The gal headed north, north of San Francisco, to Calistoga. Rob and Linda Stiles, who know a good thing when they see it, had said ‘you must go to The Francis House’. It turns out that in 2015 a San Francisco-based architect-builder, Richard Dwyer, and his Filipina designer wife, Dina, had bought a gorgeous three-floor mansion, built in 1886 on a corner site only five minutes’ walk from what is now the centre of Calistoga. Roll forward to the first week of September 2018 and The Francis House, a luxury five-bedroom bed and breakfast hotel, opened with a couple of parties for locals, including the Napa Valley wine community.
The building had been Calistoga hospital, and, indeed, the first guest to check into The Francis House was an 82 year-old who was born here – see this 1945 photo of Calistoga Hospital, taken by I.C. Adams, who lived in Calistoga from 1882 until his death, aged 85, in 1960 (his unmarked grave is Section G, Lot 7, in Calistoga’s Pioneer Cemetery). Anyway, Richard Dwyer, the builder, spent three years immaculately restoring the building, replacing every chip, it seems, in the local tufu stone exterior – see the image of it, above, to get an idea of how gorgeous The Francis House is now. Around, he has put in a sizeable pool, and there is a tennis court to come. Dina Dwyer, meanwhile, handled the inside.
There are unpolished wood floors. White walls are balanced by an assortment of brightly coloured Murano chandeliers, absolutely gorgeous pieces in their own right. One-off antique desks go with modern chairs and other furnishings. The ground floor flows from a comfy-chic salon, bursting with art and fashion books, to a dining area and an enviable Gaggenau kitchen, well stocked with Christofle, and local ceramics. Breakfast is included in the room rate. Soon, as soon as the Dwyers get a liquor licence, there will also be complimentary evening wine tastings – I know from the Kimpton group what a really popular concept this is.
Upstairs, the five letting rooms are all unique, apart from the beds. As the photo shows, they have white-edged grey buttoned headboards, with inset USB ports and fibre optic lights. Linens and towels are Matouk. With no distribution but pre-opening praise from both Architectural Digest and Robb Report, business, say the Dwyers, arrived immediately – heavy, apparently, with millennials who drive themselves here, and are then Uber-ed around the wineries.
AND NOW HEAR RICHARD DWYER TALKING ABOUT THE CONVERSION