House & Garden, May 2004
Drive two hours north of San Francisco, beyond the wine country
of casual elegance, and you come to where rural gets real. The air
smells of bay trees, wood smoke, and cow. You rumble across a roaring
creek, creep along a grassy track, and blink at the exuberant red
ranch house, all windows and welcome.
“It’s the wrong shade of red, but don’t tell
my brother, says Celia Tejada, who has used at least eight shade
of red – so far – in the house she owns with her brother,
“She is impossible, impossible to work with,” he confides
as Celia stands within earshot. “Impossible.”
This lifelong bantering started a world away, in Ruerrero, a Spanish
farm town known for making goat cheese. Here in northern California,
Celia, the senior vice president for design and product development
at Pottery Barn, is designing Tejada Ranch, an 82-acre weekend place
for herself; her two children; Ivo, a Bay Area contractor; his wife,
Nina; and their two children. “My house is for me, my family,
and my friends,” says Celia, who credits Ivo’s “hands
of gold” for realizing her sketches. “Everybody has
a work in it. And I do it for the joy of playing with the space.”
Celia and Ivo wanted a retreat where they could instill the values
of their village in their children. When he found the property in
1999, she knew that it had the potential to be magic. Bounded by
creeks and a river, the land includes steep hills with a ribbon
waterfall, woods, pasture, fruit and nut trees, and stands of weeping
silver birch and cypress around the house. But, oh, the house. Built
in the ’70s, it had low ceilings, small rooms, and little
light. Fortunately, it also had the bones to support change.
Just inside the main entry is a gallery – the Spanish version
of a New England mudroom – with a vaulted ceiling and an easy-to-clean
cement floor. Private space, including all the bedrooms except Celia’s,
is to the left; to the right is public space that celebrates the
love of family, friends, good food and conversation.
The roof, with beams running below, is now the ceiling of the
25-by-45 foot main room. Six sets of French doors make the space
feels as if it were walled in glass. At one end of the room the
dominant feature in an elevated, custom-designed sofa pit that faces
a grandly rustic fireplace. The sofa absorbs all comers, who nap,
read, or watch movies on the wall-mounted screen; the sofa back
has an extended lip that serves as a table for art or craft projects.
Mid-room is the dining area, with a long table made of planks atop
big-wheeled industrial restaurant preparation tables. Beyond is
the spacious cooking area that Celia designed.
She turned the former garage into her bedroom, which has a wall
of red, a fireplace, and a freestanding bathtub next to a wall of
French doors. At some point the space will become the boys’
bunkhouse, and Celia will move into an addition yet to be built.
This is a place of practical whimsy, inside and out. Ivo’s
vintage Dodge flatbed – blue sculpture doubling as machinery
– serves as the bar for outdoor dinners. Hay bales provide
seating. Candle-filled chandeliers hang from pulleys on tree limbs.
The chicken coop has eight nesting areas, each painted a different
color, a touch that fails to quiet African fowl that defend the
place against rattlesnakes. Eight garden beds – one for each
family member, plus one for guests – are filled with vegetables.
Ivo and a friend from Ruerrero are remodeling the barn. They envision
a space for family festivals, cooking, dining, movies, and performances.
Beyond are the vineyards of Spanish varietals that have already
produced several vintages. “Ivo planted the vineyard with
great love,” Celia says.
They want to make the retreat self-sufficient. Already the children
gather eggs daily. Celia envisions olive trees and pressing own
olive oil. Alberto Solis, a family friend who deals in specialty
foods, is investigating the potential for walnut oil. Pigs, cows,
and horses will join the dogs and cats already in residence. “This
is,” Celia says, “a work in progress.” Ivo rolls