Elements of Style

The Tuscan region of Italy is both rustic and refined. Buildings blend into the land through a rich mix of textured materials, sunset hues and welcoming arches. The owner of a Long Beach, Calif., residence wanted his 1970s home to reflect Tuscan-style architectural themes and turned to Signal Hill, Calif.’s Morey Construction to renovate the exterior of the dated faade.

Ben Morey, president of Morey Construction Group, says that the owner’s wish to not add square footage posed a design challenge. “The front of the house was not well balanced, and the entryway was obscured. We had to make major changes, but our modifications had to be strategic,” recalls Morey.

The owner amassed photos of manufacturers’ products to show Morey his preferences, and the process soon moved to a website portal that allowed the owner to share a palette of images and accompanying notes with the builder. Before the project began, Morey Construction Group completed all the renderings, drawings and materials selections.

To bring balance to the front of the home, Morey added a tall foyer, arched forms, windows, balconies and railings. The foyer was a small 94-sq.-ft. addition with a large impact on the previously 2,454-sq.-ft. house. The entry has a 10-ft. ceiling, and the space above became a yoga room off the master bedroom’s walk-in closet on the second floor. The master bedroom also received a face-lift through two balconies with custom railings — one with three arches that face south to the street and another balcony facing west overlooking the front entrance.

Arches

Morey integrated repeating architectural themes throughout the renovation to lend continuity to the project. The arched form appears in the custom-built mahogany front door, the front balcony and window to the west of the entrance. In addition, Morey had an elliptical arch carved into the custom mahogany garage double door and a newly added single garage entrance beside it. Although custom mahogany seems an expensive choice for garage doors, Morey says it was a carefully considered decision. “This is the front of the house. If we cut corners here, everything else we did on the faade would have looked cheap no matter how much care we took with the design and materials,” he explains. “The price offset to make a custom unit with the right texture wasn’t worth it, and mahogany matched not only the front door but other elements of the remodel.”

The arch motif repeats inside the home, as well, between the living room and dining area, which is visible from the entry.

Stone and Stucco

Morey and the owner also turned their attention to the walkway. They focused on creating a look that mimicked old flagstone but wanted to ensure it maintained a finished appearance. The design was a poured-in-place concrete border with pavers and large grout joints. A local company made the selected pavers in a variety of colors that perfectly met the homeowner’s needs.

“We created curved steps leading to the entry, which recalled the signature arches on the faade, and we chose pavers in colors that aligned with the stucco color,” explains Morey. “The idea was to do something in line with the Tuscan style but give it a more modern twist.”

Pillars made of the stone on either side of the walkway include side step lights to illuminate the path. The caps atop the pillars are the same manufactured stone product that was used for the side balcony’s half-wall cap. Fieldstone with an over grout surrounds the front door.

To enhance continuity, the walkway stone was also used for an exterior stone patio in the back of the house, and the front-door fieldstone similarly surrounds the outdoor fireplace. The fieldstone appears inside the house as well as around two fireplaces and on a wall in the master bedroom.

The exterior stucco was a smooth trowel finish. A stucco band beneath the balcony continues around the side of the house and repeats under railings on the back of the house.

Windows, Wood and Railings

Windows were also repeated for visual continuity. Morey added two windows on each side of the front arched balcony, one above the entry door and a third around the corner into the entry. The windows are clad aluminum outside and dark-stained pine on the interior.

The custom railings for the balconies also lent definition below the pre-existing arched windows at the back of the house. An open patio existed, formed from second-story extensions supported by brick columns. The commercial-looking design was square with no elements to visually tie the two protruding extensions together. Morey created elliptical arches in the patio’s overhang to bring softness to the monolithic architecture.

Morey Construction Group also added wood-stained rafters to recall the Tuscan theme and create a courtyard feel when walking out of the dining area’s new oak French doors onto the patio. Rafter tails around the overhang are larger than typical 2 by 4 boards and have a half-round profile. In reality, they are faux caps to limit maintenance, but keep the architectural look.

New bifold mahogany doors in the family room open onto the patio to create one large indoor/outdoor room twice the size of the family room alone. The mahogany — sourced from Ecuador — is the same wood as the front door and the garage doors and also frames a new family room window looking onto the patio.

The creation of an inviting outdoor living area was a huge consideration. “The weather in Long Beach is so wonderful that you can spend 90 percent of your time outside, and the owner did just that. It was really important to provide an area that was both comfortable and stylish,” Morey says.

The 15- by 30-ft. patio includes a fireplace, television, ceiling fan and recessed lighting over outdoor living furniture adjacent to the family room and a barbecue area outside the dining room.

Roofing

To keep costs under control, the remodel did not initially include a new roof. The owner had installed a lightweight concrete tile that resembled shake material, but the view from the street contrasted sharply with the Tuscan style architecture of the rest of the design. The owner asked Morey Construction Group to provide a solution to mitigate its appearance. In their design, the company put a tile cap on the outside edge of the fascia. The visual trick worked well and was about to be installed when the neighbor to the east trimmed his huge sycamore tree. Suddenly, the full side of the house was visible, and it became clear that the roof had to be completely replaced. Lightweight clay tile roofing now graces the top of residence.

The $351,600 remodel took six months to complete. “In the end, thoughtful details allowed us to give the owner what he desired with a very slight amount of additional square footage,” notes Morey. “The residence went from an unremarkable house to one that now has a very distinctive, refined character.”

 

KJ Fields writes from Portland, Ore., about remodeling and design.

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