When Bill and Liz Armstrong bought York Mountain Winery in Templeton five years ago, they had their hands full, transforming the condemned old facility into a hospitality center for their Epoch Estate Wines.
When that project was under control, they turned their attention to the old farmhouse on the property. “Bill and I are suckers for a good, historic project, and we could see the potential in this home,” said Liz Armstrong. “We wanted to bring it back to life.”
The house was built around 1890 and was home to several generations of the York family until they sold it in 1970. When the Armstrongs purchased the property, the house had been abandoned for many years. According to Stephen George, architect and construction manager for the restoration, there was extensive water damage and animals nesting in the kitchen.
Early in the process, the Armstrongs initiated contact with Jan York who grew up in the old farmhouse and now lives in Paso Robles. York provided historical photos that guided the restora- tion and “gave us inspiration,” said Liz Armstrong.
According to George, the old farmhouse is” loosely Italianate” in style, with respect to its proportions, decorative corbels and rooftop widow’s walk. However, it is less elaborate than many Italianate homes, leading George to call it an “Indiana farmer interpretation” of the style, referring to the York family’s — and his — Indiana origins.
The original home, which was added onto over the years, stands at the center of today’s structure.
In the early 1900s, the family devised an unusual way to add on a kitchen. They attached a fruit stand, previously located on another part of the property, to the north side of the house. The patio on that addition was later enclosed using salvaged windows from Camp Roberts. A great room was built in the 1970s. The most recent remodel made alterations to the floorplan of the house and added a downstairs master suite, bringing the total square footage to 2,800.
Once the house received a new foundation, it was gutted — a perilous task due to the presence of as bestos, lead-based paint and mold. Once walls were stripped down to the studs, the true do-it-yourself nature of the home’s construction became clear. According to the winery website, there was “a maze of haphazard electrical and plumbing.” The brick chimney snaked precariously within the walls to connect with the kitchen smokestack. As was typical of homes of its era, there was no insulation “or any form of weather barrier beneath the exterior siding,” said George.
In the complete renovation that followed, a few original materials were saved. George and his crew peeled off layers of vinyl to reveal the original Douglas fir floors, which were refinished by Van Patten Hardwood Services. Also saved were the original staircase and handrail. They maintained all of the original double hung windows, including those salvaged from Camp Roberts. The old fireplace needed to go, but the crew retained the bricks and mantel to use when building the new fireplace. The home’s shiplap exterior siding is “commonly seen around the Central Coast,” said George. The same siding was used in the original house for base trim. George and his crew had redwood milled to match that siding and used it on the exterior, as interior base trim, and as wainscoting in bathrooms throughout the house. “The Yorks used what they had, and this mentality has been with us throughout the renovation of the farmhouse and all of York Mountain,” he said.
Even new materials evoke the home’s rich history.
George chose period replica door hinges, vintagestyle porcelain doorknobs and old-fashioned push button light switches, purchased from Rejuvenation. He sourced period bathroom vanities, nightstands and other furniture from Restoration Hardware. Some bathroom fixtures have antique-replica Edison bulbs with decorative filaments. Vintage-style brass beds came from Crate & Barrel. The one piece inherited from the York family is a roll top desk that sits in the music room. George, who selected décor with the help of interior designer Pam Kelly, wanted the rest of the furniture to “feel as if it were from the period — something that the Yorks may have owned themselves.”
Still, the house has its modern leanings. The upstairs, which previously was four bedrooms with no bathrooms, became two master suites “to suit today’s expectations,” Liz Armstrong said. There are modern appliances in the kitchen and new heating and cooling systems.
George used black liberally to contrast with the crisp white walls and trim. The result is an updated version of cottage farmhouse style. For example, he created a subtly contemporary look in the bathrooms by accenting the vintage-style subway tiles with ribbons of black glass tile.
The Armstrongs decided to use the house as a private guest house, and for a place to host wine dinners and gatherings. “We chose not to make it a B&B, as we felt it would damage too much of the original house to retrofit it with all of today’s requirements,” Armstrong explained.
The couple hung largescale historical photos throughout the house. Images depict the York family, as well as Ignacy Jan Paderewski, who once crushed his grapes at York Mountain.
“The history of this place is so rich and has been so significant to the Central Coast over the past 130 years,” said George. “It is extremely rewarding to be a part of the team extending the legacy of this place another 100 years.”