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A Work in Progressive

 
“MY ARCHITECTURAL STYLE EVOLVES so quickly,” says architect Graham Downes, one of San Diego’s top hospitality designers. “I didn’t want our home to be one particular style. Then in 10 years I’d have to move because I was no longer happy living with that mood.”

 

So what did San Diego’s leading 21st-century minimalist architect do to remodel one of San Diego’s first great homes of the 20th century? First, he didn’t do anything alone. The revamping of their newly purchased 1910 Jackson/Klauber home is a “we” effort of Downes and Tracy Borkum.

This couple’s work couldn’t be more prime time. Tower 23, a spectacular seaside boutique hotel in Pacific Beach designed by Downes, held its grand opening last month (Home Design Quarterly, summer 2005). Restaurateur Borkum is on a hot streak, too. Recently, she added Laurel restaurant to her roster of popular eateries that includes Kensington Grill and Chive in the Gaslamp Quarter.

Downes’ reputation in local hospitality design is legend. In addition to Tower 23, his firm, Graham Downes Architecture (GDA), has created the design for Chive, Thin, Gran Havana Café, Jimmy Love’s, Shaker Room, Martini Ranch, Nine-Ten, Brasserie Excelsior, Pasquale and a remodel of The Marine Room.

Early on, Borkum liked the idea of living upstairs while occasionally having the downstairs and the grounds available as a site for catering private parties. The home has a history of being an entertainment and wedding venue. Its Middletown location is central to Borkum’s downtown operations and GDA’s new headquarters in a Barrio Logan retro brick warehouse.

Downes immediately liked the horizontal lines of the house. “It really fit in with our remodeling design ideas,” he says. “The modernizing challenge was made easier because the home was already considered modern when it was built.”

Ninety-five years later, the clean stucco lines designed by Los Angeles architects Train & Williams remain contemporary, as do many of the homes built by the firm’s contemporaries, Irving Gill, Frank Lloyd Wright and Pasadena’s Greene brothers. Downes and Borkum did little to alter the exterior, and passersby will be hard pressed to see any modernization of its wisteria-covered pergolas and Craftsman- style perimeter fencing.

A design necklace outside is the surrounding frieze molding under the eaves, shaped as a Greek key. That pattern is repeated throughout the house and its grounds.

 

“Overall, we improved the interior functionality of the home by asking the termites to leave and by wiring and lighting the home with the latest high-tech wizardry,” Downes says. “As for the interior woodwork, we caught a break. The red mahogany in the paneling, wainscoting, moldings, frames, doors and windows remained fairly pristine. In fact, if there was damage to the woodwork, we did it—and had to quickly repair it.

“Of the 118 windows and doors [facing the exterior], we redid them all. We replaced what was broken and refurbished what we could to the period.”

The home offers views of Lindbergh Field, San Diego Bay and Point Loma. Because it was built when the airport site was only a marsh, original owners Frederick and Mary Jackson didn’t have to worry about passing jetliners. Downes had general contractor Phil Milana Construction Company install heavy-duty, soundproof, aluminum-frame, double-pane Jeld-Wen windows. He demonstrates the success of the new windows by opening one during one of more than 40 flyovers that occur midday. With all the windows closed, the difference is dramatic.

“These windows give us the quiet that we need to be able to live here,” Downes says. “Also, the windows match the original exterior appearance of the home, which will warm the heart of the most ardent preservationists.”

The home’s décor is still evolving. Downes didn’t want to furnish the 6,000- square-foot home in Victorian or Craftsman style. Since he was keeping all the historic woodwork intact, he couldn’t see bringing in the oak furnishings popular in Craftsman-era homes.

“The interior is light and bright,” he says. “You’ll see plenty of white in wall paint and lighter, brighter colors in the furnishings to offset the darkness of the wood.”

Downes and Borkum reflect a more European attitude, where ancient exteriors are preserved while the interior reflects a more exciting, modern flair. The furnishings will mirror the taste of a minimalist architect, especially the kitchen and personal spaces: bedrooms, seven baths, his/her studios and twin upstairs solariums surrounded by tall casement windows.

“It was the most modern home in San Diego when built,” says Downes, “and once we’re finished, it will be the most modern home in San Diego— only this time as a remodel.”

Historic HouseHistory of the Home 

BANKER FREDERICK JACKSON and his wife, Mary, had their home built in 1910 to capture the majestic panorama of San Diego Bay. Constructed in a precursor style that would later be more widely known as Prairie, the Arts & Crafts home with frieze Greek flourishes around eaves was built with hollow clay brick and stucco. The home was considered very progressive in an era that was still dominated by vertical Victorian architecture. Frederick Jackson, an early executive with San Diego Gas & Electric, was on the board of the Panama-California International Exposition of 1915.

Legend has it that Kate Sessions, the mother of Balboa Park landscaping, planted the Australian tea tree on the grounds.

In 1927, the home was sold to Laurence and Grace Klauber. The Klauber family was active in social, civic and philanthropic circles for decades. Laurence was an early CEO of SDG&E and one of the region’s top herpetologists. Many of his snake storage units are still on the site. He died in 1968. Grace Klauber lived in the home until her death in 1990 at the age of 106. The home’s architects, Train & Williams, worked successfully as a regional firm in residential and commercial projects. The firm is known for its design of Los Angeles’ historic Angel Flight Railway, a hill-climbing blend of elevator and vertical railway, and the historic First National Bank building in Long Beach.

SAN DIEGO HISTORICAL SOCIETY/PHOTOGRAPHIC ARCHIVES/BALBOA PARK  

 

SBD House American Original: Built in 1910 by architects Train & Williams, a prominent Southern California firm, the Jackson/Klauber house reflects Arts & Crafts Prairie design, a popular and totally American architectural style (1900-1920).
Wood and Light Wood and Light: With so much deeply stained decorative interior wood in Arts & Crafts designs, era designers created large west-facing windows to flood the dining room with natural light. New oak flooring was added because of extensive termite damage to the original wood.
Wood and light window :Wood and Light: With so much deeply stained decorative interior wood in Arts & Crafts designs, era designers created large west-facing windows to flood the dining room with natural light. New oak flooring was added because of extensive termite damage to the original wood.
 Aerie wood The Study: Tucked away from the main part of the house, the study is a showcase of Arts & Crafts style, including the green tile, copper hood, Roycroft details in the wood and a window seat.
 Airy aerie Airy Aerie: The east-facing sleeping porches were added later in the history of the home. Upstairs rooms in Arts & Crafts homes traditionally were painted. Borkum and Downes will keep the sun porches white to showcase the more-contemporary furnishings on the way. Below: Original street gate and fencing.

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