No Cliche At Home With Architect Ione R. Stiegler

July 2005 issue of San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles     Photography by Larny J. Mack and Gail Owens.

Front Elevation

Architect Ione R. Stiegler is a pioneer of sorts. In the early 1980s, when she graduated from Tulane University with a master’s degree in historic preservation, the world of architecture basically was a man’s domain. “I graduated with the first class to be even close to 50 percent women,” she says.

The cliche in those days was that if you were a woman architect, you were a residential architect. Stiegler didn’t want to be a cliche. After graduation she worked for New Orleans firms that did large-scale commercial and multi-story high-rises. But it was when she went to work for architect John Nalevanko’s office in Del Mar that she also fell in love with custom residential. After a while, she says, she had a yearning to get back into historic preservation. “I joined Milford Wayne Donaldson and got to do my commercial historic preservation again, which was wonderful.”

When the bottom of the recession hit, Stiegler opened her own office, IS Architecture, now located in La Jolla. “The La Jolla office is a split between strict historic preservation work and custom residential, which crosses over into the historice preservation side of the office,” Stiegler says.

The expertise Stiegler has in the custom residential field came in handy when remodeling her own San Diego homes. She and her husband, Tony, came to town 18 years ago. Their first home, purchased at an estate sale, was a 1926 bungalow in Mission Hills with three bedrooms and one bath in its nearly 1,800 square feet.Rear Elevation and pool

“We saw it at six in the morning, in the dark, in January,” says Stiegler. “There were three layers of curtains on all the windows and boxes full of junk piled to the ceiling in every room. When we walked into the living room, all we could see were the far corners of the rooms. When we walked into the dining room it was the same thing.”

But Stiegler saw treasure through the trash: a breakfront with turned columns in the dining room, a kitchen with an attached eating room, a big bathroom, good-sized bedrooms and a house that faced south for lots of sunlight. With a kitchen and bathroom redo and, later, a second bath addition, the Stieglers hunkered happily for nine years.

Living RoomAfter nine years, however, the nest, though feathered to their liking, was getting a little crowded. The family (son Ari, now 13 and daugher Cara, now 9) and Stiegler’s clientele list both were growing rapidly. “I looked in Mission Hills for a larger piece of property and a setup where I could keep my office at home, but couldn’t find anything,” says Stiegler. “Tony wanted to try and get something closer to the water. We found a bank repo in La Jolla that had sat on the market for over a year. No one had made any offers on it. I saw it had a good plan with nice exposure to the southern sun and it had an office attached to a detached rear garage. It had some awkward internal circulation, but I figured I could fix that.”

The four-bedroom house, sitting on an 11,000 square-foot lot, was a brick facade ranch-style home built in the late 1940s. It had received previous not-so-loving remodels. The latest remodel, done in the 80s, left only the long, low horizontal lines of its original ranch style.

HallwayStiegler went to work, updating the home with a blended style of Prairie Craftsman. Wood-battered columns with stone bases frame a stately, inviting front porch, suitable for sitting and gathering. Stained-cedar shingles with rows of alternating bands envelope the house. White painted wood trim lines each of the doors and windows and a 12-inch frieze board wraps the house just under the roof’s overhang. The roof fascia also is white painted wood, creating a contrast to the home’s darker wood siding. Slate flooring covers the porch and steps and continues into the house.

“The most awkward thing about the house was the circulation by the front door,” says Stiegler. “You were immediately contronted with a wall. Then you were forced at a diagonal through the dining room to get to the kitchen, and then through the kitchen to get to the rest of the house.”


By relocating a rear garage to the front of the house, Stiegler freed up space in the backyard for a pool. The elimination of the side driveway allowed her to rebuild the living room 7 feet closer to the property line, which, in turn, allowed for the creation of a central hall. The new hall, which directs traffic without having to go through any one room to reach the rest of the house, is lined with rich paneled columns supporting a high 10-foot ceiling. The living room ceiling, with its box-beam pattern, rises even higher.

“To a certain extent, my husband was my client,” says Stiegler. “He wanted the living room to have a tall ceiling. I would draw it; Tony would look at it and say, ‘Taller.’ Finally at 12 feet I said, ‘Stop. We can’t make it any taller.'”

Stiegler loves to entertain and the kitchen, now open to the family room, proves it. “I love to cook so I built in all my favorite specialty items that I like to do for my clients. I have a pop-up KitchenAid mixer stand, spice drawers, lazy Susan storage for my pots and pans, and all the pullouts. The big granite-topped island is perfect for laying out a buffet of food, which is great when there are lots of kids running in and out from the pool. The slate floor works well for that, too.”

A skylight over the island in a vaulted well draws natural light into the airy kitchen. Stiegler likes to bring in lots of light. Light also floods in from the breakfast area, which is surrounded by glass on two sides with views out to the backyard and pool.

The pool and yard can be viewed from the family room as well. The family room is kept cozy with a stone fireplace and built-in cherry-wood cabinetry that matches the kitchen cabinets. There was enough room toBack Yardcreate a home-study area for the kids here with two computers and an 8-foot desk for them to share.

With that workspace completed, the Stieglers had the perfect home for a contemporary family. Except for one thing: The architect still missed Mission Hills. When a friend from the old neighborhood visited, she admired all the home’s beautiful Craftsman/Prairie details and told Stiegler not to worry about that anymore. Why not? asked Stiegler.

“Why, Ione,” she said, “you’ve brought Mission Hills to La Jolla.”

Project Manager: Joseph M. Reid