The HGTV Dream Home team set its sights west toward California wine country in search of the site for the 2009 HGTV Dream Home. So, HGTV Dream Home planner Jack Thomasson headed west to Northern California and eventually found himself scoping the streets in the city of Sonoma.
“Sonoma is just a charming, beautiful town,” Thomasson says. “The moment you're pulling down Broadway and you see the town square in front of you with city hall, you know you're entering into a place that's pretty special with a kind of dynamic quality about it because there’s all kinds of pedestrian activity; families walking through the square, young couples and picnics. It's just a scenic, idyllic place, and it just felt like it would be a great place for the HGTV Dream Home. But then the challenge was finding a [lot] here in Sonoma, and those opportunities are pretty rare.”
Not many know more about Sonoma’s tight community spirit – and layout – than developer Steve Ledson, who was born here. “I can walk to the church. I can walk to the restaurant. I don't have to get in my car. This is a more quiet, peaceful town. Everybody here knows everybody. We don't have to worry about locking our door around here. It's a family-style life.
So many cities, because of the amount of people [in them] and the way the world's going, they have lost that family touch. But I believe here in Sonoma, through our schools and through our close-knit neighborhood, it's a great lifestyle.”
In addition to the town’s warm, close-knit spirit that attracted the HGTV team to Sonoma, the beauty of the surrounding area also tipped the scale in its favor. “The town of Sonoma is surrounded by beautiful mountains, and when you get – especially in the upper elevations of a house – you can capture those views,” Thomasson says. “But this year, we traded the traditional HGTV Dream Home view for this amazing town of Sonoma. But we didn't have to trade too much because the town is that special, and the views are here.”
Small-town charms and beautiful views weren’t the only factors weighing on those choosing the location. The housing market slowdown played a role, too. “Right now is somewhat of a challenging real-estate time. So what I wanted to do is find an established community, not a community that was going to rely on a lot of future development, but a place where we could position the HGTV Dream Home in a lovely community that was already existing that had the lifestyle that we consider an HGTV Dream Home lifestyle.”
Location is King
The 2009 HGTV Dream Home will be the first one in California. “You know, there are a lot of permitting requirements and things that take a lot of time. But this year we were able to get ahead of that curve, find this great location here in Sonoma, and start at the beginning and design a house that was made to be a Sonoma house,” he adds.
Born in the area, developer Steve Ledson has some very personal reasons for liking Sonoma as the HGTV Dream Home’s home. “I've traveled the world. I've been on a lot of great vacations. I've really enjoyed my life, but I've never found anything quite like Sonoma. I can be snow-skiing in two hours and 30 minutes from here. I can be over at the ocean in less than an hour. I can be in San Francisco seeing a play or going to one of the finest restaurants in the world in 45 minutes,” Ledson continues.
One more thing Sonoma has going for it is the weather. “Here in Sonoma, I've seen snow, but it's been an eighth-of-an-inch thick, and it's melted in half an hour,” he says. “We don't get very much freezing. We get some days that it's cold, and we don't get many days that are over the nineties. I don't know where else you could live where you have such a great climate, and could be so close to so many activities.”