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Neighborhood Guide: Rancho Santa Fe

North County's most rarefied village is starting to emerge—this is where you need to go
Tomoko H. Matsubayashi
Rancho Santa Fe - main

Historic Rancho Santa Fe features original Spanish Colonial–style architecture by Lilian J. Rice from the 1920s and ’30s

Tomoko H. Matsubayashi

With more banks than bars, “The Ranch” never set out to be a destination. But, like the rest of North County, there’s never been a time like the now. Retailers are leaving the coast for inland spaces, while a forthcoming market and restaurant concept might claim the title of the Ranch’s first rooftop.

“The clientele will get this sense of intimacy and privacy,”  says Matt Powers, owner of the proposed two-story project, New Francisco. “Bill Gates can come here. No problem.”

Rancho Santa Fe - Amy Meier

International design star Amy Meier holds court at her showroom and studio.

Tomoko H. Matsubayashi

Design Stars

With an international roster of clients, Amy Meier is both design doyenne and ambassador. Her eponymous corner space is equal parts studio and retail shop, featuring

a vetted selection of antiques, art, and capsule collections (Hartmann&Forbes, Casey Johnson Studio). Meier’s exacting formula of antique/modern has provenance right here, but she translates it for design destinations like Palm Beach, Palmetto Bluff, and La Jolla.

Rancho Santa Fe - Thyme in the Ranch

The garden at Thyme in the Ranch café.

Tomoko H. Matsubayashi

“There has been a gradual but tangible shift in the energy of the Ranch,” says Meier, who neighbors the venerable Thyme in the Ranch café. “What was once a sleepy retirement village has slowly transformed into a vibrant community of families, young and old.”

Rancho Santa Fe - Zofia Day

Zofia Day Jewelry is sunlight and Gucci wallpaper

Tomoko H. Matsubayashi

Around the corner, a jewel box awaits discovery. Lisette Polny, founder of Zofia Day Jewelry, has created her dream shop, bathed in natural light and Gucci’s New Flora wallpaper. Here, clients and brides source fine jewelry and reimagine family heirlooms under Polny’s trained eye. Earlier this year, she fled her 101 showroom in Leucadia for something less crowded.

“There’s a lot to be desired in this little downtown,” she says. “I am surrounded by beauty.”

Body of Work

Rancho Santa Fe Barber Salon

Rancho Santa Fe Barber Salon is part of the next gen

Tomoko H. Matsubayashi

Hairstylist Roger Tuttle, of Model Call Salon fame, recently debuted Salon Iris in a secret garden setting. Meanwhile, top tresser Carly Saturnino is opening a second location of Vohg Hair, boasting high-glamour interiors by A. Naber Design. Even the Rancho Santa Fe Barber Salon has a new vibe thanks to Dan Lara passing his shears on to 28-year-old stylist Juleah Roll.

Saturdays, meanwhile, are all about other shiny objects. The be-seen Cars & Coffee is held every Saturday from 8 to 11 a.m. at the intersection of Paseo Delicias and Avenida de Acacias with a lineup of vintage and luxury autos.

A Place in Time

Rancho Santa Fe - Lilian J Rice statue

A new statue of the late architect Lilian J. Rice pays homage to her impact

Tomoko H. Matsubayashi

Architect Lilian J. Rice remains a central figure here, both historically and figuratively. A new life-size statue, sculpted by local artist Nina de Burgh, further solidifies her legacy. Rice was a trailblazer and a protégé of Irving Gill when she earned the opportunity to design Rancho Santa Fe’s civic center. In her boom years—from 1927 to 1938—she was commissioned by Bing Crosby, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., and Mary Pickford. Women weren’t invited to many tables back then, so Rice designed a few of her own.

Today, 11 of her buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the 1923 Francisco building where Australian restaurateur Matt Powers plans to open Mrkt Space. It’ll be the fourth location of his popular cafe/market concept after Leighton Beach, Australia; Leucadia; and the forthcoming La Jolla Shores.

Neighborhood Guide - New Francisco

The forthcoming home of New Francisco in the Rice-designed building from 1923

Tomoko H. Matsubayashi

Powers says he will honor Rice by taking her dialogue into a new era. The second-story rooftop will embrace views of the surrounding landscape and mountains that she worked so hard to maintain.

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