Rock ‘n’ Roll Retreat

The Doors’ Ray Manzarek and his wife savor life in Wine Country
Wednesday, February 11, 2004 By Jeannie Matteucci
San Francisco Chronicle

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When keyboardist Ray Manzarek, one of the original members of the rock group the Doors, and his wife, Dorothy, decided it was time to leave Beverly Hills and look for a more simple life in the Wine Country, they knew exactly what they wanted. The couple was also very clear about what they didn’t want. “We told the real estate agent we wanted a small country home on a few acres of land,” said Ray, 64, “not a McMansion. We find McMansions obscene.”

Ray, now a member of the group the Doors of the 21st Century, is still busy touring the globe, so finding a special home and property that would give the couple and their cat, Pumpkin, a place to relax and rejuvenate was important.

As luck would have it, Ray and Dorothy, 59, fell in love with the first home they saw, a 2,600-square-foot farmhouse on 2 1/4 acres.

“From the outside, the house looked great, just what we were looking for, ” recalls Ray. “And as fate would have it, it was a beautiful springtime day when we first saw the property. The mustard was in bloom, the air was crystal clear and it was an absolutely beautiful day. The road to the property dead ends at a vineyard, so I could jog every day and enjoy the views. I looked at Dorothy and said, ‘Honey, we’re moving.’ ” But while the stunning location and the classic design of the house were what they were looking for, problems with the interior also caught their attention. “The inside had little rooms,” Ray said. “Four tiny bedrooms. A little dining room. A little kitchen. The first thing we said was we need a good architect to open this place up.”

Dorothy did some research and the couple picked architects Mary Dooley and Dick Osborn of Ozborndooli Architecture of Santa Rosa. (Since the time of this project, Dooley has left Ozborndooli and started her own firm called MAD Architecture in Petaluma; Osborn has renamed his Santa Rosa firm the Osborn Design Group.) “The house had good bones, but the rooms were compartmentalized and the ceilings were very low,” said Dooley, lead architect on the project. “We knew we had to add space to it on the second floor, because Ray and Dorothy wanted a master suite. Their two big goals were opening it up and making less spaces but more open space. I started to think of the inside as a San Francisco loft with a large living space downstairs.”

“There were cheap finishes on the exterior of the house,” Osborn said, “and that is something Ray realized immediately, but he didn’t want to ruin the look of the structure.” Dooley and Osborn suggested a number of general contractors in the area, with Ray and Dorothy deciding on Randy Marsey of Marsey Bros. Construction Inc. of Napa.

“This project involved some steelwork and finishes we had experience in,” Marsey said. “One of their goals was to create a more open floor plan by eliminating interior walls. That is always a challenge, because they serve to support the interior of the house.”

By eliminating those interior walls, the downstairs became a large and dramatic living space with steel beams, pipes and columns used for support. The interior gained more the modern esthetic the Manzareks preferred, while preserving much of the classic exterior that complements the property’s rustic location.

The large new front entry greets guests with a distinctly modern message. “This is where we wanted to add drama to the house,” said Osborn. “We even built a three-dimensional model to show Ray and Dorothy what the new master suite above would look like.”

The entry is now a two-story gallery where Ray and Dorothy display their extensive art collection, which includes an original Eisenstein and a framed “Shanghai Express” movie poster from the classic 1932 Marlene Dietrich film. “The thing that really hits you when you walk in now is how it’s all wide open, ” Marsey said. “You can see straight through to the back of the house.”

An open staircase made of steel, cables and cherry wood accents gives the entry a focal point and provides an anchor for the entire downstairs level.

“Once we opened everything up, we had to get rid of the old staircase,” Ray said. “We wanted something light and sturdy yet something you could see through.”

Ray and Dorothy love to cook and wanted an open kitchen that would blend with the rest of the downstairs living area. It is right off a new mudroom with a gray slate floor that provides a nice transition from a breezeway that links the house with the 2,200-square-foot renovated barn/garage. The kitchen itself has a rich look, thanks to cherry wood cabinets custom made by German manufacturer Bulthaup. “The cabinets are sort of a simple Shaker style,” said Dooley. “They have slightly recessed panels with precision detailing that give the kitchen a sort of hidden high-tech look.”

A couple of the cabinets have frosted-glass fronts to lighten the appearance of the all-wood room. The cherry cabinets complement the new bleached white oak floor, stainless steel appliances and lavender-blue granite countertops.

