The first piece of art that Marilyn Riding ever purchased was a lithograph by Sister Mary Corita that she presented to her husband, Ken, for Valentine’s Day. It depicted a multicolored heart and the words “I Love You Very.”
“It was a couple hundred dollars, and that was really stretching our budget back then,” she said.
Since then, art has become a passion for the couple, and they’ve made their home a showcase for their extensive collection.
The Ridings purchased 130 acres in the Adelaide area west of Paso Robles in 2002. Ken, who is a real estate developer, founded La Vista Vineyards when he planted seven varietals of wine grapes on 25 acres. Marilyn, who is an interior designer, began making plans for their custom home.
The Ridings are aficionados of modern design. Yet, while vacationing in Mexico, they came to love the rustic earthiness of Mexican architecture.
“We felt it was very appropriate for the area. It helps the house to fit in well,” Marilyn said.
They worked with Bassenian Lagoni Architects of Newport Beach and Woodruff Construction Company of Templeton to create their 4,500-square-foot home in a “Mexican contemporary” style.
Natural materials take the edge off the hard lines and bold geometry of the home. Accent walls, both inside and out, are clad in rough-hewn three rivers stone from Wyoming. Mexican cantera stone in a honed finish was used for the floors of both the interior and the patio. Custom cabinetry and doors are a rich mahogany.
The Ridings worked with Madrone Landscapes to create low-maintenance, drought-tolerant landscaping. Their design won the 2009 President’s Award from the California Landscape Contractors Association for the best residential landscape.
Madrone Landscapes combined plants, hardscape, and mulches in artful compositions that harmonize with the architecture of the home and highlight outdoor art displays. It used mostly California natives, Mediterranean plants, succulents and cacti. Many of the boulders and rocks were collected from the adjacent vineyard.
Indoors and out, Marilyn uses her innate design sense to effectively display their art collection, which is dominated by modern and ethnic pieces. The interior walls were left white and fitted with strategicallysized and positioned niches. Furniture is simple and streamlined, so as not to detract from the art.
The size, style and function of each room influenced her placement of art. In a long hallway, abstract sculptures in eye-popping hues punctuate a row of niches, making what could have been a bland space feel like a walk through a gallery. In the great room, where the view takes center stage, the art is more subdued and neutral-toned. Marilyn even provided some eye candy for the long drive up their hill. Rising from a field, is an eight-foot sculpture in granite and ceramic by San Jose artist Tony Lynott.
The couple’s sense of humor also comes through in their choice of art. One whimsical vignette includes life-sized aluminum wire sculptures of a man and woman by Chris Mason. When mounted on the side of their house, the figures appear to be rappelling down the wall.
A few pieces were commissioned directly from the artist. To fill one hallway niche, the Ridings invited sculptor Brad Howe to the house to view the space. They selected pieces they liked from his portfolio and chose colors, then Howe presented them with computer-aided design drawings of possible sculptures. The design they chose was scaled to fit the niche precisely.
In one case, the Ridings had as much influence on the artist as the art had on them. When browsing online, they came across a 9-foot abstract sculpture in aluminum that was on loan to a university in Tennessee, but would soon become available for purchase. They contacted the artist, Esmoreit Koitsier, and offered to buy it — if he would paint it purple.
“He gulped, because he had never done any sculpture in anything but black, white or gray,” said Marilyn. “He thought it would detract from his work.”
Eager to make a sale, Koitsier complied.
“I don’t think he’s ever done another black, white or gray sculpture since,” said Marilyn. “He credits us with helping his work become much more in demand.”
Since the home was completed in 2006, the Ridings have not tired of living in such artful surroundings.
“We bought the art with the expectation that we would live with it, so it really gives us pleasure to look at it every day,” said Marilyn. “We’ve also enjoyed our association with the artists. Many have become like good friends.”