Bluff-top beauty

When the owners were exploring second-home properties to purchase in Santa Barbara, Calif., their real estate agent told them this house was a “mid-century modern with lots of potential.” In the clients’ minds, however, it was a “1950s teardown.” Ultimately, they bought the property, largely because of its bluff-top location and spectacular ocean views.

Tearing down the house was not an option when they discovered doing so would require compliance with new coastal bluff-top development requirements, relocating the house 25 ft. toward the street, essentially eliminating their street-side pool and front yard space. Financially, it would have been a stretch, too. As a result, the remodel maintained the original footprint of the house, with a small addition joining the house and garage, and its clean rectangular lines achieving what the owners now call a “mid-century modern conversion.”

“This was a gut project,” says Bryan Henson, LEED AP, president, Allen Associates Construction in Santa Barbara. “We went down to studs with whatever was slated to remain. We saved a large portion of the roof structure, the floor and supporting elements. We added a butterfly roof above the dining room to open the room below and also to provide a south-facing roof section for solar collection.”

In addition to making this home more comfortable and energy efficient, the remodel added square footage and contemporary finishes. Other goals included creating ocean views from every space both inside and out; merging the previous living and dining spaces with the kitchen to create one grand room; and moving the hallway that ran down the center of the house toward the front. This not only opened views to the outside but added space in all of the bed and bathrooms.

The original design included few right angles. The owners embraced this and, as a result, a recurring theme in this home is trapezoids — in the hallway, ceiling, walls; the corners in the grand room; the base of the art niches in the hallway; and the entry pillars all form trapezoids.

“The original house was one long rectangle with a long shed roof,” says Barbara Lowenthal, interior designer, Harrison Design Associates, also in Santa Barbara. “It was really boring and offset from the lot on an angle. When we tied the garage to the home, nothing lined up in a right angle. When we discovered this, we didn’t want to conform to a rectangle plan. It’s a unique layout.”

Change of heart

The owners originally were going to use this as a second home. During the course of the remodel, however, they fell in love with Santa Barbara, their new home and its beautiful ocean views. A major element of this remodel was merging the original living room, dining area and kitchen together to create a grand room with expansive ocean views, Henson says. Unfortunately, a large post in the middle of the space, next to the kitchen island, supported a steel structural roof beam, and obstructed the hoped-for views.

The clients were concerned about the physical and visual obstruction this post would create and felt a beam would interrupt the flow and aesthetics of the room. Allen Associates Constructionw responded with an engineering redesign to eliminate the center post. They used a laminate wood beam instead of the originally proposed steel beam. As a result, the solution proposed by the contractor not only addressed the clients’ concerns but reduced the structural budget by $15,000, Henson notes.

“The beam doesn’t look as big as it is, but it spans 40 feet. It got us an uninterrupted span, and not using steel saved money. This came together by working closely with the structural engineer and suppliers, Henson adds.

“I hated that post,” Lowenthal recalls. “Removing it changed everything for the better. It opened a whole new world.”

Welcomed improvements

The existing entry to the home was neither ideal or obvious, so another project goal was to create a strong entryway. Three access doors on the front made it difficult for guests to know where to enter. A large pool between the front gate and the house added to this dilemma.

The client had a vision for an entry gate at the street. The landscape architect suggested materials, and the builder and subcontractor designed and built the gate. The entry gate provides sight access to the grand, main entry door to the house. The entry door has two grand columns on either side of a large pivot door. Together, the finished entry gate and front door provide the clients with the obvious main entrance to their home they were looking for. (See top photo pg. 16.)

On the inside, the reconfiguration of the main living space redirected foot traffic along a long hallway down the front edge of the home. Functionality evolved into high design when a vision for an art gallery in this space was realized. “The owners are artistic minded people who own beautiful pieces of art. They had several pieces they wanted to display. [Brian Henson] said they could create niches customized for each art piece. The owners gave us the dimensions of the pieces and Allen Associates Construction created spaces for them. They added custom lighting to each niche space, and the result is beautiful.” (See bottom photo pg. 16.) QR

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