At Home With Natalie and Barry Moores
The philanthropic Rancho Santa Fe couple shares the process of creating their modern masterpiece
After weeks of unrelenting rain, the day of our photo shoot at the Rancho Santa Fe home of Barry and Natalie Moores dawns bright and clear. Brilliant sunlight streams into their living room through floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding glass doors overlooking the backyard reflecting pools. In the distance, we can see a sliver of shoreline and blue sea. “We are so lucky,” I tell them, thrilled that forecasts were correct, a brief break in a series of uncharacteristic Southern California storms.
Natalie, an attorney born in Ukraine, and Barry, a retired optometrist who hails from Houston, are leading efforts to find housing and hope for Ukrainian refugees through Project Welcome Ukraine, a nonprofit founded by Natalie. She is also president and on the board of Change for Justice, founded by Barry’s niece, Jennifer Moores, to help families navigate the legal system, including Ukrainians, and to push for legislative reforms.
When it came to designing and building their dream home, a six-year process from permitting through construction, the couple knew exactly what they wanted. “Our dream was to have a light, modern house, elegant but comfortable, unburdened by extra frills or decorations,” says Natalie. “It was important for us to make the house an extension of our natural surroundings, weaving in warm, natural colors, borrowing the color palette from the Southern California landscape and using it to paint the clean, modern lines of the structure.”
The eight-acre property was initially covered with hundreds of dead eucalyptus trees and dried brush that posed a fire hazard in the neighborhood. “When the trees were cleared out, our hunch that there would be an ocean view from the future house was confirmed,” Barry notes. “We were so excited!”
To carry out their vision, the couple hired Houston-based architect Robert Griffin, known as a master of modern architecture, who had designed a home for Barry’s brother John Moores, former owner of the San Diego Padres. In the original concept statement to the Rancho Santa Fe Art Jury which needed to approve their plans, Griffin proposed low horizontal structures for the main house, a separate guest house, and a three-car garage that would “complement and blend into the existing topography.” He called for courtyards and terraces that would weave interior and exterior living spaces. Griffin also recommended muted colors for exterior plaster, wood siding, and ledger stone walls to harmonize with Rancho Santa Fe’s existing architecture and natural environment. The plan included an informal arrangement of native and drought tolerant plants on the property’s perimeter “acting to buffer and screen the residence from the road.”
After many meetings, the Rancho Santa Fe Art Jury issued its approval. “We were fortunate to have what any successful project requires,” Griffin notes. “Great clients, a building contractor with superb craftsmen, landscape architects, and a successful working relationship with the Rancho Santa Fe Art Jury.”
The couple enlisted the help of Sweig Construction. “Building a modern house requires a special skill because the lines are so exact and any imperfections would stand out,” says Barry. “So, it took a seasoned builder like Jim Sweig to make this house the beautiful reality it is today.”
The Mooreses also turned to longtime friend and interior designer Maria Barry, co-owner of Le Dimora in Carmel Valley. “Natalie had very clear ideas about what each living space should look like,” notes her husband. “Maria took those ideas and artfully helped select the vendors and materials to bring them to life.”
Maria Barry was enthusiastic about the challenge. “The Mooreses’ project was especially exciting for me because the construction style was very modern,” she says. “There were not many new homes being built in the Ranch that were contemporary or as special as this. Most new construction was Tuscan, Mediterranean, or Old-World style. Barry and Natalie were ahead of their time, and I was very excited to push the envelope with them.”
She worked closely with the couple and their contractor on a two-year process that included space planning, interior and exterior finishes, furnishings, and accessories. Because the architecture was so striking, the team wanted to complement rather than distract from it. “We chose a soft cream neutral color palette because it was soothing and timeless,” Maria Barry explains. “There is a perfect combination of finish materials in the home including blonde oak hardwood flooring, stone, leather, glass, and metal.”
The couple also enjoy outdoor spaces, including the covered patio with its Lynx Sedona barbecue, pizza oven, hot tub, outdoor living room with television, and plenty of room for entertaining. Their three standard poodles, named Lexus, Porsche, and Tesla, have the run of the place, happily bounding about the property. Natalie’s “happy place” is a vast open kitchen with expansive, U-shaped counters surrounded by bar stools, and a long communal table that invites gatherings. There are also capacious custom cabinets by Eric Sanford Design, meticulously organized and labeled by a friend while Natalie was away. Her “pride and joy” is the large La Cornue range. “This is my command center,” she says with a laugh. The family eats a low carbohydrate, high protein diet with lots of fish. Barry, who exercises seven days a week, is a member of the U.S. Power Lifting Association and has won state, national, and world titles in the bench press.
The Mooreses are delighted with not only their completed home, but the process that included its design, building, and furnishing. “What we found was that as long as you are lucky to find people who truly love their trades, the building process comes together like a symphony,” says Barry. “Our experience was like that — so many talented and capable people putting their hearts into building our house. We are so grateful.”
When people jokingly ask how their marriage survived the six years it took to build the house from permitting to completion, the Mooreses share their secret. “I told my wife, ‘Honey, I trust you, just do what you want,’” Barry says. In return, Natalie gave Barry free rein to design his passions: the landscaping and gardens, with which he enlisted the help of Mia Lehrer of Studio-MLA in Los Angeles. “We just trusted each other and allowed our strengths to shine through,” Natalie reflects, “so our home is a reminder of that love and trust.”
The couple met on a blind lunch date in 2002. “We just knew that our connection was very special and that we’d be together forever,” Natalie recalls. They were engaged three months later. Unbeknownst to Natalie, Barry bought an engagement ring from Rancho Santa Fe jeweler John Matty just a month after the couple met.
The Mooreses are raising 14-year-old Allison, who for a recent birthday party asked guests to bring household supplies for Ukrainian refugee families rather than presents for herself. They also have two grown children, Barry’s 28-year-old daughter Avery and 26-year-old Benjamin. Their beloved son, Barry Alexander, then a senior at UC Berkeley, died in a car accident on Christmas Day in 2014. For many years, the family dealt with their grief in private, but more recently have hosted gatherings of family and friends, and fundraisers for Ukrainian causes.
Last fall, they opened their home for a TEDx San Diego special event whose goal, according to Natalie, was “to raise awareness about the realities of war in Ukraine and the threat to democracy in the United States and around the world.” Co-hosted by Dane and Katherine Chapin, the event featured chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, a Russian dissident and Putin critic, and Bret Stephens, a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist, in support of Kasparov’s Renew Democracy Initiative.
Together, Natalie and Barry actively assist refugees through Project Welcome Ukraine, the nonprofit that Natalie founded to provide housing, furnishings, and used cars for 15 families — women and children — who resettled in Mira Mesa, at least temporarily, during the war with Russia. Philanthropist Jeanne Herberger recently donated $1 million to the cause, and others have provided additional funds and goods. The day after our interview, the Moores family personally delivered furniture to Ukrainian families.
“We continue to ask for everybody’s help as there are many more families in need, worried about the uncertainty of their situation and about their loved ones back home” says Natalie. “The support and kindness they are receiving will either be the foundation of new lives here or will help them rebuild their country when they return to Ukraine,” she says. Although Natalie persuaded her 71-year-old father Oleksander to leave the country when the bombs began to fall, he wants to return to his native land to fight in the war. “Ukrainians will never give up,” she says.
As I pull out of their driveway, I pause to watch the blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flag waving high above their home, a symbol of both pride and defiance, as the war marks its first anniversary this month. projectwelcomeukraine.org, changeforjustice.org