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