With three children fully launched, Bay Area couple Luanne and Jim went in search of a forever home for two in Napa Valley. Jim, a realtor, soon stumbled upon a mid-century ranch-style home along one of the original streets of the Silverado Country Club. The view out back faced west toward the nature-filled Milliken Creek while the golf course sat east on the entry side. It was the perfect location, but the 2,500-square-feet three-bedroom home needed a complete renovation to modernize it and make it feel like home. Napa-based designer Marie Leonard stepped in to execute an interior and exterior refresh. Busy from a post-pandemic rush, she called in Mill Valley-based designer Jill McCrae to curate the furnishings and accessories.
It was the first project together for the design duo, who have been friends for 25 years. “I totally admire her talents and the sparkle she brings,” says Leonard of McCrae. “We think the same, we have the same virtues, and we know how to work with many, many layers.”
The process started with a design interview. Leonard learned that the couple have a love for the beach and Southern California despite settling into Wine Country. “He’s a surfer, so I figured, let’s give them that Santa Barbara beach vibe,” says Leonard. Temperate Napa weather lends itself to outdoor living year-round, which was a key part of the design.
“I really wanted it to feel like you could pick up the pillows and furniture inside and bring it outside and vice versa,” added McCrae. Natural textures and tones like caning, Lampakanai rope, rattan, hide, and seashells echo inside while iron and bronze details make their way outside too. Two Calligaris club chairs in the family room, for example, swivel to face outside toward the olive, redwood, and oak trees that frame the patio.
Abundant light, one of the home’s best features, floods in through three sets of French doors that each connect the living room, family room, and master bedroom to the outdoor area via modern concrete porches. Leonard and McCrae took full advantage of this focal point that extends from the main entry to the outside with two Kravet sofas that leave the view unobstructed. Overhead, two existing skylights accentuate the dreamy feature.
“I wanted to make a space where the sofas are large enough, but are not going to stop you from entering the room,” says McCrae. “That brought me to the slope arm, where you get to look in and through and continue looking outside.” A Palecek coffee table in the center establishes some of the mixed materials you’ll find throughout the house. “I’m obsessed with this coffee table,” says McCrae. “It’s wood with caning in the center.” Two hand-twisted Lampakanai rope ottomans, also from Palecek, hint at additional texture and tone of the design.
Leonard and McCrae went a step further to brighten the space with fresh coats of new paint, like Benjamin Moore Simply White and Swiss Coffee, and sanding and refinishing the hardwood floors. The California coastal design uses seashell art, like a Palecek piece in the living room, made of seashells and coco beads hand-stitched on linen, with restraint. “There is definitely a continuation of some feeling of a love of water,” says McCrae. The homeowner’s surfboard, a piece of art handmade by a friend, hangs mounted on the wall in the family room.
Outside, Leonard designed three distinct entertaining spaces, a cozy fire pit living area, a formal dining space that seats 10 comfortably, and the star of the show: a bar area with pizza oven that was refaced with white stucco. “I threw a beautiful party for them as a thank you,” says Leonard. “One of my friends is an Italian pizza chef and came in and made a lovely array of pizzas on a warm, beautiful night.”
The fire table from Terra in Mill Valley also topped the couple’s wish list. “I loved having it wide enough that you could even put down platters, you could really serve on it,” says McCrae. Side tables around the fire pit can be repurposed as stools for bigger parties. The spa beyond this area, outside the master bedroom, serves as a peaceful retreat, where the couple can listen to the calming sounds of nature along the creek, where beavers, otters, and deer roam.
Not expecting her husband to find their perfect home so quickly, Luanne had ordered custom Ethan Allen dining chairs just before the purchase of the house. Leonard used the fabric on the chairs as her first cue. “Those dining room chairs were my vision for the palette for the entire house,” she says. “For example, I took the colors right out of the fabric and incorporated it into the floors.” McCrae completed the room with a Robert James oval dining room table, Circa Lighting lamps over a buffet table made of wood, concrete, and seeded glass.
The master bedroom embraces the ivory and cream palette throughout with a Bernhardt bed and dresser, and a bone starburst mirror. “I really love playing with sand tones, creams, things that are in nature, and then mixing in some deeper colors that will ground it,” says McCrae. Hand-twisted baca rope stools, for example, anchor the room at the foot of the bed.
The result? An indoor-outdoor oasis for the couple to live, rest, and entertain. “I think we achieved a lot with textures. It is very warm, inviting and a place you’d want to stay and relax,” says McCrae. Leonard’s housewarming party for the couple was the first test. “That night, everybody said exactly what I wanted to accomplish,” she recalls. “They complimented the flow, the vibe of elegance but still feeling casual and livable, and the welcoming aesthetic. They were especially excited about the indoor/outdoor infusion. I definitely accomplished what I set out to do.”
And working together with her bestie proved to be the right decision. “Jill had that same feeling and passion and vision that I did. We made it fun. This was not a job, this was fun.
Theresa Gonzalez is a Bay Area-based writer specializing in interior design and architecture. She is the author of Sunday Sews (Chronicle Books) and has contributed to San Francisco Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, Visit California and more.