Family, farming and a flatbed truck. Share in one family’s mission to celebrate locally grown food in the heart of Sonoma Valley.
With the possible exception of rock stars and other high-maintenance sorts, what most people have in mind for a weekend retreat is simple relaxation: time to unwind with friends, be outdoors and linger over meals. Sofie and Chris Dolan of San Francisco were looking for just that in 2011 when they purchased 10 acres of raw land across Highway 12 from Glen Ellen’s Bouverie Preserve as the site for their weekend home. Over time, their vision has evolved to include space not only for family and friends, but also for a thriving community called Flatbed Farm.
Sofie, a former home-furnishings executive, and Chris, who works in technology, met as architecture students in college, so the language of design and place came easily to them when it was time to build.
“Chris had seen homes he liked and started ripping pages out, and we realized it was the same architect every time,” says Sofie. To collaborate on their vision they hired Wine Country specialists Backen, Gillam & Kroeger Architects, known for exactly the kind of refined-yet-relaxed, outdoor-focused architecture the
With a strong affinity for the aesthetic of her native Sweden, Sofie wanted to reference simple, Scandinavian-style outbuildings and courtyards in the design. “My dad was raised on a farm, where there were a lot of little houses that had different uses,” she says. A cohesive complex of buildings now spreads out over the property, united by a common palette of materials including pearly gray Texas limestone and earth-toned metal roofs.
Toward the road, the barn, greenhouse and chicken house present a public face and contain the farmstand operations. A driveway winds steeply partway up the hill to a private guest house with a breezeway and porch looking out over the numerous valley oaks. The family currently uses this building as a home base while they wait to build a main house. Then the drive tops out at the ridgeline, with a jaw-dropping pool and pool house, plus a garage and play barn for the kids, all organized around a central courtyard and adjacent to a county park. (“You see a lot of shooting stars from up here,” says Chris.)
Yes, it’s a lot of buildings; no fewer than seven different structures were under construction at the same time. But the ambitious undertaking hasn’t stopped the family from also slowing down to enjoy the benefits of life on a highly productive Sonoma farm. Chris and Sofie’s three children, Andrew, Anneli and Linnea, revel in outdoor time and the chance to learn more about growing and selling food. “Anneli likes to work the stand and helps harvest. And she’s the chicken whisperer — if the chicken is out, she’s the one to find it and bring it home. Whereas Linnea is more about digging in the dirt, roly-polys and snails. There’s no fear at that age. And Andrew’s typically up in the play barn with his friends. So there’s a place for everyone.”