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San Diego by Design

Seamless Sophistication


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LATE-AFTERNOON SUNSHINE glints through a swaying forest of eucalyptus leading to the newly renovated Smith residence in Rancho Santa Fe. Eyes immediately focus on the sleek horizontal wood beams and stacked-flagstone masonry of the contemporary splitlevel home. At first glance, the image from the cul-de-sac driveway calls to mind a Frank Lloyd Wright design—but the old master never built a home in San Diego County.

Close up, you see the masonry is real —stone upon flat stone. Ancient Chinese garden gates and aging Asian statuary lions stand guard but offer no hint what lies beyond the entry.

Inside, images of Wright’s Prairie influence give way to a multilevel world of sophisticated, 18th-century country French and English design, painstakingly created by Marsha Paine, ASID, of Nettle Creek Interiors.

Four key elements immediately grab your attention: Paine’s décor, impeccably chosen and placed; elegantly appointed wood painted a soft cream shade that covers the molding, cabinets, displays, door trim, paneling and beams; built-in glass cabinets displaying an amazing collection of early American tin toys; and antique furnishings, chosen by the homeowners one piece at a time from around the world.

“This is our third major renovation since we purchased the home in 1976,” says Curtis Smith, a retired SAIC nuclear scientist. “The challenge was to seamlessly integrate the Wright-like design with our vision of a European country house. We accomplished that by choosing antiques from the same period, if not the same country.”

The Smiths credit Paine and the woodworking genius of David Frisk for the final results. “We found ourselves making changes from the original design plans as we went along, because we began to better understand what we wanted,” Curtis explains. He concedes that probably wasn’t the most efficient way to renovate, “but as we began to see improvements— like the excellent millwork—we made a design change to plaster the rough-sawn cedar between the vaulted ceiling beams.

That provided a more refined look and immediately helped integrate the look of the old part of the house with the new.”

Paine was impressed with the Smiths’ eye for quality and functional antiques. “Throughout the years, they have acquired many outstanding pieces,” the designer says. “They’re usually very practical choices, such as an armoire for storage, chests for nightstands, and chairs.”

The recent renovation has added a living room, library, retreat, exercise room, two baths, wine cellar, laundry room and three-car garage with workroom and storage. The finished effort yielded 6,000 square feet on three levels, including four bedrooms and five baths.

Linda Smith now has a walk-in gallery closet and private retreat in a wing away from the rest of the home. And she selected the antique Spanish prison gate that guards the entrance to her husband’s under-the-stairs wine cellar.

The Smiths anticipate this renovation will be the last. (Its completion dovetailed with Curtis’ retirement from SAIC.) They clung to the premise that this was to be their dream home, and they would not compromise on detail. In the end, the home is a collection of passions and a testament to taste and sophistication.

the owner next to an antique wine rack Realm of Antiques: Homeowner Curtis Smith selects dinner wine from a rack on a tin-topped bistro buffet, both 18th-century French antiques. The 6- foot mirror is from Nettle Creek Interiors. The 17th-century Spanish jail door has been retrofitted with glass backing and hermetically sealed to keep the wine cellar cool. Flooring is hand-hewn distressed walnut from Patina Old World Flooring, Los Angeles, installed locally by Classic Hardwood Floors. Stair rails are alder wood.
the exterior door Realm of Antiques: A symphony of California fieldstone, used extensively throughout the 6,000-square-foot home, greets visitors. The entry door (circa 1840), with original iron detailing, is an elegant contrast to the mid-20th-century architecture. Genghis Khan Furniture, San Diego, found the door in China’s Shaa- Xi Province. Two 18th-century lions carved from limestone guard the gate.
the living room Designing with Antiques: The theme of California fieldstone continues on the fireplace and wall beneath new windows, by Pella. The area rug atop the walnut floors is a late-19th-century original from India. Sofa, matching chairs and iron-and-glass coffee table are custom-made by Nettle Creek Interiors. The 18th-century French console table is in cherry wood. The marble bust is 17th-century French. A 1950s plein-air painting sits on an antique bamboo easel.
a showcase of toys Toys Showcased: A world-class portfolio of 19th-century American toys is showcased in six glass displays created by master woodworker David Frisk.
the library Gentleman’s Library: Christian’s Cabinets made the shelf units and many of the aged-pine cabinets. Nettle Creek Interiors reupholstered the English antique chairs in red leather; the ottoman on the Portuguese area rug (from the late 1800s) is a French antique. Desk is 19th-century American, with leather inserts. The hickory floor is a basketweave pattern. Antique globes are from Curtis Smith’s collection.
the lady's retreat Lady’s Retreat: On the top level, above the garage, Linda Smith’s cozy hideaway doubles as a guestroom. The antique platform rocker is hand-tufted and upholstered in the same Schumacher & Company fabric as the window valances and shades. A Tiffany-style lamp painted in Chinese red lacquer, a family heirloom, sits on a writing desk by Baker. New shelves are by San Diegan David Frisk. Carpeting is wallto- wall broadloom. The 18th-century American bed has a carved spool pattern on the head- and footboards. Table and chairs in foreground are 19th-century American maple.

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