Earlier this summer, driving under a crested archway and up a softly winding road toward the Madrona, I immediately realized that this reimagined estate and mansion stands apart from some of the sprawling modern retreats of Northern California’s wine country. The Madrona, a collection of utterly charming historic buildings scattered across eight acres of gardens in the hills of Healdsburg, recently emerged from an extensive renovation that married designer Jay Jeffers’s fresh aesthetic with the soulfulness of the original structures.
I was on a quick getaway an hour-and-a-half drive from my home in the East Bay with two of my best friends who were visiting from Southern California, eager to experience the current incarnation of the 24-room boutique hotel. The brainchild of San Francisco–based Jeffers, the Madrona reopened in April 2022 with rooms and public spaces that preserve the history of the hotel, with roots dating back to the 1800s, while entering the 21st century via Jeffers’s modern and eclectic style vision.
What was initially a private residence built in 1881, the Madrona still features many of the furnishings and art that the original owners collected during their travels—more than 200 antiques and 30 art pieces are on display. Jeffers also commissioned a wide swath of contemporary artwork from San Francisco–based Dolby Chadwick Gallery and brought in unique design pieces for the hotel, including elaborate chandeliers and a watercolor painting that was converted into a carpet and wallpaper by Detroit painter Kelly Ventura.
“When designing the hotel, it was important for me to respect its historic architecture and 19th-century roots, while reimagining the property to be more modern and exciting for today’s traveler,” said Jeffers, who is also a co-owner of the property. Jeffers was on site during my visit, overseeing the arrival of much-anticipated armoires for the guest rooms that had been held up by shipping delays. His passion for every detail of the property was evident by his delight that the new furnishings had finally been delivered.
Prior to the remodel, the Madrona had operated as an inn named the Madrona Manor. But at the height of the pandemic, in spring 2020, the opportunity presented itself for Jeffers and several partners to purchase the property and transform it into what it is today. Of course, the pandemic provided numerous challenges and delays, but the result, which is a visual sensation, has been truly worth the wait.
Today, the property has been transformed into a chic boutique hotel and gathering place steeped in layered, maximalist design, complete with a relaxing resort-style pool area and fitness center, plus a bar and restaurant featuring haute American cuisine open to both guests and visitors.
Those who choose to overnight (and you won’t go wrong if you do) will have a wide range of accommodations to choose from, including guest rooms in the main mansion (and original residence), perfect for easy access to the restaurant and bar scene down below. There are also private bungalows with individual entrances that offer more space and serenity, including some bungalows that can also be connected to create two-bedroom suites. My traveling companions and I stayed in one of the bungalows situated across the lawn from the restaurant, where we appreciated the quieter setting and peaceful sleep by being removed from the mansion—I actually slept on the room’s sofa bed, which was so comfortable I couldn’t tell it was a pullout.
Each guest room is unique in feel and layout—some feature balconies, porches, bay windows, and fireplaces—no two are alike. Jeffers incorporated at least one furnishing or design element from the original collection into each room, which he then complemented with his own selection of furniture and (extremely comfortable) bedding. The result is that the rooms feel purposefully a bit more minimalist than the public spaces, but are still accented with vintage details that maintain the character of the property.
The original mansion, which houses the restaurant and Hannah’s Bar, is the perfect place to linger over a morning coffee or evening cocktail, whether you’re catching some rays out on the porch or have sunken into a comfy couch in the parlor.
At the restaurant, seasonal breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus by chef Jesse Mallgren (who helped earned the former restaurant concept in the same space a Michelin star for 13 straight years) are served in the dining room and on the outdoor Palm Terrace, a covered patio overlooking the gardens. Breakfast includes healthier fare such as yogurt and granola, porridge with roasted bananas, and poached eggs with spinach, as well as a more indulgent daily waffle—the waffle was my favorite (no big surprise there). The lunch and dinner menus feature comfort foods with a twist, such as chicken paillard with Southeast Asian spices or steak tartare dressed with a quail egg and wasabi; we loved the dinner menu’s hamachi crudo so much we ordered it on two separate occasions. You can also saddle up to the bar for small bites like oysters on the half shell or deviled eggs alongside a glass of wine, beer, or a Madrona custom cocktail (an Estate Martini or Guava Sour, anyone?) in a speakeasy-style setting.
When we weren’t eating or drinking, we relaxed on the chaise lounges by the heated pool. I also spent time roaming the lush grounds and exploring the working produce garden. For lunch one day, we borrowed the on-site Van Moof electric bikes for a two-wheeled turn around Healdsburg and through the neighboring rolling hills of wine country—one of my favorite ways to explore the region. If you’d rather drive, there is a complimentary car service for guests within a five-mile radius of the hotel and an on-site concierge service that can help arrange outings, such as a private winetasting or a dinner in the redwoods. The Madrona also hosts groups and events ranging from private dinner parties for 10 people to property buyouts for large gatherings such as weddings for up to 150 people. There couldn’t be a more delightful place and spaces in which to gather with friends and family. Personally, I’m looking forward to returning for a relaxing escape with my husband (minus our kids—though the Madrona welcomes guests of all ages, the serenity of the property feels a bit better suited to more mature members of the fam).
Book now: From $750 per night for guest rooms and from $1,050 for bungalows