As an art, design and wine gallery set amidst a contemporary, landscaped sculpture garden, Ma(i)sonry offers guests a respite and a retreat. While its past may not appear to play a prominent role in its new incarnations, the history of the former Charles Rovegno House still permeates the walls and rooms of this elegant stone structure.
When Rovegno began his life as a vineyardist in the early 1900s, very few wines were being produced in the valley. Rovegno settled in what was then known as Yountville's "Chinahouse," an area so tiny, it fell just short of the designation "Chinatown." In fact, Yountville was not the charming restaurant and wine destination it is today, rather it was a rough and tumble trapping and farming community filled with those from the fallout of California's gold mining days.
In 1902 - with the help of Angelo Brovelli, a local mason responsible for many of Napa County's idyllic stone bridges, Rovegno began building what would be his last home. Using stone quarried from the eastern hills of Napa Valley, Rovegno and Brovelli constructed a utilitarian, craftsman-style building that possessed more functional charm than overwrought beauty.
The gable roof, simple cut stone lintels and the use of rough cut field stone all suggested that Rovegno intended to use the manor as a hotel rather than his residence. In his lifetime, this would not be the case, but perhaps Rovegno possessed prophetic powers of foreshadowing. Almost 20 years after he passed away in 1954, the historic stone property was converted to a boutique, seven-room inn known as Burgundy House Inn, which remained in operation until 2007.
Today, the Charles Rovegno House is a blend of past, present and future. In addition to its National Register of Historic Places status, Ma(i)sonry is listed on the Napa County Historic Resources Inventory. While its façade has been "lifted," the integrity of this historic structure remains intact. Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley's intimate, organic design serves as the perfect backdrop for "a life aesthetic."
Originally built for Charles Rovegno in 1904 as his private residence, the building is one of only a few listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Napa County Historic Resources Inventory. The building was designed and built by an Italian mason using stone quarried from the eastern hills of Napa Valley, representing a noteworthy period of design from 1874 to 1912. Almost 20 years after Rovegno passed away in 1954, the property was converted to a boutique, seven-room inn known as Burgundy House Inn, which remained in operation until 2007.
Michael Polenske's question was answered with the guidance of a historical mason and architect, in addition to urban designers from San Francisco-based Gould Evans Baum Thornley Architects LLP, whose past projects include the Duckhorn Vineyards Estate House in St. Helena and the Presidio Hill School in San Francisco. Ma(i)sonry's intimate, contemporary design aesthetic was executed with consulting designer, Erin Martin of Erin Martin Design and M showroom with the collaboration of husband and wife landscape architect team, ROCHE + ROCHE.
Proprietor/Curator: Michael Polenske Project Manager: Paul Leary Architect: Douglas Thornley, Gould Evans/Baum Thornley Consulting Designer: Erin Martin Design Landscape Architect: Dave Roche, Roche + Roche General Contractor: Thomas Trainor, Thomas Trainor Construction Structural Engineer: Eric Kreager, MKM Associates
By removing all the worn internal partitions, yet salvaging the interior stone wall which had served as the original exterior façade, a fluid gallery space emerged, emphasizing the original stone walls with the use of abundant natural light. After discovering the beautiful un-peeled log rafters hidden under a heavy layer of plaster ceiling on the 2nd floor, the ceiling was removed to provide "a unique view back into time."
Creating a "living gallery"
Principal architect, Douglas Thornley, surveyed the site of the former Burgundy House Inn and adapted his design around Polenske's living gallery context. With the goal of retaining many of the structure's original materials, Thornley's primary strategy was to highlight the classic stone features of the building by opening up the space, allowing for the natural flow of light in the former warren-like inn. Thornley also stressed the elimination of all non-historic elements to restore the building to its original state and character. Before this could happen, a complete seismic retrofit of the unreinforced masonry building was needed to guarantee that this piece of history would be preserved for future generations.
Ma(i)sonry Wins Award-Winning Design for Outstanding Adaptive Re-Use Project
Recognizing those who improve our communities through exceptional concepts in design, planning and development.
Gold Nugget® Awards >
The resulting landscape is simultaneously urban and pastoral, an oasis of sculpture, art and design. With every collection on site created by the hand of an artist, artisan, or designer, Ma(i)sonry's varied incarnations are each as richly textured as the other, celebrating life's aesthetics.
- Original stone walls reinforced
- Original ceiling beams of un-peeled log rafters exposed in the 2nd floor ceiling
- Original bead board reused in private tasting rooms on the 2nd floor
- Original fireplace preserved in "hidden location"
- Original stone excavated from building reused in outdoor fire pit
Removal and Additions
Although preservation was of the utmost priority to proprietor Michael Polenske, upgrades were necessary, not only to reflect Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley's present day architectural and functional needs, but also to adhere to the Secretary of the Interior standards. The wood shakes roof was a fire hazard, and exchanged for terne-coated metal roofing. Non-historical siding at the two gable ends was replaced with horizontal metal siding to complement the new metal roof. Steel sash windows and doors replaced the vinyl windows and worn wooden doors that had been installed in the 1970s.
The upper and lower floors were connected with a brilliant lightwell between the two levels. A new "floating" stairwell with elegant wood tread and steel mesh railing was installed to highlight the double height of the interior stone wall while increasing views from the lower level. Other upgrades included gallery quality lighting to showcase world class art. A wood and metal sink was installed on the second floor as a whimsical "alter" for spitting wines. An accessory structure was built to provide accessible restrooms and a full commercial kitchen for intimate private and public events.
To enhance Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley's exterior, which was overgrown with a mix of deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs, Polenske relied upon the expertise of ROCHE+ROCHE landscape architecture to create an environment reminiscent of a backyard garden retreat. With the vision of ROCHE + ROCHE, a clean, contemporary setting (with a hint of French flavor) was constructed where layers of evergreen Holly Oak trees and Carolina Cherry Laurel, India Hawthorn and Little Ollie hedges would provide privacy and enclosure, while Red Maples, Vibernums, perennials and ornamental grasses would offer movement and seasonal color.
Much of the garden was covered in decomposed granite to allow for flexibility of use and circulation, with intimate seating areas separated by plantings. Inset bands of bluestone were used to highlight important axes and elements, such as the stone fire pit. Additionally, a small lawn with an inset fountain was installed to provide a calm focal point in the side yard for guests to lounge and appreciate contemporary sculpture. To complete the setting, four majestic 90-year-old olives trees were planted to frame a 36-foot long communal redwood table to bring guests together in their wine-tasting experience.