Designer creating showroom in Santa Rosa Victorian

Natasha Stocker works to inject 'breath of electrifying, inspiring air' into historic downtown Santa Rosa home.|

From the outside, the stately “Bolton House” on Sonoma Avenue, with its wraparound porch, two-story belvedere and hexagonal turret, looks much the same as it did when it was first built in 1903.

But inside is a Queen Anne of a different color. Think shades of playful pinks, greens and gradations of gray. Traditional antique pieces share space with cutting-edge contemporary.

Since May, interior designer Natasha Stocker has been busily injecting into this historic home in downtown Santa Rosa what she calls “a breath of electrifying, inspiring air.”

She is creating a permanent designer showcase that will serve both as offices for her Inspired Designs, and a place in which to feature, in a natural, home-like setting, local materials and the work of all local cabinet makers, electricians, contractors, artists, furniture makers and other artisans.

“It is a true home showcase,” she said.

“But instead of a one per year tour, we are open seven days a week.”

She is filling it with her favorite things: bold statement chandeliers, daring wall covers - note the gilded gold-leaf pattern in the bathroom - encaustic cement tiles in smart designs by Villa Lagoon.

Not for everyone

She knows her look isn’t for everyone, but she’s content to appeal to “those who are a little bit edgy and a bit quirky, who want something chic and different but still affordable, and who aren’t afraid of some artistic boldness,” said Stocker, who describes her style as “eclectic with a young, fresh twist.”

She plans a grand opening on Nov. 14 but hopes to have a soft-opening by the end of the month.

Stocker and her three employees were working out of a 120-square-foot home office when she had the bright idea of buying and renovating an older house to serve as a permanent design showcase for her work as well as the many local artists and artisans she has discovered over the years.

It wasn’t such a crazy idea for Stocker. At 34, she is already an experienced renovator. She and her husband, Eric, are comfortably ensconced in their third home.

When they bought it, the house was a dank 1963 rancher in lower Fountaingrove that they scored during the market downturn four years ago and set about remodeling with thrifty ingenuity and sweat equity.

They similarly upcycled two homes before that.

She partnered with her father, Ted Boutacoff, an engineer who has undertaken many DIY remodeling projects himself, and went in search of the perfect house.

“I love historical architecture and places that have a soul,” said Stocker, who got her degree in fine art and painting from UC Davis before studying interior design.

“I set out to find an old home that was commercially zoned.”

It proved more difficult that she anticipated.

When they failed to find a suitable house for sale they started looking at rentals but again weren’t wowed by any of them.

But on a whim one day, she gathered up her three assistants and told them she wanted to just drive by her “dream house,” even though the rent was double what they had budgeted.

“Our jaws were on the floor. It was love at first sight. The moldings, the coved ceilings, the original curved windows, the beautiful banister. It needed loads of work but it was a true diamond in the rough,” she recalled of that first agent tour of the house.

Jones design

The mansion was designed by Brainerd Jones, Petaluma’s preeminent architect, who also did notable building in Santa Rosa, like the Dutch-roofed Comstock House and The Belevedere, both on Mendocino Avenue.

“It was love at first sight. Built for real estate investor Walter Bolton, the house by the 1960s was purchased by architect Thomas Fruiht for offices for he and his partner Thomas Tomasi.

It eventually was gifted to the Sonoma Land Trust, which used it for offices.

But the nonprofit outgrew the space. Still, the trust was relucatnt to sell it, until Stocker came along with her vision for a design house showcasing local art and talent. After numerous meetings a deal was struck.

“We launched into removing the layers of paint and wallboard that had been added over the years to bring it back to its former glory - with a twist,” she said.

Stocker likes to try new things with old ideas. For her office, for instance, she installed old-fashioned tin ceiling tiles but then painted them a moody black.

Floral wallpapers were popular more than 100 years ago. Stocker updates the look with an over-scale floral print on an inky background.

Other surprise pops include antique seating reupholstered in fuchsia and orange.

With so many shabby chic and Wine Country rustic looks out there, she says she’s striving to do something a little daring and different, a look that will appeal to those with a bit of edge to their tastes.

In the main design showroom, she has painted the walls with an ombre technique, in which color blends from one hue to the next. In this room, a rosy pink bleeds at the edges into white.

This is where she also is showing off the work of local artists and artisans. That includes the natural cutting boards using local found wood by Gwen Gunheim and the paintings of Alana Ciena Tillman, who was born without the use of her arms but paints beautifully with her mouth and feet and has created a line of paintings with the same ombre look as the walls.

“This is what I’m most excited about. Giving these artists and tradespeople the venue to showcase their talents. As an artist myself, I am well aware that creative minds are excellent at being creative, but in general, not great at marketing themselves,” she said.

Sweat equity

All of the work was done either by local contractors and companies or by sweat equity. Her DIY team included her staff and her family: Dad, who applied his engineering know-how to problem-solving and her mom, Shelley, an expert painter who did the front and back doors and, with Ted, meticulously refinished the curvy banister, made of ash but finished to look like redwood. Even her son Carter, 9, helped out.

Stocker expects to frequently refresh the showcase with different furnishings, fixtures and finds to keep it current and interesting. The public is invited to come by and view what’s new, inquire about design services or even buy furnishings and accents by the piece.

She plans to have regular “Wine and Design” events open to the public, to shine a light on her artists, utilizing both the interior backyard. One prized gift from her husband, Eric, is an old claw-foot bathtub for ice and drinks.

The downstairs is devoted to her design studio while two upstairs rooms have been converted into offices she will rent out, as well as a shared conference room that can be rented for short term use by groups needing a nice meeting space.

“My vision,” she said, “is to create a community gathering space where people can meet, connect and be inspired.”

You can reach Staff Writer Meg McConahey at or 521-5204.

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