A Home Chosen for Its Location Is Upgraded to Embrace Views and Connect to the Outdoors

Contemporary House, Kolbe

Taking advantage of California’s climate, capturing San Diego’s skyline and providing an ideal setting for casual entertaining, the Plum Street residential renovation reflects a modern, coastal style inspired by the views available from its expansive windows and sliding patio doors.

The home’s location and view first attracted the homeowners to this neighborhood near Point Loma. It overlooks an international airport, downtown San Diego, an active military base complete with fighter jets and aircraft carriers, the Coronado Bay bridge, the ocean and marina—all of which are set against a backdrop of the hills of Mexico.

In San Diego, there’s no consistent architectural style, so Will & Fotsch Architects Inc. focused on opening up the home and making it feel more connected.

Accepting that the 1960s property would require considerable changes to meet their family’s active lifestyle, the homeowners sought out California-based Will & Fotsch Architects Inc. The homeowners and architects quickly established a connection to confidently guide them through the planning, design and realization of this major renovation.

“They were trusting and gave us creative license,” says Andy Fotsch, principal of Will & Fotsch Architects. “This was one of the fastest projects I’ve ever been involved with. We went from designing a floor plan to permitting in three months.” Renovation, construction and interior finishes were completed in less than 12 months.

MEETING THE CHALLENGE

To achieve the desired design, functionality, aesthetic and value for Plum Street’s renovation, Fotsch identified two primary challenges: “Challenge one was to determine the best floor plan to create a comfortable series of spaces for living and entertaining. We wanted to keep as much of the existing structure as possible while making the greatest positive impact.

“The second challenge was to determine a style that would update the house, yet work with the overall massing and structure,” Fotsch continues. “In San Diego, there’s no consistent architectural style. We really focused on opening it up and making it feel more connected.”

Examples of the design precision employed include:

  • CONVERTING THE LIVING AND DINING ROOM The wall between the previous living and dining room was removed for a more open floor plan. The old dining room was made into a blue-hued sitting nook, affectionately referred to as the parlor. The original living room had a screened-in porch, which was removed and converted into a large deck. This now connects the kitchen and dining room to the former living room, now the great room, extending the living space into the outdoors and providing a vista that spans from city skyline to harbor shoreline.
  • FLIPPING THE KITCHEN AND DINING ROOM Originally, the kitchen was in the center of the house and disrupted the connection between the dining and the living room. By flipping the kitchen, the range wall of the kitchen now hides the staircase to the primary suite and allows for the stone pillar of the fireplace in the great room.
  • OPENING UP THE KITCHEN Creating a more open, light and spacious kitchen, the upper floor system was reframed to maximize the visual height of the doors taking them all the way to the ceiling. The extra 16 inches gained—from 6 feet 8 inches to 8 feet—dramatically increased the sky view and brought a lot more light into the space, as well as views of the harbor.
BEFORE: The pool was incredibly disconnected from the house, essentially two complete stories below the living area of the house. To better match the new homeowners’ modern lifestyle and desire to entertain, the existing pool was demolished and raised 6 feet. PHOTO: courtesy Will & Fotsch Architects
  • ENHANCING THE ENTRY Preserving the opening to the front courtyard, new French doors were installed, strengthening the connection from the front courtyard through the house. “The flow is much improved, and you get this really sweet moment when you are in the new great room and can look all the way into the front courtyard,” Fotsch notes.
  • ENLARGING THE GREAT ROOM The roof above this part of the house was removed and raised for a taller 12-foot ceiling height and a better proportion within the room due to the expanded floor-plan size. The extra height accommodates tall doors with transoms above them. In addition, this accommodated new transom windows on the front and back of the house, dramatically increasing daylight. The great room’s increased height also helped the massing of the house by providing an intermediary height between the single-story height of the bedrooms and the 2-story height of the main suite.
  • EXPANDING THE MAIN SUITE The main suite was too small for the homeowners’ comfort. Their suite was expanded and now includes a bathroom, which features glass walls and doors to enter the shower room and continue out to its own deck. The interior teak-clad wall extends to the exterior providing a unified visual and physical connection. This extra space also improved the massing of the residence as viewed from the street.
  • EXCAVATING AND ADDING A LOWER LEVEL Because of the site’s slope, there was a very large crawl space with areas that were more than 9-feet tall. A hole was cut in the floor of the great room and a staircase was added down to the new lower level, which was excavated from the existing crawl space. A new game room, pool bath and exercise room were added to this new, lower level.
  • ENGAGING THE POOL AREA The existing pool was incredibly disconnected from the house, essentially two complete stories below the living area of the house. To better match the new homeowners’ modern lifestyle and desire to entertain, the existing pool was demolished and raised 6 feet.

Through the lower level’s multi-slide doors, the back steps lead into a series of small flights with landing areas to better connect the house to the pool. It takes only two or three steps to reach the grill, another set of short steps to the deck chairs, another set to the pool. A 5-foot waterfall also connects the upper landing to the pool. With an entire new series of decks and terraces, the pool now provides an engaging, energetic atmosphere with access to the new lower level.

PHOTOS: ZACK BENSON unless otherwise noted

About the Author

Meredith Morton
Meredith Morton writes about architecture and design from her home office in Chicago.

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