Award-Winning Home Designs
By Victoria Butterfield
San Diego abounds in gorgeous homes. We love to pick the real beauties and provide our readers with tempting, idea-filled interiors. But once a year, we chart a different course. We invite remodelers, architects and designers to send us the work they’re most proud of—in three categories: custom homes, remodels, interior design. Then we ask our staff to huddle around the entries and come up with undisputed winners.
It’s never easy. Each home has so much to offer. Some are eye-catching; some find a solution to a tricky floor plan. Some are full of charm; others dazzle. San Diego Magazine’s staff—a group not always known for unanimity of opinion—puzzles long and hard over these choices.
But we finally come to (arbitrated) conclusions, and here they are. In the custom-home category (built from scratch to the client’s desires), the winner is Phyllis Kraus’ Coronado home by architects Dale and Doug St. Denis. Honorable mentions go to the George and Eileen Haligowski home in La Jolla, by John Jensen, and the Hilton residence in Rancho Cielo, by Davidson Communities.
Judged as a stunning remodel is the winning home on Country Club Drive by architect Mark Christopher. The honorable mention goes to a clever remodel of Mark and Jennifer Hass’ condominium in downtown’s Park Row, by bulthaup of la jolla.
For best interior design, we selected Allan and Bev Zukor’s condominium in the downtown Watermark building; designer, J.P. Walters. Honorable mention goes to Ryan & Young Interiors’ work at CityFront Terrace (another downtown property).
Best Custom HomePhyllis Kraus is a discriminating art patron and collector who donates her time, energies and considerable talents to many San Diego organizations, including the Museum of Photographic Arts, Lamb’s Players Theatre and the new Coronado Historic Museum. Her property overlooks San Diego Bay and skyline, where she wanted a simple, serene house, open to magnificent views and surrounded by meandering Japanese gardens. Kraus wanted enough space to host “two or three major fund-raisers a year” but “definitely not a huge house.”
Architects Dale and Doug St. Denis undertook the assignment. “For our client’s color palette,” Doug explains, “we stuck to the colors you see from every room—the muted blue-gray of the bay, the sand of the beach, the city beyond. Everything comes from that. I sat on top of my car in the empty lot with paint chips in my hand. The interior walls are the color of the Hyatt Regency across the bay. The exterior of the house is a soft gray stucco.”
Though the house is not overly large, guests can mingle in flow-through rooms and on two decks, as well as in the garden. “It’s an interesting lot,” says Doug, “somewhat narrow, and it goes through from street to bay. The developer divided the lot in thirds. Phyllis has the middle third, but the bayside third is lower and can never block her view.”
There is a definite Asian influence. The unpainted split-face concrete-block walls and fireplace act as counterpoint to the rich woods of the decks, doors and cabinetry. The floors throughout are of bamboo.
The gardens were designed and built by Takendo Arii, who carefully placed each bush and rock. Trained in his native Japan, he is a master of bonsai and miniature landscape Art. Arii’s credits include The Golden Door spa near Escondido and the Timken Art Gallery courtyard in Balboa Park.
“I sold one house with a pool,” says Kraus. “And I thought: What I really would love is no pool but a beautiful garden. Then I was lucky to run into Takendo.”
Kraus, who has lived in Coronado since she was 5, says, “I always thought how wonderful it would be to live on First Street and have a great view of the skyline.”
This landmark home, originally built by famed architect Tom Sheppard, was highly regarded when new, but there were more than a few years when unhappy modifications occurred. It was dramatically altered with an out-of-scale addition in front, the kitchen had no elbow room, the decks were crowded—and tragically, the structure was slowly sinking downhill and being literally pushed apart by soil movement on the western face of Mount Soledad.
Mark Christopher’s first challenge was to shore up the house by excavating under it. The pool, on 30 piers drilled into the earth, helps to hold back the soil and hold up the house.
“It was difficult to live in before,” says Christopher. “The kitchen was on the upper floor; the family room on the middle floor. The spa was two stories down from the master bedroom. Living in the home meant traveling convoluted paths through multiple rooms to get anywhere.”
The room that witnessed the greatest change was the kitchen. “It had been a little room with an amazing view,” says Christopher, “but cabinets blocked the eating area. The owners would sit at night in the kitchen, but they couldn’t see each other for the cabinets.
“The solution was to expand the kitchen in two directions—cantilevering the bay window and going into the garage, which was bigger than needed. There was a flat 8-foot ceiling. I lifted the roof and added trusses and beams to duplicate those in the living room.”
The deck was a third the size it is now—not big enough for entertaining. Christopher enlarged the space and added two stories below, one containing the sleeping porch. “At one time, Pasadena sleeping porches were popular, due to stories in the national press about how the air in Pasadena was thought to be healthful. I created a sleeping porch on the pool side, and a family room, with exercise room and caterer’s kitchen below.”
Christopher added a stairway, relocated the spa to the master garden and extended the footings into competent soil. During construction he found that to reach a proper footing depth under the back of the house, he was actually creating another basement level, the perfect place for the weight room and cabaña. By twisting the stairs down one more turn, he connected this new space with the entire house.
“My hope,” he says, “is that over time, it will appear that Mr. Sheppard wanted it this way in the first place.”
Best Interior Design
Allan and Bev Zukor had a vision of living downtown. Allan’s prospering graphic design firm in the city connected him with many forward-thinking urban planners, and he became convinced an exciting urban lifestyle was dawning in San Diego.
“We had enjoyed a very comfortable suburban lifestyle in the San Carlos/Del Cerro area for 28 years, but our kids were grown and on their own,” Allan says. “I was eager to eliminate the daily commute.” So was his wife, Bev, who worked as a media liaison.
The Zukors hired Jim Walters of J.P. Walters Design to “edit” their belongings and work out an interior design scheme. One of the first changes was to splash the all-white walls with seven different muted colors, such as moss, leaf and sage, to reflect the park across the street.
“Jim was fabulous in finalizing our furniture selections and adding new pieces,” says Bev. Walters incorporated many pieces of custom furniture with recurring geometric shapes: An X motif is repeated on accent tables, the bedroom headboard and a bench; square shapes appear on the custom bar, stereo cabinet and dining chairs.
A gigantic image of Paris, made up of 35 square pictures taken by photographer Will Gullette, dominates one wall of the living room. “The Zukors have a wonderful collection of black-and white-Paris photography,” Walters says, “so we incorporated hints of ’30s art deco.”
Above all, the Zukors have created a home environment that is uniquely theirs. Though their kids love to drop in for dinner (and go out on the town afterward), the Zukors are actively reinventing a brand-new urban life.