by Leslie A. Westbrook
Anyone who ventures into the wine-tasting room of Coghlan Winery and Jewelry, in quaint Los Olivos, immediately gets an inkling of the sense of wonder, color and whimsy possessed by the owners, a young creative couple named Eric and Samantha Coghlan (both 29).
Then there is their personal retreat.
The family’s rambling house, set on 110 acres, features lavender hallways, a fuchsia-pink living room, a turquoise kitchen and even a lime-green laundry room.
Have we landed in India or Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory?
Perhaps a little of both.
No stranger to the glam life—she grew up in Sun Valley, Idaho and Los Angeles with her Hollywood producer mother—Samantha took a more earthy, creative approach for the lifestyle she shares with her Mississippi-born husband Eric and their family, which (so far) includes two adorable sons: vivacious, outgoing 4-year-old Ozzy (who is quite the drummer) and doe-eyed 1-year-old Cash. Adding to the menagerie are two dogs (a boxer named after a semi-precious stone, Pariba, and Bella, an itsy-bitsy Yorkie), one pair of female bison (named Hank and Frank, “because they’re so masculine”), five Watusi, a distinctive horned breed of cattle native to Africa (including one of only two pure breeding males in North America and a baby named Ruby, after Eric’s mom) a herd of alpaca, a brood of hens, and one goose a-honking.
Thankfully, there’s plenty of room for one and all to spread out.
They decorated their 6,500-square-foot house with the help of noted Los Angeles-based interior designer and longtime family friend Joanna Poitier (wife of actor Sir Sidney Poitier), who has decorated several homes for Samantha’s mother Verna.
“Joanna has always been a huge part of my life,” says bubbly Samantha, while nursing young Cash, “I have a wonderful mom, but Joanna is like another mom to me.”
So much so that Samantha has been collaborating with Joanna since she was five. That’s when Samantha’s mom first allowed her to decorate her own bedroom. That bedroom was “really girly” with hand-painted birds and a canopy bed; a later version was “Jetson’s style” with colors of purple, a violet sofa, a yellow leather chair and red curtains. Her most memorable bedroom was one created during her senior year in high school: the room was draped with colorful Indian saris. That theme seems to have stuck.
The inspiration for her “grown-up” house was India, a place that Samantha feels drawn to but has yet to visit. Joanna and Samantha combed through books on India and were inspired by images of women in saris and the designs (used in the dining room) painted on elephant trunks for ceremonial events.
“I call it the happy house,” says Joanna, of JSP Interiors, “because of the way the two of them are. I have never done anything like it before. It was very easy working with them because I’ve known Samantha since she was a baby. …Samantha has been creative all her life and was always making interesting things. She is a creative little bunny!”
The spacious kitchen is the couple’s favorite room, where friends and family gather around the huge cherrywood center island for food, wine (Coghlan, of course) and conversation. The altar-like pizza oven may be one of the most unique on the planet: A Moroccan tin lamp hangs above a striking lotus flower design with a three-dimensional quality that is painted on turquoise-colored Venetian plaster.
Paint, color and design are focal points throughout the house—including whimsical murals in the children’s rooms. Ozzy’s room is faux-painted to resemble the inside of a barn, with views of a Mississippi delta swamp complete with familiar faces, pets and even a lightning bug band. Cash goes to sleep with visions of winking clouds, a Curious George-like monkey, a wise owl, singing birds and even an armadillo in his head.
Artist Kaveri Singh took nine months to complete the painstakingly detailed surfaces throughout the house, which included stencil designs on the walls, murals, cabinet and trim finishes, and even a Sanskrit mantra written behind the baseboards to ensure the home is a safe and protected place for the family.
Married five years, Eric admits he left the interiors of the four-bedroom, five-and-a-half-bath house mainly up to “the woman” while he designed the pool and barbecue area. “It was Samantha’s dream and her vision,” he says. Still, Samantha and Eric bounced ideas off one another.
The couple met in San Diego at GIA, the Gem Institute of America, where both shared a fascination with precious and semi-precious stones. Jewelry was in Eric’s blood—his grandfather opened a jewelry store in 1956 in Mississippi. The Coghlan family patriarch’s spirit lives on: Eric creates jewelry on his grandfather’s workbench and has earned two gold medals for Coghlan Vineyard’s Diopside Pinot Noir (named for a green mineral and rated 94 points by Wine Enthusiast) that was harvested the day Eric’s jeweler grandfather passed away.
Gemstones are often referenced and used throughout the house as well as on wine labels, which include sapphire and fluorite (pinot noir), amethyst (cabernet sauvignon) and tourmaline (grenache blanc). A double-sided fireplace made of genuine turquoise tiles is stunning, as is the honey onyx counter in one of the bathrooms. A display case full of gem specimens is a focal point in the fuchsia- and lime-colored living room where a floral painting, given to Samantha by her mother years before she had the right space for it, provides a vibrant centerpiece. Two cases display dazzling stones that range from a sapphire found in Riverside to discoveries that father-and-son rockhounds Eric and Ozzy unearthed in the Queen and King mines in Pala, as well as other expeditions. The gems share space with a piece of the Berlin Wall, a gift from Samantha’s brother.
Samantha photographed and designed the labels for their wines, while both she and Eric design jewelry that he turns into reality. Samantha’s office is lined with brightly patterned fabrics and stacks of khaki and camouflage Seabee shirts from military surplus that she “repurposes” into embroidered handbags that are for sale in the Los Olivos showroom, with profits going to the Wounded Warrior Project. “After September 11, this was a creative way for me to contribute,” says Samantha.
Before moving into their dream home, the couple, who also enjoy traveling cross-country and to the Tucson Gem Show in their RV, renovated the carriage house (now the property manager’s house) on their own.
Despite the wild colors and zingy décor, the views are pure and peaceful. The Santa Ynez mountain range is a picture-perfect backdrop, 20 acres are planted with grapes and a favorite spot on the ranch is the pond. A place for quiet reflection, where wind, birdsong and crickets serenade and family gatherings are framed by weeping willow trees, the pond not only feeds the vineyards and spirit, but also is a cool respite for skinny dipping when summer temperatures soar.
“We are totally insane!” laughs Samantha. Far from it, this creative, industrious young couple—who chose to make their mark and make a statement in their new community—are a shining example of what can happen when two people find their soulmates, work well together, are best friends and regale in teamwork.
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