Homes: By Eva Ditler • Photography by Craig Jones
With respect to its Mid-century Modern roots, a William Krisel home steps gingerly into 2012
FOR SOME, LIKE ARCHITECT Mark Silva, being raised in a William Krisel Mid-century Modern tract home was motivating — “growing up in that home inspired me to become an architect,” Silva says.
For others, like photographer Craig Jones, the innovative beauty of Krisel’s open-plan, post-and-beam construction wasn’t realized until years later.
Craig and Silva grew up in the same early-’60s era, around the corner from each other, in Mount Soledad’s newly built “Viewpoint North.” Touted in the 1964 real estate brochure as “the largest luxury-home development in the United States by a single builder” and “the ultimate in total liveability,” the single-family three- and four-bedroom homes sold at prices starting from $29,000.
Fast forward to a few years ago, when Craig inherited his childhood home. His original thought was to sell the place. “I didn’t want to live in the same house I grew up in,” he says.
Craig’s wife, Jan, wasn’t very gung-ho about moving into the home, either.
“I came in as a visitor to the original house,” says Jan. “The view is spectacular and the setting is amazing, but I always had this feeling of a house in a time warp. I’m not a retro person, so the thought of coming to this house with the carpet, vinyl floor — it had this dreaded, old vibe about it.”
After talking to Silva and learning about the significance of the house, its style and its architect, they soon figured out that they owned a gem.
“Once we started thinking about redoing this house, we realized we could really do some great things. With the renderings and meetings with Mark and getting all that energy together, it blossomed into this fantastic prospect,” says Jan.
“I knew Mark always wanted to work on one of these houses,” says Craig. “We decided to reinvent it, bring it up to date and make it comfortable for us.”
The most dramatic change made to the house was extending the indoor living outdoors.
“For these homes that were more developer based, economy was important and there was not a lot of attention to indoor/outdoor living,” says Silva. “In the reinvention, we did not add any square footage to the home, but by adding outdoor living space, public spaces grew more than double in size.”
Different little destinations were added to the underutilized backyard, where the spectacular view extends from Mission Bay to downtown and from the Coronado Bridge to Mexico.
“The back was designed for entertaining as well as everyday lifestyle,” says Silva. “There’s an area right off the master bedroom with a spa, for which the whole purpose is to be like an outdoor extension of the master suite. The fire pit at the other end also is an extension of the interior and both offer privacy with these walls that wrap just a touch and hug the backyard.”
The fire pit is located in a corner that is the precipice of the view. This area was transformed from an ordinary concrete rectangle to an awe-inspiring focal point. Here, bold triangular forms, from a soaring “butterfly” roof up above to the fire pit down below, point with exuberant gusto to the grandeur of the panorama beyond.
The exterior connects to the interior via sliding glass doors. Inside, the essence is of one expansive space, from the media room at the far end, to the central living/dining area, and on through to the kitchen on the other side, where, when standing at the peninsula, one can easily watch the media room’s television.
“As everyone knows, the gathering spot is the kitchen, regardless of what you design,” says Silva. “What I like to do is take advantage of that.”
Hence, the 20-foot concrete countertop peninsula, installed as that gathering place. As the food-prep spot that includes sink, cooktop and dishwasher, it’s functional, but it’s also a piece of sculptural art that jives with the architecture.
“As far as living here now,” says Craig, “it’s where I grew up but it’s not. It seems like a brand new, different house.”
“We reinvented the house in today’s terms,” says Jan, “while preserving all the great things about the house. You can still see every beam and everything that was created by the original architect. If someone were creating a Mid-century Modern house today, this is what they would create. This is the Mid-century Modern house of 2012.”