Remodeling old houses is catnip for designer Kristin Lomauro-Boom. “It’s exciting to reinvent a home,” she says, so it goes without saying that she was thrilled to visit a vintage gem her clients had spotted in La Jolla, California. Built in 1928 by the architectural firm Webber, Staunton and Spaulding, the Tudor Revival abode “needed a lot of imagination. The house was compartmentalized, lots of doors and rooms, but,” she recalls, “I knew we could open it up and bring in an urban feel.”
Architect Laura DuCharme Conboy, with whom Lomauro-Boom had worked on the clients’ previous home, did have a few reservations. “I was a bit skeptical at first,” she remembers. “The owners are tall and the ceilings were low.” And a semi-formal back entrance could be confused for the front of the house. While plenty of elements weren’t ideal for a present-day family, the fact that the home remained largely unchanged for nearly 100 years (with the exception of a few additions) and was designed in a distinctive style led DuCharme Conboy to propose tackling the renovation with historic designation in mind.
Doing so meant the project had twin goals: Not only did the architect need to address the clients’ desire for a more open plan and an indoor-outdoor lifestyle, she also needed to follow strict preservation guidelines that meant not modifying the exterior and ensuring that all additions reflected the original design and materials of the house without directly replicating them. (New elements should blend with but not masquerade as historic.) To address it all, DuCharme Conboy and Lomauro-Boom devised a plan to remove select interior walls (“Suddenly the house had adequate ventilation and natural light,” says DuCharme Conboy.) and to add a garage wing with upstairs guest space behind the house. The addition brought the home’s footprint into a C-shape, shielding the courtyard and letting the duo enhance the outdoor living area with a dining pavilion and a pool.
To keep things cohesive in terms of materials, “The original house was the muse for the new one,” says DuCharme Conboy. Where brick had been used on the exterior, they brought it inside, as with the new brick that clads the master bedroom’s walls–“it creates a unity,” says the architect. Where original elements were lost, like the wood shingled roof, they found period replacements, like slate. And where they built new, primarily the garage wing and the dining pavilion, they opted for cast-in-place concrete as “a modern interpretation of solid-brick masonry–there’s a heaviness and permanence to it,” she continues. Such a complex project also required an especially knowledgeable builder. “We’ve been building modern architecture and doing historic restorations for over 20 years,” says general contractor Rich Gerace, “so when the opportunity presented itself to combine the two skill sets, it was a slam-dunk.”
To give the interiors a fresh spin, Lomauro-Boom took a graphic approach, choosing a palette limited to brownish-gray shades and vibrant whites. She paired white walls with white trim and dark walls with dark trim for “a more modern, European look,” she says. It’s a style she dubs “English Tudor-gone-urban industrial.” The aesthetic ideal manifests itself in the pairing of a carved-wood settle (retained by all previous owners, it is original to the house) with a minimalist Minotti sectional and the creation of an open kitchen so sleek it nearly disappears. “It’s about balance,” Lomauro-Boom explains. “Does it need to be understated or does it need to make a statement? There’s some math to it, some going back and forth, but I’m able to visualize things.”
Lomauro-Boom and her clients traveled to L.A. several times to shop for furnishings but the designer also repurposed some of their existing pieces. In the master bedroom, she recovered their bed with mohair. “Sometimes it’s fun to reupholster in a totally opposite style so it’s unrecognizable,” she says. The master bathroom, carved out of an attic space, was given dormer windows (and ocean views) and a generous soaking tub–one of her clients’ first selections.
The interplay of old and new continues outside, where landscape architect Theresa Clark designed the courtyard as a transition between the historic and contemporary sections. “We treated it like the inside. It’s a very calculated, composed space,” she says. The courtyard needed to be functional and beautiful, so while the large bluestone pavers resemble interior flooring, no unattractive drains mar their beauty thanks to the clever use of slot drains installed at the joints. Though, Clark notes, “It was like a Swiss watch to engineer.” Plantings in a palette of chartreuse, burgundy and white enliven the gardens. Clark also added fragrant trees and native plantings, like an Engelmann oak. Delineating old and new, tropical plants are on the historic side of the house, and more traditional selections, like olive trees, are on the contemporary side.
As with any major design endeavor, collaboration was key, with Lomauro-Boom choosing the gardens’ furnishings and providing input on the materials. “This was a long project, so we really had to work together,” the designer says of the four-year enterprise. But it was worth it. Recently, San Diego’s Historical Resources Board granted the house, now a thoughtful merging of old and new, historic status. “It was helpful having certain rules,” says DuCharme Conboy. “Renovation is easier when you respect the character of the original house. There’s no reason to fear preservation.”