When the 2017 Northern California wildfires engulfed the picturesque wine country, winemakers Pam and George Hummel fought valiantly to save their namesake Sonoma winery. While their 124-acre ranch was saved, they discovered after the fires finished racing through the hills, their nearby home was eventually reduced to ashes. Determined to rebuild, Hummels turned to his old friend Ken Falk to reimagine the devastated property where they have made so many wonderful memories since starting Hamel Family Wines several years ago.
Hummels and Falk spent a few months after the fire assessing the situation, before beginning the literal process of ash removal as the two-year project began. It was agreed that the house should not feel new, but instead a reinvention of the original structure – including a separate exhibition room and wine cave. “Even though it has been completely rebuilt, every space is filled with a lot of meaning for them and us,” says Falk.
“Ken is very easy to communicate with, and he knows how to deduce what [his clients] They’re looking for—even if they don’t know it yet,” Pam says with a laugh. “I give him a lot of credit,” George adds. “He intuitively got the look and feel we wanted for the house.”
“When we start with each project, I create these movies in my head,” Falk explains. “So for this project, I imagined a Howard Hughes type character who fell in love with someone and a girl [for them] This ranch-style retreat from another era.” And with the charming feel of time, inside and out, it’s all too easy to forget that the house is actually a whole new innovation.
Fully stocked with custom touches – including a pair of antique Italian limestone fireplaces, centuries-old reclaimed barn timber used to craft the entry ceiling, rich hand stucco throughout, an impressive selection of European antiques, and stunning designer furnishings by Fulk – The ultimate home finish that more than met Hummels’ expectations.
“It’s a reincarnation of itself,” says Pam, noting that it’s basically the same imprint — but magnified. “I never just sit in one place, but instead tend to walk around different rooms to work or take calls; I love the house so much.”
Known as the Smoketree – for its only surviving flowering tree with clustered plumes of smoke – the property once again became a gathering place for the growing Hamel family. And with another grandson on the way, new memories are already being made – thanks to the cinematic vision of a true design author.
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