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Inside Story


THE VIEW FROM THE RIDGE above La Jolla Shores’ beach is stunning. The panorama from La Jolla Cove to Torrey Pines is the standard by which the world’s finest beaches are judged.

Mara and Larry Lawrence recently built a spectacular home on that westfacing ridgeline. The couple hired San Diego interior designer David Robinson (of David Robinson Design, Inc.) to make it worthy of the scenery and the lofty (and undisclosed) price tag.

Two years ago, Robinson, who makes a good living designing San Diego’s more successful restaurants, accepted the challenge to try his hand at another residential commission. The results are in: The new home is an epitome of Southern California indoor/outdoor living, with a world-class view as the kicker.

A little backstory: As much as Mara and Larry Lawrence admire the stunning modernism of architect Jeff Brizzes (Pacific Group Architecture), they say their recently completed 6,000-square-foot home is a triumph because of the creative integration of the interior architecture by Robinson. The pair say that high praise for Robinson is no slight to Brizzes, who, in fact, invited the interior designer to collaborate with him after both had successfully worked together on previous residential projects.

Robinson—who accepts only one residential commission a year—has few peers when it comes to transforming blueprints into a finished product that captures the architect’s vision and homeowner dreams. “I call a project a success by keeping everyone moving forward,” he says. “Problems have to be anticipated, and if homeowners have difficulty articulating what they want, it’s my responsibility to outpace their expectations.”

Robinson, who holds a degree in architecture from McGill University, approaches his interiors with an architect’s eye. He has a flair for softening hard surfaces. Because stained concrete, limestone and hardwoods dominate the interior of the Lawrence home, Robinson created a vaulted ceiling of cedar with fabric-wrapped panels to soften the sound. His experience with acoustics can be appreciated in such restaurant triumphs as George’s at the Cove, Pacifica del Mar, Mille Fleurs, Bertrand at Mr. A’s and Jack’s in La Jolla.

Another Robinson hallmark is the merging of indoors and outdoors. The Lawrence home, which resembles a nautilus shell opening to the west, has pathways of inset beach stones and fossil shells. The ammonite shells, reportedly millions of years old, vary in size from 5 to 10 inches in diameter.

“The idea is to discover the shells, which are randomly placed in inconspicuous places in the floors,” Robinson says. The insets are metaphors for the streams that flow from land to sea, visually connecting indoor and outdoor living areas.

He employs the latest technology in control systems to create his artful light designs, using light like a paintbrush to define spaces and to create mood and character. Robinson’s choices in millwork are equally stunning, with custom cabinetry design flowing easily through the home. Unstained, flat-cut birch is integrated with iron and steel components. The birch millwork is composed of simple lines and combined with patinas of raw steel, brushed stainless steel and, in some instances, inlaid with wood and pebbles. An intentional geometric pattern of quilting has been incorporated into the cabinetry to reflect the Lawrences’ fondness for contemporary Americana.

The kitchen provides the easel and canvas for Robinson’s eye and brushwork. Tempting as it was to incorporate the exhibition kitchen with the living and dining areas, Robinson declined. Instead, the designer and homeowners agreed to wall off the modern kitchen yet still make it accessible from the grand terrace. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the kitchen is about family time, says Robinson. As a result, the kitchen’s Euro feel is softened with an adjacent homey family room with breakfast bar and desk areas, cozy leather sofas and plasma televisions.

Robinson’s creativity is also readily apparent in the master bath, where he placed a freestanding concrete tub in the window so the homeowners could literally soak in the view. Because a lot of square footage was sacrificed for views, Robinson created economies of scale to make his-and-hers bath vanities fit nicely in the same space.

The Lawrence project is a terrific collaboration of enlightened delegation. The architect trusted the interior designer to interface with the décor needs of the client, and the homeowners believed in the team they selected.

“The fringe benefit of designing a home is the often-unexpected friendships that grow from the experience. With the Lawrences and Brizzes, we’re all still friends,” says Robinson. “Without that bond, we can’t call any project a total success.

a wall of glass in the home Glass walls: open to create continuous indoor/outdoor living space.
the dining room  Dining Room: A Holly Hunt “Altar” hanging lamp hovers over a 14-foot ebonized ash dining table designed by Dan Schroebel of DRD (David Robinson Design). Holly Hunt made the dining table and chairs. Painting by Chris Cox of Aspen, Colorado.
a hallway Hallway: The main-level hallway shows green-tinted concrete with inlays of ebonized teak.
the living room  Living Room: Dramatic lighting indoors helps frame the view to the west, from La Jolla Cove to Torrey Pines. The vaulted living room ceiling uses fabric-wrapped panels to balance the acoustics with primary hard surfaces such as concrete floors, natural limestone (surrounding the fireplace) and the unstained flatcut birch custom cabinetry. Driftwood mantel is rough-cut yellow pine. Couch is custom-designed by DRD and mimics the four surrounding chairs by Holly Hunt. The blended flat-weave rug is by DRD.
the patio Patio Furniture: Saranac Collection patio furniture is from Smith & Hawken.
the bathroom  Bathroom: His side of the master bathroom shows custom-designed cabinets in unstained birch. Concrete “Zen” tub and sink basin from New York’s Clodagh Collection.
a sleekly designed doorknob Doors: Ebonized mahogany doors throughout are matched with stainless steel hardware and Bendheim glass.
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