All the Right Angles
By Thomas Shess
Most architects long to build their dream homes. Skip Haugh is no exception. He and his wife, Anne, an interior designer, had completely remodeled their Pacific Beach home—for which Skip received several design awards—but knew they would outgrow it when their two young sons became teenagers. They kept their eyes open for a buildable lot, but it had to be in the neighborhood; Skip’s an avid surfer and was spoiled by his one-block walk to the beach.
When Skip and Anne first spotted their future home site—then home to a duplex—more than a decade ago, they rejected it. Their sons, Alex and Beau, were preschoolers, and there was virtually no yard. How do you raise two boys without a yard?
But when they revisited the duplex years later, they quickly concluded a yard was no longer a necessity. They could orient their new home with views to the ocean and build as many decks as needed for outdoor activities.
Shortly after the Haughs purchased and leveled the duplex, a two-year design process began. Equipped with compass and ladders, Skip recorded optimum view points from all sides of the site. “Going in, I was very aware of code limits,” he says, “but I spent a good deal of my career drawing plans for other beachfront homes, all within the same zone. It wasn’t easy, but I knew what to expect.”
Since the only water views were in the rear of the lot, this native San Diegan decided to design the house backward. The “show” side of the home would face the sloping coastal canyon that has been preserved by the city in perpetuity as open space. The more utilitarian aspects of the home, like garage and laundry, would be up front. “Solving this challenge—to frame ocean views from every living space —ultimately defined the formal concept for the project,” says Haugh.
The concept that emerged was a zigzag arrangement, horizontally as well as vertically. On the seaward side, the diagonal design of the sawtooth narrows from the street to the back of the lot. This affords each interior space an ocean view, each level having large mitered corner windows. Vertically, a similarly stepped sequence of five floors follows the canyon terrain to maximize views from top to bottom.
Utilizing this sawtooth design, each level is comfortably tall. “There is a real sense of spaciousness, especially at the entry level,” says Haugh. “There are no 8-foot ceilings.”
Once permits and plans were approved, the couple made the next key decision. They hired Louis Beacham Construction as contractor. The decision led not only to a splendid home but to a lasting friendship. Haugh met with Beacham and the job foreman each morning before going to his “real job” at Salerno Livingston Architects, where he was a principal partner. (Today, Skip is retired, while Anne continues her design career.)
A tour of the residence starts at the top, where a rooftop observation deck—one of six decks—offers a commanding, 360-degree view of the city lights, Mexico, Mount Soledad, the Laguna Mountains, Point Loma and the Pacific. The Haugh home is as complex as a Chinese puzzle box, with juxtaposed spaces and diagonal patterns repeated inside and out as decorative elements. The colors and natural materials express the Haughs’ contemporary style.
The Chinese puzzle reveals its mysteries as the tour’s circular descent begins: As one steps onto the next landing—actually an open mezzanine that wraps the entry space—a commanding view of the ocean and western sky unfolds.
The kitchen, planned as the epicenter of activity, contains no upper cabinets to obstruct views and few walls to impede conversation between dining and living spaces. Its design is derived from a fusion of dissimilar forms, materials and colors: Curvilinear elements are juxtaposed with diagonals; the warmth of wood balances the cool sophistication of granite and laminate; sage-green walls are subtle backdrops for mahogany-colored granite, sienna tones of redwood soffits and pearwood cabinets.
By the time you reach the street level, the design concept begins to make sense. It possesses a sculptural quality as a result of the overlapping shapes and unconventional volumes. Anne Haugh’s interior design offers warm, natural materials and subtle earth-tone stucco colors chosen as counterpoints to the bold angular forms of the house.
The interplay of light against the countless angles within the house creates an ever-changing color palette. This visual freshness creates a sense of continual motion. What can get lost in this kaleidoscope of activity is the detail of the design. The geometry succeeds. All the corners meet, of course. Tile and stone squares meet and match. But to Skip Haugh, the joy is in the details.
Quarried slate in rich earth tones is a major unifying component. It begins as an entry walk, connecting with slate walls and planters, and continues in a floating diagonal beam that wraps the house. The flow continues inside the house and out again, as flooring, stairs, patios and planters provide continuity from front sidewalk to lower canyon deck. Anne Haugh carefully aligned each cut of the slate, meticulously matching the grain.
Redwood is another major unifying element. Suspended above the window walls of dining, kitchen and living spaces, the angled redwood soffits conceal ducts and recessed lighting and create pockets that hide raised blinds, further maximizing views. These soffits extend from inside to the exterior, floating outside the sawtooth ribbon of windows as passive solar shading for all south and west exposures.
What makes the Haugh residence a quintessential San Diego home is that indoors can instantly be outdoors by merely sliding open a glass door and stepping onto a deck. For the architect, who can check surf conditions each day from a lower deck, his family’s dream home is everything it’s stacked up to be.