Features 3 minutes 16 April 2024

Auberge du Soleil Napa’s latest renovation evokes timeless but not arrested in time

An interview with their interior designer, Suzanne Tucker.

Having welcomed Napa Valley epicureans for more than 40 years, accumulating 15 consecutive Michelin Stars, The Restaurant at Auberge du Soleil just unveiled its latest renovation led by San Francisco interior designer, Suzanne Tucker.

Tucker first redid The Restaurant and The Bar at Auberge du Soleil in 2003 and explains that she’s been familiar with the Rutherford property since the early 1980s, both as a guest and as a designer. “I worked with the late Michael Taylor, my mentor and legendary designer of the original Auberge,” says Tucker. “Staying true to the original vision of the founders with the timeless design Michael Taylor instilled from the beginning, along with architect Sandy Walker, is always in the forefront of my mind.”

For The Restaurant’s most recent facelift, Tucker infused a sense of contemporary into the timeless elegance of the original design by opening up the layout as well as replacing outdated conversation pieces with new works of art. Tucker and her team repositioned the bar to face outward, framed the floor-to-ceiling windows with new bronze detailing, opted for a Cielo quartzite bar top and a custom-designed, 9-foot, hand-forged iron spiral chandelier.

“It was clear to us all to open up the walls, windows, and doors thus bringing the design forward to a lighter look without losing sight of place and location,” she says.

Below, Tucker shares more about her process of blending classic and contemporary, details about some of the design highlights and divulges her favorite nooks at the newly renovated restaurant.

Restaurant Lobby / Auberge du Soleil
Restaurant Lobby / Auberge du Soleil

How does the new, lighter interiors of this year’s renovation differ from the previous design and why was it important to distinguish this new space?

After renovating the guest rooms over the last decade, the restaurant and bar were the logical next steps to upgrading, with a more open look maximizing the experience of the spectacular Napa Valley views. My approach is always to keep the Auberge du Soleil “au courant” while maintaining its evocative mood of the South of France: chic, stylish, and sophisticated with a fresh, modern touch.

How did you decide on the contemporary elements that you ended up using?

[I wanted to] take a classic beauty and give her a contemporary yet appropriate makeover. Naturally that can be delicate territory to maneuver but the original inspiration for the hotel many years ago was the relaxed sophistication of Provence and that remains timeless. The same complexity of beauty is found equally in the Napa Valley—quixotic light, breathtaking vineyard views, shimmering olive groves, the seasonal colors, and, of course, the food and wine, which is unrivaled. I always design to [the] appropriateness of place with consideration to the quality of light and moods, what the experience needs to be and who are the clientele. Timeless but not arrested in time is always my goal.

Bar / Auberge du Soleil
Bar / Auberge du Soleil

What inspired you to reposition the bar to face outward?

I always consider both the daytime and nighttime experiences and the inspiration was right outside but hidden behind a wall! By creating a wall of windows, flipping the bar to the opposite side and repositioning it to face outward we embraced the full experience of the spectacular views during the day. At night, the views are mostly dark, but now it’s quite magical with the twinkle of lights in the valley and the candlelight on the terrace.

Who did you work with to create the custom iron spiral chandelier? Why did you want this as a key piece for the new space?

The nine foot-tall, custom-designed, hand-forged iron spiral chandelier replaces the massive tree trunk which had been in the center of the room. This décor element felt a bit dated but definitely interrupted the flow of the space. The chandelier on the other hand—the result of a collaboration with the talented artisans of Paul Ferrante in Los Angeles—is a contemporary sculptural focal point that casts an enchanting light throughout.

What about the Cielo quartzite bar top – why did you choose to elevate the room with this and what was the bar top prior?

The Cielo Quartzite bar top, blue-green with caramel veining, brings in the colors from the surrounding view and landscape and is complemented by the antique bronze bar facing. The previous bar top was a rather worn oak, not considered practical any longer so the quartzite was not just a sensible solution but a very beautiful one as well.

Restaurant / Auberge du Soleil
Restaurant / Auberge du Soleil

How does the new light and fresh decor reflect the culinary experience diners have at The Restaurant? Was this a factor during your planning?

Absolutely—the ease and comfort of the new décor is an invitation for guests to linger in the bar, dine on the terrace with the spectacular views or take a cozy table by the fire. We considered all the factors in addition to how the staff could work seamlessly and with great ease of service.

What’s your favorite space in the new layout? Where would you request to eat?

I would take breakfast on the east side of the terrace overlooking the valley, a quick lunch in the bar or a leisurely lunch on the west side of the terrace, a festive cocktail in the bar and a candlelight dinner on the banquettes next to the fireplace with friends. Or maybe a romantic dinner with just my husband in any of those spots!

Auberge du Soleil
Auberge du Soleil

Hero image: Auberge du Soleil

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