With its pristine sparkling waters and white coral sands, the islands in the Republic of Seychelles have been described as heaven on earth. Set in the Indian Ocean approximately 1,000 miles east of Kenya, this breathtaking archipelago was the childhood home of a Santa Barbara, Calif., resident who wanted to recapture the Seychelle islands’ sensibilities in her current surroundings. Folding the open contemporary lines of island living into a 1952 ranch bungalow required a thoughtful approach, and the owner selected a team that protected both sides of the equation.
Vice president and sales director of Santa Barbara-based Allen Associates Ian Cronshaw has traveled extensively in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans, which gave him a firsthand grasp on the light, open style the owner sought. Because she wanted to remain highly involved in the renovation of her home, the owner helped Cronshaw research materials for the project’s construction, as well as for the interior decor.
”In the tropics, it’s hot, humid and often cloudy. The combination of humidity and dark colors makes a space seem to close in on you, and the ceilings in this house are very low, so we wanted a bright white ceiling and walls with light colored floors,” explains Cronshaw. “We were also on a tight budget so we focused on accents such as the doors and art to give the space life.”
The 1,575-sq.-ft. house’s original design was a series of small cramped rooms. Dave Mendro, partner at Carpinteria, Calif.’s Neumann Mendro Andrulaitis Architects, removed interior walls and reconfigured the home with a plan to combine the kitchen, dining and living rooms into one larger space. Mendro took full advantage of Santa Barbara’s temperate climate and designed the home to open up to a courtyard in the back of the house to extend the space outside.
“This was a great, old classic ’50s-ranch style bungalow with a broad, low-pitched roof, exposed rafters and a wide-plank board ceiling; I loved the bones of it,” affirmed Mendro. “My challenge was to preserve the old character but create a modern home that is more livable by today’s standards.”
Setting Things Straight
The house sits on a 5-in.-thick concrete slab, and one of the corners had settled. The settling caused the frame to tilt, pushing windows and doors out of plumb and skewing the roof line. In addition, the living room sagged approximately 1 in., and new tile floors required a level surface for proper installation. Jacking up the entire slab would have been too expensive.
“First, we removed the drywall and much of the exterior. Then, we freed up the plate that was bolted to the slab and jacked up that plate with car jacks,” Cronshaw says. “When we redid the floor, we floated the area that had sagged with mortar so the tile floor ended up flush with the float of mortar. Then we cranked down the bolts again.”
Mendro says that in modern home interiors, level sight lines are critical because there is no trim to cover imperfections. The team also made slight adjustments to walls and ran laser level measurements to ensure existing and new windows and doors would be plumb. “With modern interiors, every connection is exposed. It takes a certain kind of builder to understand that concept. To take an older house and transform it this way takes a lot of thought, and everything has to be done right,” he says.
Bifold doors and windows were added throughout the house. In the combination living/dining/kitchen area, four types of custom openings were added: a swinging door, bifold doors, a bifold window over the sink and an interior door. The differing systems of side hinges and bifold tracks below and above had to be carefully considered to ensure the various openings lined up.
With a span as large as the bifold door in the dining/living area, typically a 12-in. wood beam would be required. With already low ceiling heights, the needed beam would create doors no more than 6 ft. high. Using a 3-in. steel header, the team maximized the door height.