Where there are sweeping views overlooking a canyon, it’s natural for the eye to be drawn outside. But in this San Diego family’s modern house, conceived by architect William Hayer and built by Ryan Hill, the eye is just as easily focused inward, thanks to a cleverly executed plan as well as the tranquil interiors crafted by interior designer Helene Ziman. “This site offered expansive unobstructed views to a natural area in the rear,” Hayer says. “The house opens up to take advantage of them.”
A wide, straight path leads to the two-level stucco structure (the clay tile is a nod to the design regulations in a community of more traditional residences) and to a pivoting front door of mahogany inset with alabaster panels. Once indoors, a walkway flanked with rock-filled beds leads past a sculptural water feature and points the way toward the south-facing canyon views visible from the great room at the back of the house. There, floor-to-ceiling glass doors slide into the walls, seamlessly linking the room to the covered terrace overlooking a swimming pool—complete with a custom re feature that makes it, according to Hayer, just as visually appealing at night—and the city views beyond.
The view from the front door to the pool might be the most dramatic, but Hayer ensured other spaces have vistas that, though maybe more modest, are equally as compelling. The windows at both ends of the home’s prominent cross axis showcase a Micah Curtis sculpture visible from the dining area on one side, and a large aloe tree at the end of the hallway on the other. “We tried to have the windows be picture frames for extraordinary things,” landscape architect Brian Grove says. Interior details yield more small, compelling moments for the eye. In fact, says Hill, “It’s a good blend of exterior and interior architecture. It was a special collaboration to create an aesthetically pleasing, functional family house.”
Among those interior details that he managed are tray ceilings in the living and dining rooms clad with white oak, which have a moody glow when illuminated at night. White oak also dresses the pitched ceilings in the master bedroom and family room and covers many of the floors. Further touches include a fireplace in cream-and-silver travertine accented with zebrano wood on the shelves flanking it. Besides imparting pattern, the forms also play with ideas of building and layering spaces, adding a sense of depth, Ziman says.
In fact, zebrano wood is a unifying element throughout the house, because “repeating the wood makes for continuity and harmony,” Ziman says. It takes on a prominent role in the kitchen, where it faces cabinetry that complements the mix of sandstone and quartzite countertops that define the three surface levels of the custom island. The wood also appears in a cleverly concealed second kitchen that allows the main kitchen to remain spotless for guests. And there’s an encore appearance in the master suite, where it is used for the custom cabinetry and a floating vanity in the spa-like master bathroom.
Layered into the home are furnishings that are stylish and comfortable with a palette inspired by the earth and the sky. “With William providing such great spaces, it was really easy for me to come in and add the comfort and function the clients were looking for,” Ziman says. For example, because entertaining is a major part of her clients’ lives, she made sure the great room has plenty of seating, including a generous sectional covered in plush chenille. The sectional is of her design, one of many bespoke pieces of furniture throughout. Similarly, for the dining room, she conjured up a dramatic floating console. Composed of a thick stone ledge, it is backed by panels—one of wood carved in an undulating pattern and the other of zebrano wood. “I love floating cabinetry,” Ziman explains. “The weightlessness of it becomes a sculptural element.”
Frequent collaborators during the past two decades, Ziman and Hayer are delighted with the way the house turned out. “William designed this wonderful space, and my job was to fill it in a way that creates a beautiful feeling the second you open the front door,” Ziman says. “It definitely reflects our clients.” Hayer is equally enamored with the result. “I just love the way this house flows and the way it lives,” he says. “I’ve been to parties there, and it’s very comfortable.”