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January 8, 2024

A California vineyard owner wanted to build a new home that felt modern, while also honoring the estate’s history and the natural landscape.

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Eden Rift Vineyards in Hollister, California is the oldest continually producing vineyard in the state, founded in 1849. In 2016, when Christian Pillsbury purchased the 500-acre property, he moved into the century-old Prairie-style house in the center of the grounds. But it just didn’t feel like home.

"I moved to farm country from an apartment in Hong Kong,” says Pillsbury. “I’m a city guy by nature, and I missed living in an efficient, elegant space."

He envisioned a new modern residence that would align with the way he wanted to live on the estate: small, light, and out of the way. He needed the house to be close to the center of the business, yet not feel obtrusive. And while the home would be modern, it also needed to complement the historic property. “The estate is the main show,” says Pillsbury. “I wanted the house to blend into the environment and feel like a natural extension of the landscape.” 


Like many people wanting to build a new home, Pillsbury began by working with an architect and planning a conventional stick build. But the conversations he had with the architect felt limited, centering around technical details like the foundation, roof, and code compliance. “I wanted to focus less on the pitch of the roof and more on sunlight and airflow.” 

He started to realize that this build might echo experiences he had in the past with stick building. “Working with a traditional architect, you had no sense of where you were going to end up with a budget,” says Pillsbury. “[On a past project], we ended up way over budget despite our mandate not having changed. I didn’t want to get to the end of the design process and not build the house.”

Realizing that traditional stick building wasn’t the way to go, Pillsbury began exploring other options. 


The search for the right building partner led him to Connect Homes, where he found the modern look and feel he was after, and the flexibility to customize existing designs. “With Connect Homes, I didn’t have to spend a lot of time wondering how the septic was going to plug in, and thinking about electrical loads—it had already been done. All I had to do was focus on what the house would be to me.”

He appreciated Connect Homes’ predictability of both pricing and the finished product. “There was a sense of control, because from the day we signed papers, I knew what I was going to get.”


Pillsbury chose the Connect 5 model from the Design Series. This one-story home was built into the hillside to help it disappear into its surroundings. “If you don’t know the house is there, you really can’t see it,” says Pillsbury. “It's a natural extension of the landscape, which was the goal.”

By choosing a model in the Connect Homes Design Series, Pillsbury had the option to do some customization. One key change was adding as much glass as possible, to take advantage of the spectacular views, natural light, and airflow. 

He added a wall of glass to the side of the home that faces the expansive vineyard, with sliding glass doors to let in the fresh air. Pillsbury loves spending time in the living room, with its breathtaking view of the vineyard. “It gives me such an intimate sense of the changing of the seasons and of the land on which we’re situated,” he says. “Every time you look out at the vineyard, the light and the colors are different.”


Since building the Connect Homes residence in 2019, Pillsbury has gotten married and is growing a family. While the Connect 5 was a perfect fit when it was just him, Pillsbury and his wife Michelle now need more space. “We may build another Connect Homes unit nearby with an office and a guest suite as the requirements for the house change with life.”

What won’t change is Pillsbury’s commitment to live in stewardship of Eden Rift Vineyards. “That means having a light touch on the estate and leaving it better than we found it,” he says. “This home is part of the legacy we’ll leave.”

Model Design Series Connect 5 with Connect Carport
Size 1600 sq. ft.
Year built 2019
Location Hollister, CA