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Location: Forestville, California, USA
Architect: SB Architects
Landscape Design: Valleycrest
Interior Design: Myra Hoefer Design
General Contractor: Shook & Waller
Photographs: Jay Graham
Established in 2001 by the brother-sister team of Joe and Catherine Bartolomei, the Farmhouse Inn combines the intimacy of a country inn with the sophisticated luxury of a world-class hotel. Born and raised in Sonoma County, this team’s roots in the California wine country run deep. Preceded by five generations of farmers and vintners, their ownership and management of this unique property is an act of love, and has turned this boutique property into an internationally acclaimed luxury destination that has landed on every travel publication’s list of top destinations.
The experience of this property is unlike any other, yet Joe and Catherine’s goal is down to earth. “It’s not just about luxury, although that’s key too, it’s about authenticity,” states Catherine. “It’s about meeting our friends; winemakers, chefs and artists…and making them your own.” That commitment to creating an authentic wine-country experience, grounded in history and place, established the primary goal for the expansion of this distinctive property.
It is also what brought the design and development team together. SB Architects has earned a world-wide reputation for its site-sensitive approach to design. “The site, regional vernacular, culture and traditions come first. The place where these inherent factors come together with the needs of the client and the project program forms the starting point for our design process,” declares Scott Lee, President of SB Architects. “Creating an authentic experience of place is always our primary goal.”
The re-design and expansion of the Farmhouse Inn began with the design team taking a close look at the site, and how each guest moves through and experiences the property. By re-organizing the uses, the team was able to invoke a more cohesive, pedestrian-oriented guest experience, and enhance the blend of intimacy and luxury that makes this property so unique.
The first priority was to move the parking from the interior of the property to the edges of the site. This immediately opened up the opportunity to eliminate the loop road that had connected the hotel’s various uses, replacing it with pedestrian pathways, landscaping and several new structures. The program for the expansion includes nine new guest keys, a new building, new meeting and fitness areas, and a re-designed arrival building. Nestled within a small valley, the Farmhouse Inn feels peaceful and secluded, despite its prominent location along the Russian River. The re-design enables the hotel to take full advantage of its unique valley location.
Each guest’s journey through any property tells a story, and the arrival experience is the opening chapter. Knowing this, the design team re-located the arrival building from its former location mid-way through the site to the front of the property, in line with the main farmhouse that gives the property its name. Carved from two former guest keys, the new arrival expands the hotel’s sense of identity. A second-story addition balances the two-story height of the existing farmhouse, and a large, gabled roof extends over a wrap-around porch lined with Adirondack chairs, a porch swing and an indoor-outdoor fireplace. The effect makes an impact much larger than its footprint, and establishes a perfect place to stop and take in the first views of the property.
Set at the center of the property, nine new guest keys are housed in two separate structures, linked by an elevated bridge that will someday be covered in climbing vines. The two structures are parted down the middle, opening up the view from the farmhouse to the barn building at the rear of the valley. Scaled to appeal to guests who are looking for something in between the intimate Farmhouse and Heritage Rooms at the front of the property and the expansive Barn Suites at the rear of the valley, the new accommodations bridge the gap – both literally and figuratively. Falling somewhere between the Victorian Farmhouse building and the modern barn aesthetic of the barn suite building, the new structures serve as a perfect complement to both.
The new spa hugs the edge of the valley. In homage to the design of iconic horse barns, the building is long and low. A screened-in entry and lounging area create an expansive indoor/outdoor space, and Dutch doors lead to the three treatment rooms. Each treatment room opens to a private garden with an outdoor shower. On the opposite side of the small valley, the former arrival and administration building has been completely re-designed to accommodate meeting and fitness areas. French doors along the length of the building open it up to the pool, gardens and outdoor relaxation areas that lie at the center of the property.