Home: Instant Landmark
Jon and Chris Baker enjoy the long-established feel of their new home in Coronado
Architect Jon Baker spends his days at a 300-person firm leading teams that create multimillion-dollar medical centers and other complex projects. So when he had a chance to get back to the drawing board and design every detail of his own home, he seized it, rendering his wife a self-described “house plan widow.”
But before this opportunity came tragedy. The Bakers’ former house in Rancho Bernardo burned to the ground in the 2007 Witch Creek fire. The couple, daughter and family dog had only minutes to outrun a 60-foot wall of flames. They made it to safety with just a few possessions. Given the trauma, Jon and Christine Baker, a real estate agent, never considered rebuilding their cherished home in The Trails. Instead, they found a special property on Coronado, far from the wildfire danger zone.
“Everybody sees it,” says Jon of the site with a 200-foot-long curved frontage near Glorietta Bay. It seemed to demand a sprawling house of lasting distinction.
So he designed what became an instant landmark: a commanding, two-story Arts & Crafts – style home with a front porch the Bakers use often to greet their neighbors. A lovely layered garden, designed by Nowell & Associates, brims with roses and trumpet vines. An old jacaranda tree that the Bakers transplanted with care stands watch over a side yard. Constructed of redwood shingles and fire-resistant, cement-board siding that imitates clapboard, the house looks more like a lodge than the 5,800-square-foot mansion it is.
“If we had passed up this property, we would have always regretted it,” Chris says, pleased with the way the home fits into the neighborhood. Heads do turn to take in the wide, sheltering eaves, banks of windows trimmed in red and a stunning stained-glass entry ablaze with panels of stylized jacaranda blossoms, also designed by Jon. It’s a 21st-century version of one of Greene & Greene’s “ultimate bungalows.”
“There are many examples of Craftsman architecture, but Greene & Greene were the unmatched masters, in my opinion,” says Jon, referring to the firm of brothers Charles and Henry Sumner Greene, who injected an Asian influence into the popular Arts & Crafts movement a century ago. “Their work in and around Pasadena is inspirational.”
Inside, Jon’s wood detailing recalls the Greenes’ massive, stacked wood beams and trim, but with a lighter hand. To keep the interiors bright, he stayed away from the extensive wood paneling they used, except on key walls.
“I love the Arts & Crafts style. I always have,” Jon says, seated beside the fireplace in an intimate living room, one of his favorite spots. “I reacquainted myself with detailing and did a lot of research,” including revisiting Greene & Greene’s Gamble House in Pasadena with Chris. She enthusiastically recalls touring the workshops of the Old California Lantern Company in Orange, where they placed orders for their handmade copper-and-glass exterior lighting fixtures.
To accomplish quality construction in every detail, the Bakers turned to Mako Construction of Coronado. In owner Donald “Duffy” Lektorich, Jon found a kindred spirit. Not in 30 years, he says, had the accomplished architect, a partner in NTD Architecture and Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, encountered such a simpatico collaborator, perhaps because Lektorich had trained to be an architect and they speak the same language.
“If Duffy was not satisfied with the work, he’d rip it out himself,” Jon says. The first floor unfolds via a contemporary open floor plan, except for a master bedroom suite tucked away for privacy. The dining room adjoins the library, separated only by a two-sided fireplace, which was Chris’ idea. It’s one of five fireplaces Jon designed for the house, with a sixth built of stone for outdoor entertaining. The kitchen opens onto a large family room and includes windows that fold to one side to connect with the covered breakfast patio.
“Other big houses seem cavernous,” Chris notes. “We worked really hard to make rooms that are comfortable and inviting.”
A grand staircase and a wood-paneled elevator connect the two floors. Upstairs, a second master-bedroom suite and three bedroom suites are arranged around the central Man Room, as Jon calls it, where a wet bar includes a built-in coffeemaker accessible to all who sleep here. In this clubby atmosphere, Jon and company can play pool or chess in front of a raised fireplace or retire to a private balcony. “If I were going to take up smoking cigars, this is where I would do it,” he says.
Just paces away from the Man Room are a pair of French doors leading to Jon’s version of a Craftsman staple — a sleeping porch. But this is an updated version that grew into a sitting room with one open-air side overlooking Coronado Golf Course. The Bakers find themselves and their guests drawn to this room, where Chris likes to take her morning coffee and read. From a corner of this room, stairs lead to a roof deck with sweeping views from Point Loma to the San Diego – Coronado Bay Bridge to downtown San Diego.
For all its creature comforts, the house is also notable as Coronado’s first LEED-certified home, boasting eco-friendly features from tankless water heaters and a water-saving sprinkler system to energy-efficient glass and appliances to low-VOC paints and adhesives. “We do a lot of LEED projects in the [NTD] office. I wanted to show how you can integrate LEED strategies and still have a warm and inviting home,” says Jon.
“Duffy and I were talking one day,” he recalls of the early stages of this project. “We said we should create a home that looks like it’s been here 60 years, using materials from that time. Then people would start to remember this as the house they rode bikes by when they were kids.”