In 2009, Ted Hall was producing his own certified-organic wine, growing olives that he turned into extra-virgin olive oil, raising cattle for grass-fed beef, and harvesting heirloom fruits and vegetables on his 650-acre historic ranch in St. Helena, California. The only remaining venture for the owner of Long Meadow Ranch was to provide a place to serve his delicacies. For a cook, he found former Rutherford Grill executive chef Shaemus Feeley and for the decor, Jennifer Johanson, president and CEO of EDG Interior Architecture and Design. The resulting farm-to-table restaurant is Farmstead, a 110-seat dining room that serves a locally sourced menu with predominantly Long Meadows Ranch ingredients.
Hall called on Johanson (whose firm specializes in restaurant design) in May 2009 to create the interior of his new restaurant. "He was very committed to making a place that's casual for locals," she says. "He wanted it to be something that felt very authentic and that had a farm feel, not an interior-decorated one."
The location for the new restaurant, which opened in February 2010, was a barn on the ranch that had been used as a plant nursery. "It wasn't an incredibly old barn," Johanson says. "It was built around the 1970s, but it was built with a very agricultural look." To stay true to its form, Johanson and her colleagues Mark Wilson, Catharine Tarver, and Bridie McSweeney decided to leave as much of the structure intact as possible, playing up the post-and-beam system and revealing the shape of the roof on the interior.
The dining room is dominated by large tables and booths meant to emulate a farmhouse aesthetic. The designers looked locally and found lounge tables at Roost in Sausalito; communal tables and dining table tops from reclaimed-wood furniture-maker The Wooden Duck in Berkeley; and dining table bases, booths, and banquettes at West Coast Industries in San Francisco.
For the service station at one end of the barn, Johanson designed and built a simple series of shelves using recycled galvanized pipe. "We wanted to make it look like it was part of the farm," she says.
For overhead decorations, the team took to the road in search of vintage farm tools--and often didn't have to travel very far. On the Long Meadow Ranch land, they found the large wooden hay hook that hangs in the middle of the dining room. Johanson assures "it's pretty warm and rugged," though it quickly conjures up the scene from Twister when Helen Hunt attempts to find safe haven in a barn only to discover its filled with razor-sharp farming tools. "It looks more pointy than it is in the images," Johanson says.
Less threatening found objects are the metal hay hooks that Johanson fashioned into light fixtures with the help of Lew Rosenberg at Electrics Architectural Lighting. "We found them up in Napa at a resale store that sells old junk," Johanson says. "We wanted to create the lights in a way that would be natural and would not just be 'prettying up the pig.'" Using entirely recycled and found parts (including the chains and the ropes), she strung the hooks together, along with Edison light bulbs, and hung the newly created pendants from the rafters.
Fostering the spirit of community, Farmstead hosts community-table meals several times each month, with menus ranging from fish fries to plates of "Pig Pickin'." The guests sit on "simple schoolhouse chairs," Johanson says, sourced from Falcon in St. Louis, Missouri.
On the Farmstead patio, where the old farmhouse (which houses the winery's tasting room) looms in the background, Johanson and the team designed an outdoor fireplace and seating area meant, at Hall's request, to resemble an old forge in Pennsylvania. Though the restaurant is up and running, Hall is not finished with the farm's expansion. The next project for Long Meadow Ranch is an outdoor fruit stand to sell their goods. Till then, the best bet for a bite is at Farmstead's tables.