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An estate's redesign forgoes medieval castle for European Old World Charm

A BIG HOUSE NEEDED A BIG TWEAK to reflect its owners’ taste.

So that’s when Randy and Jan Sanders brought in interior designer John Hayward to freshen up their 13,000-square-foot castle-like mansion on nearly 4 acres in Fairbanks Ranch.

“This is the biggest job I’ve tackled,” says Hayward, now director of interior design for Nativa Furniture, with stores in Hillcrest and Solana Beach. Indeed, the estate is one of the largest in the sprawling gated community. With 20 years in the business, Hayward spent two years on the project, moving his clients out of their master suite into a guest room for six months.

It’s hard to hide a mansion with its own koi-stocked lake, swimming pool with a spa for 12, tennis court, a poolside chalet guest quarters and a well-equipped outdoor entertainment area. But even those living within Fairbanks Ranch have a difficult time glimpsing the property hidden behind a 12-foot-high gate and hedges.

Hayward concentrated on five areas: the master suite, an upstairs guest suite, the kitchen, the entry area and the home’s signature space, a first-floor great room with a massive stone fireplace and 30-foot-high vaulted, beamed ceiling. With so much volume,

that room presented the challenge of not making it appear to be the lobby of a smart hotel.

Jan Sanders and Hayward were on the same wavelength from the beginning. “What I like, John likes — European Old World charm,” she says. Hayward’s mission was to bring in more light and transform major spaces from their appearance as a medieval castle, and to provide an exhibition of Jan’s collection of art. Unique to the home, two of the most “Gothic” spaces were left intact — an upstairs office and a crypt-like wine grotto, both with arched stone ceilings. Just off the grotto’s “knight’s table” stands a full coat of armor, a wall-length wine vault and comfy bar or tasting area.

Hayward proceeded to craft a more open, French-country-manor look adding soft touches through new furnishings, draperies, rugs, carpet and numerous table lamps and sconces. Included were two floral-design rugs hand-woven in Tibet placed in the entry foyer. His color palette was varied, ranging from the dark woods of the library to the soft pastels chosen for the master bedroom.

A kitchen island was recast with a new counter of oiled wenge wood, and a farmhouse sink was added. Whimsical French country scenes were applied to the wall behind the existing $40,000 La Cornue Chateau series range.

Most challenging was the master suite’s combined bath/dressing space, which was ripped apart. The removal included a large indoor aviary. New fixtures and countertops were added, in honey onyx, along with a deluxe coffee bar. Centerpiece of the room, looking out on a private garden, is a “bathtub island,” a bottle of champagne ready for the next soak.

Also added were a lighting control system and motorized shades on floor-to-ceiling windows to ease the southern exposure and give privacy.

“We changed the whole look,” says Jan.

In a different era, Hayward could have been knighted in the wine grotto for his work.

But, borrowing from the French, it’s best summed up through the first line of a book prominently displayed in the home, The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau:

“I have resolved on an enterprise that has no precedent, and which, once complete, will have no imitator.”


Homes: By Carl H. Larsen • Photography by Martin Mann

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Perhaps it’s because the “cottage” with the wavy, cedar-thatched roof on the cover of our July issue looks like it could be the home of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs that I was immediately intrigued by a press release I received this week.

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