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El Dorado Stone

Home Frontis


THE SOMEWHAT VERTICAL ASCENT up Mount Helix to this Home of the Year owned by Susan and Lawrence McIntosh feels a little like a trek up K2 without the ice. On arrival, the site flattens out and you understand the desire to be at the top … a sweeping view from Tijuana to the ocean.

From the driveway, it’s apparent that the garage is tucked away under the house, leaving most of the living space on the main level. You are confronted by three roof angles, intersecting planes that define the separate public and private functions of the house and, in the words of architect Scot Frontis, “stretch out over the horizon to the south and west as if a bird was about to take flight off a cliff.” Indeed, hawks swoop beyond the edge of the infinity pool. Owls visit from surrounding canyons.

The entry walkway mysteriously hides the view until you come inside the house and are drawn through the living room to an even broader perspective poolside. The axis from the front door is directly in line with the Coronado Islands in the distance. Multi-slide doors disappear into the walls in every room, except the media room/theater, to capture compelling vistas.

Frontis’ design of the house grew out of its incredibly sloped site and entailed a study of the trajectory of the sun. Two 8-foot-high curved retaining walls create area for a 3,500-square-foot, 3-bedroom, 3 ½-bath house. A third retaining wall establishes the outdoor spaces and infinity pool. The angles and extension of broad roof overhangs are designed so no direct light hits the interior spaces reducing heat gain and glare during warmer seasons, and yet a low sun enhances the interior in winter.

The living room ceiling soars to 18 feet, while the kitchen is more intimate ranging from 8 feet to 14 feet high in the breakfast area. Golden granite counters and Koa wood cabinets warm the minimalism of the kitchen and rich forest green granite adds luxury to the master bath. Guest bedrooms and baths are downstairs.

Interior designer Kathy Abell of Designed Interiors worked with homeowner Susan McIntosh to complement the strong features of the architecture. Abell incorporated an inviting custom curved sofa mirroring the curves of the pool, and upholstered ottomans and chairs to soften the linear lines.

“One of my highest priorities in design is to create spaces where conversation and time with family and friends flows easily,” says Abell.

A cool color palette of ocean blues and apple greens again references the vanishing-edge pool as does the surface of a table with a watery scraped finish.

“Our design team enjoyed the view, sunshine and summer breeze while working on the house like we were at an exclusive resort,” enthuses Abell.

Homeowners Susan and Larry McIntosh say that “after years of research and dreaming, we finally found a home that met all our needs. Everyday is a beautiful day here … sunrise, daytime, dusk, evening … always something different and enchanting.”

For this first residential collaboration between architect Frontis and contractor Monte Mattson, who owned the house when it was first designed, it was all about the site. “But Monte wanted something beyond that,” says Frontis, “something with positivity that was uplifting … and the roof forms are an inspiration from that idea.”

Looking out over the view, Frontis and Mattson aspired to a sort of Hollywood hills star quality and to their satisfaction have been judged an award winner.


Homes of the Year: By Phyllis Van Doren • Photography by Martin Mann

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Now that I have seeds for basil and forget-me-nots, I’m making long-term plans. I picked up the seed packets at The Patio on Goldfinch, which recently opened in the Mission Hills neighborhood and hosted an opening celebration on Thursday evening.

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