As North County began its transformation from rural town to wine destination, Deborah and Doug Thomsen observed a new kind of guest at their Paso Robles bed and breakfast.
“The travelers were well-traveled and sophisticated,” she said. “They had higher expectations.”
So Deborah Thomsen, an interior designer, began to evolve the design of the 1977-built English country farmhouse that the couple calls Orchard Hill Farm. “We used to be very casual, very western, which really isn’t my style anyway,” she said.
This wasn’t the home’s first transformation.
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The Thomsens, who met as Cal Poly students in the 1960s, returned to San Luis Obispo County in 1996 to retire after many years in Southern California. They purchased the farmhouse, the surrounding 36-acre fruit orchard, and set about remodeling the house. They doubled its 1,700 square feet, added two bathrooms, and enlarged most of the common areas.
They also remodeled the carriage house, which they turned into two guest suites. The main house, where they live, also has a guest suite, as well as common areas where they host meals and gatherings for B&B guests.
When they embarked upon the latest redesign last summer, Deborah Thomsen first considered trends. “Everyone was into that Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware clean look,” she said. “I started to think of a more pared down style, but realized it was not my style, even though I appreciate it.”
So instead of going minimalist, as trends dictated, she boldly brought out many of her favorite antiques and collectibles, some of which had been sitting in storage. Her new look combines French and English country styles. It is cozy, yet sophisticated.
“That comes from using finer things, like good textiles, more art, and antiques,” Thomsen said. “I added crystal chandeliers, beautiful silver — but nothing overdone.” She assembled a collection of plein air art, many by local artists. Vintage grape baskets add texture to walls and vignettes, and reference the local wine industry. She purchased a larger dining table, but kept her former table, a French antique, to use as a sideboard. She uses her blueand-white ware, and her collection of grape motif silver to serve her guests.
Other structural upgrades upped the comfort level of the house. Bathrooms were redone with new tubs, showers and tiles. Decorative wall treatments, vintage lighting, and reproduction fixtures add an Old World feel. Bedrooms were repainted in softer, mellower hues.
The kitchen became more sophisticated in both style and function. Out went the uninspiring white tile, replaced with natural quartz Silestone. The couple brought in harderworking appliances, including a Wolf Range.
Over the kitchen island hangs an antique brass light fixture found at a Three Speckled Hens antique show. It fortuitously matched one that hangs in the dining room, purchased long ago from a Southern California antique importer. It had been stored in the barn for five years, waiting for the right opportunity to be showcased.
The couple enhanced the indoor-outdoor connection of the home. They added more outdoor seating areas, including decks attached to each room. “When guests come from the city, they really appreciate just being able to sit outside and enjoy the landscape,” Thomsen said.
Not that visitors are willing to part with their technology. The inn now has WiFi. And after years of resisting the practice of putting televisions in bedrooms, Thomsen added flat panel, wall-mounted sets to each one. “If you have enough nice things around it, it sort of disappears,” she explained.
The house is now full of the couple’s collections: pieces found locally, items picked up during their 49 years of marriage, and others from Thomsen’s 30 years as an interior designer. This includes English antiques, French antiques, and Oriental rugs.
While it may not be trendy, the living space is meaningful for the Thomsens and sophisticated enough for their guests. “When you love having beautiful things around you, it is hard to give them up,” said Thomsen. “Their rich history adds to your lifestyle.”