Ken Fulk’s Reimagining the Sonoma Estate is a Cinematic Success

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Written By Jim J Neal

Douglas Friedman. As the 2017 Northern California wildfires decimated its wine country, winemakers Pam and George Hamel fought valiantly to save their Sonoma winery. Their 124-acre ranch was saved but they found that their home in the nearby foothills was destroyed by the flames. The Hamels were determined to rebuild and turned to Ken Fulk, a long-time friend. Fulk helped them reimagine the property that had been destroyed many years ago when they started Hamel Family Wines.
Fulk and Hamels spent several months assessing the situation after the fire, before they began the process of clearing the ashes. This was the beginning of the two-year project. The home should not feel brand new. Instead, it should be a reimagining of the original structure. This included a separate screening area and a wine cave. Fulk says that even though the home has been rebuilt completely, each space holds a lot of meaning for both them and us.

Exterior of the home. The home’s exterior is now much more beautiful than it was before Jonathan Plant & Associates, Napa Valley-based landscape designers. George adds, “I give him lots of credit.” He intuitively created the feel and look we desired for the house.
Fulk says, “As we start with every project,” Fulk says, “So for this movie, I imagined a Howard Hughes-type character that had fallen in love and built [for them] a hacienda-style getaway from another era.” It’s easy to forget that the home is a brand new creation with its charming, timeworn look inside and out.

Fulk’s great room is located just off the entrance with stunning vineyard views. It is fully furnished with custom touches, including a pair antique Italian limestone fireplaces, centuries old reclaimed barn wood used to create the entry ceiling, rich hand-plastering throughout and striking Fulk-designed furnishings. The Hamels were delighted with the finished home.
Pam says that “it’s a new version of itself” and notes that it has the same footprint, but magnified. “I don’t like to sit in one spot, and instead I tend to wander to other rooms to work or take phone calls. This is why I love the house so much.”
The property was named Smoketree after its one remaining deciduous flowering tree, which produces smokelike plumes. It is now a popular gathering place for the Hamel family. With another grandchild in the making, new memories are being made thanks to the cinematic vision of true design auteurs.

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