How’s this for a romantic evening? You and your husband go out to dinner and when you leave the restaurant, you’re holding a napkin bearing the sketch of the new home you’re going to create together. Sound like fantasyland? Not if you’re interior designer Julie Smith. That’s exactly how she and husband Ron kicked off plans for the Los Lagos home they moved into eight years ago. “Ron and I designed this house just for us,” Julie says. And, oh, what a house.
He built the structure, while she orchestrated the location, color and dimension of every board foot of carved alder wood, slab of Italian travertine marble and piece of plush furniture in the 5,500-square-foot interior—all while applying the polish that accrues from a lifelong immersion in interior design. “I wanted to recreate the romance of my childhood,” she says. “I was born and raised in Napa and my father is Italian. Growing up in the Napa Valley and the whole charm and romance of that . . . that’s always been in my heart.”
The home is a stunner on any day, but during the holidays, with candles flickering, music playing, the fragrance of good food coming from the kitchen, and friends and family arriving at the door, Julie says, “To me, it’s just really a thrill.”
Last year, Christmas Eve dinner at the Smiths’ was a sit-down affair for 20. Italian food, of course, including malfatti (spinach dumplings) made from scratch, using Julie’s mother’s recipe. “That’s always a must,” she says. “This whole family loves to cook.” Lisa Smith, one of seven designers at Julie Smith & Associates in Granite Bay, says her parents’ home not only looks different every holiday season, it gets better and better. “I think the year-round colors—deep reds, ambers and cognac—are conducive to Christmas because they are so classic,” she says.
Julie and Ron frequently collaborate on design-and-build projects—remodels and newly constructed homes—“from small to really, really big,” Julie says. She revels in taming large spaces and possesses a deep love of tradition down to the tiniest detail. “Like those pine cones,” she says, pointing to a tree in the master bedroom. “I got those on a trip to Lake Tahoe with friends. Who knows where they’re going to be . . . sometimes on a mantel, sometimes on a tree, but I know I’ll use them every year.” And she knows they’re going to look just right every time.