For three years, New York transplants Irene Kim Coppedge and her husband rented in Mission Hills knowing they’d eventually buy the perfect home for their young family in the San Diego neighborhood. “It’s a hidden gem,” says Coppedge, noting the area’s unique mix of architectural styles. As they searched for houses, one local architect’s name kept popping up: Bill Bocken. Once the couple found a Colonial Revival-style residence with promise, they knew whom to call.
The home’s East Coast aesthetic attracted the couple, but its traditional layout was too formal and restrictive–and it didn’t have an outdoor play area. “It’s hard to raise a family in those confines,” says Bocken. “My chief goal was to open up the house to make it more conducive to a modern young family as well as open it up to the outdoors and take advantage of every square foot of indoor and outdoor space.”
Case in point, the backyard could only be accessed through a single door in the basement. Bocken’s solution? He added an exterior deck with a staircase to the yard below at the back of the house and positioned more exits on the lower level. “We also increased the home’s usable area by converting storage and basement space to functional rooms,” he reports. To make a more private, user- friendly front yard, a tall hedge and gate were added, and, says the architect, “We regraded it to create more of a level lawn area for the kids to play and placed large doors from the kitchen to access a new bluestone front terrace.” At the rear, that new deck now contributes 500 more square feet to the main level and overlooks the reimagined backyard.
There, landscape designer Adrienne Tutty, who worked under the direction of Tom Mooney on the backyard’s greenery, says, “Our goals were to maximize the usable space by incorporating plants with vertical growth habit and to provide fragrance around the pool.” To that end, they espaliered jasmine along the property line wall, creating a glossy green backdrop to the pool area, and installed artificial turf for a kid-friendly play zone since the house blocked sunlight to the space, making it difficult for grass to grow.
Despite all the updates, the team wanted to maintain some of the traditional elements, as well as a few existing features. Much of the kitchen was preserved, including the cabinetry, but with general contractor Dan Giebelman leading the charge, the space gained a breakfast nook and new desk area. The team also took apart built-ins in some areas and put them back together elsewhere. The original floors received a new finish, too, a dark tone which Bocken says provides a more contemporary feeling.
Meanwhile, as the residence received its architectural transformation, Coppedge was undergoing one of her own. After being in the nance world, she was transitioning into a career in design and took a leading role on the interiors. “My style tends to be ‘new traditional,’ ” says the homeowner and designer, “pieces with traditional elements, like tufting, turned legs and nailheads, mixed in with modern designs.” Coppedge and her husband already owned some notable pieces, like a rug from his family, a pair of dressers, and art they’d been collecting together since their 20s, including works by John Severson, Pakpoom Silaphan, and Sangbin IM.
Staying true to her vision, Coppedge created rooms where traditional melds with contemporary, high mixes with low, and older pieces are repurposed, giving them a second life. The colorful family heirloom rug and a generous Baker sofa anchor the sunny family room, where a Lucite coffee table provides an airy, modern flair. In the master bedroom, sleek new furnishings with tailored touches, like the fabric-covered bed with nailhead detailing, keep things up-to-date. A Chippendale chair purchased at an estate sale adds a sense of history to the study. “We got our furniture from everywhere,” Coppedge says–the effect is a collected, lived-in feel. And her solution for negotiating the colorful, contemporary artwork in a traditional house was to keep the molding and detailing but to paint it white. “The result is kind of eclectic and fun, with pops of color,” she says. “I love how our art is in every room.”
While Coppedge honed her aesthetic on her own home, friends began tapping her for their projects and she is now ramping up her design career. “She appreciates history, but she has a fresh perspective, and I think that that’s what a lot of people are looking for now,” says Bocken. “These old houses are traditional, and you have to honor them, but you don’t have to be beholden to them.”