilings and formal detailing that is subtle, never showy. “My work involves a very honest use of materials, and the homeowners really understood the use of a very minimal palette,” says Bevan.
Interior designer Christine Curry was charged with maintaining a creative tension between the contemporary and rustic elements of the home. “We left the knots in the white oak floors to get a little bit of country into the space,” says Curry. “But it’s a very modern installation, no beveled edge.”
In the kitchen, Curry managed to talk the homeowners into adding oak Shaker cabinets along the perimeter to balance out what Heidi describes as “flat, white New York apartment cabinets.” As Curry tells it, “I was really strong-headed about that. It is a country house, we are in Sonoma, so let’s make it modern but also keep it warm.”
In the great room, Curry’s main challenge was to make a lofty space feel more intimate. She succeeded by adding a dramatic cascading John Pomp pendant above the dining table (which was built by Simon’s son), having the visual effect of lowering the ceiling. Curry also selected dining chairs in a dark leather, which functions as “something rich in that bright white room to bring your eye down and warm up the space.”
Curry was careful not to obstruct the sightline between the foyer—“a scaled entrance that sort of hugs you before you step into the great room”—and the wall of windows that opens onto the patio and pool beyond. “I didn’t want to take away from that spectacular view,” says Curry.
Indeed, the landscaping on the acre-and-a-half property is something to behold, thanks in part the homeowners’ vision. “We were determined to not just construct a great house but also to finish the yard and the gardens in a way that looked as though it had been around for a number of years,” says Simon. To that end, landscape designer Penney Magrane had 10 160-year-old olive trees brought down from Oregon and installed on the site. The plant selection and the decision to install minimal fencing reinforce the yard’s naturalistic look.
“Our daughter is over the moon living here. It’s just a magical place for children,” says Heidi. “You have these trees, the paths in the garden, the tree swing, the pool—lots of places where a kid can be a kid and, frankly, where an adult can be a kid. It’s an incredibly relaxed, happy spot to be.”