A Modern Weekend Retreat in Glen Ellen

A family settles into their quiet new weekend home in the Glen Ellen hills. 

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Rachel Muscatine and Ananth Madhavan waited a long time to call Sonoma their second home. Three years ago, after an extensive search, the San Francisco couple and their two children (an eighth-grader and a college student) found their dream location: a private, 10-acre oak-studded vineyard property in Glen Ellen with a small seasonal creek. “We came through the gate and started up a little windy road, and we looked around and thought ‘This is special,’ ” says Muscatine. With 360-degree views of Sonoma Valley and the Mayacamas Mountains, the hilltop setting called for a retreat that would celebrate nature and provide a sense of ease and simplicity.

The central courtyard is formed by the L-shaped main home and a new garage and outdoor kitchen. The homes soft gray-brown exterior walls echo the tones of the stone retaining walls and surrounding valley oaks. Muscatine grows Meyer lemons whci she likes to preserve in salt for coooking Morrocan style tagines
The central courtyard is formed by the L-shaped main home and a new garage and outdoor kitchen. The home’s soft gray-brown exterior walls echo the tones of the stone retaining walls and surrounding valley oaks. Rachel Muscatine grows Meyer lemons which she likes to preserve in salt for cooking Moroccan-style tagines. (Chris Hardy)

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After a dramatic two-year renovation of the property’s 50-year-old cottage and garage, overseen by award-winning San Francisco architect Nick Noyes, the family came home to their new getaway last summer. Noyes reimagined the home’s overall footprint, connecting the existing buildings around a new central courtyard and pool.

Rachel Muscatine and Ananth Madhavan. Chris Hardy
Rachel Muscatine and Ananth Madhavan. (Chris Hardy)

The result is a refined yet unfussy home that invites its owners to relax and breathe deeply. “Everywhere I turn, the house has this quietness,” explains Muscatine, taking in the whitewashed floors, opened-up ceiling beams, and banks of windows looking out to the surrounding vineyards. Deep couches and a cozy built-in banquette are meant for snuggling together “like sardines” to watch a movie, Muscatine jokes. And there’s nothing to flash or beep that would break the sense of calm— not even the ring of an iPhone. “We don’t get good cell reception, and we’re thrilled,” says Muscatine. “It’s a place where we can’t help but just slow down, put up our feet and read a book.”

From the back of the house, the view extends high into the Mayacamas Mountains, where the soft sage greens of valley oaks are highlighted against the taller evergreens that rise in teh background. 9Chris Hardy
From the back of the house, the view extends high into the Mayacamas Mountains, where the soft sage greens of valley oaks are highlighted against the taller evergreens that rise in the background. (Chris Hardy)

A culinary school graduate and passionate cook, Muscatine had a close hand in creating a kitchen that’s highly functional but doesn’t interfere with the view. “In San Francisco, my kitchen faces a wall. Here, when I wake up and make my coffee, watching the mist rise off the trees, I feel like I’m standing right outside.” On the wall to the left of the sink, a sliding door of blackened steel conceals an expansive pantry, and everyday dishes are easy to access on a bank of open steel shelving.

Thoughtful choices in the kitchen keep the overall look clean and simple. The counter has an integrated drain board next to the sink, upright slotted spaces hold baking pans and trays and dishes go straight from the dishwasher onto easyaccess open shelves. Muscatine loves the broad windows and contrast between the cabinetry and blackened steel pantry.
Thoughtful choices in the kitchen keep the overall look clean and simple. The counter has an integrated drain board next to the sink, upright slotted spaces hold baking pans and trays and dishes go straight from the dishwasher onto easy access open shelves. Muscatine loves the broad windows and contrast between the cabinetry and blackened steel pantry. (Chris Hardy)
The large dining table is the heart of the great room, close to the kitchen and overlooking the front porch. Chris Hardy
The large dining table is the heart of the great room, close to the kitchen and overlooking the front porch. Muscatine and her daughter, a college student and painter, love to visit art galleries together and are particularly fond of the Lost Art Salon in San Francisco, which helps historically significant but lesserknown artists from decades past find new audiences. To the left of the fireplace is a work by the salon’s owner, Gaeton Caron. (Chris Hardy)
The great room has a sense of calm and ease, with high ceilings, comfy couches, leather chairs and piles of pillows. A deep couch and the tufted banquette along the far wall are where the family settles in for movies and reading marathons.
The great room has a sense of calm and ease, with high ceilings, comfy couches, leather chairs and piles of pillows. A deep couch and the tufted banquette along the far wall are where the family settles in for movies and reading marathons.

The family looks forward to digging deeper into Sonoma Valley life, with plans this spring for chickens, blueberry bushes, a cutting garden and lots of cooking and canning on the weekends. Muscatine likes to put on sneakers for the 20-minute walk down the hill into Glen Ellen, waving to the rest of the family as they drive into town to meet for dinner at local favorite the fig café. And Madhavan revels in the quiet and the chance to pore over the highly entertaining police blotter in the local newspaper. Says Muscatine, “We’ve stepped into all this newness, and we say ‘This is our community now.”

A sense of calm extends into the master bedroom with a soft color palette and cozy gable rug. Muscatine and Madhavan often have their morning coffee here, looking out the floor-to-ceiling windows.
A sense of calm extends into the master bedroom with a soft color palette and cozy gable rug.
Muscatine and Madhavan often have their morning coffee here, looking out the floor-to-ceiling windows. (Chris Hardy)
The steam shower and standalone soaking tub in the master bath were inspired by Muscatine’s love of Turkish hammams. Marble tile and a restrained white and gray palette continue the restful theme. Chris Hardy)
The steam shower and standalone soaking tub in the master bath were inspired by Muscatine’s love of Turkish hammams. Marble tile and a restrained white and gray palette
continue the restful theme. (Chris Hardy)
Muscatine says the family is “thrilled” that the house gets poor cell service. “It’s a place where we can’t help but just slow down, put up our feet and read a book.” The couple’s contractor sandwiched panels of hog wire between wooden frames for storage in the wine cellar.
Muscatine says the family is “thrilled” that the house gets poor cell service. “It’s a place where we can’t help but just slow down, put up our feet and read a book.”  (Chris Hardy)
The couple’s contractor sandwiched panels of hog wire between wooden frames for storage in the wine cellar. Chris Hardy
The couple’s contractor sandwiched panels of hog wire between wooden frames for storage in the wine cellar. (Chris Hardy)

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