Photo: Todd Hido
In early 1999, Linda-Marie Loeb, a chef and former restaurateur, moved into what had been a weekend retreat for her family: a gingerbread-accented 1879 farmhouse on a hilltop overlooking miles of vineyards in California's Napa Valley. It had been six years since she'd purchased the place, and she decided to leave behind her restaurant career to raise her children in this community she knew only from visits. Originally drawn to the house because of its romantic setting, and that breathtaking view, Linda-Marie soon recognized that the property, with its agreeable climate and healthy soil, would be an ideal spot to garden. She hoped to parlay her hobby into a business by starting an organic herb farm on part of her 80 acres and planned to hold cooking classes in her house. Both were dreams she'd let sit on the back burner during her years as a chef.

Once she and her two sons moved in, Linda-Marie realized that certain aspects of the house that had been easy to overlook as a weekenderlike the fact that the galley-style kitchen offered barely enough elbowroom to prepare three meals a daywould not be tolerable in a full-time residence. Even so, when she thought about remodeling, her initial goal was modest: to update the kitchen, a single-story '60s-era addition to the farmhouse, and expand it a bit. "I swear that's all I wanted," she says now, two years later, having hired more than 50 contractors in what turned out to be a far more ambitious floorboards-to-cupola renovation, featuring a spectacular, no-holds-barred cooking area.
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