Napa Farmhouse

Rockstar Ray Manzarek moves from Beverly Hills to a Napa Farm making a radical shift in lifestyle. From shopping on Wilshire to sipping Savignon Blanc rocking on the front porch and growing all the vegetables needed, Ray passes away suddenly. The house is sold to Francesca, a born dirt farmer and vintner who wants to complete the vision without altering the Manzarek design. The distinguishing aspect of the project was making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear accomplished by re-purposing a 1980’s house and garage into a credible farmhouse and barn.

When observing the rural Napa countryside, one can find the same kit of farm parts as can be seen across rural America. Organizing and re-defining the kit of parts would be the bigger task but one of the earliest decisions was to re-purpose the existing house and garage rather than bulldoze it. The challenge was the two different programs were pushing well past the original 1980’s envelope. Formerly known as the Lil Ole Modern Farmhouse, the architecture conveys at a glance the classic qualities until the front door opens. Here one is facing an open steel stair and airy interior with steel beams and pipe columns.

The solution emerged with the Manzareks where adhering to covenants of farm shapes, materiality and color references led to the transformation of a quality farmhouse with some playful adaptations of farm parts. With the second owner, the outbuildings loosened those tethers for the Koi pond, pool, party barn and art studio.

Napa Farmhouse Checklist:
√ Red Barn Tractor Shed
√ Metal Silo
√ Clapboard Farmhouse
√ Palm Trees
√ Greenhouse
√ Chickens
√ Fruit and Nut Orchard
√ Vegetable Beds
(Livestock, Windmill, Water Tower not included)

The innovation comes from understanding the patterns and adapting them to the story of this property. Ultimately, the Napa Farmhouse is hedging toward self-sufficiency. The owner grows an enormous amount of food here and raises laying chickens reducing the trips to the market. When sun goes down, the farmer kicks off her dusty boots and relaxes in comfort in a fully stocked family home. While this working farm uses a kit of functional parts to reduce the reliance on the outside world, this farm is not without creature comforts.

Comforts of Home Checklist:
√ Party Barn
√ Pool and Spa with fountains for grandchildren
√ Hot tub and outdoor shower
√ Art Studio
√ Outdoor kitchen and pizza oven
√ Tailored landscape and Koi Pond
√ Art Gallery
√ Extra Bedrooms for visiting family
√ Accessory Dwelling Unit

Design Challenge

Fitting together and fitting in was one of the bigger challenges as the contrasting needs required separate buildings just like a farm. The solution came in adapting farm building language and applying it to modern lifestyle uses. The architecture takes hold of the classic qualities of a farmhouse until the front door opens. Now one is facing an open steel stair and airy interior with steel beams and pipe columns.   For Farmer #1, there it was an act of contrasting crisp interiors, cedar and cherry woods, periwinkle steel beams and windows with the more iconic exterior of the farmhouse. The wrap around porch with rockers, a friendly leaning rail and a pale blue ceiling to contrast the white siding. Views to the classic palm trees. The metal silo is clad in box rib siding.   A new bathroom addition breaks out of the farmhouse box projecting towards the pool.  It is wrapped in a cement fiber board rainscreen on a completely different module than the clapboard house.  The inside plays with a modern take on skipped sheathing – a common barn roofing solution. The cabinets are all made of cedar and the ceiling detail is cedar with a pal periwinkle paint to connect the bold big window over the tub.   Phase 1 - Manzarek’s Big Moves:
  • Existing structures gutted to studs and re-envisioned
  • All new layout, porch details, and materials inside and out
  • Upper floor addition doubles as covered porch
  • Garage attic is turned into an accessory dwelling unit
  • First garden and chicken coops are installed
  For Farmer #2 there was a hierarchical study to not overshadow the farmhouse. The addition of the pool and landscape, party barn and art studio opened up some challenges with the property line angling in against the grain of the logical and orthogonal relationship to the road. Holding the square relationships worked with the house views and the sun angles for the pool patio.   The Party Barn has a chicken coop shape with board and batten siding in deference to the farmhouse. The design twist was the roof solution. Using a transclucent insulated panel, the  shadows from the oaks are appreciated from inside and the evening glow of lighting inside is experienced when outside. Three custom steel trusses support the roof. Opeing up to the pool deck with a pair of 10 foot glass doors,  a steel canopy provides shade for soft seating.   Another humble outbuilding, the Art Studio hinges off the Party Barn to open to distant views over the field with a glass roll up door. The orientation is due south for the solar panels that heat the pool.   Phase 2 - Francesca’s Big Moves:
  • Ground floor bedroom suite is added
  • All landscape is new except for existing trees
  • Living room expanded to part of wrap around porch
  • Pool and Party Barn is added
  • Art Studio is added with PV for pool
  • Relocated larger growing area to front property including chicken coops, greenhouse

Physical Context

How does the design respond to the surrounding physical context and demonstrate an understanding of the connection between the built and natural environment? On a quiet street in wine country not far from town, the parcels are larger and all the neighbors have a few acres. This site was relatively flat sloping from front to back gently. The decision to repurpose the existing house and garage, saved the embodied energy instead of starting from scratch which would have been easier and less expensive. The 1980s original house received a full make over - plumbed and strengthened, well insulated and fenestrated with quality windows.   The parcel shape and the original house placement is goofy, but at least it had the right relationship to the road – fully facing the oncoming visitors as farms should. The back would become the Private Idaho where the views and sunset would make the days last longest. Visual screening from adjacent neighbors was accomplished by filling in one border with more cypress and the Party Barn placement on the other border.   The connection to the exterior was evolving and Farmer #1 wanted expanded views from the house and to sit out back and watch the vegetables grow.  But the second and current farmer wanted to actively work the land and the challenge to link all the outbuildings in a logical and artful flow became key determiners for the site plan. Farmer #2 also wanted the new bedroom suite on the ground floor to create an aging in place opportunity and brings the farmer closer to the land with the bedroom opening directly on the Koi Pond deck.   The garden and orchards are producing the majority of the foods for the owners. Chickens and beans complete the protein needs and voile, self sufficiency is close at hand. And for the sake of happiness, there is a larger flower garden as well. Biodiversity in the plantings in the front and back yards bring the birds and butterflies and squirrel. When being outside is the majority of one’s life, the pathways that connect indoor to out are important and well placed. The owners usually talk about how fun it is to sit out under the canopy near the pool, or that unfinished project or something that needs fixing. That’s a farmers way of life.