“Look at all of them!” exclaims Tamara Lafarga Joseph, peering out her kitchen window at the hummingbirds and sparrows buzzing about a bird feeder. “Oh, look at the finch! Aren’t they all darling? I love my animals.” Besides her avian friends, Tamara’s menagerie includes Calvin, a 21-year-old white cat rescued from a dumpster, three turtles, four ducks, and 17 koi, to be exact. All have found a home on the two-acre Rancho Santa Fe estate that Tamara, an artist and philanthropist, shares with her husband, Roger, a hospitality industry executive. The expansive property has two koi ponds and waterfalls often visited by snowy egrets, no doubt “fishing” for the catch of the day. The grounds also include an orchard with a dozen types of fruit trees along with vegetable, butterfly, herb, and rose gardens. Before the pandemic, the couple often entertained and hosted fundraisers on the poolside patio. Now, they enjoy intimate alfresco dinners for two while listening to the sounds of water and wildlife.
The Josephs bought the 7,600-square-foot house in 2013 and renovated it with the help of interior designer Clinton Walters. It has six bedrooms, seven-and-a-half baths, formal living and dining rooms, a study lined with books, and a large family room complete with a bar, leather sectional, and an old-fashioned jukebox that “plays what it wants to,” according to Tamara, no matter what buttons one pushes. The home also has an art studio and a tranquil massage room.
The sunny formal living room, which overlooks the koi ponds through arched windows, is Tamara’s favorite space. “When I walked into the living room for the first time, I thought I was looking out at Monet’s pond,” she recalls, referencing the French painter’s water garden in Giverny which figured into many of his famous works. “I had tears in my eyes. That’s what sold me on the house.” Walters covered an ottoman in baby blue velvet and added silk drapes and pillows for an elegant look in the peaceful room warmed by a fireplace.
In the kitchen, Walters added quartz countertops, custom furniture, and a fanciful chandelier that looks like a glittery dandelion. Tamara faux-painted the kitchen cabinets herself. A talented artist, her studio is crowded with projects — paintings, drawings, photographs, even stones that she taught her grandchildren how to decorate with crystals and pearls. She also creates prototypes of homes, vases, and art objects with a 3-D printer.
As elegant as the home is, nothing is too precious. The couple has a blended family of six grown children and 18 grandchildren. “There’s nothing so valuable that our grandkids can’t break it or spill on it,” says Tamara. “It’s not a museum, it’s a home.”
The Josephs have a new appreciation for their home since the pandemic began. “I am so grateful to have a beautiful home surrounded by nature,” says Tamara, who delights in the butterflies and birds and believes “one of the greatest ways to heal yourself is to spend time outside.” The couple enjoys long walks together on trails that wind through Rancho Santa Fe and bike rides along the coast. They recently biked 35 miles on their Pedegos to Carlsbad and back.
Roger also appreciates the new, slower pace of life. There are fewer business meetings and social obligations and more time for reflection and contemplation. “The pandemic put the brakes on things and gave us time to evaluate what’s important and who’s important,” he notes.
That is not to say the couple has been idle during the pandemic. In fact, Roger has been working harder over the past seven months. “It’s called survival,” he says. The hospitality industry has been hard hit during the COVID-19 crisis as hotels and restaurants have been forced to close or curtail services now that people aren’t traveling as much for business or pleasure. “It’s been horrible,” he says. “I have never seen anything like this. Will we make it? Yes. This will pass, but our guest mix, we believe, will be different. In the short term, we don’t know what the new normal will be.” As the CEO and president of Franklin Croft, a full-service real estate and hospitality organization, Roger has invested in and renovated the Grande Colonial hotel in La Jolla, among many other properties. He also serves on the boards of the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club and the University of San Diego.
Tamara, who has a background in nutrition and exercise physiology, took several online courses over the past year, earning certifications as a holistic nutrition counselor, essential oils specialist, and even a Zumba instructor. She also planted (and replanted) her herb garden, dehydrating and mulling the herbs. “That’s my goal — to heal all that ails you, naturally.” Tamara serves on several boards including Visions Global Empowerment, which supports impoverished and compromised children in Nicaragua and other countries, Vision of Children, The Country Friends, Well Women, and the San Diego Foundation’s scholarship board.
Even though the Josephs lead busy, rewarding lives, home is their touchstone. “My home is my haven,” says Tamara. “It’s the one thing I can control. It’s my sanctuary, my place of peace.” Not that the energetic Tamara can be still for long. “When I look out at the hummingbirds,” says Roger, peering out the kitchen window where the birds are buzzing about, “I think one is Tamara. She never stops.”