Paula greets me at the door wearing black leggings tucked into slim, knee-high rain boots and a long button-down white shirt, reminiscent of a painter’s smock. She imbues a casual, chic look that I instantly envy. Paula and I share many tastes. We have both lived outside the States, both of us have a lust for unique antiques, and in order to operate somewhat sanely, we both require a clutter-free home.
Paula’s father is French and her mother is Chilean. Shortly after high school, Paula moved to Chile, where she lived for ten years. In Chile she met her Australian husband, Jason.
Paula’s aesthetic is a reflection of her varied culture. From her Chilean bloodline, Paula has inherited a love of nature. She brings organic elements into the home, such as branches from the garden, placed in large hand-blown glass vases. The first things Paula and Jason did when they bought their home in the Silverado highlands were to paint the walls an off-white color and replace the ornate beveled mahogany rafters with heavy rustic beams, which set the tone for a clean farmhouse feel. This neutral interior palette makes the lush garden views appear all the more vibrant. Paula likes to play with texture and layers using sheepskins, rustic wood and woven materials like the manta. The manta is a coarse, hand-woven blanket draped over horse saddles in Chile.
On the French side, Paula is influenced by structural details and repurposing items for new uses, such as the antique artist’s cabinet (used to store paints and brushes), repurposed as a bathroom storage cupboard in the guest bathroom.
I’m impressed with the number of projects they have done themselves. Paula points to a barnyard sliding door that conceals their laundry room. She tells me, “We bought a sliding door kit that included the metal frame and wheels, and made the door ourselves with wood from recycled Clos du Val winery pallets.”
Paula likes to play with juxtaposition. She’s not opposed to mixing inexpensive items alongside antiques.
She says, “I don’t base my decision on the price of an item; I base it on the look I’m after.”
Along one wall in the kitchen are IKEA bookshelves that act as an open pantry, lined with glass jars and baskets. Paula and Jason customized the look of these IKEA cabinets by painting them soft gray and adding a simple molding to the top. In the center of the kitchen, a large section of butcher block wood is set atop an antique hand-carved European buffet.
In Chile, Paula learned a deep respect for the land. Farming is in her bloodline. Her father, Bernard Portet, is the founder of Clos du Val Winery. In Chile, Paula’s aunt is known as “diablo de ojos azules,” or “blue-eyed devil”—she’s a formidable farmer that knows how to use a rifle. She grows and exports crops of organic raspberries from Chile to the United States. From her aunt, Paula learned to appreciate plants as a living thing.
Paula’s garden is an extension of her home, and her entire yard has been treated as usable space. A large farmhouse table sits outside near a wood-burning pizza oven. Fig vines cover the oven, giving it a romantic European feel. An antique marble statue and an old orange metal confession booth from Chile are nestled in among the foliage of the garden.
The wood garden boxes, which are lined in woven willows, remind me of country gardens in England and France. Nick, master gardener at Mustards restaurant, helped Paula plant their summer garden, which included green beans, tomatoes and bok choy. Paula’s dream is to live entirely off of the land, as much of the food they consume comes from their own garden. Her winter crop includes kale, spinach, garlic, broccoli and cauliflower.
Chickens cluck nearby in their straw-hewn pen.
“It’s cold and wet, so the girls are not laying much right now,” Paula says.
The garden is an outlet for the family, a place for their three children to play and a place for Paula to de-stress. She says it’s therapeutic to take off your shoes and go in the garden.
Paula treats the home much as she does the garden, observing and cultivating. She works instinctively, allowing the layers of her home to evolve naturally. NVL