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Harmony scores in a home redo

AS FRUSTRATING AS a Rubik’s Cube is an apt metaphorical description of Ellan and Sandy’s La Jolla home before they hired designer Cheryl Hamilton-Gray to help them remodel.

“The layout of the rooms made little or no sense,” Cheryl says. “The home was so disjointed that we couldn’t actually identify where the family room was supposed
to be.”

You could have called the mish-mash eclectic; but for a home that haphazardly mixed pueblo, colonial and Art Deco styles from one small, chopped up room to another, even that easy-to-throw-in adjective wasn’t a fit. Despite all this, Ellan and Sandy fell in love with this residence built on a dune.

“We could see that the house had amazing potential,” Ellan says. “The ocean views were jaw dropping out the front; and when we looked out the back, with the swirling and swaying limbs of trees and the cobblestone wall, it reminded me of the Hobbits’ Shire in Lord of the Rings.”

Also intriguing to Ellan and Sandy was the original entryway with its thick, white stucco walls and curving staircase; exposed, dark-wood ceiling beams; and terra-cotta tile flooring.

“We liked that the entrance was rustic and casual, airy and open,” Ellan says. “It was stark, but had a simple elegance. Because we’re from the East Coast, we found its Spanish style enchanting and exotic. We liked it so much that we asked Cheryl to emulate that charm throughout the whole house. And she did.”

In keeping with the down-stairs foyer, Cheryl installed terra-cotta flooring in the second-floor kitchen, dining room and family room and in the third-floor master bath. Throughout the house, exposed, thick-wood ceiling beams that had been painted white were brought back to their original rustic finish.

To add Spanish flavor, Cheryl arched square window frames and openings and brought in a wrought-iron custom grill for an opening at the top of the stairs, which had been an interior window peeking into the living room. She also removed walls to open up the kitchen to the family and dining rooms.

“The dining room had a vertical post, which precluded any logical furniture layout,” Cheryl says. “We removed the post and engineered a beam to span the room and form a post at the kitchen opening. Then we installed a mock post on the other side of the kitchen, framing the new wide opening. By removing the vertical post, we were able to place the dining room table in front of the corner, kiva-style fireplace.”

Ellan and Sandy, however, did not think much of the all-brick fireplace. “My husband said, ‘It looks angry. It looks like it’s going to bite me,’” says Ellan, laughing. “But Cheryl was amazing. She said, ‘We’ll just stucco it and use the brick as accents.’ She really brought cohesiveness to the home.”

Now that the kitchen, dining and family spaces are one great room, the second floor has a casual flow that’s perfect for entertaining. For more formal entertaining, the living room is just a couple of steps down on the other side of the great room. This space also offers spectacular ocean views.

The flooring is custom-designed, wall-to-wall wood parquet. A pair of wrought-iron chandeliers replaced track lighting. The fireplace got a tiled surround, and a firewood niche became an elegant bar with wood cabinetry that matches ceiling beams in other areas of the home, including the third-floor master suite.

“The original area on the third floor was puzzling,” Ellan says. “There was another bed-room tucked behind the master bedroom, and there were two full baths back to back. We didn’t know what to do with this space, but Cheryl envisioned a larger closet area. We walled off a door that went to a bedroom and turned it into a decorative niche. Now there’s only one way to walk into the master bedroom, and it looks directly onto the ocean view. The master bedroom is a bit smaller, but we were able to make a huge walk-in closet and a really big master bathroom.”

The master suite uses many of the same materials found throughout the house: countertops in the same Jerusalem Gold that’s in the kitchen, shower tile that’s the same as the kitchen’s Snowdrift backsplash and a fireplace surround that mimics that of the living room fireplace.

“When you are doing a makeover, you never know how it’s going to work out,” Ellan says. “You don’t know if the vision you have in your mind is going to be born out in the real world. But this makeover surpassed our imagination for what this house could be.”

Homes: By Eva Ditler • Photography by Preview First

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As much as I love looking at paintings and sculptures by famous — and in many cases long-dead — artists, I appreciate even more the paintings and sculptures of artists who are not household names. Actually, they are household names — in my world. They are “local artists” that are living and breathing life into new ideas all the time.
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