It looks like it might have been made by one of the many Italian immigrants who settled in the Sonoma and Napa valleys more than a century ago. The outside is unfinished weathered wood and fieldstone.
But this charming "old barn" didn't exist a year ago. Builders Jon and Susan Reiter imagined it from the ground up, piecing together what would become "Fox Hill" with European cast-offs — 200-year-old Carrera marble sinks, a front door that once kept the cattle inside a French barn, a walkway of authentic old cobblestones from France and even an ancient wellhead from Aix-en-Provence fashioned into a charming fountain that bubbles through an iron bucket.
The couple wanted to create "instant history," a house that would convey the feeling of stepping back in time, and that would also be solid enough — just like the European farmhouses it evokes — to be passed down from one generation to the next.
"We're shooting for the look of an old European barn that had been around for a long time and somebody found it and rehabbed it into a modern home," said Reiter, a custom contractor based in Kenwood. "That feeling of permanence and age gives it a homey feel."
The brand new 4,500-square-foot house in the hills above Kenwood has just been sold to a couple who want to turn it into a family getaway compound. But before the new owners move in, the Reiters have invited designers from Sonoma County to come in and have their way with the interior.
The Wine Country chapter of The Interior Design Society trade association is taking over Fox Hill for the first few weeks of May. Twelve local designers will decorate the home, which invites a soothing mix of new and old, rustic and contemporary and European and California features. It will be the chapter's first local Designers Showcase event in five years and will be open to the public May 12-15 and May 19-22. Visitors will check in at Chateau St. Jean Winery and be taken by shuttle up to the home.
All the vendors who have provided furnishings, accessories, art and other elements for designers to use for the showcase are from Sonoma County.
"One of the things we focused on was bringing the entire Sonoma County design community together," said Julia Bombardier, a designer who is doing the main living/dining area.
Set on 13 acres with views of Annadel State Park, the house from the exterior looks like a weathered barn. But inside, Sonoma architect Vic Conforti has laid it out a bit like an old-world country villa, with a long great room and two twin wings extending out and embracing a private courtyard. Massive lift-and-slide doors completely open the room to this cozy patio, shaded by mature olive trees set in raised boxes.
The house, with is earthy simplicity, is a great backdrop for design, said Susy McBride, vice president of the design society chapter.
Reiter builds only several homes a year, putting a hand-forged touch on each one. He and Susan take their clients directly to the source for key materials — to San Miguel de Allende in Mexico for stone, for example. For windows and doors, he escorts them to a special supplier in Certaldo in Tuscany to choose their own wood. For antiques or light fixtures, they may go to the south of France.