In Memoriam ~ Barbara Lyons Stewart

When our client Ron Rubin, of The Rubin Family of Wines, told me that he wanted a story about his winery regarding the fact that it has a Feng Shui design, I thought that that was pretty cool. I had heard about it, had spent a short time reading about it earlier in my life. But, at the time I still wasn’t sure how to even spell “Feng.” Was it as it’s pronounced, f-u-n-g; or, was Ron right when he wrote “F-e-n-g.”

Feng Shui Architect and Designer ~ Barbara Lyons Stewart


Ron suggested that I get together with Barbara and explore her Feng Shui philosophies. When I called, she told me that until the winery begins to come together, it would be next to impossible to grasp most things she wanted me to know. We could wait a while.

She gave a couple of her books to me to read, in the meantime:

  • Feng Shui ~ A Practical Guide for Architects and Designers, by Vincent M. Smith with Barbara Lyons Stewart, AIA
    • To Jo, a “kindred spirit”
  • Flooring Psychology ~ How to Avoid (Literally) Slipping and Tripping Through Life, by Barbara Lyons Stewart, AIA, EDAC
    • In this one, Barbara wrote: Jo, You will understand what I’m trying to do here ~ bridging the gap from ancient wisdom to modern practice.

So, we waited a year for a tour of what was happening. I was consistently seeing it develop, like this pathway to the front door (above), that flows like the Russian River, but I wasn’t guided through every detail’s reasoning. That was to come at a later date.) Barbara was always on my mind, and I checked in from time to time. We began having lunch, developing rapport…. Which was so natural, anyway. Honestly, we just liked catching up. I checked in a year later, and she agreed to meet me at the winery to begin her explanations. And the sessions continued, including one that was photographic of every detail as it neared her suggestions and guidance.

In spring this year, Barbara shared that she had just been diagnosed with cancer. We both knew as healthy as she was, she’d kick this one, and we went on with our lives…  Even her doctor told her she was most likely going to kick it, because she was such a healthy person to begin the protocol.

  • I had my move from Windsor to Geyserville to get done.
  • Barbara’s next project was a Feng Shui redesigning of the new international terminal at SFO… working with a crew, attending to every aspect of Feng Shui design, just as she had for Ron and Pam Rubin.

Barbara walked me through a few sessions of The Rubin Family of Wine’s redesign. And I then queried Cathy Huyghe of Forbes for the story. Barbara, Cathy and I met at John Ash Restaurant, and the following was written about The Rubin family of Wines, as a result.

Texture, Balance, Finish: The Wine Tasting Room Experience, Feng Shui Style ~ Cathy Huyghe

Cathy wrote:

Few tasting rooms, however, have been so carefully designed to generate a sense of balance as the Rubin Family Vineyards and Winery in Green Valley, located in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County. The renovation was designed by MBH Architects.

MBH Architects also had a story written about the work they (and Barbara Lyons Stewart) did for The Rubin Family of Wines. Rubin Family Vineyard and Winery by MBH Architects.

Marrying rustic charm with modern aesthetics, MBH Architects recently renovated the 6,000 square foot Rubin Family Vineyard and Winery in Sebastopol, California, leaving only the barrel room untouched. Lifelong wine enthusiast and owner of the Republic of Tea, Ron Rubin, recently decided to fulfill his lifelong dream of owning a vineyard. A UC Davis graduate in viticulture, Rubin searched for the perfect land, ultimately selecting the Rubin Family Vineyard and Winery for it’s Golden Loam soil, which is ideal for growing his Pinot and Chardonnay grapes

On December 16, 2016, Peg Melnik has a story in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat: Sebastopol tasting room pairs wine and feng shui 

Peg focused on Barbara’s basic Feng Shui principles:

Wine and feng shui have a common denominator: balance. Which may explain why vintner Ron Rubin of Sebastopol’s Rubin Family of Wines recently remodeled his winery using feng shui as the guiding force.

It’s visible in design elements like curved wood-paneled walls, dramatic use of color and strategically placed windows that funnel the energy of sunlight into the building.

All of this was inspired by Barbara Lyons Stewart, and I know there will be more to come on this building and its philosophies. We just won’t have her careful choice of words, as she explained in great details, how to her the world is made up of five basic elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water and how the most harmonious settings incorporate a balanced mix of all five elements. And how color, light, shapes, mirrors, windows, alignment, water features, and all building materials are among the things that can be used to create the balance.

This is my tribute to Barbara Lyon Stewart for her jobs beautifully done.

My life has been really enriched having had Barbara as a friend. Phone conversations were bright and fun, as we began to craft a message for what she had completed for Ron Rubin. Earlier this year, our conversations took a veer to the left, when she got her cancer diagnosis. All the while, we saw her beating it.

In an Email on November 3, Barbara wrote, regarding the MBH Architects story:

What a fabulous article – and photos!!!!!

Now the winery seems doubly impressive!!!!!!

Congratulations to the wonderful team – every member.

warm regards,


Her last words to us, while I was wondering why she hadn’t gotten back to me recently. I said to Jose, “She’s not gotten back to me. That’s not good.” A few days later, I was to come to know why.

Always in the background, giving everyone else credit for what she inspired… We all got the news on December 2, 2016, that Barbara had passed away. Our hearts sank to the depths of Yin Yang… The design of The Rubin Family of Wines goes down in history as one of her final projects. Beyond this there are no words; except to say, the wine industry has so many facets to it, each and everyone is unique… Barbara was spiritually connected to us all, and we’ll all miss her dearly.

RIP, dear Barbara Lyons Stewart ~ November 29, 2016…