A Contemporary La Jolla Retreat with Ocean Vistas


In the case of many home remodels, it often happens that one small change inevitably leads to another. For the owners of this 5,700-square-foot La Jolla home, the catalyst was an unlikely source. “It all started with a stovetop,” says the wife. “We wanted to change it from electric to gas.” Adds the husband, “We went in for a stovetop and ended up redoing the entire kitchen!” And it didn’t stop there. What started as a minor renovation evolved into the complete transformation of a Southwestern-style dwelling into the elegant masterpiece residence the owners dreamed of when they purchased the home years ago for its ocean vistas. “The views are drop-dead gorgeous, but the house wasn’t necessarily my style,” says the wife. “It was really only a question of when we were going to redo it.”

The home, built in the early ’90s by architect Ken Ronchetti, had all the makings of a perfect seaside retreat—walls of windows, impeccable orientation—but the couple felt that the stucco-clad walls and interior columns gave the space a heavy, closed-in feel. To begin renovations, they brought in interior designer Helene Ziman, ASID, principal and owner of San Diego-based Helene Ziman & Associates, to rework the kitchen, and builder Tom Grunow, owner of Grunow Construction, Inc., in La Jolla, who had refurbished the home’s garage for the husband—an avid car buff and owner of a well-known classic car restoration business—a few years back. “Once we redid the kitchen, the idea was to bring the house uniformly up to the newer look,” Grunow says.

But updating the look would require a complete overhaul of several parts of the home, which prompted the team to call upon architect Siavash Khajezadeh, principal of La Jolla-based Design Lead, LLP Architecture & Planning, to rid the home of its Southwestern flavor. “Many of the existing walls were blocking views,” Khajezadeh says. “The entrance of the house was completely hidden, and the foyer was too small for the size of the house.” To remedy the boxed-in feel, the architect demolished walls and columns and pulled the entry foyer about 10 feet away from the home’s center. The master bath was also expanded, the powder room relocated, and a dual gym/guest room was built onto the back of the home. “Each addition made the existing spaces work a little bit better,” Grunow says.

Materials were selected primarily by Ziman, along with associate designer Wendy McCleery, to flow effortlessly from inside to out. Ziman replaced the drywall and stucco with a rich combination of mahogany, marble and exotic stone accents, such as the blue-green soapstone used on the kitchen countertops. “I wanted the interiors to be timeless, functional and durable,” says the designer. “But I also wanted to use Mother Nature and the beautiful ocean views to complement the design.” Ziman created cohesion throughout the home with accents of Chinese sandstone that surface on the interior columns and fireplace, and extend outdoors to the walkways and water features.

And while the months-long remodel began with a kitchen, the transfor- mation is nothing short of breathtaking for its owners. “We went on vacation during the final stages,” says the husband, “and when we walked in for the first time, I literally almost stopped breathing it was so beautiful.” But for Ziman, the culmination of the project lies right back at the beginning. “My favorite room is the kitchen. It connects all the dots and dynamics of the home.”

—Marisa Spyker