One could sum up this contemporary home with a sweeping view of La Jolla Shores in a single word: balance. The collaboration between architect William Hayer, of William S. Hayer Architecture in Del Mar, and San Diego-based interior designer Fred Gemmell, of Matrix Design Studio, accomplishes a delicate dance between opposites: warm and cool materials, blustery nature and the serenity of home, husband and wife.
Indeed, when the couple—the owner of an investment company with offices in San Diego and Greenwich, Connecticut, and his wife, a full-time mother of four—came to the designers with a veritable tabula rasa, a vacant lot overlooking the Pacific Ocean, they presented a seemingly impossible task. The wife loved pure minimalism. “I could live in a cement box,” she jokes, but the husband wanted his living space to feel warm and inviting, not like a museum.
The designers solved the conundrum by choosing both cool and warm materials for the two-level home, balancing the clean lines of basalt and porto beige limestone with anigre and sapele woods that soften the space. The exterior, designed to harmonize with the cottage character and Spanish clay roof tiles of the area’s more traditional homes, juxtaposes the block forms of cool, silvery stucco with a hipped roof trimmed with copper aged to develop a rich Verdi green patina.
“Contemporary homes can be very cold,” says Hayer. “I describe the houses we do as very tailored, and our use of natural materials gives them a friendliness and warmth that is very inviting and comfortable for families. I love the patina of natural copper, for example, and use it in a lot of homes for roof-edge details and trim elements. It creates almost a sense of jewelry on a house.”
The palette sprang from the husband’s love of cooking and the stainless-steel appliances that go along with it. “That’s a very cool material, and it drove the other materials, such as the basalt and the dark bluish-black stone that we used on all the columns and outside,” says Gemmell, who worked with Hayer to select construction materials. “They didn’t want it too slick, so we came up with a wire-brushed stone with a pebbly surface. They love elegance and simplicity, but they also like organic and textural versus smooth.”
Of course, the most dramatic design element is the arresting view of 25 miles of Pacific coastline, which Hayer harnessed with enormous glass windows—with mitered corners and sliding pocket doors—that stretch the length of the home’s western face, opening onto a limestone lanai with an infinity pool. Noisy pool equipment is tucked behind the retaining wall buried deep into the hillside to buttress the cantilevered terrace. “The house looks deceptively simple because of its clean lines,” says La Jolla builder Bob Mahy, of Mueller Homes, “but keeping those lines clean can be exceptionally difficult in a contemporary house.”
The enviable proximity to the ocean can also carry a price, exacerbated by the home’s elevation: Blustery winds make outdoor living nearly impossible. Hayer solved that problem by designing an interior courtyard with an outdoor fireplace and seating area that provides a protected area for entertaining. Off the courtyard is a wine room with a backlit wall silhouetting wine bottles laid sideways on a cantilevered metal rack. Glass doors enclosing the vast open space for living and dining slide back to create one indoor-outdoor space, visually unified by the limestone floor that runs from the front entrance to the lanai beyond.
“I didn’t want a dining room and living room we’d never use,” says the wife. “Instead, we have one big space that we’re in all the time—and we both love it.”