Erna Kubin-Clanin and husband René Clanin built their European-style estate in the mountains with the intention of staying forever.
The French chateau tucked against a tranquil hillside near Oakhurst is adorned with hand-picked treasures, including elegant antique bronze lighting fixtures and chandeliers, five balconies made with wrought iron imported from France, and a mermaid and merman water fountain.
And, of course, a beautiful kitchen and dining room for Kubin-Clanin, former owner and founder of the award-winning and nationally-recognized Erna's Elderberry House Restaurant and Château du Sureau hotel in Oakhurst.
But now they're leaving this hidden Sierra gem. The five-bedroom, 4,522-square-foot house built in 1993 with a three-car garage is being sold for $1.25 million. It sits on nearly six acres not far from Highway 41 with a dazzling view of the Sierra Nevada range.
The couple will greet prospective buyers during an open house Sunday.
They're moving to Austria, where Kubin-Clanin grew up, to be closer to their three grandchildren, who, interestingly, moved there after attending college in Vienna to study music and art. Only one daughter remains in the area, Renée-Nicole Kubin, who no longer works as general manager at her mother's restaurant, hotel, villa and spa that was sold last year.
Kubin-Clanin is open to selling her home with some of its furnishings.
"If they are people who have traveled, they will feel like they just stepped into Europe, and memories of their travels," she said of the home. "Really, I think that's basically it. And the bonus of it all is a spectacular view."
A clear view of Fresno Dome is among the Sierra wonders visible from the backyard, which is landscaped with paths leading to a small wine cellar and a circular koi pond constructed by Clanin.
It was a labor of love by the optometrist-turned-handyman. He retired as an eye doctor to help his wife full-time with her business. Kubin-Clanin handled the decor while Clanin taught himself how to keep the infrastructure intact.
Their home reflects their love for each other.
Kubin-Clanin enlarged a love letter her husband wrote and hung it beside his photo in the master bedroom, located in a private adjoining wing of the house complete with a dressing room and large bathroom.
"Look at how cute you are honey," she said of his photo during a tour of the estate Wednesday. "So handsome – he's still handsome."
In the sitting room, Kubin-Clanin covered a wall with black-and-white photos of Hollywood movie stars, including Humphrey Bogart and Charlie Chaplin.
"I'm such a romantic," she said. "I love old movies."
The romanticism continues in the sunny living room, where a high ceiling displays a heavenly scene of clouds and angels. It was painted by the late Peter Ledger, who also painted a Greek-mythology-inspired mural above the staircase.
Other beloved features: A library with built-in mahogany bookshelves that wrap around the room, limestone fireplaces, and an ornate 18th century lighting fixture upstairs. Kubin-Clanin said she has seen similar pieces priced as high as $60,000.
Art Nouveau and Empire-period style is prevalent throughout the home.
"And that's because I just love this period," Kubin-Clanin said. "It was a time when people had time to listen to music, time to read poetry, to talk to each other. Today everything is so rushed and minimalistic. You know, art was in detail."
Her antiques, predominately from 19th century Europe, are mixed with some modern decor.
"Nothing feels heavy, it's understated, it's not overpowering," she said. "So many people overpower their decor – it's too much. Understated is so important."
She values beauty.
"When you surround yourself with beauty, it makes you feel special. … You feel beauty, and beauty gives you a security of yourself, belief in yourself. It shows the world you believe in yourself – and that's the same with your home."
And beauty, she says, comes in all styles and prices.
"Things that make you feel good," she added. "Because what makes you and me feel good might not make another person feel good. They might want to have a barn out there, you know what I mean?"
She loves that many pieces in her home were owned by others before her.
"And living with these things – they had a life before me, and you give them a new life when you have antiques. There's energy in everything here."