Living in harmony off the grid |

Living in harmony off the grid

Courtney Ferguson
Special to The Union

Bill and Anna Trabucco are passionate about their passive solar home, their music, their Peruvian Paso horses and their 900 acres of scenic land near Bitney Springs, known as the Linden Lea Ranch.

"The part of the property where our home and music studio are built used to be a cow pasture," Bill explained.

"We purchased this historic property in 1994 and finished our two-bedroom, two-bathroom, 2,000-square-foot home in 2006."

Being off the grid has distinct challenges. However, the Trabuccos have always liked the idea of independent living.

"Passive solar heating was our first choice for energy and so was award-winning Grass Valley architect David Wright," Bill added enthusiastically.

"His expertise in environmental design was exactly what we wanted. Placement of the buildings and how they would face for maximum efficiency were major considerations, and he gave us outstanding advice."

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The combination of Bill and Anna's vision and David Wright's skills has produced more than a home and a music studio.

The result is a living space that is rich in comfort and character; a space that is private and ideal for their musical pursuits.

Bill's acoustical engineering talents added yet another important element to the mix.

Leather-like floors and free-flow trim

Let's visit the fascinating house first. Its placement makes the most of natural light.

Bill and Anna chose a warm, welcoming yellow as the exterior color for both the home and the nearby studio.

"We like the way it reflects heat and reminds us of the surrounding bleached grass," they said.

The home's style is unusual for this area and can best be described as an Australian ranch house. The interior features a relaxed, open floor plan, with supplemental heat only from a wood-burning stove.

Two unusual features caught my attention immediately. The floors by Kim Olsen Concrete are acid-stained concrete, scored to form a large diamond pattern with borders that discretely define the living, dining and kitchen areas.

The butterscotch-and-terracotta colors with the muted green borders have a leather-like effect — earthy and appropriate — as they complement the colors of the surrounding land. The other unusual feature is the distinctive trim. Most trim we see is uniform, and cut straight. The trim in the Trabuccos' home is unpainted wood in natural shapes.

"Julie Herrlinger's expertise gave us the exact look we wanted," Anna told me.

"The wood you see is all local blue oak, fruit wood and surplus slabs. Retaining their originally cut shapes reflects the silhouettes of the surrounding hills."

Since the home has many angles, I liked the relaxed, soft flow the trim added.

John Steuer crafted the beautiful, built-in window seats and armoire expansions in the bedrooms. For flexibility, Bill and Anna have many armoires, antique dressers and other free-standing furniture. (One armoire features a clever custom shoe cabinet that holds 72 pairs!)

For extreme efficiency, the Trabuccos chose a Sun Frost refrigerator and freezer.

"Since they use approximately one-quarter of conventional power, Sun Frost is a good, off-the-grid choice," Bill explained.

Nearby is a large pantry, well stocked with homemade apple and grape juice.

From barbecues to baroque, jazz and blues

Let's move on to the music studio, about 200 feet from the home. Its 2,600-square-foot floor plan features 26 foot high ceilings — as well as an amazing display of instruments. In all the years I've written home-and-lifestyle columns, I can honestly say that I have never seen such a plethora of pianos, a harpsichord, a replica of one of Handel's organs and a pipe organ Bill built himself that rests on an old Singer sewing machine.

This informal, yet grand room is where Bill and Anna rehearse their madrigal music and present occasional salon concerts with their many musical friends. In fact, Bill and Anna met when they became members of the same madrigal group in Palo Alto. In addition to vintage music, they also play jazz and blues. The barbecue on the patio frequently features Nevada County free-range beef from a nearby ranch.

Bill and Anna have created more than a lifestyle here. They're created their own environment — spacious, peaceful and private. It's reassuring to know that most of their magical 900 acres enjoy permanent protection through a Bear Yuba Land Trust agricultural and open-space easement.

I enjoyed much of Linden Lea Ranch's splendor last summer on one of the Equi-treks that Bear Yuba Land Trust organizes. I came home feeling as if I'd discovered a whole new world. Overjoyed and thrilled would be understatements when Anna and Bill said "yes" to my request to write this article. Over the moon — now that's more like it!

Courtney Ferguson has written home-and-lifestyle articles for many years, both in Nevada County and in England. Contact her at

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