Architects team up to restore historic property
It was a question that begged to be asked.
How does a native of Tehran, daughter of an Iranian diplomat and an architect of upscale homes become the proprietor of a rundown roadhouse in a remote location at the intersection of four counties — Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Kern and Paso Robles?
Ferial Sadeghian laughed as she responded to the query about her ownership, along with fellow architect Jim Vance, of the Cuyama Buckhorn, the iconic property in the tiny town — population, 660 — of New Cuyama.
“As architects with the iDGroup in Los Angeles, Jim and I build wonderful houses for families or individuals to enjoy. We wanted to create something so more people can experience the same lifestyle. Four years ago, we began looking for property near Ojai, something with a structure on it, not something we had to build from scratch,” said Ms. Sadeghian by phone from Los Angeles.
During their search, they discovered the Buckhorn Cafe.
“It was the only place to eat, but the bar was always closed. I joked that someday the bar would be open, and I was going to have a drink there,” she said, not realizing that a year later the property would be available for purchase.
As Ms. Sadeghian and Mr. Vance considered whether to buy it, they researched its history and found that it was originally built in 1952 as the community hub for the Cuyama Valley at a time when New Cuyama was a booming oil town.
“George Vernon Russell was the architect for the Buckhorn and other buildings in town. What interested us was the mid-century architecture. We also found old matchbook covers that advertised Cuyama Valley as ‘The Hidden Valley of Enchantment.’ We found that Cuyama comes from the Chumash word ‘kuyam’ which means ‘clamshells and place of rest,’ ” Ms. Sadeghian told the News-Press.
They bought the property in March 2018 despite asking themselves frequently, “What were we thinking?”
While doing a thorough renovation — “We changed every inch” — they kept the place open because “after we bought the Buckhorn, we talked to the townspeople and found that their main complaint was that every time there was a new owner, the place was closed for a year. We promised that it would stay open,” said Ms. Sadeghian.
While researching the history, they found a picture of a swimming pool on the property, but over the years, it had been removed.
“We built a new pool that was just opened for Valentine’s Day,” she said.
Today, the Cuyama Buckhorn is a resort retreat with a farm-to-table restaurant and bar, coffee shop, 21 hotel rooms, a greenhouse for organic produce, a Bocce ball court, spa, and large rooms and outdoor areas for special events.
A single mom with two grown daughters, Ms. Sadeghian said she has always had a deep passion for food and hospitality.
“Growing up, I learned from my mother who gardened and made everything, including mayonnaise, from scratch. I grew up traveling. My father was an Iranian diplomat and following the revolution, he transitioned into a business role, which led our family to even more extensive travel throughout Europe. Our trips were filled with everything from meeting with business owners and locals to driving up to a special castle in Austria for a famous strawberry cake, to visiting a distinct restaurant outside of town that specialized in cooking pork loin in a fireplace. All of these experiences exposed me to amazing architecture and food, which both became my passions.”
After earning her master’s in architecture at Islamic Azad University in Iran in 1996, she moved to Los Angeles to begin her career as a principal designer and project manager for Michael Lehrer, founder of Lehrer Architects LA, and then with Arya Group, a high-end design firm, where she worked for 13 years.
At Arya Group, she collaborated on projects with top architects, including Richard Meier and Charles Gwathmey.
In 2012, Ms. Sadeghian joined iDGroup.
“Our firm emphasizes an acute attention to detail and management of every stage of the design-build process, to the point of setting the table and lighting candles before the final reveal,” she said.
“With Cuyama Buckhorn, Jim and I carry these same principles into creating a truly unique destination by highlighting the mid-century design and Western influences of the 1952 property. We were encouraged to push ourselves to create experiences through food and hospitality, while still delivering the unexpected in design.”