Approachable and livable: For interior designer Chris Barrett, that’s how her clients summed up their vision for their La Jolla, California, home’s interiors. Simply enough, the couple requested inviting spaces for themselves and their large family. Beyond that, Barrett says of their wishes, “They weren’t specific about a look.” So the home and its setting on a picturesque stretch of coastline informed her approach. “It needed to be complementary to the architecture but we also wanted to play to the ocean,” says Barrett, “and a neutral palette and natural materials just felt right for a beach house.”
The clients’ brief to architect Drexel Patterson was a bit more detailed. Active grandparents who relish time with their loved ones, they needed a place that could accommodate the family but they also wanted to be mindful of the neighbors on their snug La Jolla street. To that end, the architect excavated the basement for an underground garage with a car elevator, resulting in a home that appears to be two stories from the street when it’s actually three. “The house doesn’t loom over the street or the beach; it organized itself with how it was wedged into the site,” says the architect of the design, which steps down toward the ocean, creating terraces on every level. “The residence itself wasn’t difficult to build, but the lot was difficult to access,” adds general contractor Tom Waters, recalling that the street’s narrowness didn’t leave much room for concrete trucks and lumber drop-offs.
Entered through an antique door and a courtyard complete with blue-and-white tile and a burbling fountain, the house is Spanish Colonial in spirit–an aesthetic driven by the clients’ wish for a structure that related stylistically to the origins of La Jolla. “People still like the idea of a traditional home, and this is an authentic revival in its massing and thickness, but it’s stripped back and has an open flow for today’s lifestyle,” explains Patterson. “It’s an inspiring architectural problem to solve. It’s about editing unnecessary clutter but if you over-edit, you lose the poetry.” Working on the home with project architect Lisa Kriedeman, Patterson also wove in contemporary handcrafted touches like the master bath’s leaded bottle-glass windows made by artist Tanya Holroyd Stevenson and the slender iron rail for the entry staircase created by metalsmith Rumen Dobrev.
Patterson’s work offered the perfect backdrop for interiors that emphasize comfort and ease. “Put your feet up; enjoy the ocean. All of our choices referenced that feeling,” notes Barrett, who carried earthy, mostly neutral hues throughout the home, creating a sense of continuity across the open floor plan. To enrich the palette, she incorporated texture and subtle pattern, choosing a jute rug in a chevron design for the living area and an understated stripe on the sofa in the same space. Touches of blue–“It’s their favorite color,” she says–crop up too, such as in the family room’s carpet, making for calming grace notes and a fitting nod to the seaside locale. An art collection, assembled with the help of L.A. art consultant Tiffiny Lendrum, does its part to convey color and dynamism too. Among the bold works are a vivid piece by Robert Schaberl in the sweeping stairwell and a painting by Luc Leestemaker above the living room fireplace.
Barrett ensured that furnishings would suit the large family. “This project wasn’t really about specific pieces. It was about making it all work,” she points out. And by work, the interior designer means accommodating upwards of two dozen people. To do that, she placed an extendable table in the dining area between the main living space and kitchen. Downstairs, the interior designer, who worked with project manager Loralie Hayes, planned a media room and a games area and a bunk room for the grandchildren, all of which flow directly outdoors.
There, landscape architect Theresa Clark worked hand-in-hand with Barrett and Patterson to create a space that seemed like a natural extension of the interiors. “Knowing the color scheme and how busy or how simple the interiors are helps me decide what to do,” she says. The project required a balance of functional hardscaping (seating areas, the pool, the barbecue) with lush greenery that evoked a 1920s feel. Clark opted for heirloom camellias, roses, olive trees, yucca gloriosa and a fragrant magnolia champaca tree that prompted the intrigued husband to ask, “Can we get five more of these?” when he first caught a whiff of its spectacular tropical scent. And at the rear of the house, to maximize the stunning view, Clark installed seating atop sand just off the terrace that overlooks the sea below.
Ironically, it was the very desirable locale’s beachy climate that proved to be Barrett’s greatest hurdle. “This is one of the easiest couples I’ve ever worked with,” she reflects. “Truly the biggest challenge was just the salt air and making selections that could stand up to the environment. But to live on the ocean like this?” the interior designer ponders for a moment, “It’s a dream house.”