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Barn Envy: Willowcreek Estancia

The Ultimate Equestrian Estate


The story of Willow Creek Estancia began when the owners traveled to Argentina and were completely taken by the architectural details and spacious style of the local ranches. They also fell in love with the ranching lifestyle, and felt drawn to spend more time at home, with family, and on their own land. They returned to the United States dedicated to creating a homestead that would give them the feel of those Argentinian ranches.

For the location, they decided on Rancho Santa Fe, a community in San Diego County, California. The proximity to excellent schools, the beach, great golf courses, Del Mar Racetrack, and several metropolitan southern California cities made it an easy choice. Fortunately, the family was able to purchase the Willow Creek Ranch property, a large property that already had an equestrian facility, several desirable amenities, and the acreage that would allow them to take the estate to the next level.

To help them realize their dream, the family enlisted the help of prominent Santa Monica and Santa Barbara architect Marc Appleton of Appleton Partners. Appleton jumped at the chance to develop Willow Creek Ranch, as he shared with them the nostalgia of growing up on ranches in the Midwest. Drawing upon that life experience, as well as his professional experience creating modern architecture with features that pay homage to the past, Appleton worked to transform the wonderful property into an incredible family estate.


The stately 15,000-square-foot home makes perfect use of the southern California weather by incorporating indoor and outdoor living at nearly every turn. The four spacious bedrooms open out onto private balconies and patios surrounded by lush gardens and overlooking the estate’s pool and grassy acreage. Each veranda is fully furnished with hardwired lighting and is connected to the home’s sound system. A nap out on one of the veranda couches is as comfortable as one taken inside on a bed.

Though the outside of the home is serenely and simply attractive, the architecture and attention to detail on the inside of the main residence is just as stunning. Beautiful wooden ceiling beams, ornate detailing, and decorative wrought iron features celebrate the timeless Santa Barbara style that is characteristic of southern California estates. Inside or out, the family could not have been happier with the resulting aesthetic of Appleton’s design.

The design of the main residence is charming, but it also has a wonderful flow with main living areas seamlessly transitioning to guest and family spaces that include an office, sitting rooms, and dining rooms. The good vibes continue as the home incorporates a wine cellar with an adjacent tasting room – a sommelier’s dream setup. The nearby cowboy-styled billiards room is perfect for exciting evenings of play. The multi-use craft and project room provides ample workspace for those with a creative side.

The upper level, which is completely devoted to the master retreat, is a sanctuary dedicated to the heads of the household. The spacious bedroom is a restful and peaceful space with a full fireplace, chandelier lighting, and balcony that overlooks the estate’s expansive lawns. The opulence continues upstairs with the master bathroom, including added luxuries such as double vanities, a shower room, his and her walk-in closets, and a soaking tub with garden views. The bathroom is as beautiful as it is functional, with painted tiles, time period lighting, and vaulted ceilings making it as striking as any other room in the home. 


When the family purchased Willow Creek Ranch, a 27-stall barn already stood on the property. Fortunately, the previous owners had it expertly designed for the serious equestrian, so it is the perfect stable for a competitive riding program. It serves as Willow Creek Estancia’s Main Barn and guest lodging for visiting horses and riders, as well as any training programs hosted by the facility. The beautiful wood and iron barn is complete with multiple grooming spaces, several tack rooms, and a farrier workspace. 

The Main Barn is also a luxurious space for equestrians. A private lounge acts as a place to wind down after a ride. A full kitchen allows for healthy eating during long days at the barn, and a conference room and four office suites allow trainers and owners to conduct business in a professional space. The Main Barn also provides staff with wonderful accommodations including a trainer’s apartment with ample space, as well as four additional apartments for other employees. The Main Barn is set up to house an elite equestrian training program and all the people that come with it.

In addition to the wonderful Main Barn, the family also built a private seven-stall barn for their own horses after purchasing additional parcels of land throughout the years. Located just a few steps from their home, the Family Barn features clerestory windows that allow the California sunlight to stream in, high wood ceilings with open beams that create excellent airflow, and large stalls with sizeable paddocks that encourage in-and-out living. The family also had a one-bedroom apartment built adjacent to the barn for the groom’s living quarters to ensure that their horses are always well cared for and carefully monitored. This living area has a kitchen, bathroom, living room, and secluded outdoor terrace. Both the Family Barn and the groom’s apartment match the Santa Barbara style of the Main Home, perfectly fitting the aesthetic of the estate.

At Estancia, the riding opportunities are endless. The property sits on 77 flat acres that make trail rides, exploring, and leisurely rides a pleasure. It is located within the Rancho Santa Fe Covenant, which allows access to 68 acres of designated open space and 50 miles of groomed equestrian and hiking trails. For the competition minded, the property has three large sand arenas that are appropriate for any equestrian discipline. For the jumpers, it also has a grass grand prix field surrounded by mature trees and a hacking trail. 


It is more than just the horses at Estancia (well, almost). Generous amenities allow you and your family and friends to enjoy your favorite activities on your own land.  

For the athletically inclined, the property is home to three sports facilities and a tennis court with adjacent lounge. There is a fifteen-acre bass-filled lake perfect for fishing, swimming, and paddle boarding, and a sparkling pool and spa. For those wanting to clear their mind a bit, the property has a meditation loggia dedicated to quiet and solitude. The property is also home to a rose garden, conservatory, and raised herb beds, which please even the most discerning green thumb. 

Guests of all ages enjoy the Recreation Pavilion where an arcade, gaming tables, and a two-lane bowling alley provide hours of fun. Great additions are the adjacent private lawn and covered patio with fireplace that are large enough for a considerable gathering, as well as a catering kitchen and full-service bar which make hosting a breeze. 

Through the years, the family has enjoyed hosting many celebrations and events at Willow Creek Estancia, allowing their guests to partake in the wonder of the estate. The family has hosted countless events that support charitable causes close to their heart. They are quick to reminisce about the countless birthday parties and family holidays that took place at the property, and they really cherish the memory of their daughter’s wedding that was held there. Willow Creek Estancia has played a large role in creating the type of life they have always dreamed of – one full of love, laughter, and good memories.

To find out more information about this life-changing property please contact:

Pacific Sotheby’s International Real Estate

Cathy Gilchrist-Colmar, + 1 858-775-6511


Patricia Kramer+ 1 858-945-4595,