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WHEN RAY AND ABBY WEISS met, they discovered that for 20 years they had lived a few houses apart in the same La Jolla neighborhood. Each house was in keeping with the charming character of the other surrounding residences that honored the area’s long past, but both were small, older homes that lacked many of today’s modern benefits. When they married, they made the decision to choose one house to remodel and live in, but which one?
Architectural designer Richard Gatling opted for Ray’s 1930s cottage. “In other words,” says Ray, “my house was in a lot worse shape and should be the one taken down to the sticks and started over.”
When first built, the home was cozy: 700 square feet with probably two rooms. Throughout the years rooms were added haphazardly, so that by the time this makeover began the house was approximately 1,300 square feet with a hodgepodge of interconnected rooms, a detached garage and a disheveled guesthouse that looked like it belonged elsewhere.
It was important to the homeowners, designers (Kate Franklin worked with Gat-ling on the project) and contractors Terry Wardell and Ed Hanisko of Wardell Builders that the makeover keep the home’s historical character intact. Also important was to have more, better-organized living spaces and to modernize — “especially in the kitchen, which was pretty old,” says Abby.
Working within constraints that included a trapezoidal lot, a 7-foot-wide narrow driveway and setback problems, the remodel plan was deemed a winner by judges of the 2013 SDH/GL Homes of the Year contest. The design expanded the home by approximately 600 square feet and replaced the two dissimilar outbuildings with one two-story building that was in character with the main residence and not visible from the street.
“The main mode of expanding the house,” says Gatling, “was to create a triple saw-tooth roof line that terminates at two different depths at the back patio. This strong roof line reflects the character of the front of the house and provides a very orderly, symmetrical continuity to anchor the back yard.”
On the inside of the home, the roof line allowed for dramatic vaulted ceilings that add a sense of spaciousness to this modestly sized home. Angled skylights and clerestory windows fill the rooms with light. Gatling also created a new view corridor that runs through the middle of the house and provides sightlines from the entrance to the living room in the rear and through to the back yard’s new patio area with its multilevel plantings.
The view to the back deck also can be seen from the dining room, situated at the south side of the entrance where once the living room had been.
“It was my idea to turn the living room into the dining room,” says Ray. “We removed the fireplace from what had been the living room because it encroached on the driveway, then Richard opened up the dining room entry with some columns.”
“What you really notice in the dining room and the kitchen is the woodwork,” says Abby. “Everyone is amazed at the woodwork.”
Because woodworking is a passion with Gatling and Ray — both had been woodworkers in the past — every inch of the cottage’s wood board and batten was replaced and its use was expanded to the vaulted ceilings in the living room and kitchen and to the wainscoting in the bedroom.
“I wanted the house to feel like a ship with lots of woodwork on the inside,” says Ray.
“We took no shortcuts using drywall,” continues Gatling. “We maintained the older character of the material by using hand-brushed thinned coats of a glossier paint so the grain would still be prominent after finishing.”
Though this comfy cottage reflects its 1930s original look, a number of sustainable practices were utilized, including de-stranded stained bamboo flooring, centralized lighting controls with universal clocks, low VOC paints, 92-percent efficiency forced-air furnaces, highest-efficiency hot-water heaters and a complete Bio-Aquifer system of water storage below the driveway to alleviate a serious flooding problem on the lot.
“At first glance the home may seem to be well preserved from many decades ago with its layers of detailing,” says Gatling, “but on closer inspection, the home provides many creative solutions that give it a modern sensibility that current-day clients expect — layered façades, interior spaciousness, a variety of lighting, a more open floor plan, indoor/outdoor living, lots of storage, a convenient, modern kitchen and display spaces for art and objects.”
Homes of the Year: By Eva Ditler • Photography by Ed Gohlich