High Drama in San Diego


Mediterranean Exterior in San Diego

Distinctive furnishings and infusions of rich color serves as a bold counterpoint to a San Diego home's strong Mediterranean-influenced architecture.

Sculptural Drama in Modern San Diego Living Room

In the living area, designer Helene Ziman hung a vibrant photograph by Michele Zousmer above one of the space’s custom sofas. A petrified-wood-topped table by Phillips Collection offsets a custom wing chair, while a starburst pendant and bronze lamps lend sculptural notes.

Custom Touches Bring Drama to San Diego Home

A console by Noir with carved spikes, a custom mirror and a rug from Carlton Hardwood Flooring enhance the dining space.

Organic Touches in Dramatic San Diego Home

Architect Kirk Mason incorporated a vaulted ceiling and added a wall of glass doors to bring sunlight into the home. Ziman placed a one-of-a-kind wood sculpture atop a massive petrified-wood console by Phillips Collection adding an organic dimension to the space.

Industrial Drama in Modern San Diego Mediterranean Home

Custom chairs surround a reclaimed-wood-and-metal table by Artifacts International in the dining area. Crowning the ensemble is a starburst pendant by Arteriors.

Earthy Drama in a Modern Mediterranean San Diego Home

Leather-upholstered Charter Furniture barstools pull up to an island topped with granite from Tutto Marmo and lit by Hinkley Lighting pendants. The honed-travertine flooring, Stone Forest sink and KWC faucet are all from European Bath, Kitchen, Tile & Stone.

Dramatic Scarlet Pops in This San Diego Kitchen

Red vinyl embossed with an animal print on the banquette and a coral Arteriors chandelier create an eye- catching vignette in the kitchen’s breakfast nook. Brownstone chairs gather at a reclaimed-wood table from CFC. Schumacher fabric in a graphic pattern swathes the cornice.

Sculptural Drama in Modern Mediterranean San Diego Home

A sculptural 2nd Ave Lighting fixture hangs from the stairwell’s ceiling, where beams reference the abode’s Mediterranean inspiration. The gray-washed, white-oak flooring is from Sid’s Carpet Barn. North County Iron Works fabricated the stair rail.

Dramatic Feminine Office in Modern Mediterranean San Diego Home

Pink-glazed linen covers the custom armchairs that face a desk and chair, both from Cantoni, in the wife’s office. A hide rug from Garrett Leather and a credenza from Brownstone join the scene. Smith Shade fabricated the woven window coverings.

Dramatic View Meets Dramatic Master Bedroom in Mediterranean San Diego Home

Set against an Innovations wallcovering with a wood-like appearance, the custom headboard and upholstered bed anchor the master bedroom. Arteriors pendants, above Noir bedside tables, and a Palecek floor lamp provide eye-catching lighting elements.

Dramatic Views From San Diego Mediterranean Modern Home

Shaded by an umbrella from Teak Warehouse, chaise lounges overlook a pool by Amazing Pools and Remodeling.

Peaceful Overlook in Mediterranean Modern San Diego Home

Skyline Design armchairs flank an accent table from Stone Yard under the covered terrace and look to the grounds designed by Bryan Grove and Gary Stone and installed by Shaun Murphy Landscape.

Having a penchant for drama isn’t necessarily a bad thing—especially when it comes to creating someone’s dream home. “Each room has to have something powerful that pulls you in,” says designer Helene Ziman. “You should walk into a space and get a punch of bright color, rich texture or unique form that you want to touch or that you can’t stop looking at.” When Ziman’s clients were searching for properties in the San Diego area to build the home they envisioned, it was the view from a Santaluz hilltop that they couldn’t stop looking at. “We stood on this lot and we could see green landscape and ocean, and we knew this was it,” says the wife. Adds the husband: “We wanted to be close to Los Angeles because my extended family is there, but we like the more relaxed feel of San Diego.”

After finding their ideal locale, the couple purchased the parcel and enlisted Denver-based architect Kirk Mason to design a house that would be as impressive as the view that captivated them. “I did a gently curving floor plan that embraces that view,” says Mason, a veteran of other projects in the neighborhood. “It’s a modified H-shaped plan, where the crossbar of the ‘H’ has a slight bend.” The house’s front façade features Ticino stone, in variegated shades of buff, that gives the rustic and romantic feeling of old-world architecture. “The community has guidelines in terms of building style,” says the architect. “This house is rural Mediterranean and fits within their vernacular, but it also has plenty of glass on the backside that is more modern and enables indoor-outdoor living.”

Once the massive walnut front doors open, the eye goes past the entry through the living and dining areas at the rear of the house to the infinity-edge pool and the Pacific Ocean beyond. “Those rooms flow right out into the landscape,” says builder Mark Agee of the home’s contemporary impulse to connect inside and out. “But the house also has very authentic references, too. During the design, Kirk traveled to Italy and brought back documentation of historical homes to incorporate in, as well.” Landscape architects Brian Grove and Gary Stone underscored the rural Mediterranean aspect of the house by planting ancient olive trees around the entrance. “They’re fieldgrown and their trunks are gnarly,” says Grove. “I also flanked the walkway with bubbling water features made from the same stone as the house.”

Ziman’s concept for the interiors is as stunning as the scenery that can be glimpsed from every room. “I typically like to exhaust myself searching for dramatic or unique things,” she says. “This house needed those bursts of energy to stand up to its strong architecture and views.” The clients, too, craved drama. “We didn’t want a house that looked like everybody else’s,” the wife shares. So, the designer infused the interiors with as many compelling textures and forms as she could. For example, a large custom mirror, framed on two sides with stacked-wood blocks, hangs above a console alive with wood spikes. An enormous petrified-wood console is sinuous in shape and separates the dining and living areas. Suspended in the stairwell, a large nest-like pendant adds a sculptural element, and smaller pendants with shapes reminiscent of sea urchins hover above the master bedroom’s nightstands. “It’s important to do natural elements and pull the outside in,” Ziman says. “I found organic things that are complex, and each time you look at them you see something different.”

To keep the focus on the bold pieces she selected, Ziman maintained a primarily calm palette of neutral tones for the rooms yet judiciously applied strokes of brilliance. “I think you need color every once in a while,” says the designer, who upholstered armchairs in the wife’s office with hot pink-glazed linen. Additionally, she covered a banquette in the kitchen’s breakfast nook with bright red embossed faux leather and hung a whimsical red coral pendant above. In the husband’s recording studio—designed by David Tessier of Denver-based The Sonic Edge—Ziman brought in furnishings in red, orange, citrus yellow and apple green shades. A large photograph in the living area is another bold presentation of color. “It’s an image of Ethiopian children taken by my friend Michele Zousmer,” Ziman says. “It’s so vibrant you feel like you can reach out and touch the yellow flowers and the purple fabric the girl is wearing.”

Additional artworks throughout the house are equally engaging: There are intricately carved African sculptures and a special collage by artist Beau Carney hanging in a hallway. “I had a desk that was my father’s before he passed away,” the wife says. “Helene surprised me by turning it into sculpture. It’s carved with all the things that remind me of him. When I first saw it, it took my breath away.” Now, her new home, and it’s expansive view, takes her breath away on a daily basis. “When we open the front door and are able to see all the way through the house to the ocean, it’s just amazing,” she says. “We wanted drama, and that’s exactly what we got.”

— Laura Mauk