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San Diego by Design

A Family Affair


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LARRY GRATT is a classic gentleman. He’s old school, yet modern. He’s the guy everyone wants for a neighbor, a father-inlaw or to fill out a golf foursome. Good times abound in the sound of his voice.

The 1960s saying “what you see is what you get” describes this easy-going, retired engineer and scientist. And when it came to building his dream home a few years ago, not many were surprised when he turned the project into a family affair.

Gratt and his wife, Dona, searched a long time to find the perfect lot on which to build. Gratt says his better half eventually found the site, a corner lot in the Barber Tract section of La Jolla, not far from Windansea Beach. The lot’s location, on a curving street with a wide intersection, ensured an unobstructed view of the Pacific.

Robyn Gratt Sealander, the oldest of the couple’s four daughters, holds a degree from the prestigious Columbia School of Architecture. The New York campus is where Robyn met her husband, fellow architect Michael Sealander.

Gratt hired Robyn and Mike’s firm to design the new home, and Robyn was tapped as lead architect. The young couple worked on the project even after moving their Sealander Studio from San Francisco to Brooklin, Maine.

But tragedy lay ahead: Dona Gratt succumbed to a fatal illness.

Some thought Larry Gratt might abandon the project and move to smaller quarters. No way. Gratt saw a tough road ahead, and he needed his family around him. He gave the green light to continue the project.

The home today is a shiny edifice, with plenty of glass and creative lighting. Even on the grayest day, the residence displays a sunny disposition. The Sealanders are accomplished architects. The 4,000-square-foot home on two levels is innovative, modern, bright and open.

“The home was built at an angle on a threesided lot to maximize views from almost every room,” says Gratt.

The concrete walls were poured on-site, and the architects had the concrete forms lined with Formica, a laminate, so the finished product would be as smooth as polished stone. The electrical system is state-of-the-art—even the plasma TV wiring was figured into the walls before the concrete was poured.

Creative touches include the circular spa in the side yard, reflecting the home’s rounded windows.

Next to the spa, a smaller, shallow pool was built. “That’s for the infants in the family,” Gratt says, “It’s only a few inches deep, and I wanted a place for them to splash around, too.”

The home is a testament to strong roots. No matter that family members are scattered from San Diego to Maine, the house that Dona and Larry Gratt dreamed of is a magnet for daughters, sons-in-law, grandchildren, in-laws and friends. There are quiet times, too, when Gratt can sit with his coffee on one of the home’s many decks, look out to the ocean and simply remember.

the living room  Living Room: The fireplace is poured-in-place concrete, made in a Formica mold to create a smooth finish. Living room chairs and leather sofa (by B&B Italia from MPLA & Associates, La Jolla) sit atop bamboo flooring.
 the dining room Dining Room: Dining room table and chairs from Divan + Studio, La Jolla.
 the kitchen Kitchen: Homeowner Larry Gratt starts the morning amid birch cabinets, blue pearl granite countertops and Viking range with Dacor oven and hood.
 the balcony Balcony: Balcony chairs and table by Design Within Reach. Railing panels are holepunched
 the stairs Stairs: Mike Sealander designed the painted iron stair railing with cherry wood stairs. The shaped window reflects an edgy modernity.
the home's exterior  House: The home was built to last by Robyn Gratt Sealander, AIA, and designer Mike Sealander of Sealander Studio, Brooklin, Maine. The home is predominantly pouredin- place concrete and steel, with exterior wood siding. Primary construction is by Louis Beacham Construction, with additional work by Lee Austin Construction.
 the spa next to the pool Vista: Vista’s Southland Pool/Plumbing installed an adult/child spa for Gratt to enjoy with his grandchildren. Landscaping by Gudion’s Landscape, Vista.
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