An everyday residence or a rural getaway? After a thoughtful remodel, this little house in downtown Sonoma combines the best of both
1 of 7Photo by Thomas J. Story; written by Jess Chamberlain
Country house update
While living in rainy Seattle eight years ago, Josh Heiser and Steve Burns decided to make a change. “We thought, Where do we want to eventually end up? Why not go there now?” says Josh.
And so they did, heading to Sonoma. The prime getaway spot is justly famous for its enviable climate, dreamy grapevines-for-miles landscape, and notable wineries and restaurants. How, then, to keep that away-from-it-all vibe in a home that has to function as, well, a home?
The couple found a onetime cookshack, complete with shaky 1880s foundation and four layers of musty wallpaper, on a half-acre a few blocks from the main plaza. “The original structure was funky at best,” Josh adds. “But the lot was so great, the house was secondary.” That was then. After a thorough and thoughtful update, this is now.
Create the cozy
Fireplace, sink-in leather chair, and tapestry ottoman give a lodge-like feel to this corner of the 1,100-square-foot home. White walls and sisal carpeting keep the room from feeling too heavy.
2 of 7Photo by Thomas J. Story; written by Jess Chamberlain
Live outside the box
The temperate Sonoma weather means the patio can be in constant use, extending the usable space of the house year-round.
3 of 7Photo by Thomas J. Story; written by Jess Chamberlain
During the remodel, Josh and Steve raised the ceiling to make the narrow kitchen feel roomier. The glory of a vacation home (no in-your-face must-do projects) is re-created with built-in kitchen cabinets and cubbies to stow appliances, dishware, and the stuff of everyday life.
4 of 7Photo by Thomas J. Story; written by Jess Chamberlain
Furniture groupings, like this casual dining setup in a windowed corner of the great room, help define discrete living spaces.
5 of 7Photo by Thomas J. Story; written by Jess Chamberlain
An open, studio-style floor plan in the areas used for dining, sitting, and cooking makes for easy entertaining, says Josh. “Dinner guests don’t want to leave.”
No walls divide the living area from the kitchen, but there are plenty of retreats throughout the house. The bedroom lies behind the wall hung with the star.
6 of 7Photo by Thomas J. Story; written by Jess Chamberlain
Smart space savers
Formerly a second bedroom, this bathroom relies on space-saving strategies: antique redwood troughs in lieu of cabinets; a spa-like basket to keep towels handy.
7 of 7Photo by Thomas J. Story; written by Jess Chamberlain
Along with the outdoor dining space, the front yard is home to a dozen chickens, raised vegetable beds, and an in-ground pool (welcome during Sonoma’s hot summer afternoons) as well as a fountain.
Three large raised beds overflow with produce almost year-round. In midwinter, the harvest includes mustard, kale, cabbage, onions, and (hard to believe, but it’s true) strawberries.
A lively barter economy has grown up: For instance, Josh and Steve trade eggs for a neighbor’s homemade biscotti. “Our tomatoes didn’t do so well last year,” says Josh, “but Mark across the street had some really good ones.”