For years, homeowner Steven Rauber has pored through shelter magazines for inspiration. “If I see something I like, I cut it out and it goes in my file,” he says, and, with the advent of online sources, his range of visual references has expanded further.
By the time he was ready to build a new house for his family in Coronado, California, he knew exactly what he wanted—something contemporary and clean-lined, intended for informal living. “It was just up my alley,” says architect Bill Bocken, whom Rauber commissioned to turn his vision into reality. “The plan was simple and almost Zen-like.”
Bocken was up to the challenge and distilled Rauber’s vision of easy, modern simplicity into a two-story home that organizes around a rear courtyard. The architect began by retaining two walls of the original structure because they extended into the existing setbacks. “This gave us more of the lot to work with because we could build the house closer to the side and front property lines,” says the architect. Inside, the spaces are comfortable and family-oriented—what Bocken calls “laid-back Zen,” explaining, “You can go from one space into another, but there are no hallways and giant foyers.”
Custom pocket doors allow the entire first floor, including the master bedroom and all of the public spaces, to open to the exterior. “This is all about informality and ease of maintenance,” says Bocken, “The rooms communicate with each other across the courtyard and the pool versus how a normal house is set up, where you’re going from one interior space, and then you go through to another.”
A wall around the home’s perimeter compensates for its proximity to the street and shields it from passersby. Water features in the entry and in the rear further enhance the feeling of complete privacy and reinforce the Zen factor.
Enriching the structure are handsome finishes and architectural details. A granite floor runs through the first floor (including into the bathrooms, around the pool and out toward the entryway), knitting the home into a cohesive whole. Rather than drywall, Bocken and Rauber, who served as the builder, opted for a plaster finish for the walls and ceilings. “They have a life of their own, and, depending on the way the sunlight hits it or the lighting that was built into the house, the walls have a glow to them,” notes Rauber. To accentuate the feeling of simplicity, the architect eliminated baseboards and added a slight reveal at the tops of walls to separate them from the ceiling planes.
With the home’s framework in place, Bocken pulled designer Irene Kim Coppedge onboard. (The pair first worked together when the architect renovated Coppedge’s own home and ultimately encouraged her to explore a career in design.) “It needed a lot of furniture and the last 10 percent,” she says, alluding to those essential finishing touches. “Floors were picked, walls were done. Some furniture was in, but most of it was not.”
While Rauber wasn’t afraid of color (such as the orange cushion on the outside banquette), “we kept veering into a monochromatic look,” reports the designer. Consequently, the home is replete with natural tones and textures like unhoned marble and rough-hewn wood for an organic, clean and edited look. “My client had just moved back from Mexico and had either sold or gotten rid of almost everything save a few pieces of furniture and some artwork,” Coppedge explains. “When we started filling the space, we realized that we did not want to buy things just for the sake of having things. It felt freeing to be on this side of under-furnished.”
The furnishings reflect Coppedge’s intentional approach, and the importance of each piece is amplified. Together, Coppedge and Rauber designed notable pieces for the home, such as the 11-foot-long, stone, knife-edge dining room table. A similar, smaller table had inspired him, but, unable to find exactly what he imagined, he went custom. “There aren’t too many 11-foot tables,” shares Rauber, “so if you want an 11-foot table, it’s almost something you have to do yourself.” Surrounding the table are more custom designs: chairs with seats that suspend in leather slings. “They rock bath and forth and make for a really comfortable chair,” he notes.
The result of the close collaboration among client, architect and designer is a serene space that reads as generous and welcoming. “We had a fabulous time,” says Coppedge of the experience, “It was just so fun. We were all really happy with the way it turned out.” Rauber is especially pleased: “Contemporary is all about the feeling you get walking into spaces, and you don’t necessarily know why they feel good, but they do.” And this house does.