Past Perfect

San Diego At Home


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Point Loma’s Robin and Gordon Carrier patiently and lovingly incorporated creative new ideas into a century-old plantation-style home

ROBIN AND GORDON CARRIER have rewarding careers in the design industry. He’s a leading architect in the West (principal of Carrier Johnson Architects), and she operates a thriving interior design firm (Robin Wilson Interior Design). With so much creative talent under one roof, the remodel of their Point Loma residence was bound to be interesting.

The Carriers’ architecturally unique Hawaiian plantation– style bungalow began life as one of seven similar structures commissioned in 1901 by the Point Loma International Theosophical community, an early-20th-century experiment in attaining lasting peace through universal brotherhood. The octagonal bungalow was moved to its present location in the 1930s as the movement faded and its properties were sold off to various owners.

Because the term “bungalow” is so associated with the Arts & Crafts movement in America, many of us don’t realize this house style originated in India. The Carriers’ distinct lanai-style cottage has more Asian features than its mainland Craftsman cousins. In its history, the couple’s bungalow included a circular opening in the roof (now closed) to allow hearth smoke to escape.

The Carrier home of today is reflective of intelligent contemporary design that is also respectful of its humble Indian roots. “We wanted to respect the older lines of the house but at the same time modernize,” says Gordon. “It’s an old house, and a lot of wood had to be replaced because of salt-air weathering.”

Robin wanted each space to be stylish but comfortable. “We live in every square inch of this house,” she says. “We wanted the look to be contemporary but certainly not sterile—as some modern design can be.” Comfort came first, especially in the outdoor areas, master bath and the kitchen.

Since the 1930s, two wings have been added to the eight-sided original bungalow. The wings act as arms embracing a newly installed front-yard oasis. Set deep in the lot, the home is approached via a winding path and a small bridge. Gentle sounds of the waterfall and trickling stream add to the journey.

Pausing at the bridge, visitors will notice the light-green exterior paint draws a contrast with the deeper green hues of the garden. Closer inspection reveals the roof is contemporary metal shingle, edged with modern custom gutters to accent the horizontal nature of the roofline and site plan.

Around back, the Carriers have made a stylish compound of entertainment areas with varying shapes, functions and attitudes. To enjoy San Diego’s year-round mild climate, they have maximized indoor/outdoor living by creating nooks for a checkerboard dance floor, water sculpture, potting, cooking and fireplace seating. The rusted steel, concrete and galvanized aluminum of the centrally located fireplace add a vertical shape in the yard and offer contrast to the surrounding landscaping. The nearby water wall provides soothing ambience as background to a quiet dinner or morning coffee conversations.

The interior radiates from the original eight-sided shape of the main structure. Picture a pizza with eight slices. If you place the lip of a glass in the center of the pizza, you’ll have a circle. That’s the Carrier living room and the crux of the design. This central “eye” is the focal point of the home’s architecture. Rooms radiate outward along the thrust lines into truly creative new spaces. The result: No two rooms are alike.

The Carriers respected the original space by maintaining the original, century-old straight-grain fir flooring; re-creating the interior redwood tongue-and-groove walls; and emulating the patterns and shapes of the exposed ceiling with new corrugated metal and stained woods.

The genius of the Carrier remodel lies in how the pair created a fully functional, expanded modern kitchen from a difficult wedge-shaped space. The solution was basic geometry: They expanded the triangular space by removing an old interior wall, thus allowing the spokes, or thrust lines, to expand, forming a larger angle. By enclosing the V-shaped lines with an arc wall, the square footage of the kitchen doubled.

Another important change was designing the entry to gently guide guests to the public areas. Guests don’t have to pass through private rooms to reach the party.

The entry has no foyer. Instead, you step into a small hallway area. Opposite the front door are a wall of windows and a glass-filled door that leads to the courtyard labyrinth. Left are the private rooms of the house. Right are the most-active areas, where the original octagon cottage is the centerpiece of dining, living and family rooms, den, home office and kitchen.

The Carriers’ remodel showcases the best of the present and past: the comfort of old wood in a vintage home, plus all the conveniences and technology of modern living.

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