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A Little House with Big Style in Point Loma

A San Diego couple downsizes from 5,000 square feet to 1,300—and discovers the perfect empty nest


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La Cantina doors along the back of the house slide fully open, merging the indoors and out and providing extra space for family gatherings.

It’s a predicament empty nesters often find themselves in: to keep the old house or sell it? A few years ago Jeanne and Mark Smith looked around their 5,000-square-foot traditional Pennsylvania farmhouse in Point Loma. What had once been a bustling hub of activity had since become all too quiet. It was time for a change.

They bought a decidedly smaller, 1,300-square-foot house in the same area and hired architect and interior designer Bill Bocken to give it a makeover. Jeanne knew she wanted it to be modern, a stark contrast from the traditional home where she’d spent so much of her life.

The kitchen’s marble-clad island serves as the focal point for the entire living area, complementing the cabinetry’s three different finishes: stainless steel, oak, and a white conversion varnish.

“I loved everything about our old home. We raised our kids there and have so many wonderful memories,” she says. “But when we decided to downsize, I knew I wanted a clean look with fewer things.”

And yet, Jeanne still wanted to be able to host gatherings for her clan of five children and their spouses, with ample room for her 12 grandchildren to play.

Bocken, along with Patrick Phillips of Phillips Construction, tore down the walls and simplified the layout.

The Smiths’ back porch, with powder-coated aluminum beams and ShadeTree canopies, overlooks a large bed of drought-tolerant grass, planted lavender, and cement pavers lined with creeping thyme.

“Bill listened to everything we wanted and was able to transform the original tiny house with a maze of walls into an open indoor-outdoor living space that works great for our large family,” Jeanne recalls.

Now it’s that indoor-outdoor space the Smiths love most. Thanks to La Cantina doors around the perimeter, virtually every room in the house has the ability to open up to the back or front yard. The porches then become an extension of the interior, making it easy to entertain.

La Cantina doors make the master bedroom, styled with John Robshaw linens, feel like a resort.

“We have Christmas, Easter, and family events here for 35 people,” Jeanne says. “It’s plenty big and never too small.”

Their project is proof that downsizing can actually increase style and functionality. The Smiths certainly seem to have embraced the change.

As Jeanne explains, “That was our chapter with our kids. This is a new chapter.”

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