By Thomas Shess
Southern California’s romance with red-tiled, Spanish-influenced architecture shows no sign of fading. Variations of this warm and comfortable style include Mission, Monterrey, Rancho Hacienda and Pueblo Revival. This month’s featured home is a fine example of adobe construction, quite a rare Spanish Revival theme.
When public relations specialist Rob Akins and graphic artist Mark Berry purchased their 1957 custom adobe home in the foothills of La Mesa, it was a diamond in the rough. The owners named it Casa dos Palmas, after the two towering palms in the backyard. And then they set out to accentuate the warm, rustic charm of the place—with its generous rooms, multiple fireplaces, beamed high ceilings and panoramic views—by infusing an international look with contemporary furnishings, extensive art and custom lighting.
“The house was a classic Weir Brothers design—soaring open beams of solid cedar, 16-inch-thick walls of adobe, and artisan fireplaces,” says Akins. “It was also dark and dated, with little connection to the outdoors. We wanted to create a home that was an extension of the outdoors.”
Removing the original ’50s patio doors and windows, the owners installed custom wood French doors and windows with bronze hardware. Simple Sautillo tile replaced dated shag carpeting, while sisal carpeting went into bedrooms and hallways. Berry designed the backyard with a dramatic disappearing-edge pool, terrace, deck and outdoor dining pavilion (featured in San Diego Magazine June 2000) that takes in the 270-degree view of the mountains to the east and south. Abundant landscaping creates privacy as well as providing color to the mini-compound.
After World War II, brothers Jack and Larry Weir worked together through the 1960s, building adobe homes in Escondido, Pala, Fallbrook, Pauma Valley and La Mesa. When building materials were scarce after the war, Jack Weir built a home out of “dirt-cheap” adobe bricks for his then-young family. When a post-war house hunter offered Jack $15,000 for that first home, a custom homebuild-ing business using mud bricks was launched.
Casa dos Palmas, like other thick-walled adobe structures, provides an environment that is cool in the summer and warm in winter. While adobe remains an economical building material, modern seismic building codes have blunted adobe construction for most of the past half-century.
Recently, Akins and Berry purchased a small farm in Sonoma County, moved into their condo on Balboa Park and sold Casa dos Palmas to architect Jim Tanner and his wife, Annemarie Eckhardt, who split their time between San Diego and San Francisco. Tanner is a partner in TannerHecht Architecture, designers of several high-profile projects in San Diego, including Icon at the former ReinCarnation building.
Now, Tanner and business partner David Hecht have started designing Akins’ and Berry’s Sonoma home, which features a newly planted olive grove as its focal point. Splitting their time between San Diego and Sonoma County, Akins and Berry now have the best of both worlds—a Town & Country lifestyle that suits them just fine.