by Natasha Wolff | March 4, 2016 10:50 am
The drive from San Francisco to the Napa Valley takes only a little more than an hour, but for tech entrepreneur and IfOnly CEO Trevor Traina and his wife, Swanson Vineyards creative director Alexis Swanson Traina, the two places feel as far away from each other as possible.
Arriving at their historic, Victorian-style Oakville home, it’s easy to understand why the pair—known for their notable art collection, philanthropy and omnipresence on the San Francisco social scene—pack up their kids almost every weekend and head here to unwind. In fact, doing so is something of a family tradition.
“All of our good times were up here,” Trevor, son of the late shipping mogul John Traina and the philanthropist Dede Wilsey, says of the six-acre property. “My parents always had friends around and there was a lot of entertaining, and summer was spent here—all summer.”
Since then, the Trainas have made plenty of their own memories at the estate. “Alexis and I were married there on the front lawn,” Trevor recalls, “and our son was christened here. In fact, we planned a big outdoor christening, but it rained—and it never rains in Napa.” The quick-thinking couple cleared out all the furniture in the seldom-used formal parlor to allow about 60 guests to gather inside for the ceremony. But it’s not just milestones that make the house special; it’s also everyday moments.
Weekends in Oakville are generally spent sans guests and are passed mostly outside—by the pool or on the tennis courts—in the company of the Trainas’ two children, Johnny and Delphina, and their Jack Russell terrier, Honey. “We love living as much as we can outdoors,” Alexis says. “And living in a house like this, you realize that a great big kitchen and a great big porch are really where you want to be.”
For his part, Trevor adds that even the house’s indoor living can feel somewhat alfresco: “I joke that we’re camping here, because we have 18th-century wallpaper.” Though they both grew up in high-style households, Trevor says, “we’re very casual and we aren’t at all fancy here.”
“Trevor and Alexis are undoubtedly the chicest couple I know,” says design impresario Ken Fulk, a close friend. “They are confident and bold in how they live. In San Francisco, it’s unapologetic old-world glamour; in Oakville, it’s the perfect combo of chintz and prints, totally comfortable without ever sacrificing style.”
The home was built in the 1860s by H.W. Crabb, a Napa Valley pioneer who founded the To Kalon winery. “The To Kalon vineyards, which are all around us, have several different owners now, but fetch some of the highest prices in the world for grapes,” Trevor explains. His own parents bought the land around 1969 from the Rainier Brewing Company. The acquisition was part of a complex transaction whereby vintner Robert Mondavi purchased the vineyards and Traina’s parents received the property and the house.
The home saw an addition by Crabb in the 1880s and a near total rebuild after a devastating fire more than a century later, in 1997. “I knew the house prior to the fire, and I was so crazy for it,” says Alexis, who moved from Florida with her family to the region in the mid-1980s. “When they rebuilt it, they modernized it and reworked some of the space. The old house had less room, but was very charming.”
Even with its updates, the Napa Valley getaway is a far cry from the couple’s primary residence, in Pacific Heights. “The house we built together in San Francisco is very contemporary, with my photography collection and objects we’ve inherited and purchased—it’s a more sophisticated mix, in a sense,” Trevor says. “This is a family home; it’s very comfortable and familiar.”
The decor is an assemblage of styles, though most are heirlooms and antiques set in place by Trevor’s mother. “We have a number of family portraits, of my grandparents and my mother, and pieces of furniture I grew up with in various houses,” he says. “The dining-room table belonged to my great-grandmother, as did the sideboard next to it, and [the nearby] secretary belonged to my mother.”
Though there’s no denying his family’s pedigree, Trevor can’t help but make fun of some of the house’s inherited features: “It reminds me of that great comment by Marella Agnelli”—made after the socialite toured Sid and Mercedes Bass’ apartment in New York—“when she said, ‘It will take her another lifetime to understand wicker!’ There’s nothing more WASP-y than lattice and wicker. And the thing is, we come from wicker.” (Well, almost. Michael Taylor decorated Trevor’s parents’ homes, and his grandmother’s house in Newport, Rhode Island, was done in the 1960s by Valerian Rybar; Thomas Britt decorated the homes of Alexis’ parents.)
For Alexis—the daughter of Elizabeth and W. Clarke Swanson Jr., a renowned vintner, whose grandfather started the national food-production company that bears the family name—what’s outside of the house is equally important. She claims the long, unpaved, tree-lined driveway as being her favorite spot on the property. “Historically, it’s mind-blowing,” she says. “Some of the trees are 130 years old. It never ceases to amaze me.”
Her husband echoes the sentiment. “Often we’ll put the kids to bed and then take a walk,” he says. “When I was growing up here, we had this thing we called ‘scary walks,’ and after dinner we’d go out with our flashlights and walk through the vineyards. It’s a really amazing thing to do, to stroll on a warm night with a glass of wine.” In a place like this, it certainly is.
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