San Diego Home/Garden Magazine (January 2008) – “Serial Boxes”


La Jolla, CA


"Serial Boxes'


Debra Lee Baldwin


January 2008


Larny J. Mack
Home’s redwood cubes opened to create a family hub. By Debra Lee Baldwin

The low-slung 1970s modern house in La Jolla’s Muirlands neighborhood was 30 years old and showing its age. Yet its bones were good.  The original design by noted San Diego architect Leonard Veitzer consisted of a series of redwood boxes that followed the contour of the land and flanked a courtyard on three sides.

The homeowners, who requested anonymity, wanted an additional bedroom (three siblings had been sharing two), a family room no longer isolated from the kitchen, and a dining area to complete the home’s hub.

Architect Ione R. Stiegler, who had done an earlier remodel, says the challenge this time was “to open up the spaces so one area flowed into another, and more daylight was introduced.” The original rooms were enclosed and separated, and cedar plank ceilings absorbed a lot of natural light. “So our first and second remodels incorporate clerestory windows and skylights.”

Project Manager Joseph M. Reid says pains were taken to follow the original architect’s vision.

“We wanted to evolve it,” Reid says, “to create areas where everyone could gather, and add windows that let in light and framed views.”

Joining the team were San Diego furniture designer Brindan Byrne and her husband, furniture maker Michael Sim. For a new breakfast room adjacent to the kitchen, Sim created a showpiece table that seats eight. Its top is a single slab of bubinga, a fine-grained hardwood prized by makers of art furniture for its light-red color and violet gradations.

Flooring is cherry; cabinets, maple.  Redwood serves as an accent, echoing the home’s exterior. Open-beam ceilings, shelving and tiles repeat grid patterns that complement the architecture. Large exposed ceiling beams, Reid says, are practical as well as ornamental – they support the roof, which appears flat, but is slightly sloped for drainage. Compressed insulation sandwiched between roof and ceiling is more typical of industrial applications, he adds, but also works well in residential.

Byrne designed sleek built-in cabinetry with doors that are virtually invisible (because their lines are integral to the design), and a buffet topped with brass tiles, “so you can set hot dishes right on it.” She also paved the hearth with brass, which has a patina that beautifully complements a fireplace surround of polished granite.

Because stainless-steel kitchen countertops suggest a commercial kitchen, and can be stark, an appealing pizza oven serves as the area’s focal point. Surrounding it are tiles of natural slate.

 “We discussed using glass tiles, but they were too cold and industrial-looking,” Byrne says. The stone, which adds texture and blends shades of olive green, gray and amber, provides the perfect contrast.