A Practical Connection
By Thomas Shess • Photography by David Harrison
A Del Mar Heights remodel integrates the home with its backyard...
EXASPERATED BY A TEDIOUS interview process seeking an architect to remodel their 1970s Del Mar Heights split-level, Lisa and Vince Caralli finally clicked with San Diego architect Kevin deFreitas, of KdA Architects.
"We first contacted Kevin in October of 2006 after working with another architect on a design for several years," says Lisa, a career chemist. "Before Kevin we just thought that the design of our project was getting away from modern and heading more toward Frank Lloyd Wright; not bad, but just not what we want-ed in the end."
Friends introduced the couple to deFreitas at the same time the 40-some-thing architect was putting the finishing touches on his own home.
"We liked everything he was doing with his home, especially his devotion to modernism," says Vince, a life scientist. "And we had him incorporate some of those ideas in our remodel."
DeFreitas says the Carallis are serious fans of design and were very engaged collaborators. "They were willing to trust that we understood their lifestyle, budget and vision," he says.
The remodel began in April 2009 and was completed in June 2010.
Both architects and homeowners knew a huge flaw of the 1,700-square-foot house was the total disconnect of the floor plan with the backyard. "There was no practical connection to the outside," says Lisa, "because the easiest way to the backyard was through the master bedroom. We had to carry our barbecue items through our bedroom. We really wanted that to change so it was a main focus of the remodel."
Integrating the home to the backyard was a key goal of the remodel, but deFreitas realized his clients also desired a sense of maximum openness that, at the same time, included privacy.
"They wanted to have the blinds totally open, yet not see the street," he says.
The solution was to set the windows higher. "That way you feel like you're looking up through the trees and out to the ocean instead of viewing a subdivision street."
Now, the public spaces of the house can be private and formal for an intimate dinner party, or flung wide open to host a 100-person indoor/outdoor garden party — which is, in essence, the quintessential Southern California home, says deFreitas.
Early on, deFreitas steered the young couple to Eric Epifano, a Lakeside general con-tractor, and to Todd Pitman's Verde Land-scape Design. Vorce Construction hand--led the landscape installation. Another deFreitas ally is David Feidler, who put together the kitchen cabinetry.
"We use the kitchen a lot and by making it narrow and long we're able to entertain by pushing the guests out of the work area and into the larger back patio and the living room," says Lisa.
Because the home is atop a bluff that slopes from east to the ocean, the home commands three levels: Lower: two-car garage, storage room built into the bluff and a music/media room, where Vince rocks out on his electric guitar. The middle level includes living/dining/kitchen and great room. Upstairs are bedrooms, office, plus a terrace offering Pacific Ocean views.
Overall there are three bedrooms with two and a half baths, and an excellent patio that faces east into a huge native Torrey Pine that three neighbors share. Because Del Mar Heights west of I-5 is still within San Diego city limits, deFreitas also knew it was still under Coastal Commission purview.
"Because this was a remodel, albeit a heavy one, I think it important to note that we worked with nearly the entire existing structure to create their new home," he says.
Lisa adds: "We doubled the size of the house to about 3,500 square feet and our SDG&E bill has remained the same. Kevin's incorporation of natural light through windows and skylights has been a big factor in cutting electricity usage."
Now, the house connects to the site, strategically opening up to the terrific coastal views while maintaining a sense of privacy.
The home incorporates a lot of no-nonsense, low-tech sustainability features that will increase comfort while reducing energy consumption and maintenance for the life of the home: natural ambient day lighting in nearly every room, thoughtfully placed operable windows to naturally ventilate the entire home (no A/C was installed), large roof overhangs, and lots of low-cost insulation.
"Also, we want to do the roof garden for aesthetic reasons and as insulation for the downstairs room," Lisa says. "Kevin engineered the space for it. Originally, we were thinking about a metal roof for interest, but that would have provided a lot of glare with the setting sun."
They have been discussing the future roof project with Jim Mumford at Good Earth. "We just needed to regroup our finances and take a breath before embarking in another construction project. We postponed the roof in order to complete the exterior landscaping because everyone sees that first."