Dick Bregard collected ideas for his El Dorado Hills dream home and garden like other travelers pick up souvenirs.
Through his lengthy career in the Army (he retired as a colonel) and later with defense contractors including Aerojet, he traveled throughout Europe and the Middle East. Everywhere, he saw building details that made him think: Can we do that in Serrano?
“I’m traveling extensively and going click-click, click-click,” he said, mimicking his constant photo-taking. “I saw that roof tile design in Genoa. The main roof is Roman. That vaulted ceiling came from a ninth-century French church. Egypt, Israel, Italy; I tried to pick up different elements architecturally everywhere I went.”
When he retired, Bregard started compiling all his favorites to make a complete one-of-a-kind house. His architect managed to weave his collection of far-flung ideas into a cohesive whole. His dream home grew into a private castle.
“I call it Tuscan-Provence-Bregard,” he said of his home’s style. “It’s a little bit from here and there. We had a lot of fun with it.”
Bregard’s castle will be among the highlights of next weekend’s Garden of the Hills tour, hosted by the Assistance League of Sierra Foothills. The fundraising tour supports the league’s programs for school-age children and seniors.
Only two years old, the Bregard house became an instant landmark, said Assistance League’s Crista Dixon, whose home also is on the tour.
“I love the stonework,” she said. “It looks like an old castle that’s always been here.”
Overlooking two greens in Serrano Country Club, the Bregard house boasts more than 9,000 square feet of living space plus a 3,300-square-foot garage/workshop. Limestone covers the exterior walls. Imported tile and blue-veined granite sparkle in the large courtyard, framing the pool and fountains. Large sliding doors open off the courtyard to invite guests to wander in and out.
Throughout the house and garden, lines curve and soften angles to create casual and inviting spaces.
“We wanted it to look formal but relaxed,” said Carolyn Bregard, Dick’s wife. “Everything has soft, rounded edges. It’s the feel we want; not rigid shapes or edges. It’s comfortable.”
The couple moved to Serrano from Southern California about 10 years ago. They lived in another home down the street while building their castle.
“For years (while Bregard was in the Army), we moved often,” Carolyn said. “When we came here, we decided we’d put down real roots.”
They have plenty of room for visits from grandchildren, she noted. They have eight, with another due this summer.
“Our family is so spread out: Alabama, Texas, Oregon, New York,” she said. “I grew up in Virginia. I never expected to live in California. But now, we love it here. And all our grandkids love to visit.”
Midway through construction, an empty lot next to the home became available, and Dick Bregard’s plans expanded. The novice gardener suddenly had 1.7 acres.
“I just started gardening when I retired,” Bregard said. “I always did a little something here and there, wherever we lived. I didn’t really get into it until here.”
He attacked the landscape with the same enthusiasm he brought to creating the house.
“I didn’t want to wait around for things to grow big,” he explained, “so I brought in full-size trees and shrubs whenever possible. I wanted a garden that’s coming together now, not a decade from now.”
A dozen mature olive trees, including two that are more than a century old, now stud the landscape. Crape myrtles, deodar cedars, Algerian oaks, star magnolias, laurels and other graceful trees dot the property, which is all irrigated with recycled water.
Decorating the garden are European antiques and vintage finds that fit into the Tuscan vibe. Huge clay urns – dating back to the 1790s – hold dwarf citrus trees. An antique iron sundial serves as focal point in the center of a dog- and kid-friendly lawn. Wood that covered a barn for more than 80 years now lines a casita next to the pool. A garden pavilion offers a shady place for visitors.
Everywhere are broad splashes of colorful flowers: roses, verbena, daylilies, bellflowers, iceplant, coneflowers, marigolds, salvia, wisteria, begonias, impatiens, geraniums and more.
Some flower combinations have an international flavor, too. For example, Australian golden kangaroo paws contrast with bright purple Chinese land orchids.
“I started doing research on the Internet and finding more and more flowers I’d like to try,” Dick said. “We’re trying to do all of this with less water, too. It can be a challenge.”
“We don’t baby plants,” Carolyn added. “If it doesn’t last past a season, then we find something else to grow.”
The garden already feels like it’s been around as long as its Tuscan towers. It’s become a place for making memories, not just preserving them.
“Now, I only travel for pleasure, not for work,” Dick Bregard said with a smile. “And I love coming home.”
Call The Bee’s Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on
GARDENS OF THE HILLS
What: A tour of seven El Dorado Hills gardens to benefit the Assistance League of Sierra Foothills
Where: Start at Green Acres, 205 Serpa Way, Folsom
When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. May 16-17
Cost: $25; children under age 12, $10