Focus on the family: a 1970s duplex reconfigured for a modern lifestyle

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You have to give a lot of credit to the young couple who had the vision to buy their first home in Del Cerro from its 104-year-old owner, despite its fields of orange shag carpet, walls covered in bright floral wallpaper and the maze of rooms. with low ceilings cut off from each other.

The couple, both doctors, have a toddler and a very playful young dog. They were living in a flat in North Park when they decided it was time to buy a home for their growing family – but were caught at the height of the pandemic housing frenzy in 2020.

“We were trying to find a place in San Diego where we could see ourselves building a home for the future, for the kids, for raising a family, and Del Cerro was the place we had planned,” the husband explained. “We have friends nearby and we liked the neighborhood.”

But the couple, who met in Guyana when they were both engaged in global health volunteer projects, found they were bidding on houses that were astronomically higher because they had flipped. They also recognized that many of the returned homes had materials that weren’t so good, and they were concerned that there might be underlying structural issues. After making a few offers on these homes, the couple, who wished to remain anonymous, had a little revelation.

“Why not buy a place where we can start from scratch, with a solid base, and that we can turn into something we love?” he said. “When we chose this house, we knew it was a project, but a lot of the structure was in place.”

It also didn’t detract from the fact that the house, located on a hill, offers a magnificent view of the city. The woman joked that you can see the Coronado Bridge “if you squint far enough”.

The couple, both in their thirties, bought the house in March 2020. It’s an unusual design. The house seems to have two floors and you have to climb a flight of stairs to reach the entrance. What’s adjacent to the garage and below the living space, the husband said, is actually a large crawl space they’ve blocked inside.

Despite the unused space below, the 1978 multi-level home has plenty of space, with 3,043 square feet and four bedrooms and three bathrooms. What was needed was a vision of working for a contemporary family. For this, they called on Julie Smith of Jula Cole Design.

Smith, who started the project around August 2020, said the couple’s main concern was to increase natural light while giving them a better flow into the house.

“Our goal was to provide them with an open-concept floor plan while fixing some of the underutilized space. The house was dark and partitioned, which gave you lots of smaller, darker rooms. They were looking for a calm, modern organic feel with subtle color.

The wife put together mood boards for each room, with ideas she scavenged from Pinterest, to help Smith learn their taste. Smith would only present a few options when decisions had to be made, instead of overwhelming them with choices.

The project involved a complete renovation of the house, including exterior work – the addition of a front terrace that stretched from the living room at one end of the house to the entrance – as well as the reconfiguration of the interior fittings, resizing and replacing windows, raising ceilings if necessary. and the installation of numerous skylights. While Smith also added decorative lighting, the couple focused on investing in the structural facets of the home, not the furnishings. With a new baby coming at that time, they decided to bring in their existing furniture and replenish their savings.

Smith’s modification retained the original square footage of the house, while making it lighter, brighter and more open.

“We changed the location of the master suite to the back of the house to eliminate those long, cavernous hallways and give homeowners a larger master suite,” she explained. “In the lower part of the house, we opened up the wall between the dining room and the kitchen to create an open-plan flow in a house designed with small, fragmented spaces. In the living room, we eliminated an outdated bar section and hollowed out a wall to house custom walnut-wrapped shelving, creating a library nook.

To accommodate the couple’s desire for a clean, serene palette, Smith used light oak for the cabinetry, muted paint colors, and natural materials, including tumbled marble and quartzite countertops in the kitchen and bathrooms. baths.

Smith replaced the original flooring and rugs throughout the rest of the home with Costa Anzio European Oak engineered hardwood from Reward Flooring. With the walls removed at both ends of the kitchen, there was now a complete flow from the dining room through the kitchen into the living room.

From the mood boards, it was clear the woman was drawn to sage green, so most of the cabinetry in the kitchen is that color, topped with quartzite countertops and a flush mounted backsplash. drywall. Smith also installed ceiling-to-floor cabinets in stained light oak at each end of the wall that contains the stove. She added three Cedar & Moss Wildwood tilting conical sconces in white and brass to augment the recessed lighting.

The kitchen includes a 48-inch Dacor dual-fuel steam range, a Bosch custom panel dishwasher, and a 36-inch Dacor French-door refrigerator.

The kitchen is wide, but not wide enough for an island. Unable to remove the load-bearing wall at the back of the kitchen, they opted for a peninsula at the end of the counter on the living room side. Smith created an eye-catching undercounter peninsula detail with thin, vertically stacked Yuki Border ceramic tiles from Tile Collective in Solana Beach. The couple enjoy having what is essentially an expanded American kitchen.

