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STAND IN A CORNER of the living room and you can see 10 different wall colors, from Creamsicle orange in the kitchen to basil green on the shaded veranda to hot mustard outside a back bedroom. Twenty-five hundred radiant Talavera tiles adorn countertops, stair risers, the fireplace and walls, and a dozen glistening glass pendant lamps dangle from 12-foot ceilings in the spacious kitchen. There are so many bright-colored chair backs, wall hangings, doors and frescoes that you might think you’re asleep and dreaming of a Mexican wonderland.

Then there are the dogs, six friendly Labs, all related, who rule this cleverly conceived, three-bedroom surfside roost 25 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border in the thriving metropolis of Rosarito Beach. The solar-heated swimming pool in the sun-gorged courtyard at the heart of the house was designed for a blind dog (Oso, now deceased) with river-smoothed cobbles lining the edge so he could feel his way toward the water. After every frolic on the beach, the dogs hit the pool to rinse off the sand. Inside, they loll anywhere they please on modern furniture covered with Mexican blankets.

“There are times when we don’t have places to sit,” laughs Craig Wutsch, who along with his partner, Alonzo Nava, built the house, one of the 2013 Homes of the Year winners.

This is the second house designed for them by Ocean Beach-based architect Jim Gabriel, AIA, of the firm Hanna Gabriel Wells (designers of the light-filled O.B. People’s Organic Food market on Voltaire Street). The first was named Casa Blanca de la Playa on a similar-size lot on Verona Court in Mission Beach, and its color palette ran from white to beige. Wutsch, who calls his new abode an “urban hacienda,” explains that “Jim trained us how to separate public and private space in a house” and adds, “After all that white, I was determined to go the other way.”

Nava, a native of Coahuila, in north-central Mexico, was the interior designer. Architect Gabriel says all he did was work out the basics of the U-shaped layout, keeping in mind Nava’s large extended family, many of whom visit for long stays, and the setting by the water. “Dogs, beach sand everywhere, high flooding tides, security, it’s a harsh environment,” he observes.

Wutsch gave Gabriel’s drawings to Carlos Urrea, a local builder and real estate lawyer, who used local laborers, craftsmen and artisans to complete the job over the course of a year. Six concrete caissons were sunk through the sand to bedrock for the front building’s foundation. Urrea added a third floor to the back building. Extensive maple wood cabinetry was crafted and fitted into the concrete-block structures on site.

The courtyard separates the public space in the front, which includes the focal-point kitchen, bar, two-sided fireplace, and living room from the master suite and two guest bedrooms in the rear separate building. Unlike Casa Blanca on its 50-by 25-foot lot, which required building setbacks from the property line and a strict 30-foot height limit, this house is built out to the edge of the 30-by-70-foot lot, allowing for a much more expansive interior.

The Wutsch/Nava beach house embodies the nascent Rosarito Renaissance, after Northern Baja lost thousands of American ex-pats due to the housing bust north of the border (many had used home-equity loans for second homes in Baja), and they’ve shown how the affordable dream of Mexican retirement still lives. They paid about $350,000 for 4,200 square feet of living space, plus a swimming pool, with an unobstructed view of the sparkling
Pacific and the Coronado Islands. They can even drink the tap water (along with a state-of-the-art security system, they have a full house water-filtration system). And one last thing, hardly worth mentioning: while the property taxes on the house they sold in Mission Beach run about $1,000 a month, in Mexico their property taxes are $180 a year.


Homes of the Year: By Neal Matthews • Photography by Gary Payne

November 17, 2014

Discovering and Recasting a Treasure

in Home Features
An Alpine resident creates a glittering December ambiance In addition to hosting a 16-guest Christmas dinner, Janie Thomas invited the public to view her flair with celebratory décor during the Alpine Women's Club Holiday Home Tour last December. "I like Christmas décor to match home décor, especially that of a particular room," she says. "For instance, in the living room, I chose silver and gold — a more…
Nov 05, 2014

Magical Mystery Tour

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A Vision In Blue

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The Best of Both Worlds

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POP POPPIES IN THE GROUND

in GARDEN PLANNER
The poppy family brings charm and color to cool-season gardens. Here are some that can be grown from seeds or planted as seedlings now to enjoy in the new year. California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica and hybrids) — The state flower's satiny orange blooms have been joined by frilled, fluted and double-flowered hybrids in shades of cream to rosy red. Seeds, including some mixes, are available from…
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Tropical Tranquility

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Welcome Butterflies

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Focus on Color

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The Naked Truth

in Lifestyle
Inveterate collectors Bram and Sandra Dijkstra have spent most of their lives amassing art, literature, CDs and DVDs. Their extensive, eclectic collection of art includes more than 300 pieces, mostly paintings, though there are several works on paper and a few sculptures. It spans millennia, from the third century B.C. to the present. Fifty of the couple’s paintings comprise the new exhibition at the Oceanside Museum of…
Jul 31, 2014

Holistic Therapy

Jun 27, 2014

Mindful Art

November 17, 2014

Soup to Whoopie

in RECIPES
Don't wait until 2015 to shake up your standard kitchen repertoire. From French onion soup to cioppino to whoopie pies, we've got you covered. You could serve the following trio of dishes in one three-course meal or try one recipe now and the others later in the month. Then by New Year's, you'll have one less resolution to make.
Sep 11, 2014

Use Your Noodles

Jul 31, 2014

Fig Bread Pudding

Jun 26, 2014

Rouge, Blanc & Bleu

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Joint Assembly

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Finally! Life handed me an opportunity to write “private investigator, magician and ninja” in the same sentence and have it signify something uncontrived. This early Christmas gift came to me courtesy of Francesco Spampinato’s Come Together: The Rise of Cooperative Art and Design.

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