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San Diego by Design

Comfort Zone


DAN AND SALLY SHEA’S country-French home in Fairbanks Ranch is a family compound the equal—and in many cases better—of some legendary East Coast summer digs in Kennebec and Hyannis Port. The Sheas have an edge because their 7,000-square-foot house is on a 2-acre site in the sun zone east of Interstate 5 in the rolling Rancho Santa Fe hills. Climate and comfort are the operative words.

Since it’s in a pricy gated enclave less than a generation old, you might figure the Sheas bought the home when it was new—in the early 1980s—when the area was first developed. Actually, no. They found one of the few fixer-uppers in Fairbanks Ranch.

“When we pulled up in front of what was to be our new home, the real estate agent explained the house had gone through a period of ‘delayed maintenance,’ ” says Sally, a CPA and co-owner (with partner Colleen Trimble) of three Fabric Discounters outlets in the county.

“In other words, it needed a whole lot of cleanup, updating and tons of work,” adds Dan, who’s a successful venture capitalist and operator of more than 100 fast-food restaurants in the West, as well as the upscale Donovan’s Steak & Chop House in University City. With eyes wide open, the Sheas purchased the roomy, trilevel residence in 2000 and updated it as a family project.

“We had previous experience restoring our other homes over the years, so we knew what to expect,” Dan says. “We hired architectural and engineering consultants, who walked us through the permit process. But overall, we prefer to do it all ourselves, including the interior design.”

The couple divided the project. Dan focused on the exterior; Sally on interior décor and details. “We concentrated on one area at a time,” she says.

The project’s first challenge was to replace the flooring and add new window treatments and wall coverings, says Sally. “Nothing in the house had been replaced in 17 years.”

Today, the home serves as a family center. The Sheas have three school-age children, who have a way of bringing friends home. Dan had a pool storage area turned into a poolside cabaña by taking out the structure’s water-facing wall. “It’s temperate year-round, so we didn’t enclose the cabaña or our main family/patio area with walls or doors,” he explains.

What the Sheas did add were plenty of plasma screens around the house (12 at last count), plus many built-in patio heaters to go with the home’s 17 rooms, seven bathrooms and seven fireplaces. The family areas and the main entertainment area in the home have state-of-the-art wet bars. And Dan acknowledges there is a secret passage that runs from one wing of the house (upstairs) through the hidden wine cellar and down to the main bar via a corridor worthy of an English manor.

“The home wasn’t without some merit,” Dan says. “It was built in 1983 by Murphy Construction. The ‘bones’ were in good shape,” as was the entry of the home, which acquaints first-time visitors with exquisite original paneling and flooring made from Hawaiian koa. “We added a koa staircase.”

The front door is a show-stopper. The arched door is two stories tall with leaded glasswork. “We get a lot of compliments since we’ve added that,” says Dan.

Sally’s décor is sophisticated yet designed for comfort. With a minimum of three kids in the house at all times, many of the fine touches are on the walls. “I collect early- to mid- 20th-century plein-air paintings by Frank Montague Moore, who was famous for painting the covered bridge at the Ritz- Carlton Huntington Hotel in Pasadena,” she says. “We have quality furniture we bought when we got married that has some wonderful memories for us, so rather than replace, we re-cover, which is what got me interested in fabrics. Now, fabrics is my career.”

The spaciousness of the pool, cabaña area and the landscaped rear yard make for a five-star, resort-style party area, complementing family and professional entertainment needs. The pool is very large with a spa and swim-up dining table. Originally, it was very deep.

“Considering younger children,” Dan says, “we raised the shallow end, and for safety took out the diving board. The board has been replaced with a beautiful water feature, which doubles as an entertainment buffet.”

The “back 40” includes an orchard with citrus, avocado, figs, macadamia trees and a raised area for vegetable beds. There’s also Shea Stadium, the family’s sports mini-complex consisting of the pool and a sizable soccer field, as well as several rose gardens.

Besides being a classy and comfortable home, the Shea compound is a business center. Two separate offices are the CEO bases for their individual businesses.

“We work 95 percent of the time from home,” he says.

“When we first got married we had a beautiful partners desk made, one where you are opposite each other. . .”

At this point, Sally laughs and interrupts: “That lasted one day. We now have separate offices at opposite ends of the house.”

Sally prefers the sanctity of her office. Dan, on the other hand, had the house completely wi-fied so he could wander everywhere with his laptop. His favorite laptop perch is in the family patio, looking out to the landscaped backyard and newly revamped pool area.

“We like it here,” Dan says with a smile. “And you can’t beat the commute. 

the great room Great Room: The Shea siblings relax while catching a late-afternoon baseball game on the family room plasma TV. Year-round fair weather keeps the doors open to the adjacent pool cabaña, created by CIC Development. Painting by Antoinette Mizisin.
the indoor-outdoor patio Outside In: The indoor-outdoor patio (left) doubles as a family room and office for Dan Shea, who likes the casual work atmosphere for conducting day-to-day business——while keeping an eye on the kids or watching sports on the plasma TV. The large farm table was designed by the Sheas.
the living room Eclectic Living Room: The formal living room (above) is set in its own wing, and doubles as the family music room. Period furniture has been collected by the family over the years. Fabrics for the furnishings and drapes from Sally Shea’s Fabric Discounters. Fabrication by Ming’s Upholstery.
the home's exterior Shea Compound: Situated on a cul-de-sac in Fairbanks Ranch, the recently remodeled home of Sally and Dan Shea is comfortable, roomy and built for an active family. The 17-room, French country home, with seven fireplaces, is also headquarters to a restaurant empire and a three-outlet fabric retailer.
the pool Splashy Backyard: Most summers find the Shea children (from left, William, 11, Richel, 7, and Sarah, 9) enjoying the family-size pool or playing sports and games on the grassy soccer field nearby. Pool remodel by Gardener Pools.
the entry Grand Entry: The exotic Hawaiian koa wood used for the stairs, banisters and bar was recently installed by Timeless Wood. Flooring throughout is oak, installed by Metro Flooring. The oil painting in the hall is one of a collection of works by Frank Montague Moore.
the guest saloon Guest Saloon: The 17-room house is in constant use as a gathering place for family, friends and business associates. The saloon is connected with a “secret” passageway to the upstairs living area.

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