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.