Award-Winning Spanish Vineyard Home Holds Special Memories

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    Vicky Grillo lives down the street from what many have called one of the most stunning homes in Orinda, a home her late mother Lupita Sutton bought, tore down to the foundation and renovated 15 years ago.
    Sutton, who passed away in August of 2021 at age 89, was a widow at the time she purchased the 1950s era ranch-style house, to be near her daughter and three granddaughters. She hired Hyer Architecture to give it a 180-degree transformation.
    Hyer Architecture, owned by Fred Hyer, features projects on their website. Sutton’s home is the first one to view online, titled “Back to Her Roots.”
    Sutton’s home also won the 2011 (Orinda) Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Architecture.
    “It is a special joy to be recognized for your work,” said Hyer.
    Hyer talked about why this one – a one-of-a-kind, custom build design – was so unique.
    “The courtyards and large arched openings which connect the house to the site, the entry tower and foyer, which is a nod to the vernacular, provides a formal organization to the floor plan, and also functions as a passive cooling vent stack … oh, and the hidden gutters and deep-set windows,” said Hyer.
    There were some challenges along the way.
    “Working on the ridge top invites a lot of scrutiny and restrictions from the planning department and neighbors,” said Hyer. “And working on a steep slope, challenges any desire to expand the footprint.”
    The client and contractors complement the best-laid plans – which is why Hyer doesn’t    take all the credit.
    “Clients are the real drivers of what we, as architects, get to build, and contractors are the ones who do the actual putting together of the vision we set down on paper,” he said. “I am grateful for the wonderful team of owner and contractor I had the fortune to be a part of on this project.”
    Grillo, along with her brother who lives in San Diego with his wife and dogs, sold the house last month, said, “I don’t know that I will miss it. I live four houses down and will always have many lasting memories of wonderful celebrations we had there as a family.”
    She talked about what made the home so special.
    “Seeing how happy it made my mom,” said Grillo. “And the Spanish architecture to honor her heritage. Her maiden name was Rubio, she was born in Barcelona Spain.”
    Nine years ago, Sutton also created a vineyard on the property, producing award-winning wines, which she bottled off-site,
    Listing agent Diane Dwyer, of The Patty Dwyer Group/Compass, said Sutton bought the home for $890,000 and sold it for $2.7 million, and said this was one of her favorite homes to sell.
    Dwyer spoke to what she loved about the property.
    “Everything, honestly,” she said. “I love it for the story of a grandmother wanting to live close to her granddaughters and daughter. I’m also a sucker for Spanish architecture, and Lupita did a beautiful job building a new Spanish home that has authentic, old-world character. Plus, I love the view and the vineyard. It’s like living in a winery on vacation!”
    An Orinda home like this, Dwyer said, is a rare find.
    “To find a home built in the last 15 years of this quality with a view and vineyard is almost impossible to find,” she said. “Lupita didn’t spare a penny on this home, from the copper gutters to the ‘cooling’ tower and La Cantina doors.”
    Grillo said her mom had no prior knowledge of running a vineyard but learned everything she needed to know. Her granddaughters, who called Sutton “Abuela,” helped pick grapes every September and October along with family, friends and neighbors.
    Dwyer said Sutton sold her grapes to local wineries to create various wines.
    “She received some of the wine and the winemaker would sell the rest,” said Dwyer. “Her label was a private label, her grapes (turned into wine) sold under a variety of labels, including the Parkmon Sauvignon Blanc that won the Best White Wine award by the Contra Costa County Winegrowers Association in 2012.”
    Before purchasing the home, Sutton lived in Lafayette off Old Milestone Lane with her husband, Don W. Sutton, who passed in 1992.
    While Sutton was born in Spain, from age four she was raised in Caracas, Venezuela. She created this Orinda home to reflect her roots to share with her family and friends. With that chapter now closed, Grillo is thrilled a new chapter will begin for others.
    “I’m happy a new family has settled in,” said Grillo. “They will be given the chance to create new memories in a special place.”

Charleen Earley can be reached at editor@theorindanews.com.

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