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Idyll Away

For the Hanson family, St. Helena designer Daniel Hale created a classic wine country residence high above Napa Valley.

One spring weekend in search of land, Patricia Adrian-Hanson and Nicolas Hanson happened upon a hidden knoll to the east of Napa. With olive groves and two sunny acres of volcanic soil that cabernet grapes love, the five-acre Coombsville plot was near perfect, save for a ramshackle hunting lodge amid the overgrown garden.

Ever since the family arrived in Northern California from London nearly four years ago—she’s an interior designer; he’s an executive with a specialty foods company based near Davis—the couple was determined to put down roots so Felix, 8, and Theodore, 5, could grow up in the embrace of a rural setting. Better yet, one with excellent schools; one where they could ride bikes and skateboard along quiet country roads.

“We love Napa Valley because it’s still authentically agricultural but at the same time very international and rich with cultural and culinary arts,” says Patricia.

They soon met designer Daniel Hale on an architectural tour and quickly identified indoor-outdoor access, informality and light-filled rooms as qualities they desired. Hale’s evolved, earthy style embraces mill-cut exposed wood, concrete floors with a simple seal, recycled old timbers and hand-plastered walls.

In 2011, with Hale on board, they started work with Trainor Builders in St. Helena to craft a simple 3,200-square-foot frame house with lots of terraces and the drama of wide overhanging verandas. “My go-to aesthetic and the Hansons’ is quiet and monochromatic,” says Hale. “We created lots of outdoor space so that everyone could sit on a porch and watch the intense light changing across the valley.” The family brought in handsome tables, Gustavian-style Swedish chairs, silver-gilt mirrors and chandeliers.

Sonoma-based landscape architects Roche + Roche started planning the site as the foundation was laid. A morning garden includes a Grecian bay laurel in the hedged gravel courtyard. London plane trees and Japanese wisteria vines provide shade on the pergola. The adjacent terrace is verdant with clipped globes of English boxwood, pittosporum and traditional hydrangea. A citrus and herb garden flank the residence, where there’s also a wine cellar and shed.  

Two acres have been planted with cabernet sauvignon grapes, just as they imagined, and a swimming pool is set on a sunny plateau. The kitchen garden includes raised vegetable beds, a fruit and nut orchard with European Mirabelle plums, a chicken coop and two new beehives. 

As the sun sets over the Mayacamas range, golden rays shine directly into the Hansons’ house. Patricia adds, “It is calm and meditative after the boys have gone to bed. We love weekends when everyone is gathered around the table, tasting wines, and music is playing. It’s private, very festive up here on our hillside.” 

By Diane Dorrans Saeks.

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