Ray and Dorothy found the granite in Los Angeles. “Those slabs of granite and marble are like Oriental rugs,” Ray said. “Mother Nature has done such an incredible job with granite and marble. We almost wanted to pick a slab and hang it on the wall.”

A large center island, with a raised eating bar, seating and built-in storage, is home to the kitchen’s new cook top.

“The interesting thing about the island is that it doesn’t go all the way to the floor, so it has a table-like appearance,” Marsey said.

“It’s a great place to sip a glass of chardonnay in the summer and pinot in the winter,” Ray added. “It doesn’t get better than that.”

Other special touches include a pull-out stainless-steel appliance garage, a large double window over the sink with inviting views, recessed lighting and a custom hood over the cook top.

A red oak dining table from the Manzareks’ Beverly Hills home centers the new dining room, surrounded by bent metal chairs, and it’s on wheels, so it can be rolled outside to the patio.

“I can’t wait to see the house in four or five years when it’s fully landscaped, because they have plans for a swimming pool and orchard out there, and the dining room flows right outside to the patio,” Osborn said.

The adjoining living room is all about comfort, with a TV niche, a big, comfortable slipcovered sofa and an Eames chair with ottoman. A long console table behind the sofa helps define the living room and separates the area from other downstairs spaces.

Instead of a traditional fireplace, Ray and Dorothy opted for a high- efficiency, RAIS wood-burning stove to help heat their home during the cool Wine Country winter. “We took the stove’s metal flue up an exterior wall and exposed it,” Marsey notes. “This fits the style of old-time farmhouses.”

“The old living room had 8-foot-high ceilings,” adds Dooley, “so by opening up the ceilings at the entry to two-story height, it makes the rest of the spaces seem larger. Ray and Dorothy really wanted a large, cozy couch in there, and that sofa is the only thing that isn’t modern.”

A combination music studio/home office is the final component of the new downstairs. A keyboard, stool and a couple of speakers offer a simple set-up for Ray to write and practice his music. Dorothy has her own desk in this room, and built-in cherry wood shelves and cabinets provide lots of room to store books and CDs. Instead of closing this room off, the couple decided to take advantage of the studio’s location and add French doors to a covered porch, which lets them enjoy the morning light. “I thought it was very interesting Ray and Dorothy wanted this space so open and integrated with the main living area,” adds Dooley. “It shows how music is a part of their life.”
A cherry wood landing off the staircase provides a transition into the new master suite and a bridge between the master suite and a new guest bedroom. Windows were located so the couple could enjoy views, with dormer windows capturing extra natural light. A faux silo on one end of the master bedroom adds living space inside and architectural interest to the exterior of the house. “There used to be two bedrooms where there is now one,” Osborn said. “The silo gave us a chance to add a sitting room or exercise space to the master bedroom, and adding the master bath addition gives them great views from the large window over their bathtub.”

“The neat thing about the layout of this bathroom is how the cedar cabinets serve as medicine cabinets and as a screen between the commode and the shower,” Dooley said. “We wanted the bathroom to be a restful, serene space,” Dorothy said, “and something that was light at the same time. I was worried about the finish, because I heard limestone was soft, but we love it.”

A large soaking tub was positioned under a picture window that opens for ventilation. A sloped ceiling with exposed framing adds interest to the space. The Manzareks hope to soon turn their attention to some exterior additions. They want to expand their hobby farm by planting a full vegetable garden, a field of wildflowers and a small fruit orchard with apricots, peaches, apples, pears and persimmons. They also want to add a lily pond with ornamental goldfish. “And Dorothy wants some chickens,” said Ray.

While they have endured a major home renovation before, they learned some important lessons during this project.

“Since we were not living there during the remodel, we had to be very careful when we read plans to make sure everything was right,” Dorothy said. “We were very diligent about measurements and everything. And it all turned out great. I like all of it, it’s a terrific house. It’s not something I ever dreamed of living in.”

“We wanted to take the architects’ sensibilities and put it into what we call a lil ol’ modern farmhouse,” says Ray. “Make sure you have a good architect you can communicate with. After the project is over, the architect should be your friend.”

“I think this project worked because of the setting,” Marsey said. “It’s in the country and they didn’t want to put something that didn’t look like it belonged there. They added bells and whistles, but kept the flavor of the structure.”