PHOTOGRAPHED BY GAVIN CATER
Rita Donahoe of Rita Chan Interiors brings the outdoors in at an L.A. couple’s Santa Ynez vacation home.
"Given that this home is an escape from city life in Los Angeles,” says interior designer Rita Donahoe of Rita Chan Interiors, “we really wanted to embrace the slower pace of the Santa Ynez Valley and create spaces that were so comfortable that you would be able to immediately sink in and enjoy the views outside.” This line of thinking was a throughline for the dramatic transformation Donahoe and team applied to a wine country vacation home for a young couple from Los Angeles, who craved a welcoming place for themselves, family and friends to relax on holidays and weekends.
One of the first things Donahoe did was add vertical wall paneling to the entryway, living room and dining nook. “[It] immediately elevated the aesthetic of the home,” she says. The sofa and lounge chairs were made to order by Community Manufacturing. The coffee table is from Nickey Kehoe and the chandelier is by Apparatus. PHOTOGRAPHED BY GAVIN CATER
Donahoe’s clients had owned the property for a few years before she became involved. “They had been working with both Dylan Henderson of SALT Architecture and Rob Maday of Bosky Landscape Architecture to create architectural plans to convert some of the structures on the property and to reenvision the way the land was being used.” When she arrived, the state of the home was fully functional, with a modern, midcentury modern aesthetic. “But it didn’t feel entirely natural with the energy of the property,” Donahoe says.
The art studio houses a worktable from Santa Ynez General nearby, along with vintage bar stools found on 1stDibs. The copper pendant is vintage, while the sconces and pulley pendant are by Original BTC. PHOTOGRAPHED BY GAVIN CATER
Initially, the designer was called in to do some light cosmetic renovations and furnishing changes, but that soon changed. “That quickly escalated into myriad ideas to add character to the house, resulting in a renovation of all the main living areas: entryway, powder room, mudroom, dining room, dining nook, kitchen (cosmetic), laundry room and bathrooms,” Donahoe explains. In addition to the main house, Donahoe also redesigned the two-bedroom, one-bathroom guesthouse—formerly an old barn reimagined by Henderson of SALT Architecture—and an art studio converted from a garage. “We tried to keep all the materials as organic as possible, and incorporated lots of natural, reclaimed woods; limestone countertops; and a vintage stone sink, which we paired with clean, modern elements including brass light and plumbing fixtures, and crisp white wide-plank paneled walls. The overall aesthetic blends modern design elements with vintage and rustic charm.”
Clé’s natural zellige tiles add warmth to the kitchen PHOTOGRAPHED BY GAVIN CATER
One of the first things Donahoe did was add texture to the walls of the entryway, living room and dining nook with vertical wall paneling painted in Dunn-Edwards’ Swiss Coffee shade. Then, to maximize the property’s incredible views, the team expanded the window in the dining room and designed a custom built-in bench. “In the dining room, we raised the ceiling, added paneling for dimension and opened up that wall with large bi-fold doors to maximize the indoor-outdoor aesthetic,” Donahoe explains. Renovations were also made to the powder room, the mudroom—where custom cabinetry in white oak with antique brass hardware was added—and the kitchen. “We kept the existing cabinets but updated the countertops with dark limestone, changed out the plumbing fixtures to antique brass, and added a natural unglazed zellige tile and a new plaster hood,” Donahoe explains of the kitchen updates.
The cozy dining nook is adorned with a dining table from Dos Gallos and a chandelier from Apparatus. Cushions are upholstered in outdoor fabric by Thibaut PHOTOGRAPHED BY GAVIN CATER
The light and airy living room was designed with flexibility in mind. “In the main living room, we envisioned friends being able to gather around the big round coffee table for a game night,” says Donahoe. “In this space, everyone is facing each other to converse, but if they want to watch a football game, the leather chairs swivel around to face the TV and fireplace behind them, so it’s really a multipurpose space.” The smartly designed space features many pieces from L.A., including a custom-designed linen sectional and linen and leather lounge chairs by Community Manufacturing, a coffee table by Nickey Kehoe, a made-to-order rug by Akara and a chandelier by Apparatus. A stool from Lawson-Fenning is covered in a Kettlewell Collection fabric, while the custom piano bench is upholstered in fabric by Peter Dunham.
With such a lush view, the home office—which features a concrete desk by Zachary A.—doesn’t need much in terms of decor. PHOTOGRAPHED BY GAVIN CATER
The bedrooms in the main house— including the primary bedroom—all have a clean, natural aesthetic. “In the primary bedroom, we kept the clients’ existing bed but added new sconces, nightstands, a bench, a rug, drapes and bedding,” says Donahoe, who notes that “the sunroom and guest room furnishings are simple yet comfortable for guests and keep the focus on the view of the outside.”
Located just off the pool, a guest bedroom is accented with a bench from Made Goods, nightstands by Nickey Kehoe and bedding by Parachute Home. The pillows and rug are vintage. PHOTOGRAPHED BY GAVIN CATER
Beyond the main house, Donahoe and team refreshed the roomy guesthouse, where they created a floor-to-ceiling window wall in one of the guest bedrooms to take advantage of the stunning vineyard views. As well, the designer gave the art studio—converted from a garage stall—a raw, industrial feel by cladding the walls in marine-grade plywood, and installing a rustic vintage worktable from local shop Santa Ynez General.
In the guest bathroom, Donahoe chose Dunn-Edwards paint in Swiss Coffee for the walls and Farrow & Ball’s Pigeon shade for the vanity. PHOTOGRAPHED BY GAVIN CATER
While the project faced supply chain delays and complications due to COVID-19, overall it was a smooth process. “There were definitely some delays that were impossible to control, but I will say, since we mainly sourced custom, made-to-order pieces, and vintage and small-batch handmade items primarily from local vendors, the delays on our furnishings for the most part were minor,” Donahoe says. “It was items like the light fixtures made in New York, doors and windows, and other building materials that we saw longer delays with. The rest of the project generally went smoothly because the clients had such wonderful, trusting and positive energy—it all went quite naturally and easily. My team is incredible and so much of the credit goes to their hard work.”
A bedroom in the guesthouse frames an idyllic vineyard view. PHOTOGRAPHED BY GAVIN CATER
What started as a simple refresh has evolved into a two-year, multiphase project— and it’s not done yet. Why limit the potential on a home that feels, according to Donahoe, “peaceful, thoughtful and full of good energy?” In addition to fully renovating the primary bedroom, this next phase of the project involves building an outdoor shower, plus a wine room— under an oak tree—that faces the vineyard. Clearly, the clients have been happy, something Donahoe confirms. “Seeing them marvel at each space was the most rewarding feeling,” she says. “[It’s] the reason we do what we do.”
Like the rest of the home, the pool area exudes relaxed elegance. Furniture is by Harbour Outdoor. PHOTOGRAPHED BY GAVIN CATER
Rita Donahoe, Rita Chan Interiors
Dylan Henderson, SALT
Elliott & Pohls Construction
Rob Maday, Bosky Landscape
Roy Trevino Electric
Daniel McCollum, DPM Plumbing
Living room and dining nook chandeliers
Living room sofa and chairs; custom cushions throughout
Wood flooring throughout
Living room coffee table; guest
Curtains and blinds throughout