I’ve always been a fan of Wes Anderson. His movie sets are reimagined, hyper-real versions of places that exist in our memory. That’s the kind of setting I was trying to create when my longtime clients purchased an extraordinary 600-acre property in Sonoma Valley, complete with a farm, vineyards, and a natural lake.
The boathouse on the 600-acre property.
I live in San Francisco, where I work with a lot of interesting folks, many from the tech world. Sometimes they are dreamers, and, indeed, there is something Citizen Kane–like about this compound, which incorporates a Japanese teahouse, a hidden pub, a boathouse, and a cabin that used to be a stop on the Pony Express.
A live oak shades a bridge leading to the home’s entry.
But the cornerstone of the whole property is the four-story lake house, which was designed to accommodate the couple, who are tech entrepreneurs and philanthropists, and their three children, along with a revolving cast of visitors and friends. It was inspired by those wonderful Northern California Victorian resorts—places like Indian Springs in Calistoga and White Sulphur Springs in St. Helena, where people used to go to seek refuge or take the waters.
In the library, the sofa has a slipcover in a fabric, the Harvey Probber swivel chairs are from Antiques du Monde, the circa-1910 Italian chandelier is from , and the walls are painted in Icicle.
Just getting to this house provides a sense of discovery. You start down a long and winding drive, traverse the rugged terrain, and then descend a hill until the lake and house come into view like a mirage. A door on the side of the house leads into a bright-blue reception room that acts as a lobby. There is a check- in desk with a bell, and behind it, little boxes that hold the keys to each of the nine bedroom suites.
In the entry, which functions like a hotel lobby, the sofa is in a denim, the leather armchairs are from , and the brass cocktail table and rug were purchased at the . The Roman shade and curtains are of a stripe, and the room is painted in s Chinese Blue.
From here, one emerges into a double-height salon with a saloon-like bar and a mezzanine, where you can look down on the action. It has a real Old West quality to it. There is also a disco ball that drops from the ceiling for dance parties, and even a house drink that I created—a mezcalita, which is like a margarita with a big dose of mescal and a mix of salt, sugar, and cayenne on the rim. It tastes a bit like a barbecue-flavored potato chip.
The kitchen range is by , the salvaged marble counters are from , the pendants and sconce are by the ., and the stools are from .
The house took more than three years to build. We teamed with Ken Linsteadt, who is a great architect as well as an artist and a real romantic. He still draws everything by hand. And this house is admittedly a bit of a folly. But it is serious in that it is beautifully constructed and designed to be timeless and enduring.
The master bedroom’s canopy bed is from , the bedding is by , and the vintage sofa, cocktail table, and rug were purchased at the . The armchair is from Sienna Antiques, and the mural was hand-painted by .
I do think I might have scared him a little bit when I announced I was planning to install two levels of green floral fabric on the walls of the grand salon. Or when I painted all the millwork in the lobby a Chinese blue, along with the ceiling. Ken’s eyes would get wide with every crazy idea, but then he would just smile and go along. We have worked together before, and there’s a level of trust.
In a son’s room, twin beds from the have bedding from . The leather pommel horses and side table are from Fulk’s KFI Collection for , the wallcovering is by , and the Roman shade is in a print.
The kitchen was designed to be a Downton Abbey moment. It’s all white, with a swinging door, a huge pantry, and a big, black La Cornue range. It’s very purposefully located at the back of the house. Nowadays, everyone seems to want an open kitchen, but this is a hardworking space, where meals are being prepared for up to 20 people, so it made sense to contain it. You can still pop in and put a finger in the icing, but it is not a place for hanging out.
In the grand salon of the Sonoma Valley lake house designed by Ken Fulk with the architect Ken Linsteadt, the vintage Edward Wormley sofa for Dunbar is in a fabric, the barstools have seats in a weave, and the dining table is from the . The custom chandeliers are by , and the floral wallcovering is by .
Upstairs, each of the nine bedrooms is different and furnished with a combination of found and modern pieces. The master bedroom’s walls are hand-painted with gray-trunked, blue-leafed trees by our in-house muralist, Rafael Arana. The views outside the windows have a bucolic, painterly quality, and I was trying to bring that feeling inside. Every bathroom is also unique—some have deep soaking tubs, others have rain showers. And of course, the rooms are stocked with every amenity I could think of, from the right shampoos, soaps, and scents to bathrobes and slippers by the beds.
The master bath’s sinks and fittings are by , the sconces are by , the wallpaper is by , and the wall and floor tiles are by .
To me, the secret sauce in fashioning a getaway is to combine elements that evoke warm, fuzzy feelings and memories—whether or not we have actually experienced them before.
This story was originally published in the June 2018 issue of ELLE Decor.