California Theming

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Gardens: By Mary James Photography by Shelley Metcalf

California Theming

WE GOT LUCKY,” says Bill Scripps when he and his wife, Kathy, discovered an 8-acre undeveloped property near the heart of Rancho Santa Fe in the 1990s. By the decade’s end, their new estate home stood at the parcel’s summit, embraced by a landscape and resort-style amenities planned for the family’s active lifestyle then and for years to come. 

Bill, an entrepreneur who is the great-great grandson of publishing magnate E.W. Scripps, met his wife at Moonlight Beach where she played volleyball. They commissioned her fellow player and friend, architect Jerri Grindle, to design the multilevel residence to reflect their love of natural materials and the organic architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and the Craftsman era.  

Landscape architects Greg Stone and Kirsten Larson joined the project after the couple viewed one of their designs that reminded them of Hawaiian destinations they love. The duo later teamed with HB&A Architects and builder Gary Cissell when the Scripps’ added an adjacent 5-acre property in 2004 for a stable and pasture for their five horses. Over the years, the California Landscape Contractors Association, Rancho Santa Fe Association and others have honored the design with top awards.

Scripps’ cedar-clad home accented with stacked Apache Cloud stone is reached by a quarter-mile long driveway that winds up the contoured property past swaths of emerald lawn, broad borders and a boulder-strewn “stream” for drainage.  

“I wanted this to feel like California,” says Stone of the plant palette that favors water-wise shrubs like coast rosemary, rockrose and pink-blossomed Indian hawthorn; trees ranging from graceful California peppers to flowering acacias and jacarandas; and some recently added succulents.

When it reaches the home’s entry, the driveway swells into a circle embellished with patterned cobblestones collected onsite and punctuated with a grand Canary Island date palm in a stone and boulder planter. More boulders — a signature of the landscape’s hardscape — line the wide flagstone steps to the front door. 

“I love rock. Each one is a sculpture — and fun,” says Stone who salvaged most of the boulders from a nearby subdivision construction site.

Tucked among sago, pygmy and California fan palms and mounds of bougainvillea is a cast-iron lion with a long family history. 

“It was one of two purchased by my grandmother in the 1940s from a travelling circus,” Bill says. “They stood at our family’s Miramar Ranch until it was sold and then my father moved them to his Nevada ranch. I got one when my father passed.”

Toward the rear of the home, two more family heirlooms — bronze pumas dating from the turn of the 20th century — guard the vanishing-edge pool, pebble coated, Bill says, to imitate the blue of Lake Tahoe where he summered in his youth. Here the mood turns tropical beneath a canopy of palms, including clusters of clumping date palms and 50-year-old Mexican fan palms on the property when purchased and relocated during construction.


Around the wide flagstone patio are all the necessities — and more — for alfresco entertaining at one of the many benefits, holiday parties and the occasional wedding or wake hosted here over the years. A cabana with indoor and outdoor kitchens is steps away from a cobble-coated fireplace, a 25-foot-tall waterfall, umbrella-shaded tables and a sweeping 80-foot-long fiberglass water slide. Adding to the fun is an indoor recreation room with a bar, pool table and TV, which opens to the patio when glass doors glide out of sight.

On the home’s second level is a smaller patio outside the kitchen where the family generally gathers for quiet dinners. Here the family’s two dogs romp, Kathy tends a small kitchen garden and Bill often barbecues for meals with his teenage daughter, Shelby, and son, Willie, when he’s home from college. A fire pit circled with chairs is a favorite spot for stargazing.

Every evening when he’s not traveling, Bill strolls across the grounds to feed the horses, now housed in a pristine stable adjacent to two green pastures as lush as the lawns nearby. Sometimes he’ll gather with pals to play poker in the card room there. 

Kathy, the equestrian in the family, joins girlfriends for weekly rides over the Ranch’s many trails. Afterwards they often relax on the stable’s patio where a succulent garden, rustic fireplace and rough-hewn furniture are Old West-inspired. 

The most visited area, Bill notes, is the volleyball court where Kathy and Willie, who is playing the sport in college, often gather with friends for games. 

“I married into volleyball,” Bill says with a laugh. “We created all this to raise a family,” he adds. “And I like to view it as multigenerational. I anticipate grandkids playing here someday.” 



Categories: Gardening