The House Whisperers
Designer Jen Macdonald Teams with Wade Design Architects

Text by Kendra Boutell
Photography Paul Dyer

In the living room of a St. Helena Craftsman style house, Peter Samuels’ life sized photo of a chestnut horse welcomes visitors. The image reflects the homeowners’ passion for equestrian life which includes a nearby horse facility. They found a kindred spirit in their interior designer and fellow equine enthusiast, Jennifer Macdonald of Jennifer Robin Interiors. To create the contemporary rural home of their dreams, the existing French farmhouse style interiors required an extensive remodel.

Macdonald's firm Jennifer Robin Interiors teamed with Wade Design Architects to translate the couples’ vision into reality. The designer met husband and wife team Luke and Ani Wade when they worked together at the prestigious firm, Backen & Gillam Architects. After founding their companies ten years ago, the trio has collaborated on various commissions. Luke Wade described the St. Helena project, "In 2001 the clients built a house perched on a bench overlooking Napa Valley with splendid views to the south. They loved their home and location, but the house did not adequately open up to embrace the setting, the kitchen was undersized, and the master suite was a jumble."

The architects replaced existing hinged doors with oversized sliding barn doors linking the pastoral landscape to the casual interiors. An entry hallway leads to an expansive great room with soaring cathedral ceilings. Macdonald unified the living and dining spaces with a pale color palette punctuated by shades of amber and blue. She centered the seating group on a rustic mantle with arched keystone opening. A massive coffee table fabricated by Statsky Design from 100-year-old oak floor joists anchors the living room. Macdonald sourced the soft furnishings from Dmitriy and A. Rudin.

Placed behind the sofa a metal waterfall console table delineates the living and dining areas. A pair of black cage lanterns from Ironware International illuminate the rectangular oak Parsons dining table surrounded by wicker chairs. In the adjacent kitchen, the Wades expanded the space by incorporating square footage from a hallway. To provide continuity, they matched the existing stained concrete floor. Macdonald selected the gray soapstone counters to play against the stark white cabinetry and installed a quartet of glazed stoneware funnel pendants over the kitchen island.

After a day spent riding and caring for horses, the couple retreats to a tranquil master suite. The architects and designer transformed the incoherent jumble of private rooms into a cohesive statement. Macdonald said of the completed project, "The home now has a modern country, California vibe."