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Inside a Contemporary La Jolla Glass House

The jaw-dropping ocean view gets all the attention at Lise Wilson and Steve Strauss's oasis


11,000 square feet with 3 bedrooms, 6 baths, a theater, gym, office, and guesthouse

La Jolla

It began like so many home improvement projects do—a new window here, a wall opening there, and pretty soon, they’d gutted the place.

“We completely rebuilt the house,” says owner Steve Strauss. “We really didn’t want to do that, but it was rounded with stucco and all wrong for the site.” He and wife Lise Wilson worked with architects Tommy Hein of Telluride, Colorado and Kellogg Crain in San Diego to draft something more linear, with 100-percent attention to the property’s jaw-dropping ocean views. That meant frameless, floor-to-ceiling windows, sprawling decks, infinity edges, and more. The result is an architectural masterwork that displays the couple’s modern art collection and pays homage to the greatest artwork of all—the Pacific.

Steve is a third-generation San Diegan and the son of Matthew and Iris Strauss, well-known local philanthropists and art collectors. His parents’ art collection is considered one of the top 200 collections in the world, and their appreciation for art has trickled down the family tree.

Steve and Lise, who met while they were in law school at UCLA, have developed their own artistic tastes over the years. Their house’s ivory Venetian plaster walls and neutral interiors serve as the perfect backdrop for the pieces they have acquired. One such work is an electrical conduit and steel sculpture by local artist Roman de Salvo that greets visitors as they approach the front steps. The industrial materials complement the home’s glass rails and metal cladding. The latter was custom-designed by Kynar Aquatec to withstand coastal elements.

“We had fun with the surfaces,” Lise says of the siding, which is so durable that it’s also used by the U.S. Navy.

Other thoughtful details include the home’s 100 solar panels, radiant heat throughout, and oversized lids that help keep the heat down when the afternoon sun comes blazing in.

Upon entry, there is more glass and metal. A Jim Dine bronze figure stands guard in the foyer, framed by a floating walnut staircase that curves upward.

The living room is furnished with B&B Italia tulip chairs, a Met sofa from Cassina, Robert Kuo vases, and a custom wool and silk blend rug from Amari. The coffee table was a custom creation by interior designer Pam Smith.

The second story contains the kitchen, office, and master suite. The supersized kitchen is part of a great room that encompasses the casual, formal, and living areas, and opens up to a large deck with a hidden barbecue and flat-screen TV. The same Fiorito beige marble flooring runs throughout the house, creating seamless transitions from room to room and indoors to out.

One the couple’s favorite pieces, this 2,000-pound sculpture had to be craned up the back of the house. 

Lise worked with Pamela Smith on the interiors and color palette. “It’s much softer than our previous house,” Lise says of the monochromatic and minimalist look. “I wanted the home to feel really calm.”

The kitchen features Metro cabinets in a taupe-gray hue, built by Milan’s Synthesized Furniture in El Cajon. A large picture window behind the range, topped with a custom hood by Timeless Wood Products on Miramar Road, ensures beautiful views no matter which way you look.

In the corner, a walk-in wine cellar showcases the couple’s other passion. Custom stainless steel saddles, also built by Timeless, hold individual bottles and make the glass-walled room a work of art in itself.

When they’re not whiling away the day at home, Lise and Steve are devoted to community service. Lise sits on the board of Voices for Children, a nonprofit that provides court-appointed special advocates for local foster children. The organization’s annual Starry Starry Night fundraiser recently raised nearly $1.3 million. “I always had that thing that I wanted to do something,” says Lise, who was inspired to attend law school after an internship at the Legal Aid Society. “It’s also important to me that my kids [now ages 24 and 21] saw me doing those things. Growing up in La Jolla, they need to see that.”

The home’s extended overhangs help reduce heat and keep energy costs down.
A low-slung B&B Italia Tufty-Time bed looks out toward the ocean in the master suite.

Steve serves on the board of the La Jolla Playhouse, and both he and Lise are active supporters of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

Despite their busy schedules, the couple still takes time to stop and smell the basil—which grows among the other herbs and vegetables in their backyard organic garden. The two of them are fortunate and they know it. “On a normal day you’re just bustling around,” Lise explains. “I try to slow down and look outside and enjoy my house.”

And how could they not? As Steve says with audible pride, “It’s a really great view!”

The family can soak in style while taking in a view of the backyard and organic garden below.
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