2015 Home of the Year: A Brilliant Star
The sparkling light and transparency of a Pacific Beach home attract attention
People at the oceanfront park in Pacific Beach can enjoy front-row views of the surf, but they turn their faces inland to look at something else that captures their eyes.
“People stand across the street and stare at the house,” says Kazumi Duran, who, with her husband Lee, owns architect Jennifer Bolyn’s winning Homes of the Year entry.
The couple had been renting a tiny beach bungalow on the site since 2009. After purchasing the property, they set about replacing the one-bedroom home.
“The idea was, of course, entirely utilizing the ocean view. My husband and I shared a vision for modern,” Kazumi says. “He loves metal; but once we analyzed the budget, we changed to more glass and tile.”
Jennifer chose frosted blue glass tiles that reflect light and emphasize the oceanfront setting. She took the use of tile beyond flooring and other common placements to create dazzling eaves, even continuing the overhead tile 3 1/2 feet into the living room, where it meets a dropped cove, and 3 feet deep and 20 feet along the fireplace wall.
“We sandblasted a third of them for a subtle wave pattern,” Jennifer says.
“We had all the same blue glass tile and that was OK to me. But Jennifer came up with this idea that some needed to be sandblasted,” Kazumi says. “I couldn’t envision it, but I just followed her lead and am very glad I did. It is the highlight of the house.”
The light blue tiles accessorize the exterior’s hand-toweled, smooth white stucco with white quartzite cladding on the north end; titanium-trimmed fascia boards; glass and stainless-steel railings along the decks; and street frontage that is mostly glass. The staggered front not only adds architectural allure, but also provides the master bedroom with a view of Crystal Pier to the south and a view of the ocean from the master bath on the north side.
Jennifer sited the entry door on the north side of the house so that, instead of entering with their backs to the ocean view, guests receive a panoramic welcome. The door itself is impressive. Four feet wide with a minimalist accent of vertical grooves, the mahogany wood is painted with metallic automobile paint to look like metal.
“I always custom design entry doors,” says Jennifer, who applied the same vertical grooves and high-gloss gray finish to interior doors.
Inside, the house invites the expansiveness of the Pacific horizon.
“We wanted a big, open space with lots of light and flow,” Lee says.
Dark gray, polished porcelain tiles run from exterior decking across the L-shaped living, dining and kitchen areas. Just as the glass tile continues into the living room, so does the white quartzite, which runs along the north wall, wrapping around the corner fireplace and adding texture above the cast-in-place-concrete hearth. A gray cove with soffit lighting creates a halo around the living and dining rooms at night.
The ceiling over the dining room soars 20 feet to skylights that open the house to blue sky. Though the west-facing dining room wall is mostly glass, the lower portion is built out as a granite-topped bench with built-in cabinets.
“I always suspected that modern houses didn’t have storage areas, but this house has plenty of storage, and I am extremely happy about that,” Kazumi says.
The kitchen embraces the lightness throughout the home with sleek white laminate cabinetry and waterfall countertops made from a quartz-based surface with bits of glass and mirror that bounce back light.
At certain times in the afternoon, I have seen sparkles lighting up the whole ceiling,” Jennifer says. “Even though it’s a cool color palette, it feels warm because of the detailing and lighting.”
Part of the detailing is the lighting. Suspended from wires bridging the atrium walls in the dining room, elongated glass pendants — alternating blue and white —bring focus to the table. A cutout glows in the end of the kitchen island. LED-backlit, frosted-glass stair risers provide an added attraction for nighttime passersby and send light into the stairway below that descends to the garage. (Jennifer also incorporated an elevator connecting the three levels.)
In addition to the living, dining and kitchen areas, the first floor includes a powder room near the entrance and Kazumi’s painting studio, which has its own bathroom and a large sliding-glass door that opens to a backyard garden.
The stair treads and second-story floors are oak, chosen to mimic the color of sand along the beach across the street. The balustrade of stainless-steel tubes and rods reaffirms the open, modern aesthetic and meets Lee’s particular desire for metal elements.
A window in the back of the kitchen combined with the glass front of the house gives Kazumi and Lee an ocean view when they barbecue in the back yard. And with interior windows on the second floor, even neighbors on the street behind have a line of sight to the water. The interior windows also include one between the atrium and the hallway of the master bedroom.
“It’s all about transparency,” Jennifer says.
The second-floor space over the kitchen comprises a mezzanine office, where Jennifer also used stainless steel tubes and rods for a railing above a short wall. With a skylight above and a view across the atrium straight to the ocean, it’s difficult to imagine much work getting accomplished. But the flood of light energizes the space.
In addition to the master bedroom and office, the second floor includes a second bedroom with a deck over the back yard, a second bathroom and the laundry room.
The 4,400-square-foot home is a net-zero design, incorporating solar panels, LED lighting, gray-water irrigation and two rainwater catchments with a total capacity of 10,000 gallons. Deep eaves and blackout shades protect interiors from the sun. And the living room’s retractable glass wall tucks away next to the fireplace, allowing ocean breezes to drift into the house for natural cooling.
When she saw the results of all the work that went into the couple’s vision, Kazumi says, “Just the beauty of the house struck me. It was surprisingly warm feeling and modern. This is a very easy house to live in, and it’s simply brilliant.
“You should see it glitter in the late afternoon sun. I have never seen such a sparkling house.”