Positively British: San Francisco interior designer Jonathan Rachman transforms a Napa Valley farmhouse into an evocative retreat with a private drinking den and tasting salon. It’s a rustic escape for sybaritic pleasures.
“Strait Up English Colonial” Tasting Room
When designer Jonathan Rachman was asked to create the kitchen of the Caldwell Winery Cheesebarn, he immediately imagined more than a re-designed room. He envisioned the story of the proprietor.
Rachman saw the barn as the new residence of an English family that had sojourned from Great Britain to the Straits of Malacca. They sailed east at the invitation of Governor Stamford Raffles and they lived for generations in Southeast Asia. They explored and conducted business with the East Indies Company in Singapore, Batavia, and Sumatra. It was there that the family learned they had inherited a winery thousands of miles away in Napa.
And there begins the mythical “Caldwell” family’s second adventure: a move to California, where they brought their English and Asian treasures along with purchases from their Eastern travels.
Their new home would become this winery, where they intended to show their love of East and West. Here they would blend heirlooms from Europe and Asia as well as the American treasures they discovered in the valley, here in the Cheesebarn. Effortlessly juxtaposing old and new, the Caldwell’s intention was to preserve the most nostalgic and rustic elements of the barn, while keeping it current.
In the corner, surrounding the Hudson lounge chair by Ralph Lauren, are antique portraits from England and America, to create not only the layers, but also an ambiance of generational story for the Caldwell’s.
However, one portrait is a true, real and present picture of Mr. and Mrs. Caldwell embellished with 22-karat gold patterned after a pair of carved mirrors found in Java.
A friend of Jonathan’s, Massimo Tevarrotto, from Padua, Italy, created a leathergoods collection that is inspired by this ‘old-school’ story. He created a messenger bag, a tote bag embellished with a horsehair tassel, coaster, as well as the framing for the signage on each drawer which store various cheese: Hard, Creamy, Drunken, Nutty, Something New, Something Blue — a play on words.
The Cheesebarn kitchen is a modern version of a communal tasting room. Anchored by an antique church pew, the room is meant to be a gathering spot for the Caldwell family and their friends. Inspired by both English and Dutch Colonial styles, the room pays homage to the family’s history with a wall of English paintings and family portraits.
Vintage Lucite chairs cozy up to industrial spindles-turned-bistro tables whose tiered, beveled glass “trays” are perfect for tastings. The “Master” of the house has his own special seat on the pew, marked with an antique library sign, and his own special table: a Dutch Javanese Colonial antique cocktail table where his drinks are always waiting.
The kitchen’s island wears wooden countertops, on top of which Ranchman places a massive piece of marble, butcher-block style.
I wanted to convert the breakfast/kitchen into a tasting room: The Strait Up English Colonial Tasting Room, for practical use, inspired by my imagined story. The existing counter is patinated with natural color and I added a very thick Carrara marble slab with a reversed profile, which mimics the details of the apron of the counter with a scalloped revealed edge, so visitors may enjoy the glorious counter.
Across from it, I used an American late 19th/early 20th century church pew, I found from estate sales in Atherton, which I suspect was the choir and its leader pew. It has a separated seat. I continue to imagine that the “Master” or Mr. Caldwell has a reserved seat, marked by my collection, an antique brass sign that reads “Reserved for the Master”. This pew is embellished by a custom back cushion suspended with leather strap polished nickel horse-bits, as I want to accentuate the equestrian feel to the room.