We're driving in the pouring rain from San Francisco to a dinner party in the upper reaches of Sonoma County--driving and driving and driving, through Petaluma, beyond Healdsburg, passing the big iron gates of the grand wine estates and the beautifully planted vineyards behind them. Then the landmarks of wine-country luxury disappear and sheep and rocks take over.
We go past our last landmark, a mobile home, and up ahead see a hacienda with a big animal skull strung with lights on the front door. We've arrived at the house of Celia Tejada, vice president of design and brand direction for Pottery Barn. Her country escape, which she shares with her two kids, her brother Ivo, his two kids and his fiancée, was once a "ranchburger,"a one-story, '60s-style house devoid of architectural detail.
Yet the compound is remarkable. Celia bought lots of land--not just a few acres, which is all most people could afford in wine country, but 80 acres in the boonies. Starting with a waterfall, some African chickens (they're great rattlesnake catchers) and a handful of dreams, she is transforming the place into a kind of Spanish village like the one she grew up in. She's turned a car graveyard into a vineyard; she plans to convert a barn into a party space and a studio for Pollock-style painting; she'll use an Airstream trailer as a gypsy caravan for romantic parties in the moonlight. It isn't money that makes this fantasy seem possible, but passion. To Celia, thrift is a virtue. "You're much freer when you have less to spend," she says. "You can be fearless."