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Hacienda with a History


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With its monumental fireplace, balcony with French doors, and stenciled beams across a vaulted ceiling, Ingrid and Bob Coffin’s 1928 Spanish Colonial Revival living room feels palatial. But the heart of their warmly elegant house—the real party room—is an enclosed veranda added by a previous owner, a former president of Mexico, who traced his aristocratic family to 1545 and, in 1930, survived an assassin’s bullet to the head on inauguration day.

Pascual Ortiz Rubio, who was also a general and a diplomat, bought this Kensington home after he left office and lived here with his family during the early 1930s. His armed bodyguards, wearing sombreros and bandoliers, patrolled the neighborhood sidewalks and the steep canyon on this one-acre property.

Rubio and his wife brought artists from Mexico to transform the three-bedroom house into a unique hacienda. Most striking is the long veranda, with its exuberantly painted folkloric-themed ceiling, colorful doorways framed with glazed tiles, handsome murals, and life-size portraits of a Mexican man and woman. 

Clearly, el presidente knew something about fine living. He must have enjoyed the home’s grand entry through a paneled mahogany door (which the Coffins rarely use), rusticated faux-stone interior walls, and the large master suite with its spacious, sunken Art Deco bath.

Upstairs, he had artists embellish all the bedroom and closet doors with flowery decoration worthy of a Spanish castle. Fortunately, the hand-painted doors have survived intact and all the 1928 Spanish-style chandeliers and sconces remain in good condition.

Having already rewired, re-plumbed, and re-plastered every room in the house, and refinished the hardwood floors three times, Bob Coffin, a retired Navy JAG Corps officer, recently got down to details: restoring and adding a flourish to a telephone nook.

“We seem to have fixing up houses in our blood,” says Ingrid, referring to several previous homes. 

The Coffins hired artist Jeanne Whalen to restore the veranda’s ceiling, which had been damaged by termites and water. Whalen also recreated stenciled ceiling panels for the den, where a swirling, multicolor pattern complements a rounded, kiva-style fireplace and a large arched window.

Although the couple recently couldn’t agree whether they paid $110,000 or $123,000 for the house in 1977, there was no question about removing its heavy drapes and red shag carpeting as soon as they moved in. They also made sure to reflect the veranda’s character when they remodeled the adjacent, non-original kitchen, adding grooved wood cabinets, tile counter tops, and a vintage O’Keefe & Merritt stove.
 “We didn’t have all the [design] books back then,” says Bob, leafing through a glossy volume on Spanish Colonial Revival homes. They tried to make the kitchen compatible by visiting historic homes.

 Ingrid, who co-founded the Art Glass Association of Southern California and formerly owned The Glass Gallery, created two large stained-glass panels for windows in the house. One features a heron, inspired by a carved Victorian chair they were told came from the Spreckels family, and the other a luminous peacock, which symbolizes longevity.

“There’s something friendly in every room,” says Bob. “It’s a wonderful experience for everyone who’s lived here.”

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