Rebuilding the Dream
A Del Mar family turns a house left in ruins into a modern jewel
Photography by Shelley Metcalf
2,400 square feet with four bedrooms, two and a half baths, and a swimming pool
Meet the Piper-Jordan clan, who completely transformed this once tract-style house left in major disrepair by its previous owner. Robyn Piper and Jay Jordan (pictured above with Mick and Cassie, two of Jay’s three children) married in 2010. Soon they started an insurance company together, which delayed the remodel. When they finally began, the house was in dire shape. “It was a train wreck,” Jay says. “The mold damage was so bad that the county came in and reassessed the taxes!” The couple enlisted architect and interior designer Bill Bocken to see them through the project, and set up residence for 14 months in an apartment above the 7-Eleven on Del Mar Heights Road. The result was worth the wait. It’s midcentury modern with a touch of French élan, thanks to Robyn’s love affair with Versailles. The home offers everything the couple dreamed of—privacy and seclusion, peace and relaxation, a little bit of urban in the ’burbs, with ample space to entertain family and friends.
Much of the décor is inspired by the summer Robyn spent in France during high school. There she fell in love with Versailles, Marie Antoinette, and French culture. “I had this idea that I wanted a very European home,” she says. “Bill built on things I loved and included some of my favorite French designers,” like Christian Liaigre (the dining table) and Roche Bobois (the family room sofa). In the living room, the custom area rug adds that Versailles je ne sais quoi. Of the purple accents, Robyn says, “Bill knew my favorite color and subtly infused it throughout the house.” Lavender was also her grandmother’s favorite color and was worn by Marie Antoinette on her wedding day. (Custom armchairs by Ligne Roset, coffee table and sofa from Hold It Contemporary Home)
Stone tile flows from the interior to the patio, making the space appear larger. The stairs in the background lead to a swimming pool and Jacuzzi, heated by solar panels on the roof. Two eucalyptus trees (some of the biggest in Del Mar, according to Jay) add privacy and seclusion. “You can sit back there and no one can see in,” Jay says. “It’s like our own little sanctuary.” Both Robyn and Jay have Chicago roots, and were hesitant to move out of downtown San Diego. But ultimately, “Bill kicked our lifestyles up a notch. What we ended up getting was a lot more entertaining space,” Robyn says of the extra seating areas. “I really don’t feel like I’m in the suburbs.” (Outdoor furniture from Grounded in Encinitas)
Due to mold damage and more, the Piper-Jordans were forced to gut the kitchen. Today, the custom space, built by Stan Whitkowski, opens up to the family room and dining room. The back wall of the kitchen is tricked out with luxe Miele appliances, including an espresso machine that “makes you anything you want: lattes, cappuccinos, mochaccinos, you name it,” Jay says. “Robyn uses it every day.” Bill envisioned and designed the extra-long marble island. The architect explains: “The finished home seems so much open and larger than the original home, and so much more usable, all the while bringing a little urban hip to the sleepy old town of Del Mar.”
Stairway to Heaven
Robyn’s prized Christian Liaigre dining table is visible from the stairway, with custom wrought-iron rails built by National City artisan Hector Contreras of Contreras Iron Works. The Medusa chandelier by La Murrina is another one of Robyn’s anchor pieces—the elements that add “wow factor” and “really pop.” She first discovered it on a trip to Paris, and later purchased it at the La Murrina store in Beverly Hills. During her research, Robyn learned that the Town House Seven Stars Galleria, a seven-star hotel in Milan, has a larger version of the same chandelier in its lobby. And as for those conspicuous ’80s headshots in the hallway? Jay found Robyn’s old modeling portfolio and had some of the images blown up. “I call it the Wall of Fame,” he jokes. “And the kids just cringe.” (Dining chairs from Hold It Contemporary Home)
Before and After
The design team transformed the exterior look from 1970s faux-pueblo to sleek and modern by stripping away the false Mansard roof (or, as Jay calls it, “that awful football helmet roof”) and adding a smooth stucco finish with an eco-chic Ipe wood courtyard and landscape redesign. Check out the “Before” photos below.