San Diego by Design
Getaway by the Bay
By Thomas Shess
Fred Gemmell, owner of Matrix Design, is a multifaceted Southern California interior and furnishings designer. The Paige bayside residence in Coronado Cays is a clear example of this veteran designer’s professional range. While architect Gordon Beekley did an admirable job on the home’s four-level, whitewashed exterior, Gemmell’s colorful interior is the show-stopper.
Accented with original art furniture by Gemmell, the Cays home has been transformed into comfortable elegance using exotic African hardwood, Jerusalem gold limestone flooring and natural reed window coverings. Furnishing styles and origins range from the Far East to Africa.
Because the Cays home is a weekend and summer retreat for a family based in northern California, Gemmell’s commission was to create instant simplicity with “smart-house” technology to allow the owners to come and go with ease. A flick of a switch puts the 6,500-square-foot house into hibernation, turning off all the lights, lowering the heat or raising the air conditioning, drawing the shades and initiating a cycle of timed lights.
A columned portico and gate lead to a small, gardened courtyard with broad limestone steps to the front door. The ground level includes living room, dining area, powder room, wet bar and a kitchen that’s a classic mix of wood and metal magic. Gemmell chose makare, an African wood, to give the kitchen cabinetry clean lines and a warm, exotic look.
The master bath features curtains of cast glass that enclose the steam room, shower and toilet room. The bathtub is faced with eucalyptus burl wood and set in Jerusalem gold limestone, the same as the stone deck flooring.
The lighter shades of the ceiling and stone flooring moderate the extensive use of makare wood in the cabinetry and peninsula bar area. Counters and backsplash are of Labrador antique granite. Appliances: Dacor Epicurean cooktop and double ovens, Bosch dishwasher. The sinks are by Franke, and the faucets are Grohe.
Taking advantage of year-round local sunshine, the dining room opens onto a deck area that leads to the dock access and family boat. An interior staircase accesses the three-car garage below grade and leads to the upper floors.
The second level is reserved for guests. The third level is the owners’ private space, with two master bedrooms, an office, a crow’s-nest sitting room with domed roof, and a very creative and stylized bath.
The top floor opens directly onto a dining-and-cocktail deck, perfect for viewing sunsets, and has a built-in Viking barbecue. A signature Gemmell touch is seen in the makare wood-paneled art niche, which has hidden doors that open to reveal a powder room on one side and a wet bar on the other.
Overall, this Cays home is smart, stylish and original. It is a good neighbor in a rigidly design-controlled enclave south of Coronado along the Silver Strand. The modern house possesses efficiency and casual sophistication that’s a trademark of San Diego waterfront design.