Walker Warner Architects: California winery renovation

The renovation of the House of Flowers winery is a massive project that brings together the creative forces of California. The reconstruction was carried out by the architectural firm Walker Warner Architects, the interiors were handled by Maca Huneeus Design, and the landscape design was entrusted to Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects. 

The House of Flowers Winery is a California landmark known for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines, as well as its unparalleled rural flair. It is located in the Russian River Valley, a short drive from the city of Healdsburg. The complex was built in the mid-1970s, but over the years it has become outdated both physically and morally. The owners dreamed of breathing new life into the Landmark.

The owners of the winery wanted to get a place for tasting, worthy of the wines they create. The creative team, led by Walker Warner Architects, has transformed the rural complex into a resort of sorts, a place to spend time enjoying wine, food, and communion with nature.

Modernizing existing structures, rather than building anew – this approach was in line with the commitment of the owners of Flowers House to sustainable development. Figuratively speaking, the old complex was recycled: the architects rethought what was available. “The challenge was to preserve the heritage but make sure the place lives up to the expectations of today,” says Brooks Walker, head of Walker Warner Architects.

One problem: Set in lush natural surroundings, among Californian mammoth trees, vineyards, and chaparral, the buildings were out of context. The strategy was to figure out how to connect visitors to the landscape, and how to open the interiors to the landscape. “Our approach was deceptively simple: let nature dominate and give architecture the role of framing it,” notes Brooks Walker. 

The project began with the development of logistics. New paths lead visitors from the parking lot to the guest house, which was turned into a former wine storage. Like other buildings, it is painted in a dark, almost black color, which helps the man-made components to recede into the background, and the landscape to become the center of attention. In contrast, the interior is made light – thanks to the finish of bleached cypress.

“The simple but very strong ‘folk’ forms of this region served as our foothold. By visually refining the structures, simplifying the palette, we tried to create an architectural statement that takes into account the local context, while at the same time making the visitor feel at home,” says Brooks Walker.

The feeling of “home” is facilitated by the formed premises: a library, a fireplace, a terrace, and a living room are planned in the guest house. The second floor includes a solarium, a dining room, living rooms, as well as spaces for VIP guests. Materials are absolutely homemade: wood, linen, ceramics, and wool.

The project uses a “passive building” strategy – high energy efficiency at a low cost. Larger windows and additional skylights maximize the use of daylight. Shading is provided by wooden awnings outside. Functional objects made from sunken wood by artist Evan Shively underline the environmental focus of the project.

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