“We thought the space between the two walls would be very tight, but when it was finished and we saw the final product, we were very happy to know that it was actually quite spacious,” said the husband. “I think the island would actually destroy that space.”

In the living room, Smith replaced the heavy stacked stone fireplace with a sleeker aesthetic – textured beige limestone from Tile Collective. The extended floating quartzite fire pit provides a perfect place to sit. Smith also removed the panels to the right of the fireplace, adding a window and creating the library nook. She also added a small sliding door to access the new terrace at the front of the house.

Next to the living room was a dark bedroom with a single window. Because the owners intend to use the room as an office, they decided to get rid of the closet and slide the door open to create more space. Because the backyard is across the back wall of the room, they installed a sliding door to access it, adding even more light. Eventually, the husband said, they will install a Murphy bed so the room can be used as both an office and a guest bedroom.

At the end of the hall is the laundry room and a guest bathroom, which Smith reversed, saving space in each with barn doors. Instead of hanging from a rail, however, the doors are attached to the wall by a mechanism that allows them to appear to glide through the air.

The woman was particularly taken with the Arto Arabesque cement tile that Smith found at Tile Direct for the wall above the Taj Mahal quartzite-topped walnut vanity in this bathroom.

“It’s one of my favorite design features,” she said.

The vanity also includes a Jamie Young Wooden Organic Round Mirror and a Natural Terho Pendant Light by Maija Puoskari from Vertigo Home. The bathroom, which now opens to the back yard, has a walk-in shower with seats.

The focus on the bedrooms – accessed by a short flight of stairs – was mainly on the reconfiguration of bedrooms and hallways. Walls were everywhere, closing off what should have been natural transitions between bedrooms and bathrooms. Even the main bathroom seemed like its own maze.

Smith conceptualized a different layout, dividing the pre-existing master bedroom into two smaller bedrooms and incorporating a narrow hallway into what became the couple’s bedroom. The couple’s bathroom is then part of their suite, alongside a dressing room.

This bathroom is spacious and soothing, with two large, tall vanities facing each other, made of split white oak cabinetry wrapped in Caesarstone Fresh Concrete. Shown above are custom mirrors and 24-inch pinto sconces made by Triple Seven Home. Below are tumbled marble floor tiles.

To the rear of the bathroom is a glass shower and tub area.

“I wanted a wet room,” the woman said. “That way the baby can splash around. I also didn’t want a clawfoot tub as it would be really annoying to have to clean around it. I wanted something with a functional space. And the niches were super important because I don’t want things hanging off the shower heads.

She understood everything. Against one wall is a massive tub. Across is a double shower. Large blocks of gray porcelain tile surround it, but Smith also covered the tile above with Elan Ribbon Maple porcelain tiles from Tile Direct.

And, as with the downstairs hall doors, Smith has trackless barn doors for the bathroom and walk-in closet.

The children’s bathroom is equally serene and stylish. It also has white oak cabinetry, but with a Taj Mahal quartzite countertop. Smith made a custom insert for the mirror above, making it flush with the wall. Round ocean blue Lexi sconces from Cedar & Moss are on either side.

Again, the wife has the large tub mounted against the wall and topped with 2-inch by 8-inch Suprema Satin Matte ceramic tile. A peach-colored linen shower curtain from West Elm complements the pewter-colored tiles.

Other areas of the house have been renovated, including the stairs leading to the garage. There is now a vertical window that brings light into the stairwell and hall, along with a new balustrade and three white pendant lights above the landing by Burke Decor.

The ceiling in the home’s entryway was raised and illuminated with a large Nelson Saucer Bubble pendant that the couple purchased from Design Within Reach. And the dining room now includes a handmade Stathis asymmetrical pendant they found on Etsy.

In March 2022, the family was able to move in.

“I love that each room has something unique,” the husband said. “Each room is clean and cool.

They also appreciate how Smith fought for them when supply chain issues threatened their ability to get what they wanted, like light fixtures that, after being promised delivery in eight weeks, were still missing after six months.

“She always took the next step,” the husband said, “and it was very refreshing to see someone who was so dedicated to their work because it gave us a sense of security. She was so on point with every detail.

His wife is very happy that the house fits their way of life.

“Every day I wake up feeling grateful,” she said.

Caron Golden is a freelance writer.

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