When growing up in Sweden in the 1980s, my dreamy-eyed idea of the American home — no doubt cultivated by overconsumption of Hollywood blockbusters — was a picture of modern perfection. I envisioned gently curving streets and color coded single-family houses; homes accoutered with identically expansive drive-ways, multi-car garages, freshly-painted rural mailboxes and miraculously manicured front lawns.
Now living on one of those gently curving streets in Sonoma County, I sometimes find myself looking backward with yearning to the European dwellings of my youth for a vision of the more varied, the less than perfect, the old and the quaint. When I sense the onset of one of these occasional bouts of homesickness, I find a ready remedy in the historic downtown districts of Petaluma and Healdsburg.
From Sonoma County’s Craftsman cottages to its Queen Anne houses, its Tudor-style residences to its Italianate mansions, we are fortunate to have a varied blend of Old World charisma complemented with a quintessence of New World comfort. If you find yourself dreaming of owning your own piece of local history, here are five Sonoma County heritage homes with a modern twist:
501 D Street, Petaluma, $875,000
This light-filled Queen Anne features the themes of late Victorian architecture: asymmetrical shape, intersecting roof lines, turret, patterned shingles, decorative trim and bay windows.
Located in the popular Riverfront district of Petaluma, the interior of this historic home is fitted with high ceilings, two marble-mantled fireplaces, a carefully refinished staircase, three spacious bedrooms and a formal dining room. The eat-in kitchen hosts a breakfast nook with views of the patio, and the living room alcove is just the place to catch up on your overdue correspondence – whether your writing implements of choice be laptop, iPad or fine stationery, inkwell and gold nibbed pen. Listed by Pacific Union, Shari Nadale-DeSantis.
509 C Street, Petaluma, $1,200,000
Enamored with Greek democracy, Americans devoted the first half of the 19th century to constructing civic buildings and private residences modeled after Greek temples. This Petaluma property is a local example of this Greek-Revival style, fashioned with pediment gables, sash windows and complete with columns and fine portico.
This four bedroom dwelling, blocks from Theater Square, has recently been refurbished. While the choices of materials and appliances may not always resonate with the period of the architecture, a time-traveled ancient Greek or Belle Époque American would certainly enjoy the convenience and economy of solar power, an on-demand water heater and an electric car plug on the driveway. Listed by Pacific Union, Tony Parrish.
308 Tucker Street, Healdsburg, $2,699,000
This Craftsman home was built in a style influenced by the English Arts and Crafts movement and its reaction against the mass production of the industrial revolution. Its architectural form was popularized in fin-de-siècle U.S. by architect and furniture designer Gustav Stickley and by architects Charles and Henry Greene.
The Craftsman movement is well expressed in this Healdsburg home — overhanging eaves, a low slung gabled roof, a wide front porch and pedestal-like tapered columns. Although a bit of the typical Craftsman simplicity has been subverted by a subsequent interior renovation — a portion of the interior’s soul seemingly gone missing — all can be put right with a little interior re-decorating and a refreshing swim in the pool! Listed by Vanguard Properties, Grace Lucero
115 6th Street, Petaluma, $1,179,000
From your elevated porch of this picturesque Sonoma County home, anno 1902, you can enjoy watching the passersby enroute to nearby Petaluma Boulevard. This four bedroom, three bathroom house has been carefully updated, preserving its character and charm. The interior is artfully designed to create a light and airy atmosphere with one room flowing effortlessly to another.
Hardwood floors, period moldings and wainscoting, a contemporary kitchen with traditional touches and sleek marble details in the bathrooms all add to the vintage feel of this dwelling. The deck looks somewhat spartan at present; but with the return of spring, it can blossom into a green oasis with the addition of flowerpots, comfortable chaise lounges and colorful umbrellas. Listed by Century 21 Bundesen, Denise Lucchesi
413 Haydon Street, Healdsburg $1,699,000
This Healdsburg three bedroom, two bathroom home, built in 1880, was completely refurbished in 2003. While preserving its vintage appeal, the house offers features fit for the modern house buyer, including an open plan kitchen-dining area and light-filled spacious bathrooms.
A skillfully designed capacious backyard deck overlooks a brick walkway that winds through the landscaped lush garden. This seems the perfect place for afternoon teas, shaded by the mature well cared for trees and sheltered from the cacophony of the madding crowd. Listed by Vanguard Properties, Grace Lucero.