Home & Garden

Hendrix house in Santa Margarita: Building their own home

The circular front driveway is anchored by a tiered fountain.
The circular front driveway is anchored by a tiered fountain. The Tribune

For some empty-nesters, building a new home means downsizing. Rex and Betty Hendrix had other ideas.

Rex is a semi-retired general contractor and real estate developer. In 1987, he and fellow developer Rob Rossi purchased a 2,200-acre parcel that was formerly part of Santa Margarita Ranch. They later split the property and Rex sold all but 800 acres. The Hendrixes built homes for their grown children on the property and, in 2008, decided it was time to build a house of their own.

The couple had lived in a large residence on a Rocky Canyon Road ranch in Atascadero for 35 years. During their 58 years of marriage, they had accumulated a houseful of antiques, family heirlooms and collectibles.

“A lot of people our age think they need to build small,” said Rex. “We had a lot of memorabilia, and I didn’t want to get rid of any of it.”

Rex, who designed the 11,000-square-foot home with the help of architect Robert Tomaszewski of LHB and Associates, believed that a formal shinglestyle home best suited their collection of antiques.

“To tell you the truth, I was tired of seeing so many Mediterranean homes,” he said. “Shinglestyle homes are what you see on the East Coast.”

The home exudes luxury and refinement, right from its first impression.

The front gates are flanked by two life-size bronze lions. The driveway, lined with statuary, leads to a circular driveway that is anchored by a tiered fountain ringed with water nymphs. Inside the front entrance of the house is a 750-square-foot formal gallery lined with columns. Above the second story loft, a mural of mountains and a soaring eagle draw the eye upward to the living room’s 40-foot ceilings. Another mural of a country scene wraps around the large formal dining room.

Betty, who is a retired florist, worked with Rex to decorate the house in an opulent manner. They used marble extensively — in the gallery as flooring, in the seven bathrooms, and on the impressive living room fireplace. Their spiral staircase and balcony railings are handmade wrought iron, embellished with a gold and bronze paint finish. The house also has ornate custom woodwork by Doherty Construction, including the kitchen cabinets, coffered ceilings in the study, and upstairs bookcases.

Behind the scenes are more casual spaces, such as the family room where the couple, their extended family and their three small dogs spend most of their time. With its wood stove, cozy furnishings and exposed fir roof trusses, it has the feel of a mountain lodge. But even this room required work to outfit properly. Its 42-foot center beam was so difficult to find that the Hendrixes had to have it trucked in all the way from Washington.

The couple has used each room as a showcase for antiques, memorabilia and art. Some pieces are valuable, such as an ornately carved Italian chair that Rex estimates is from the late 17th century (it was a gift from a friend). For others, the value is purely sentimental. For instance, in the kitchen is a simple, rustic teletype table that once belonged to Rex’s great grandfather.

“It doesn’t look like anything special, but it is to me,” he said.

The couple has no formula for making their eclectic mix of items work together. In the gallery, for instance, a western sculpture by Charles Russell sits on an ornate European-style chest, alongside an Asian urn.

“Some people probably think it doesn’t all go together, but it’s what suits me,” noted Rex.

The Hendrixes are also not afraid of an impulse buy. When the delivery truck arrived with the couple’s driveway fountain, it was filled with assorted statuary, art and furnishings that caught Rex’s fancy. With no specific plans for what to do with it all, he purchased the entire truckload on the spot.

The residence was completed in May 2010 after two years of construction. One of the couple’s favorite aspects of their new home is not a piece of art or an architectural feature, but the historical significance of the ranch.

Betty is a third-generation county native, and Rex came to the area as a child. The property contains relics from the past, such as the old tanning vats that Rex believes were once used by Spaniards and Native Americans.

“We both grew up here, so it’s a very special feeling to be able to preserve a part of the area’s history,” he said.

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