Why Glen Ellen's Moon House is 'its own walk-in world'
To the curious passerby, the grand structure rising from a clearing by Sonoma Creek in Glen Ellen inspires speculation. Is it a museum? A private residence? A modern tribute to Greco- Roman architecture? The answer, when considering Doug Wilson’s evocatively named Moon House Antiquarium, is all of the above. Wilson has been making his living as a professional artist, both painter and sculptor, for over 40 years and, as sole proprietor of the grand residence, he calls the place “his most inspired canvas.”
Wilson’s vision for his dream house had been taking shape for decades, but it wasn’t until the floods of 2006 destroyed his former home that he felt he could begin to actualize this ambitious creation on the same spot, higher up and therefore farther away from Sonoma Creek. What did that take?
“Man-hours by the gazillion,” says Wilson. “I never imagined when I first began how the place would evolve, and is still evolving.”
Wilson chose the name Moon House as a nod to another Glen Ellen artist who named his place Wolf House, Jack London. For over a decade, the property has been a beehive of industry, as he worked alongside carpenters, contractors, and casters to create over 90 different prototypes and molds required to fabricate all the decorative and functional pieces of the house. A range of epoxies, plasters, and concretes were used to construct the home’s interior and exterior, as well as the many pieces of handmade furniture. Says Wilson of the result, “It is its own walk-in world.”
And to walk into this world is indeed to leave the ordinary behind. Steps lead up to a sliding front door that opens into a great room, past two massive lapis-blue, Moroccan-style urns standing sentinel at the entryway.
Illuminated display cases are positioned throughout the house, containing collections of silver settings, cubist pewter tea sets, and Art Deco cloisonné compacts with geometric designs. In one case, a light shines on a very apt, framed quote by Albert Einstein: Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
“My calling seems to be fusion,” says Wilson. “To bring together dissonant styles and aesthetics, ancient and modern, pristine and crumbling. When I sit down to design, it’s all about layering, ruins and revival, a kind of out-of-time hybrid.”
Think Pompei meets geode meets gallery. Still, there is a cohesiveness and intention to every inch of the 5,000-square-foot space. The countertops, the friezes, the porthole windows, the artwork on the walls, even the salad servers were conceived of and fabricated by Wilson, with the help of his crew. Despite the predominance of stone and cement, there is a surprising warmth to the interior, with its soft lighting, fireplaces, the burnished oxblood red of the floors, the framed portraits Wilson has painted of authors he has befriended, and the treehouse feel of the outdoor deck. The floor plan is dynamic, with minimal partitions, one room inviting you into the next. There is a playfulness too in the furnishings, especially the two islands that display bar items. One is a plaster piece embedded with numerous silver serving trays; the other looks like a fragment excavated from an ancient city, resting atop an old mining cart.
All of these designs were created in Wilson’s studio, a separate light-filled space remarkably free of plaster dust and spilled paint. His model for Moon House is on display here, and this is where the 12-foot columns at the entrance, which he describes as the most ambitious component of the house, were cast.
While the home is not open to the public, Moon House was built to be shared. Wilson has hosted many fundraisers benefiting local nonprofits such as the Kiwanis Club, Jack London State Historic Park, Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, and Vintage House. The Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, where he served as board president, has offered tours of Moon House, with more planned in the coming year.