St. Helena Residence

Jean-Marie and John Kelly, owners of a large parcel of land in the hills west of St. Helena, went to Italy in the late 1990s and returned enchanted by that country’s village architecture. In building their paraphrase of Italian country style, however, they skipped the more obvious clichés and kitsch. Although the shapes of their residential complex certainly hearken back to Europe, an elegant palette of materials and refined details pay homage to the essentially Californian aesthetic of architects like Bernard Maybeck and William Turnbull.

The Kellys’ residence is perched on a narrow bench of land between sloping vineyards and a deep, thickly wooded ravine. Hardly more than three miles away, people are shopping for shoes and inspecting menus on St. Helena’s busy Main Street, but the Kellys inhabit a different world, where hawks float in the silent air and there isn’t another house in sight. Besides their buildings, the only sign of civilization is the neatly tended rows of merlot grapes that wind around the curving hillsides.

Working with John’s nephew Brendan Kelly and his wife Kerry Morgan, both architects, the Kellys conjured up buildings that embody the strength and tranquility of the setting. At first glance, the main part of the complex seems to be a single structure, but it is actually an assemblage of three units.