Get Your Zen On With A 360 Embrace Of Minimalism In La Jolla


Exterior of house with gate...

Architect Drexel Patterson hewed to a limited materials palette for this home in La Jolla. Beyond the entry sequence with plantings by landscape architect Greg Hebert is an open, airy residence that embraces minimalism and stunning views out to the Pacific.

Courtyard with fireplace and seating

Furniture by RH forms a gathering spot near an outdoor fireplace at this La Jolla home. Patterson chose Fleetwood Doors & Windows sliders that disappear almost completely, allowing for a seamless transition between inside and out. Landscape architect Greg Hebert defined the spot with gravel and large-scale concrete pavers.

Courtyard facing living and dining...

The living area’s daybed and leather lounge chairs were custom commissions by Erickson Æsthetics; the sofa is by B&B Italia. Crafted from a live-edge walnut slab from Made Lumber Supply, the dining table is ringed by Cassina chairs. Designer Pamela Smith of Pamela Smith Interiors, who consulted on the project, suggested the FontanaArte chandeliers and plush carpet by Nick Radford rugs.

Dining room with table, chairs...

The homeowners tapped Swedish artist Åsa Kvissberg to paint the colorful mixed-media canvases that enliven the open dining room. The figures depicted in The Apprentice and The Scientist reference the couple. General contractor Thomas Waters achieved an aged patina for the dwelling’s overhead structural Douglas-fir beams. Smith recommended Benjamin Moore’s Swiss Coffee for the walls and trim.

Outdoor area with four chairs...

The expansive property boasts four outdoor seating areas—one on each side of the house. A quartet of classic Richard Schultz chairs from Design Within Reach is positioned to take full advantage of the fireplace, which sports a bold mantel with exposed rivets.

Detail of kitchen with breakfast...

Clyde Turner of CTT Furniture fashioned the live-edge walnut slabs on the kitchen’s cozy breakfast bar, adding an organic touch to the symmetrical space. The barstools are by Ligne Roset. Madre Perla quartz from Arizona Tile tops the rest of the counters. For the Wolf and Sub-Zero appliances, the clients turned to Pirch.

Main bedroom with bed and...

Smith designed the live-edge walnut platform bed in the main suite. The Eames chair and ottoman from Design Within Reach provide a comfortable reading spot. Underfoot, an Australian sheepskin rug by Overland acts as a foil against the polished concrete floors. The coverlet is from Pottery Barn; the pillows were sourced from Room & Board.

Main bath and tub

A mosaic tile accent wall—in the same material as the nearby shower—behind the primary bathroom’s freestanding Victoria + Albert tub creates a textural moment. Sliding doors connect the space to the outdoors.

Many aspire to live a minimalist existence. To pare down to just the bare essentials or, in the words of one notable proponent, what sparks joy. But living a truly minimalist lifestyle—sans the inescapable junk drawer and anything extraneous—is aspirational for most. Not so for the couple behind this custom-built La Jolla home. Splitting their time between California and Connecticut, theirs is a 360-degree embrace of minimalism, from aesthetics to possessions. The pair even wiped their proverbial slates clean to start their next chapter here, selling their former residence with all of its art and furnishings inside and arriving with little more than their clothes, some kitchenware and a sole beloved piece of art.

The couple purchased this property for its commanding sight lines to the Pacific, teaming with architect Drexel Patterson to start anew. The goal was to create a calming one-story sanctuary that emphasized indoor-outdoor living. Naturally, simplicity ruled their design decisions. They chose a single floor finish, two types of wood for the millwork and a sole paint color for the entire house. “It’s very mellow,” notes general contractor Thomas Waters, who worked with his associate Seth Silano on the project. Here, even the traditional take on a front door has been rethought. Visitors are buzzed through an exterior gate and then slide open a glass panel to enter the home.

Such restraint in the materials and palette led Patterson and project architect Haley Duke to exercise great care as he selected tones, finishes and textures. “When you have a space this simple, you have to ask, ‘How can I strike a balance with texture, materials and warmth?’ ” he says. For him, that meant paying strict attention to the interplay of wood, stone and stucco to make certain that the overall effect was soothing, not sleepy.

Patterson’s geometric floor plan nods to the trademarks of classic Modernist architecture. It’s voluminous and open, with a clean composition that accentuates the materials used and the home’s relationship with the landscape. The house unfolds with four sequential elements between the street and the view to the ocean: the street frontage to the entry courtyard wall; the entry courtyard to the interior pavilion; and the rear courtyard open to the long view across the golf course. “Each of these elements has a sense of scale and containment, even though that containment is complete in each space,” explains Patterson. “The mind makes up for what is not shown visually, so a suggestion is often enough.” 

A structural double-column timber framework defines the great room, frames the views and adds a necessary touch of texture. “This was the most minimal aspect that could be added to hold everything together in a visual, sensual way,” Patterson says. “The room would be a little duller without it. The cadence of the posts organizes the room visually and furniture-wise. The gray lines tie across the whole volume and accentuate it. I consider the posts and beams as a vital catalyst to the visual experience.”

Outdoor spaces are just as thoughtfully conceived. The aforementioned entry courtyard includes a fireplace and is now a favorite cocktail spot for the owners. Off the main bedroom is a raised spa and garden, while two guest bedrooms and a study flank a private side yard. Most dramatically, though, a steel pergola extends from the main living space’s ceiling to the back patio, pointing the way to the main outdoor entertaining area. “It’s an important element, as some sort of framework was necessary to make the transition from inside gracious and natural,” says Patterson. Like the exposed beams inside, it suggests a defined space while drawing the eye up and out. Beside it, a series of drought-tolerant coastal Mediterranean plants line organically placed pavers and gravel. “The whole space has the look of a deconstructed grid,” says landscape architect Greg Hebert.

The homeowners themselves outfitted the residence, consulting with designer Pamela Smith of Pamela Smith Interiors as needed. Among the highlights are a stunning use of live-edge walnut slabs for their formal dining table, breakfast bar, and bedroom headboard, plush rugs that markedly contrast the polished concrete floors, plus classic and custom furnishings. “It’s Zen, calming,” says the wife. And is it too monotone, after all? Definitely not.