A road trip to the Napa Valley is always a good idea, this much we know is true. The wine, the weather, the produce — it's the very best of California, all conveniently bundled within 150-square-miles.
For Bay Area art director Rachel Colla and her husband Tim, Napa Valley is the road trip that never ended.
"We'd been living in Bend, Oregon and decided to move back to the Bay," explains Colla, when asked how one winds up relocating to wine country.
"I went back to my apartment in San Francisco and Tim came out to Napa. He asked around with friends and colleagues for a shack up in the vineyards and ended up here. The house had been vacant for a few years prior but Tim found it charming and more along the lines of what he had always imagined the Napa Valley would be — in 2012, I moved in with him."
Upwards of 400 wineries decorate the fertile and celebrated soils of Napa, a reputation earned as one of the world's most renowned wine regions. This is cabernet sauvignon country, after all. It's also here, darted somewhere among the vines, where you'll discover Colla's little red farm house. With its sun-soaked, crimson weatherboards and crisp white trim, quaint little porch and shady citrus trees, Colla's repurposed family abode ticks every box. It's not perfect, by any means, but that's precisely how she likes it.
"Our house is very small so most rooms are multi-purpose," the mom-of-two explains.
"Our bedroom, however, is for snuggling, sleeping, and reading — it gets the most beautiful light all throughout the day. It also has the least amount of stuff, so for me, it’s a very calming space."
Colla, her husband Tim, three-year-old son Felix, and four-month-old daughter, Goldie, have cultivated the perfect retreat, a comfortable distance from the city. Time ticks a little slower, sun burns that much longer, and the air is ripe with seasonal produce. During the warmer months, pink skies bleed into the most spectacular sunsets. Wild flowers bloom in unexpected places, and a DIY swing keeps Felix well-occupied. A large, worn-out barn — situated beside the house and decorated end-to-end in festoon lights — is where Colla and her husband married.
Although humble in square-footage, their home certainly isn't short on character. Inside, white-washed walls and original hardwood floors are dressed up with family heirlooms and mid-century treasures, bits and pieces plucked from Colla's favorite flea markets. There's an electric blue artwork by Colla's younger brother, Los Angeles-based artist Calvin Marcus. The family's dining table — a vintage George Nelson for Herman Miller creation, passed down to Colla by a family friend — anchors the makeshift dining space, complete with mismatched bentwood chairs and vintage pots and pans, rendered in cast iron and burnt orange.
"l want our home to be a place the kids feel comfortable, safe, and able to explore and learn," explains Colla, of life in wine country. "Nothing in here is too precious or off limits for them."
"It took me a long time to feel like I was part of a community here — mostly because we are so far from our neighbors and because at the time, I was commuting back and forth to Marin for work," she adds. "Having Felix totally changed all that. I’ve met a lot of other moms and families, and feel like the community has a lot to offer in terms of activities, local events, and resources."
Nowadays, Colla trades the busy commute for a dialed-back lifestyle among the vines. A normal day starts with a cappuccino — at home — and building blocks with her son while daughter Goldie naps. A gilded, manual espresso machine by La Pavoni Europiccola holds pride of place on the kitchen counter, a gift that Colla says is finally getting some purchase.
"After breakfast, we usually head into town to go to the park, visit the library, take a bike ride or meet up with friends," says Colla of her daily routine. "We come home for lunch most days and then spend the afternoon napping, playing or painting outside, until Tim gets home from work."
On the porch, a pint-sized table and chairs, paints, and assorted paint brushes, complete Felix's al fresco art station. Colla, with Goldie firmly on her hip, says she can't imagine doing it any differently.
"I moved here when Tim and I were just dating and had no idea we would be here this long, let alone get engaged and eventually married here — with two kids," she continues.
"I didn’t realize just how much I would love having the space and the quiet that we get. It has also been amazing for Felix, being able to watch the cycle of the vineyards, take long walks out to the ponds, and experience all of the creatures; the great horned owls, the bunnies, the coyotes. I can’t imagine his early years any other way."
Felix's bedroom, complete with sunshine yellow linen and a technicolor Turkish rug, is home to all of his most prized possessions. Plush monsters and trucks decorate the floor, while cane storage baskets spill with tiny motors and cotton-tailed friends. A vintage rocking horse — an early prototype designed by Colla's own grandfather — dates back decades, while a tiny white banjo completes the stripped-back farmhouse look and feel. A vintage Fillmore poster, a gift from Colla's father, holds pride of place on the paneled walls.
"We encourage Felix to clean up after himself when he’s done with one activity and moving on to the next, but I don’t expect it every time," Colla pragmatically explains. "He loves helping me in the kitchen, vacuuming, and doing laundry with me, and I want both of them to understand that all of this is part of having a home that feels good to be in."
The layered and lived-in appeal of Felix's bedroom is testament to Colla's own styling and approach. There is no mindless junk or toy-of-the-minute, every piece is treasured and every piece holds a purpose, whether it's vintage, custom, or multi-generational. A miniature rocking chair — dating back back to the 1940s — once belonged to Tim's uncle. The reoccurring theme throughout the Colla household is that most of the lovingly scuffed pieces hold a very special, very sentimental little backstory.
In the couple's bedroom, crisp, white-washed walls showcase a series of vintage Fillmore posters, framed in oak and hovering above the bed.
"My Dad started collecting Fillmore Show posters 40 years ago," explains Colla. "He decided to gift them to my siblings and I, a few years back, and we went round and round, trying to pick out our favorites. Somehow, I ended up with all of the naked ladies."
Lily white linen by Los Angeles-based Matteo and a sturdy stack of coffee table books — everything from Emmet Gowin's family portraits to Richard Avedon's studies of the female form — complete the simple and serene space. Oversized pillows in inky blue, vintage soft toys, and a fiberglass rocking chair sourced via Modernica, reemphasize Colla's relaxed aesthetic.
"My favorite pieces are my artwork," Colla adds. "I love the posters from my Dad and the greyhound in the living room, I found it at the Alameda Flea Market," she says. "I also love the Blue Devil from my Brother," a prototype that Colla later admits she "practically stole" during a casual spring clean with her younger sibling.
It's this repurposed and laid-back approach to decor and styling that echoes throughout Colla's lifestyle. The family spend their summer outdoors, savoring lunch and dinner at the picnic table, swinging high beyond the citrus trees, and simply enjoying one another's company in their beautiful surrounds — like the local waterfall and swimming hole that Colla admits she had no idea existed before moving to Napa.
When asked what she hopes to instill in her children when they eventually fly the coop and look to create homes of their own — Colla's answer is as relaxed and refreshing as you'd expect it to be.
"Building a home doesn’t happen overnight," she says. "Wait to find the pieces you love rather than settling on something for now. And don’t worry about making it all go together, stylistically. A collection of things that have meaning to you — the pieces that you love — will always look beautiful."