At home with Colgin Cellars’ Ann Colgin and Joe Wender
When Ann Colgin and Joe Wender, the husband-and-wife vintners behind St. Helena’s Colgin Cellars, bought connected penthouses on Santa Monica’s Ocean Avenue three years ago, they were seduced by the residence’s stylistic freedom and turnkey potential—not to mention its easy access to authentic house-made pasta. “We wanted a situation where we could come and go,” says Colgin. “The building is contemporary, the lifestyle is casual and we can walk to one of our favorite restaurants, Capo.”
The couple (who met in 1997 at Spago in Beverly Hills, at a dinner honoring the late French vintner Henri Jayer) lives primarily in Napa, in a Victorian-style country house whose traditional interiors pay homage to the property’s original owner, Josephine Tychson, the first woman to build and operate a winery in California.
The magnitude of the achievement is not lost on Colgin, who singlehandedly founded Colgin Cellars in 1992—joining a group of influential purveyors creating handcrafted small-production wines.
With no historical strings attached, the architecture of their weekend retreat down south was ideal as a blank canvas, the better to showcase their ever—expanding collection of modern art (Colgin is also on the board of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Centre Pompidou Foundation), not to mention a world-class working wine cellar.
Designer Joan Behnke, who previously collaborated with the couple on a Malibu residence and a Napa guesthouse, set out to integrate their artworks into a 6,500-square-foot design that also had to function as a venue for entertaining—something for which Colgin and Wender, a senior adviser to Goldman Sachs, are known. “We wanted to create a sculptural space that unfolded for their guests,” Behnke says. “And it had to marry city and beach,” adds Meghan Alyssa Eisenberg, a senior designer at Behnke’s firm.
The resulting vignettes use classic finishes and silhouettes in a fresh way, interweaving pieces by established and of-the-moment talents: In the living room, Untitled C in Grapes, a custom acrylic painting by Ed Ruscha, hangs above a pair of slipper chairs set with pillows upholstered in metallic-woven Toyine upholstery hand-selected to complement the piece; a bespoke curved ivory sofa works as an oversized parenthetical to hug the voluminous space, and Philip Nimmo’s bold Caldo fire screen adds a witty focal punch. Big Bang Series (in Ten Steps), an arc of concrete and marble slabs by artist Analia Saban, encircles a grand piano in the entry gallery like a looming Greek chorus, and, across the patio in the dining room, painter Mary Weatherford’s riot of brushstrokes, Love Forever (Cave), and Mary Corse’s ambient light and space piece, Untitled, offsets a formal antique Italian table set with custom suede-upholstered Baxter chairs. The setup can be rearranged to accommodate up to 40 guests, who dine under a monumental chandelier by Lindsey Adelman that almost spans the length of the room.
Visible from the dining room is the wine cellar—a feat of engineering, with a brass Piet Mondrian-styled showpiece window, which houses 1,200 bottles. “It’s what we want to drink now,” Colgin says of the inventory, explaining that vintages that require more aging have no place in this setting. It drives home the point of the space: “We have fun here,” she says simply. “We have great fun.”
Photography by SAM FROST.
Written by MELISSA GOLDSTEIN.