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The canvas cowgirl

Earthy, funky and chic, here’s a Wild West fantasy come true.

The 920-square-foot home, set on 20 ranchland acres in the Lime Kiln area, replicates an 1800s schoolhouse, complete with an antique school bell. Built in 2005, it represents a personal triumph for local artist Leslie Anne Webb. Here is where she expresses her verve for life.

Her paintings are prized for their vibrant colors, bold lines and engaging, sometimes enigmatic, expressions. Her equine art has received international acclaim from artists, collectors and horse lovers.

“Don’t forget the humor,” Leslie Anne said, laughing as she welcomed me to her unique home. “Each horse and donkey I paint has his or her own secret smile, and I enjoy capturing that delightful quirkiness on canvas.”

A woman of many talents, Leslie Anne designed the old schoolhouse-style home herself. She also did much of the work to make it a reality.

The day I visited was one of our first mild days, following our midwinter rainstorms, so I had to park my car at the top and walk down the long track in order to get there.

“Sorry,” she explained, “I needed hay for my horses, so I had to use my truck, and it really tore up the gravel track.”

The destination was well worth the hike, however. It gave me the chance to enjoy the sunshine, and explore some of the ranch on foot. I passed her five horses: Sam, Oscar, Sunny, Smokey and Charlie. The little herd is comprised of retired thoroughbred racers and PMU horses.

PMU stands for Premarin Mares Urine. The urine from pregnant mares is used in the hormone-replacement drug, Premarin. Tragically, the offspring of these mares often end up in slaughterhouses, as the supply exceeds the demand. Personable and glowing with good care, each of her “boys” enjoys daily attention from their special friend, Leslie Anne.

The track led me to the valley part of the property, where the schoolhouse home is part of a fascinating cluster of outbuildings that include a guesthouse, a bathhouse, an outdoor bar and entertainment area – and, yes, an authentic tipi. The neighboring ranch had a burn pile that day, and magically, with the late-afternoon sun behind me, the smoke appeared to be coming from the tipi. It was a scene rich in Wild West whimsy.

Leslie Anne, accompanied by her three, free-spirit rescue dogs, came to greet me, and so the tour began.

Our first stop inside was her art studio.

“Time to kick off our boots,” Leslie Anne said with a smile – and, suddenly, mine were added to the collection of turquoise, cream, black and luggage brown cowgirl boots near the door. As you’d expect, the studio was filled with soft, natural light – as well as many paintings, some recently completed and some in progress. Nine-foot ceilings accommodate her up to 8-foot artwork.

By using her space wisely and imaginatively, the home also comprises a kitchen with knotty-alder cabinets and granite worktops, a dining and sitting area, and a full bath downstairs – with an office, bedroom and half-bath upstairs. By using TJI trusses in the ceilings, there are no load bearing walls, so interior room arrangements can be changed easily.

The colors in the house are down-to-earth, soothing, yet animated. The energy throughout is thoughtful, grateful, warm and cheerful. The furniture is comfortable, often colorful and chic.

“The leather sofa you’re sitting on,” Leslie Anne told me, “has been with me for years, and it goes well with the mission-style rocking chairs, the tables, bookcases and much of the other furniture. Some pieces are hand-me-downs. Some are from garage sales. In fact, some pieces are so old they still have straw stuffing.”

Although Leslie Anne created her own floor plan, she was quick to give credit to T.J. Builders for its expertise and help. The 7″ wide tongue-and-groove pine flooring came from Auburn Hardwoods (which also provided the treads for the circular staircase). The granite countertops came from Grass Valley Wholesale Tile and Granite, and the period, solid-core doors came from Caseywood. Black Bart Wrought Iron crafted the towel racks and other accents in the bathroom, while the tiles were purchased at Premier Tile and Stone. R38 insulation in both the ceiling and attic keeps propane consumption efficient, and bills low.

That’s how Leslie Anne describes her property. “It’s a place where my family and friends visit frequently. It’s where my nieces and nephews camp in the tipi and swim in the converted horse-trough ‘cowgirl swimming pool’. It’s where I’m inspired to progress, both as an artist and as an individual. Life here is an adventure of my own creation and choice. It’s where I belong.”

Leslie Anne’s mother, Kathleen Lack, is an artist as well – and her large, ethereal mermaid image graces the bathhouse, along with rocks her daughter has collected from beaches and rivers.

Recycled tin walls add to the character and rustic charm. An old, western saddle – Leslie Anne’s first, purchased when she was 13 – straddles the porch railing outside. With a guesthouse directly across and a nearby orchard, the property is its own independent prairie community where you can be as private, social or creative as you like. As the sun set, was it my imagination – or did I hear Roy Rogers and Dale Evans singing ‘Happy Trails to You?’

Whether it’s an artist’s rustic ranch or a cottage close to town, a retirement home or a vineyard, discovering how homes and lifestyles link is both remarkable and reassuring. Join us for an up-close and personal look at our next home to be featured soon.