In a hidden corner of Napa Valley, Jay Jeffers transforms a historic Victorian into a weekend escape embracing simple pleasures for the whole family.
Seven years ago, San Francisco interior designer Jay Jeffers acquired a small house among the vineyards on the rustic western edge of St. Helena. Based in San Francisco for the last 20 years, and with his studio in the gritty heart of the burgeoning Tenderloin, Jeffers quickly became obsessed with the low-key Napa Valley pleasures of Saturday farmers markets, walks to town, exploring deserted country lanes, and relaxing as the sun goes down over the deep green Mayacamas range.
So it was natural, when a new client called him about decorating their family compound near the Silverado Trail and just a mile away from his weekend retreat, that he would hop on his chic Martone
bicycle and pedal across the valley for a first meeting.
“I loved the grandeur and elegance of their Victorian house, which was built in 1895 and is now surrounded by handsome old oaks,” says Jeffers.
He appraised the dramatic potential of the historic architecture, complete with wide porches and a turret, and immediately started planning a cohesive and practical interior layout, as well as shaded outdoor spaces for entertaining.
Jeffers is an expert at artfully capturing the traditional-meets-today relaxed style that works well in northern Napa Valley. With deft use of color—both vibrant and subdued—he sketched elegant but easygoing rooms and a family retreat to accommodate several generations.
“The house was beautifully crafted and mostly intact, but we wanted to emphasize a fresher look, with no hint of Victoriana,” says Jeffers. He painted woodwork, balustrades and doors in a glossy gray-black, and selected a very understated palette in tones of cerulean, steel, ivory and dove gray.
Jeffers admires the agricultural heritage of Napa Valley, and installed vintage farmhouse pieces in the sunroom and guest cottages, as well as a custom-designed wood and steel console table in the hallway.
For the San Francisco family that treasures weekends here, it has become a perfect, private sanctuary. They ride bikes into St. Helena for breakfast, walk along the lane to Meadowood for brunch, and pick fruit and vegetables in the garden year-round. These city-dwellers watch the children swim until dusk (in the newly added swimming pool), chase lizards, explore the wild hills just beyond the property and stargaze at night.
One of the great achievements of Jeffers and his team was creating a convivial mood, opening up hallways and shaping a comfortable connection between all the rooms as well as between the main house and the guest cottages. “We planned each room with is own character, and for its purpose,” says Jeffers.
The bright sunroom overlooking the pool is the most popular spot all year, with large-scale custom sofas and tufted armchairs upholstered in durable outdoor fabrics. It’s here everyone gathers at the end of the day to taste a new bottle, or to greet Napa Valley wine-growing friends who arrive for a barbecue.
“It’s such a relaxed house,” says Jeffers. “The lively conversation is likely to be about the vineyards, the farmers market, a newly released wine, a new restaurant. It’s pure escape and my clients, now dear friends, seem perfectly at home.”
Written by DIANE DORRANS SAEKS.
Photography by MATTHEW MILLMAN.