The Art of Living Well

Designer Jay Jeffers transforms a historic property in Healdsburg into the Madrona, a boutique hotel where local makers, contemporary art, and even Oscar Wilde play a spirited role
Formal living room.

Above image: The front parlor features pairings of contemporary and antique pieces, and a salon-style installation of artwork. Photo by Matthew Millman.

By Maile Pingel

Jay Jeffers isn’t going to give you an ordinary experience. He’s not in the business of the mundane; his work is notoriously luxurious and playful. Nor is he even in the business of hotels—until now. And he’s let his imagination run splendidly wild. “I came across the property over Memorial Day and fell in love with its potential,” Jeffers recalls of his first visit in 2020. “I could instantly visualize its future, from the pool renovation to the music playing in the lobby. I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” Undaunted, he pulled together a team that includes his brother Kyle, who works in real estate finance, and friend Cory Schisler, a hospitality consultant.
On left is the designer smiling as he leans against an exterior column. On right is a full view of the front exterior of the house.

Designer Jay Jeffers on the front terrace; the 19th-century Healdsburg mansion that is now home to the Madrona. Photos by Matthew Millman.

The eight-acre property comprises the mansion and carriage house, built by Bay Area businessman John Paxton in 1881, as well as historic cottages, a Michelin-starred restaurant helmed by chef Jesse Mallgren, and landscapes by Todd Cole. “We want people to be wowed by the design, but also to feel relaxed,” says Jeffers. Guests are greeted with a virtuosic ceiling mural by artist Willem Racké, and a rug designed by floral watercolorist Kelly Ventura.

Two interior images with details of ceiling, walls and accessories visible.

Their motifs are macroscopic in scale, and all part of the designer’s playful spin on the Aesthetic Movement, an idea that took root when he read an 1882 newspaper article about Oscar Wilde’s visit to San Francisco. “I found it interesting that half the city was up in arms, considering him a heretic, and the other half believed him to embody freedom and love. I imagined that John and Hannah Paxton were in the audience that day and went shopping at Gump’s afterward.” In fact, many of the furnishings at the Madrona have been in the house for well over a century.

Their motifs are macroscopic in scale, and all part of the designer’s playful spin on the aesthetic movement, an idea that took root when he read an 1882 newspaper article about Oscar Wilde’s visit to San Francisco.

Three images of a bedroom suite showing the choices of furniture and finishes.

“I had a lot of fun leaning into the history and the storytelling of the estate,” Jeffers continues, noting the custom Phillip Jeffries mural in the private dining room, which illustrates the home’s timeline. But for every historical tidbit there is an equally interesting contemporary treat. Jeffers sourced many pieces locally, including, for the hotel’s 24 guest rooms, custom lamps from St. Helena’s Amanda Wright Pottery and, in the dining room, a chandelier from Cloverdale metalsmiths Tuell & Reynolds. Bay Area artists also feature prominently throughout the property, among them Beth Moon and Marius L. Bosc.

On left is an image of the formal dining room. On right is the living room.
The private dining room adorned with a custom mural by wallcoverings company Phillip Jeffries and custom chandelier by Tuell & Reynolds through De Sousa Hughes; the welcoming sitting room. Photos by Matthew Millman.

Jeffers has lived in Napa Valley for over a decade, but until now it was weekends only. “After a few days filled with sunshine and delicious food and wine, I’d head back to San Francisco feeling refreshed,” he reflects. “I wanted the Madrona to be an escape from reality, whether you’re driving in for a midweek dinner or flying in for a weeklong getaway.” As Wilde’s character Lord Darlington famously says in Lady Windemere’s Fan, “I can resist everything except temptation.” And the Madrona—resplendent again—is delightfully tempting.

Two Henry Adams Street, Suite 2M-33
San Francisco, CA 94103