Split Decision


By Ann Jarmusch Photography by Rico Castillero


Split Decision


Architect Stephen Dalton is onto something…


For all our revelry in indoor-outdoor living, San Diegans actually want our salt air and sunshine tempered with “a comfy couch and quick access to the kitchen,” Dalton observes.


Jerry Dwek and Christine Chung were not living Dalton’s vision of the good life, despite owning a two-story house in Solana Beach near the coast.

The two radiologists loved their hillside location, but not the 1970s house’s dark warren of rooms in awkward arrangements. The master bedroom was on the top floor, the rest of the bedrooms below — an unacceptable setup as soon as the couple started a family.


With the arrival of daughter Sophia seven years ago, the couple decided to do a major remodel. Dwek worked with Dalton to attain architecture that would be “modern and warm, but still edgy.” Chung’s preference was for Tuscan-style romanticism, and her influence is mostly evident in the fixtures, tile and color schemes she developed with designer Joe Sosa and lighting specialist Dianne Sheridan.


Sosa, a self-described “architectural tailor,” bridged the two aesthetics. “I don’t want to favor her or him, so I give (each one) enough to make them happy so they can let go of the rest,” he explains.


Dalton deftly and dramatically reorganized the house by creating a central, split-level entry of soaring glass framed in wood. To blur the outdoor-indoor transition, he carried exterior building materials inside, including cedar siding, stacked stone walls and minimalist metal railings, all of which are visible through expansive glass.


The pavilion-like entrance encloses a new staircase that leads up one-half flight to the new great room, and down a half-flight to all the bedrooms, family room and a wine cellar. A light well also connects the two floors, delivering light into the master suite.


“I like unfolding the story slowly, rather than all at once,” Dal-ton says. “With open architecture, it’s hard not to reveal everything when you first walk in.”


The great room — for living, dining, cooking and playing — offers a grand surprise. Its western wall is outfitted with 24-by-9-foot sliding-glass doors that frame ocean views or, conversely, disappear into wall pockets, erasing the boundary between the house and a greatly expanded deck with a dining table. Dalton says a trellis over the deck creates the psychological effect of shelter to enhance the appeal of this outdoor “room.”


The great room “transformed our whole family life” by bringing everyone together, says Chung, as 2-year-old Bianca rolls by on her toy cart, across the Brazilian cherry floor. In addition, the split-level arrangement allows the parents to monitor the kids when they play on either floor.


Dwek enjoys retreating to his soundproofed home theater/reading room, off the great room. This “video room,” as Sophia calls it, lies behind a monumental, grooved maple door designed to look like a wall. It complements channeled cedar siding on adjacent walls and ceiling.


The L-shaped kitchen, another of Dwek’s favorite spots, anchors one end of the great room with its geometric pattern of light and dark wood cabinets and window openings. Come closer and the star of the kitchen is the island topped with a roughly 8-by-4-1/2-foot slab of onyx, which is illuminated from below. Dwek went to every stone yard “between here and Anaheim” to find just the right slab.


Three shimmering pendant lights Chung chose to match the honey-colored onyx hang above the island. Across the great room, “her” curvaceously fanciful chandelier contrasts with the right angles of “his” white leather sofa.


The house is “a neat marriage of Jerry and Christine’s aesthetics,” says Dalton, who helped them split the difference.

Categories: Home Design